When Mary stood at Thy grave, looking for Thy sacred body, angelic powers shone above Thy revered tomb; and the soldiers who were to keep guard became as dead men. Thou led Hades captive and wast not tempted there- by. Thou didst meet the Virgin and didst give life to the world, O Thou, Who art risen from the dead, O Lord, glory to Thee. O Star of Orthodoxy, support of the Church and its teacher, O comeliness of ascetics, and incontestable champion of those who speak in theology, Gregory the wonderworker, the pride of Thessalonica and preacher of grace, implore thou constantly for the salvation of our souls. To thee, the Champion Leader, do I offer thanks of victory, O Theotokos, thou who hast delivered me from terror; but as thou that hast that power invincible, O Theotokos, thou alone can set me free: from all forms of danger free me and deliver me, that I may cry unto thee: Hail, O Bride without Bridegroom.


Thou, O Lord, shalt keep us and shalt preserve us.
Save me, O Lord, for the godly man is no more!
The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. (1:10-2:3)
Thou, “O Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the
works of Thy hands; they will perish; but Thou remainest; and they will all grow old like a garment, and
like a mantle Thou wilt roll them up, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years
will not fail.” But to which of the angels did He say at any time, “Sit on My right hand, until I make
thine enemies a footstool for thy feet?” Are they not all spirits for liturgical ministry, sent forth to
minister for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest
heed to the things that were heard, lest at any time we drift away from them. For if the word spoken
through angels was confirmed, and every transgression and disobedience received a just retribution, how
shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation, which having at first been spoken through the Lord,
was confirmed to us by those who heard?


The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (2:1-12)
At that time, when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that He was at
home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the
door; and He was preaching the Word to them. And they came, bringing to Jesus a paralytic carried by
four men. And when they could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above
Him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And
when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now, some of the
scribes were sitting there, reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy!
Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they thus
reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to
say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that
you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the paralytic – “I
say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and
went out before them all. So that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw
anything like this!”


by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky             


Every Christian mother considers it one of her primary obligations to teach her child prayer as soon as his consciousness begins to awaken prayer that is simple and easy for him to understand. His soul must be accustomed to the warm and fervent experience of prayer at home, by his cradle, for his neighbors, his family. The child’s evening prayer calms and softens his soul, he experiences the sweetness of prayer with his little heart and catches the first scent of sacred feelings.

It is harder for a child to take in the atmosphere which prevails in church. At first he just observes. He sees people concentrating and rites he does not as yet understand and hears incomprehensible words. However, the very solemnity and festivity of the church have an uplifting effect on him. When a two year-old child wants to take part in church, to sing, speak or make prostrations—in this we can see his uplifted state of soul, with which he is involuntarily infected. We say this from simple observation.

But there is also something higher than our sense perceptions. Christ is invisibly present in church and He sees the child, blesses him, and receives him into the atmosphere of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Grace envelopes him as a warm wind wafts over a blade of grass in a field, helping it to grow up slowly and gradually, to put down roots and develop. And so the mother hastens to bring her child to Christ, to His grace, regardless even of whether he has any understanding at all of this contact with the gift of grace. This especially concerns the Eucharist, the very closest union with Christ. The mother brings her infant to this mystery while he is still a baby lying in her arms. Is the mother right?

“Suffer the little children to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” Can you really say with certainty that there and then in the fields of Palestine these children had already understood Christ’s teaching, had been sitting at the Teacher’s feet and listening to His preaching? Do not say this, for the Evangelist himself remarks that “they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them”. In bringing their little ones, the mothers’ purpose was simply that His hands should touch the children, and not that He should teach them divine knowledge.

Allowing children to have contact with spiritual grace is one of the first, basic concerns of a Christian who thinks about his children, and the task of Christian society, which is concerned about its youth. Here is the door to a correct Orthodox Christian upbringing. Enlightenment, compunction and joy, as they awaken in the infant’s growing consciousness are an external indicator of the fact that the little Christian is feeling warmth from the divine source in himself. And even if he does not feel it, the invisible action of God’s grace does not stop; only we do not see it, just as we do not see the effect of the sun on our own health instantly and at once. In Russian literature we have such apt examples of the disposition of children’s souls during preparation for confession and communion, after confession and after communion of the Holy Mysteries.

