Great Lent is an ideal time for all of us as Orthodox Christians to review our lives and actively seek to become better followers of Christ. As parents, we are not only responsible for our own spiritual growth, but we are also responsible to nurture our children’s journeys towards God and His kingdom. We need all the help we can get, and a good place to start is in the slim but powerful book Walking in Wonder, by Elizabeth White.
The 67 pages of this book are packed with goals, encouragement, stories, and practical suggestions that will help its readers to nurture Orthodox Christian virtues in their children. Each chapter is just the right size to be read in a short time, which is all the time that most parents have! Despite their brevity, each of the seven chapters is packed with both ideas and admonitions. Each chapter addresses an important part of our children’s Christian lives: the spiritual needs of a child; getting ready to worship; getting ready to know God; getting ready to listen to God; getting ready to obey God; getting ready to serve others; and getting ready to share in God’s life. Each begins with related quotes; continues with goals for the chapter; goes on with several pages of insightful writing; and, finally, ends with a variety of directly-related activities that can assist the reader in helping their children to grow in that aspect of their Christian life.
Here’s an excerpt from chapter 7 (more can be found at http://www.antiochian.org/node/16620):
Among Christians, Orthodox parents are in a unique position as far as religious education goes. We have immediately at hand ready-made tools for impressing God’s truths upon the child’s heart in the most natural ways. Our worship involves all the senses, our bodies as well as our minds. From the beginning of life, the infant smells the incense; tastes the communion bread and wine; sees the candles and icons; hears the chanting, singing, and beautiful recitation of prayers. At an early age she touches the holy things of God and knows intuitively that she is in a holy place…
While the church can surround the child with hints of a larger reality-God’s Kingdom-through its architecture, liturgical rituals, education classes, and symbols, the parent must remain the primary religious educator. Brief Sunday school classes are not enough for such a great task. It is the parents who co-create, with God, the stepping-stones to faith; who show by their words and actions, as best they can, the journey to theosis. It is their task, more than any other’s, to teach the special kind of communication we call worship. Symbols need explaining; explanations need giving. Our religious language, or the way we communicate our faith by everything we do and say, needs careful thought. Above all, remember that religious education is not something that stops at age sixteen. Growing in faith is a family affair. As John Boojamra has said, education “belongs wherever it can take place, wherever people can be affected, changed or influenced meaningfully.”
The Orthodox Church is a church of celebration; when our children are active participants in church life, when they can share in our celebrations, they learn the reality of God’s active presence in their lives. Nor should our Orthodox rituals be restricted within the walls of the Orthodox temple. Our homes are considered “little churches,” which means that Orthodoxy must be taken home.
Let us as Orthodox Christian parents take this admonition to heart. Let us, indeed, bring Orthodoxy home to each of our children. Walking in Wonder is a practical place to start.
Order a copy of the book for your home library from http://store.ancientfaith.com/walking-in-wonder-nurturing-christian-virtues-in-your-children/.
Read more about author Elizabeth White at http://www.thefigtree.org/feb05/020105white.html.