An Epistle Regarding Christian Education in the Home and the Living Water Web Site from the Holy Eparchial Synod of the G.O.C. in North and South America
July 31/Aug. 13, 2013
Righteous Eudokimos the Just, and Joseph of Arimathea
To our Beloved Flock in Christ,
Blessings in the grace and peace of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
When we approach the subject of Christian education, many questions arise. Where have past Christian education programs failed? How can we assist those that see the writings of the Holy Fathers and Holy Scripture as mere words and not sources of life? How can we help parents in this hectic world pass onto their children the hope of eternity, the love and joy of the Orthodox Faith?
Our Focus Needs to be on Eternity
Christian education in the home must be not merely and intellectual education, but a spiritual education, a cultural education, a process that begins only when we seek to know ourselves. Today in our modern society, many households emphasize excellence in sports and academia, but Saint Gregory Palamas explains what the most important type of learning is:
For a man to know God, and to know himself and his proper rank -- a knowledge now possessed even by Christians who are thought to be quite unlearned -- is a knowledge superior to natural science and astronomy and to all philosophy concerning such matters.
Moreover, for our intellect to know its own infirmity, and to seek healing for it, is incomparably greater than to know and search out the magnitude of the stars... and, in short, all of the multiform relationships which arise from the many different motions in the heavens. For the intellect that recognizes its own infirmity has discovered where to enter in order to find salvation and how to approach the light of knowledge and receive the true wisdom that does not pass away with this present world. ---St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, V. 4 Philokalia
Thus, our subject is the weighty matter of how to approach the light of the knowledge of God and receive true wisdom. Our topic is Eternity.
The Parental Responsibility for the Education of Children
Who is ultimately responsible for imparting the light of spiritual knowledge and true wisdom unto children? In the Old covenant, the Lord God, through the mouth of the Prophet Moses did not command the Israelites to send their children to Temple school or synagogue school, but rather, He informed parents of their responsibilities in the following words:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)
Thus, Christian education in the home begins with striving to love God with all of one's heart, all of one's soul and all of one's strength. And in light of this striving to love God, parents are then admonished to teach the word of God to their children diligently and at all times. Every day is a teaching day and any time can be a teaching moment. The responsibility before God to teach your children of the things of God is clearly yours and our clergy are here to assist you.
Bond With Your Children Through the Stories of Our Spiritual Heroes
One of the most important aspects of this initiative is to encourage parents to better bond with their children by reading to them. A small child should first hear of the stories of the people of God while sitting on their mother's or father's lap. They should hear of the acts of God from the lips of their parents and grandparents first and foremost. When the children are older, they should read spiritual works aloud to their parents, getting through the difficult texts with the help of their parents. This type of activity can be a great help to older children during the sometimes difficult teenage years and it can be a source of spiritual consolation for the family.
Every generation of the People of God labored to retell the acts of God and the great deeds of faith of the people of God to their children, as the righteous mother of the seven Maccabee children spake to her sons:
And these my children, having arrived at maturity, their father died: blessed was he! for having sought out a life of fertility in children, he was not grieved with a period of loss of children. And he used to teach you, when yet with you, the law and the prophets. He used to read to you the slaying of Abel by Cain, and the offering up of Isaac and the imprisonment of Joseph. And he used to tell you of the zealous Phinehas; -and informed you of Ananias and Azarias, and Misael in the fire. And he used to glorify Daniel, who was in the den of lions, and pronounce him blessed.
And be used to put you in mind of the scripture of Esaias, which saith, Even if thou pass through the fire, it shall not burn thee. He chanted to you David, the hymn-writer, who saith, Many are the afflictions of the just. He declared the proverbs of Solomon, who saith He is a tree of life to all those who do His will. He used to verify Ezekiel, who said, Shall these dry bones live? For he did not forget the song which Moses taught, proclaiming I will kill, and I will make to live. This is our life, and the length of our days. (4th Maccabees 18:7-24)
In order to help parents follow in the footsteps of former generations of the People of God and more effectively pass on spiritual knowledge to their children we the bishops of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the G.O.C. in North America bless the establishment of the Living Water  web site.
The web site has the following Mission Statement.
The purpose of this web site is to help enable parents to establish an Orthodox Christian way of life within the home. Our goal is to help parents share their knowledge of the faith with their children and establish family Traditions that will be part of a living experience. Our Savior is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of all things. A Christian family must strive to have their hearts and minds filled with the Person of Christ. He alone is the Source of the good, the true and the beautiful. Our task is to assist parents in their efforts to experience this in their own personal lives and to help them impart this treasure to their children.
We are the salt of the earth. We have to cooperate with grace and become coworkers with God for the salting action of the Holy Spirit to be made manifest in us and in our young. This preserving action of salting begins at home.
We Understand Christian Families Need Resources and Support
Church school is a wonderful resource and the “Living Water” web site will provide as much material as possible for that purpose, but church school must be seen as something supplemental. How can a class that lasts a little more than an hour a week in most cases compete with the conditioning and the bombardment of the many spiritually fraudulent ideas in the secular media and schools that takes up the rest of a child’s waking moments? A church school class is of help, but, especially today, much more is needed. We live in an increasingly materialist and hedonistic society. During these difficult times it is essential for families to judiciously withdraw from the popular culture and cultivate the Orthodox Christian culture in the home. Imparting spiritual knowledge takes time, Christian family time. We exhort you to find time every day for the sake your children's spiritual well being, for as Saint Irenaus of Lyons famously wrote, “God…made the things of time, for man, so that coming to maturity in them, he may produce the fruit of immortality...” (Saint Irenaus, Against Heresies, Book IV Chapter V)
Help Us Make This a Successful Effort
May your families be blessed in our Lord Jesus Christ in this age and in the age to come.
Your fervent suppliants unto God,
THE HOLY EPARCHIAL SYNOD OF THE CHURCH OF THE G.O.C. in AMERICA
† PAVLOS of America
† MOSES of Toronto
† PHOTIOS of Marathon
† SERGIOS of Portland
† DEMETRIUS of Boston
† CHRISTODOULOS of Theopoulis
 The title of the site was inspired by the Gospel passage when our Savior said to the Samaritan woman, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” (John 4:10)
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