TABOR - Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Romanian Orthodox Church
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The contribution of the Theology of Elder Sophrony to the task of raising children
If the aim of the Christian life is sanctity and if education, according to Saint John Chrysostom, is the „partaking of sanctity”, it is clear how far parents are responsible for forming and shaping persons receptive to the Grace of God, since children are persons „under development”, but full members of the Church. Elder Sophrony Sakharov (1896-1993), who made his mark on the twentieth century through his work, was a multi-faceted, multi-talented and dynamic personality. The wise Elder did not write any study on family life or the Christian upbringing of children in particular. But he did set great store by the children who visited the monastery with their parents. He accommodated himself to their age and their inquiries. This accommodation had a symbolic and also practical purpose. This attitude was the consequence of the theology of kenosis (self-emptying), which imbues all his texts. The empirical approach to the mystery of faith, when connected to guileless and sincere Love, is the most certain road for Christian parents to bring up their children. Besides, „There is no human Love on earth more powerful and unchangeable that that of a mother”, as Elder Sophrony teaches. This Love can inspire prayer and participation in worship and can contribute decisively to the formation of the child’s character. In particular, motherhood in all its dimensions is an example of self-emptying Love, in accordance with the example of that of Christ Himself. In the difficult task of bringing up children, the negative and, thereafter, the positive method may be used. The negative method, control and chastisement, prevents the development of the passions and removes the obstacles which egotistical and selfish thinking raises to prevent the acceptance of the divine will. The positive method is more painstaking, more elevated and more creative. It is an initiation into the mystery of faith and requires time, patience and intense prayer. In the difficult task of raising children in a Christian manner, not only the mother and father but also the entire Church community have an important role to play.