[Part 7 of a series from Raising them Right, a sub-book extracted from The Path to Salvation by St. Theophan the Recluse]
Preserving God’s Grace
- Upbringing is the cause of everything, both good and evil.
- The grace of baptism is not preserved because the order, rules and laws of an upbringing which is adopted to this end are not kept. The chief causes are:
- Going away from Church and its grace-giving means.
- Failure to pay heed to one’s bodily nature.
- A development of the powers of the soul which is undiscriminating and is not directed towards a single aim.
- Complete forgetfulness of the spirit – prayer, fear of God, and conscience are seldom taken into consideration.
- Exclusive concern for learning and giving oneself over to the world by means of fashionable ideas, rules and customs.
- Each one of the above causes is sufficient to quench the life of grace in a young person.
- Upbringing left to itself without attention of necessity will take a direction which is corrupt, false and harmful, at first in the way of life at home and then during the time of study.
“Upbringing can still be fruitless if it deviates from the chief thing:
The pleasing of God and the salvation of the soul.”
- Examples of deviations from proper upbringing:
- Putting aside the means of receiving grace.
- Memory of eternal life is drowned out by preparation for happiness in temporal life.
- Prevalence of outwardness, superficiality in everything – not excluding the priestly ministry.
Correcting the Course
- Understand well and assimilate the principles of true Christian upbringing and act according to them first of all at home.
- Remember upbringing in the home is the root and foundation of everything that follows.
- One who is well brought up and directed at home will not so easily be knocked off the straight path by a wrong teaching at school.
- One must at all times keep the education of the child under the most abundant influence of the Holy Church, which by the whole order of its life acts in a saving way upon the formation of the spirit…direct everything from what is temporal to the eternal, from the outward to the inward.
- The educator should go through all the degrees of Christian perfection in order later to know how to behave in the midst of action, to be capable of noticing which way the students are going, and then to act upon them with patience, successfully, powerfully and fruitfully. This should be a group of the most pure, God-chosen, and holy people. Of all holy works, the education of children is the most holy.
The Fruit of Godliness
The fruit of a good upbringing is the preservation of the grace of holy baptism.
One who repents, it is true, can also be healed completely; but it would seem that it is not given to him to know and to feel as one who has not fallen; he cannot take delight in that wholeness and possess the boldness that is the result of it.
- One who is repenting must for a long time force himself and train himself so as to do good, so as to perform it easily; and even after attaining this, he must constantly keep himself in a state of tension and fear.
- On the other hand, one who has not fallen lives in simplicity of heart, in a kind of assurance of salvation which blesses him and is not deceived.
- Lack of sudden impulses and/or weakening.
- Walking in good is like breathing for him.
- This can happen in one who has repented, but not as quickly and is not manifested to such perfection.
- A wheel that has been repaired frequently lets it defects be made known.
- A clock that has been repaired is not quite as accurate as one that is new and has not been repaired.
- The one who has not fallen away is always young.
- Innocent childlikeness in Christ produces a kind of ignorance of evil – how much this cuts off unnecessary thoughts and the oppressive agitations of the heart!
- He has fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12)
- Steady virtue for entire life. Examples include: Prophet Samuel and Joseph, son of Jacob.
- Bear the yoke in one’s youth. (Lamentations 3:27)
- From your youth, choose instruction. (Sirach 6:18-19)
- In the lives of saints, we find for the most part those who have preserved their moral purity and the grace of baptism in youth.
Dedication to Christ Our God
- Above all this, one who has preserved purity and dedicated himself to God from his early years does that which is most pleasing to God.
- An immaculate youth is a pure sacrifice.
- This is accomplished by means of overcoming quite a few obstacles, both within ourself and outside, by renouncing pleasures for which, especially at this age, there is a great inclination.
- One must dedicate oneself to God, for in this alone is salvation.
- How rarely does one who has lost innocence succeed in regaining it!
- See the Blessed Augustine’s Confessions for a testimony of the destruction of the immoral life begun in one’s youth. It clearly demonstrates the danger of the person who has not received good rules in his youth and has not beforehand dedicated himself to God.
What good fortune it is to receive a good, truly Christian upbringing, to enter with it into the years of youth, and then in the same spirit to enter into the years of adulthood.