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30.12.2017

To sang the soul: On religious education in school and at home

The first thing I would like to say about the upbringing of children: children are not our future, children are our present. From the moment they are baptized, they are already full members of the Church of Christ. And that's why it's a very big mistake to think that now they are small animals, but when they grow up, then people will get out of them. It seems to me (and I have told this to many mothers and fathers) that the spiritual growth of the child begins in the womb of the mother, that in so far as the mother lives in Christ, as she lives a clean and prayerful life, as she accepts the sacraments - and the child participates in it, because during all the months before his birth the child is one with the mother, they can not be divided in any way.

And further (this is not my experience, because according to the circumstances of my life I did not receive any religious upbringing) it seems to me that even after birth it is very important that it sink into the soul of this child - not only through mental perception but through some flair, until he even does not understand anything. When, say, a mother reads a prayer over him, when she sings church songs, when she just sings Russian songs, from which the soul begins to come to life and somehow form, she has already begun the human and spiritual upbringing of the child.

What I said about secular songs struck me forty years ago. We started here a Russian school where a girl was studying (she is now an assistant to the elder in our parish, she has her own children and grandchildren), who did not find herself completely. She spoke Russian, she knew that she was Russian, but (as she later told me) when she came to our school and she was taught Russian songs, something happened to her: like strings that trembled and trembled in the soul, which before being silent, were dead, and she suddenly came to life in such a measure and to such a depth, which she had never known before.


Let the children come to Me, and do not let them

And I'll tell you something about church songs too. More than thirty years ago one of our best singers, a certain Fedorov, died. He went to church from early childhood, he had a good voice, he sang in the choir for seven years and throughout his life. He fell ill with cancer, went to the hospital and it was clear that he would never leave the hospital. I went to him 3-4 times a week. At first we prayed aloud with him, I performed a moleben and he sang it. Then he stopped singing, because there was not enough breath, no strength, and I, as I could, sang something. And then came a time when he could not respond in any way, only it was clear that he perceives what is around him. Once I came to him again, and my older sister said to me: "You know what a grief! His wife and daughter arrived, who were absent from abroad for a year, and he was dying, unconscious. And they are in despair: they can not even say goodbye to him ... "I approached them. He really was so bad that he could not be shouted before ... I said to his daughter and wife: "Sit next to one side of the bed." Then I knelt beside him and began to sing quietly the hymns of Passion Week and Easter, which he performed all his life, with which he lived, which trembled in his soul. And it was evident how he gradually begins to return to earth from some depths where he was; consciousness began to manifest itself, and at some point he opened his eyes. I told him: "Your wife and daughter came to say good-bye; you are at death, - say good-bye ... "Then I crossed it and said:" Now die in peace ... "And it struck me greatly. Of course, this is not the power of my prayer: I just sang those chants from which his soul burned and lived, and this for a brief moment brought him back to the surface of life. And so again I will say: it is important that the children sang church songs so that even in their infancy, they would hear holy prayer words. And said from the soul to the soul, and not statistically protarated. It is not easy to read the evening or morning prayers over the child, but that the prayers be said so that, although the child does not perceive them with the mind, they have gone somewhere into the depths of it.

Further it seems to me that the child should be educated with both an example and own inspiration. If parents only say how he should behave, because he is Russian, or an Orthodox Christian, for him and Russianness and Orthodoxy are simply a kind of prison: this is what prevents him from living. And the child needs to talk about how he can flourish, if only he becomes like those people who can serve as examples for us. We do not have so few children in the lives of saints, which can be mentioned, tell what they were. And it's not like telling things that the child does not know or who will never happen to him. Such a child performed a miracle - this is unconvincing to another child, because he knows that he will not perform any miracles himself. And to tell what kind of person he had, what courage, what spiritual beauty, what love, what sacrifice, are all the noblest and most beautiful qualities in a person.


Metropolitan Anthony Bloom's talk with children

And besides, the child should be able to look at his parents, see that what is being told to him, in fact, it happens in them. They may be imperfect - the child understands perfectly, but they aspire to the highest, the absolute, and this makes sense and their content of life. And that he saw in them good quality, honesty, those properties that are simply human, but which are already on the verge of holiness, if only they are touched by the spark of God.

Of course, at some point children must be taught, that is, they must learn about Christ, about the apostles, about the early Church, about the Church in general, about worship, etc. But this must be done so that everything is for the child a revelation and joy, and not one more "lesson" that should be learned. Therefore, it is necessary to convey a story not in the form of something that he should memorize, but just as we tell thousands of things to our children or friends: to tell what has touched us, what we care about, what is interesting, or wonderful, or scary . And the child can perceive it, because if he feels that the mother, the father, the grandmother, the environment react so to what they say, then he will also react, he will also enter this mood. And how to "develop" a lesson, so that it was both smart and brilliant - it is better not to try. I have an example in mind. In Paris was a wonderful priest and a wonderful preacher. He and as a man was wonderful, sermons for adults were convincing and full of strength, but he never dealt with children. Somehow he was invited to the Sunday school of the Russian Christian movement to give a demonstration lesson. They put the children in the middle of the room, the leaders and mentors sat around, and this priest began a lesson. When it was over, the adults were absolutely ecstatic: it was so harmonious, so logical, so strong, so convex. And Lev Alexandrovich Zander approached one of the children, the seven-year-old, and said: "Well, how did you like the lesson?" And the boy said to him: "It was entertaining; it's a pity only that Father does not believe in what he said ... "This is not true; he believed in every word that he said, but he uttered these words so that they came from his mind, and the construction of his entire conversation was such that it did not reach the hearts of the children.