Nevertheless, how often it is forgotten that herein lies the key to organizing religious education. How often, on seeing the inadequacy of religious education, we pick up the programs and re-work them, lay the blame on the textbooks and the teachers—and forget about the importance of the church and the influence of the services; certainly we do not always ask ourselves the question: “But did the children go to church?”

As the child grows tip, he should enter more deeply into the life, of the Church. The child’s mind, the youth’s mind must be enlightened by the church services, learn from them, become immersed in them; the church should give him knowledge of God.

This matter is more complex. The task of religious ‘education will be fulfilled only when we teach our children to love church.

When we, the adults, organize church services, make arrangements for them, shorten or lengthen the order of service and so on, we are accommodating ourselves to our own concepts and needs, or simply convenience, understood in adult terms. But in so far as the concepts, needs and spiritual strivings of children are not taken into account, the surroundings are often not conducive towards making children love church. This is nevertheless one of the most important means of religious education: let the children come to love the church, so that they may always attend church with a pleasant feeling and receive spiritual nourishment from it. And since parents often cannot help here, if only because not, infrequently they are irreligious themselves, we are often compelled, when we think about our Orthodox children, to place this work into the hands of the community, the hands of the school, the hands of the Church.

Just as we are not afraid of destroying a devotion to learning and books, or love for our national literature and history by making our children come running to class at the sound of a bell and sit at desks, and by immersing them in an atmosphere of strict discipline and compulsion; so also, one might think, we would have no reason to be afraid of using a certain amount of compulsion in the matter of attending church, whether it be part of school regime or an expression of self-discipline on the part of youth organizations—both those that are connected with school and those that are not. But certainly, if this remains just compulsion, and to such an extent that it creates a psychological repulsion in the young people—this will show that the aim has not been attained, that the method has proved to be inadequate and the compulsion in vain. Let the child brought by our will express a desire to remain there through his own will. Then you will have justified your action.

And again we say: it is not only natural, psychological effects that take place in children’s souls in church, but the action of grace. Our whole concern should be that the soul of the baby, child or youth should not be closed to holy impressions, but should be freely opened: and then it will no longer need effort, force or any other form of self-compulsion; it will be nourished freely and easily and joyfully.

There is one thing that must not be forgotten: human nature requires at least a minimal degree of active participation. In church this can take the form either of reading, or of singing, or of decorating and cleaning the church, or of some other activity, even if it is only indirectly connected with the services.

The indisputable importance of the church and of communal church services for the religious upbringing of children constitutes one of the arguments in favour of the Orthodox understanding of the mystery of baptism: that is to say, an argument in favor of baptizing children at a very young age, as we do in the Orthodox Church. Baptism is the door through which one enters the Church of Christ. One who is not baptized—which means he is not a member of Christ’s family—has no right to participate in the life of this family, in its spiritual gatherings and in its table—the Lord’s table. Thus our children would be deprived of the right to be with us in church, to receive the blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity, to communicate the Body and Blood of Christ. And however we may influence them in our family at home, however much we might teach them the Gospel, we would be depriving them of the direct action of heavenly grace, and at best we would arouse a thirst for faith in them—but we would still be keeping them far from the heavenly light and warmth, which comes down, regardless of our human efforts, in the mysteries, in all the services, in holy prayers. How grossly mistaken are those religions which recognize only adult baptism!

The holy maidens Faith, Hope and Charity, and the holy young bride Perpetua, who became martyrs, are witnesses to the fact that adolescence is an age prepared even for the highest active participation in Christ’s Church. The baby in his mother’s arms in church who cried out, “Ambrose for bishop!”, and by his exclamation determined the choice of the renowned Ambrose of Milan for the episcopal cathedra—this baby is a defender of children’s rights to an active participation in Christ’s Church.

And so let us take some trouble over our children: first let us give them the chance to take more part in church—and in a wider and more elevated form than just giving the censer to the priest; and secondly, let us adapt ourselves somewhat to our children when praying together with them.

Let the children be conscious that they are members of Christ’s family.

Let the children come to love church!

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 27, No. 3 (May June 1977), pp. 29-33


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