Raising Orthodox Christians
The Monastery is pleased to announce the re-commencement of our Orthodox Parents Group. Since the pandemic broke out and the first lockdown, the group had paused its meetings, but now with God’s help and the blessing of the Abbot Fr Prodromos, the group is re-starting, with new fresh material for informal discussions on raising our children within Orthodoxy in a troubled world, where we may live in the world but are not of the world. The group meets on alternate Thursdays 10am to 12pm, and often has guest speakers who give us insight and ideas on Orthodox parenting, especially of young children. Many Saints, including St Porphyrios and St Paisios have repeatedly emphasised the importance of the first few years of life in shaping the character of the child – and the influence of the mother, the father, the grandparents as well as any other primary caregivers is paramount.
Most Recent Meeting
Leaving Our Children a Great Inheritance (15 July 2021)
The Orthodox Parents Group of the Monastery was honoured to have the Abbot of Saint George Monastery, Yellow Rock, the Very Rev. Archimandrite Fr Ieronymos as our guest speaker this morning, through Zoom. The subject of today’s meeting was “Leaving our children a great inheritance”. A summary of Fr Ieronymos’ talk and the discussion that followed is given below.
The last few days we celebrated some great contemporary Saints, St Sophronios and St Paisios. The Church never stops to have Saints, even in our times. The question is, do we live by their example? Parents have this responsibility, this task, this ‘diakonima’: not only to nurture the children in a physical way according to their needs, but also to teach them to become imitators of our forefathers.
What is this great inheritance we must leave our children in order for them to be able to survive in these trying times we are living? An inheritance that will not be lost, used, sold or stolen; an inheritance that will stay with them forever. A spiritual inheritance. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t provide for our children in a material way as well. But we want our children to be drawn to the spiritual world of our faith, which lasts eternally.
In our life, there’s a fundamental truth: life is short. Because our life is too short, we must make the most of it, we shouldn’t waste it. The same way all the righteous people eventually died, we will also die. We all owe it to Christ, who has done so much for us, to leave behind to our children all these good things God has done for us, all the blessings we have received and will receive from God. All these little or big miracles that we experience every day. If we are not aware of them, it’s not because they don’t happen, but because our heart is not open to see them. We have to make our children receptacle to God’s Grace; to be able to see it and experience it.
Further, we must leave an inheritance that has to do with our holiness. We are all called to holiness, we are all called to sanctification. It is through our spiritual efforts that our good example is transmitted to our children.
We must leave our children an inheritance that has to do with our beliefs and our faith in God, the Saints, in Panagia. Our participation in the Church as part of the body of the Church. An inheritance about fasting according to our strength; about prayer and praying for all the world. Our spiritual life and prayer is important for our children and can make the biggest difference in their lives.
How do we pass on this spiritual inheritance? We must try to keep our spiritual storage full. With the Grace of God! We need to be focused not on things of this world but on God; and to experience God from this life so that we prepare ourselves for the uncertainty of the afterlife. We must always remember that our example is more important than our words. We need to follow the advice we give to our children. We must have a spiritual life.
The most important part of the spiritual life is to maintain a happy and peaceful heart, and transmit this. Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra says wherever peace and humility exists, God exists.
This is not always achievable. We are humans, we make mistakes. Our strength as parents lies with being able to recognise our mistakes and ask for forgiveness, even from our children. It is important to say sorry to our children if we make a mistake; this teaches them too the importance of humility, and that we are all humans. And then you realise that being a parent, you don’t live for yourself but for your children.
Here, it is also important to have a spiritual father, who can guide us through this and help us recognise our mistakes and learn from them, and start over with positivity; never to despair. Every day we need to make a new start, like getting a new name. This new name Isaiah mentions, and which Elder Aimilianos also discusses, is to be able to follow the will of God. The will of God needs to play a fundamental role in our lives and that of our children’s. Finding God’s will is often thought to be a challenge. But God is not complicated, God is simple. We need to be able to go close to him in simplicity. We need to live Him and breathe Him. And have an open heart in order to receive His will, rather than do ours. God does make Himself known to us, but usually in a very subtle way because He doesn’t want to take away our freedom. We need to become more simple and receptive to His will, and remove from our life things that prevent us from doing so. And finally, to teach our children to do so too.
So, to summarise, this great inheritance we must leave for our children is to live in Christ. To teach them that in our veins we have the blood of our Fathers. This we teach them through not only our words, but our example. We must give them this spiritual wealth, and also give them the means and show them the way how to increase these gifts and to reach the state of our Saints. This is our aim, the reason we are created.
And parents often wonder, what do you do if you have done your best as a parent to give this spiritual inheritance to your child, but then your child as a teenager goes away from this spiritual life you’ve taught him, like the prodigal son? In the parable, it was the love of the Father, the spiritual inheritance that the Father gave his son, which stayed with the son forever and which brought him back, although he lost all his material inheritance. His Father had made sure to give him an inheritance that could not be lost. And the Father did not lose hope, He knew He had given his son what was needed to bring him back even if he went astray. It is exactly this inheritance parents should strive to give to their children, through their prayers, their example, their own spiritual life, their love.
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