And sometimes something very primitive - but it's getting to the heart. Again, I remember a priest who impressed me very much, but I realized it only decades later. I was then a boy of 10-11 years in a children's camp, and we had a priest. He was probably thirty years old, he had long hair, a long beard, and he seemed to be our grandfather. But that's what struck me and puzzled him (then I did not understand it): he loved us all without exception, with a love that did not change, the only difference being that when we were "good", his love was gleeful when we were "bad", this love became grief; but it never diminished and never changed. This amazed me. Only later I realized this: so God loves us. His love does not change, but when we are unworthy of ourselves, for Him this grief, which ends, in the extreme case, a crucifixion on Calvary. When, on the contrary, we are worthy of ourselves and, hence, of Him, then His love becomes a jubilation. This was my first impression. Years passed, and I met this priest on the removal of the Shroud. I was already a young man, we gathered at the Shroud to pray. He went out, knelt before the Shroud and stood for a long time, and we stood. Then he got up, turned his face to us, covered with tears, and said: "Today Christ died for us. Let's cry ... "And he cried. And it was not sentimental. We saw that the death of Christ for him is so real that he can not cry over Christ, but over the fact that we are the cause of His death. And this is the way that we can teach a child to perceive what we can not explain in words.


In the temple

There is one consideration here - this is a school, for example, parish or Sunday school. And here are a few things to note. First, I repeat what I said before: you can not teach the truths of faith, as they teach history or geography, they must be taught as life. And so, when, say, at the Russian gymnasium in Paris, the child was asked to be examined during the exam: "Tell me about the third journey of the apostle Paul" - I shrugged and thought: what is it that the apostle Paul and his third journey have to save the soul of this child? I have no idea about this, I forgot a long time, and I was never interested. Pavel is interesting to me, but where he went - only insofar as there was something happening. Therefore, teaching, memorizing the Sacred History as a story only destroys. In addition, there are moments of Sacred history, where the story does not make any sense. Take, for example, the story of Samson. He gave the woman to shave herself, and all his strength was gone. How does the child react to this? What is this is some kind of witchcraft, that in his hair there was some kind of magical power. And the fact is that long hair was worn by those who were dedicated to God. At the very moment when Samson took off his hair and threw it away, his dedication to God passed away, and the divine power departed from him. Therefore, there are two ways to tell about Samson: this is either a story-tale, or a story full of spiritual meaning.

Here is another example from my practice. I talked this way. We took the Sunday Gospel, that is, the text that will be read the next day (we gathered on Saturdays), and I told it as clearly and vividly as possible, with my tongue, adhering to the Gospel, adding nothing, nothing lessening, but not using those expressions or phrases that are alien to children, incomprehensible, and trying to do something important and interesting for them from the story. And then I put the question to them: "And now - what do you think about this?" And for an hour we exchanged views. And my group consisted of children from six to fourteen years old, and it turned out that a slightly blunt 14-year-old could learn something from a quick six-year-old, and there was a constant exchange. And they first tried to understand what is said here, how it can be, why; then how to apply it or what conclusions can be made for your own life. And then we read this text in Slavonic or Russian, so that when they hear it in the church, they all learn it in it, so that every word is like a hand that touched a string in their soul, and that from this touch they have the soul began to sing.

In addition, during the lessons, I raised moral issues with the children. That is: what happened to you this week? They quarreled or there deceived somebody, stole something - all the same. And we began a moral analysis of this act. You, Andryusha, did this (they said): you not only played with the ball in the yard, but you deliberately let the ball through the window. Why? What prompted you? .. He said something, another boy said something, and a conversation was tied. But what was in this instructive? Of course, it's not that he broke the window, but that during the conversation someone constantly said something that could be attributed to the Holy Scripture. And I stopped them: "Ah! You said it, but before you it's the apostle Paul said. Let's look at the book ... You said so? - this is already said in the Gospel before you ... "And gradually, based on misdeeds or from some joyful events of life, we weaved into life evangelical stories, apostolic words, Christ's commandments, His example. And so it seems to me that this is the religious upbringing of the child in school.

If the school is built in such a way that it exists as a real partnership between its members: children among themselves and children with their teacher, this is the place where they can learn a different attitude to life that you can not find on the street, that is, partnership, truthfulness, and so on. . And we, creating such an environment, can gradually form a society of children who, growing up in adolescents and adults, will be able to realize (not because they were trained, but because they learned and accepted it from childhood), that the world in which we we must live differently.


Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

And yet: growing up, they will inevitably face moral problems. If they have never been in a unanimous, unanimous environment, and unanimous with Christ, with God, they will follow the advice of the street and receive answers that can be completely destructive to their souls. If in this school a real partnership is created, welded together by a deep spiritual and prayer life, then they will go to their own, and their own will say: "No, you can not, you will not be worthy of yourself, you will be unworthy of our partnership, you will not be worthy of a name a Russian person, your title of orthodox ... "And it can help a child to get on his feet when he is already beginning to fall to his knees. That is why it seems to me that the church school in this respect can have enormous significance. Not because you will learn concrete facts about the life of Christ, but because in it you will gain an invaluable spiritual experience. The girl I told you about earlier, who came to life with a soul when she started singing Russian songs, once said to me at an adult mother: "You know, Father Antony never teaches us anything, but he inspired us so much The Gospel, that we ourselves began to learn from it ... "And it seems to me that it is very important to inspire the soul of the child.

A source: The magazine "Pokrov"

Author: Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh (Bloom). 1993, London

Tags: Religion, Christianity

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