This is the second in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Lesson 2: The Fall
The second lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” helps children to learn about the choices that Adam and Eve made and the consequences of those choices. As is characteristic of the book, the lesson is written as a conversation. It uses only words that children can easily understand.
The lesson begins by describing Paradise as a place that was beautiful both inside and out. When God placed Adam and Eve in this beautiful place, they could have lived there with God forever, if they had chosen to do so. They had a lot to learn, since they were newly created. Their bodies were grown up bodies, but they needed to grow spiritually.
God provided all that Adam and Eve needed, and set only one limit: they were not to eat from one tree in the middle of the garden. Just as we are all easily tempted to do the things that we know we are not supposed to do, Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s tempting words when he told Eve that God’s limits on the tree were not quite fair.
The lesson explains how they ate, and everything changed. Their communion with God was broken. They felt cold and naked. They even tried to hide from God. Then it goes on to show how God in His mercy extended the opportunity for Adam and Eve to repent, to own up to what they’d done, so that their relationship could be restored. But they blamed others rather than admitting their own choice.
The lesson tells about how this made God feel very sad and that because of their choice, He had to send them out of Paradise, and eventually they would die. However, it explains that this was not a permanent separation: it is more of a “time out” until God could do something to cure them. That “something” is Christ.
Here are a few quotes from the lesson:
“God gave them everything they needed. And He wanted them to love Him and to be obedient so they could always know His embrace. But sometimes kids are not obedient. Have you always been obedient? Tell the truth! Did your mom and dad tell you not to touch a hot plate, but you did, and you burned your hand? Did they tell you not to eat so much candy because you would get sick? Did you eat it anyway and end up with a stomach ache? Most of us have done something like that. Adam and Eve did something like that too.” (p. 19, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
“What did Eve do? She listened to the serpent… Eve was tempted with pride. And so, she ate. Then she gave some to her husband Adam. And he ate too. And what happened? They began to feel different inside: sad and lonely and cold. God seemed so far away now. Things changed outside too…” (p. 21, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
“God wanted to give Adam and Eve a chance for Confession. But they didn’t confess their own sin: they confessed the sin of others. In the Church, God has given us the Sacrament of Confession… whose sins do we confess? Only our own, right? We don’t blame others like Adam and Eve did. This is very important to keep us healthy and close to God.” (p. 22, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
Parents and older children may benefit from hearing more about the Fall in this podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/emmaus/three_falls_of_man_and_return_to_paradise_mar_10_2019
Lesson 3: The Sickness of Sin
The third lesson of the book focuses on the sickness of sin. It begins with a quick review of the preceding lessons, since they lay the groundwork for this one. It also offers several footnotes which contain additional activities that could be done during the reading of their particular part of the lesson, to enhance the lesson and better demonstrate the point(s) being made.
After the brief review, the lesson goes on to talk about how God has created each person in His image, stamped with His image on our heart. Beginning with Adam and Eve, anytime someone chooses to sin, this icon, the image of God, becomes dark and difficult to see. It is easy for us to forget God when His image in our heart is dirty with sin. We think more of ourselves and what we want. His image in our heart needs to be cleaned and restored. The lesson mentions that only Christ can clean it, and that the reader will learn more about it in a future lesson.
The lesson goes on to teach the reader about their nous, the eye of their soul, which was created to help each of us to see God and His blessings. It tells the reader that when we sin, our nous becomes dark like a window at nighttime: we can not see through it because it is darkened. When God’s light is not in us because of our sin, we can’t see Him clearly and it feels like He is far away (even though He is not).
The lesson explains how Adam tried to replace loving God with things, as he tried to become happy again. All of us do the same, choosing to follow our passions instead of God. It compares passions to magnets and offers a memorable hands-on suggestion of how to demonstrate the lesson using actual magnets. The lesson talks about how everyone has passions, even saints. The saints, however, have learned to turn their passions over and turn to God instead, which makes the passions no longer able to “stick”. (The suggested activity of turning one of the magnets over at this point to show how they repel each other will be an effective way to make this point.)
Before its close, this lesson touches on the struggles we all face to keep our hearts clean, keep our attention on God, and keep our trust in God. Sin fights against all of these. But Christ can provide the medicine that we need to be saved in these struggles, and the forthcoming lessons will help us to learn more.
Here are a few quotes from the lesson:
“…God did not create Adam and Eve to die… He was sad to see their hearts darkened and sick with sin. For this meant their hearts could no longer see Him and experience His perfect love.
Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we also live with this sickness… How can we become healthy again?” (p. 27, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
“…after Adam sinned he had difficulty seeing the stamp of Jesus in his heart. This means that Adam forgot about God and thought mostly about himself and his own desires. He no longer sensed that God was in him and with him. Do you ever forget about God?” (p. 28, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
“Like a magnet, when our passions get too close to sin they want to stick to them. These passions pull us toward sin. And the more we sin, the stronger the magnetic force becomes. Sometimes it feels like we can’t stop from sinning, but with God’s grace we can.” (p. 30, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
“The saints cleaned their hearts from the dark passions so that the light of God could come in.When the light of God comes into our hearts, we can see what is really important and true. Our spiritual eye—our nous—is filled with light. We find joy and peace. Then we can turn our attention to the love of God and our neighbor.” (p. 31, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)
Parents and older children may benefit from listening in as Mother Melania from St. Barbara Orthodox Monastery in Santa Paula, California talks with Kevin Allen about the passions, how they cloud the window of our hearts, and how we can begin the work to be free of their grasp in this podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/the_passions_how_we_got_into_this_mess_and_how_we_get_out