Once again we have come to attend a Sunday service. We have come to celebrate the Sunday, to ponder Christ’s resurrection and our own personal resurrection. This remembrance of the resurrection should also become our way of life. The celebration of the resurrection is a triumph over the sinful world, a triumph over death, a celebration of life. The celebration of Sunday is the basic celebration of our faith and our life.
But to celebrate does not mean that we just pray at the service, and then we go out and do nothing. Our celebration is our continuous service to God - serving Him with our words, our lives, even our very breath. And the celebration is not composed of idleness, of doing nothing, but on the contrary, it is the most perfect activity - the work of our spirit. But this is not an easy task. It is not only in church that we must work spiritually, because church is actually the end result of our work. We have six days in which to do our work, and the seventh day (in this case - Sunday) is dedicated to our Lord God…
Some people attempt the following division: six days are ours - they say, - and we can use them as we see fit. That is, we can use them for our own affairs, and one day we can give up to God. But that is not right. All days - those six and this seventh one - we need to attain a resurrection from the dead. Such a resurrection constitutes the meaning of our life. This is the reason for which we live and work. And all our work throughout these six days must be directed towards the Sunday, and the Sunday must be the crowning touch of our work.
Let us look at the family: what are we doing in that area to attain our resurrection from the dead? The family is our most immediate job in this respect. We have already spoken about relations between husband and wife. Let us talk today about how we attain our resurrection through the rearing of children.
Children are the purpose of married life. In the Old Testament, those who did not have children were despised. Children are God’s blessing, God’s grace. And no matter how many are sent to us - all should be accepted. The wife is saved through childbearing. A woman achieves her salvation in giving birth to children - that is her first task in the area of resurrection. The second task is to rear the children. And this is the hardest of all. But what good comes without difficulty? All good deeds are done with hardship. The Heavenly Kingdom is acquired by force, by hard work.
The first thing to do for the sake of resurrection is to baptize the child. Such a baptism should not be done mechanically, but should rather be felt as a resurrection. The sacrament of baptism removes the disease of sin. And what sin can a child have? The sin which hangs over all of mankind, the so-called original sin. This sin must be removed. But to remove sin means to become resurrected.
The godparents must be believers, and not simply believers, but ardent believers, in order to become the parents’ closest helpers in rearing their children. The child should wear a cross around his neck. It is well to have a small icon hang at the head of his bed, and to have a lampada constantly burning before the icons in the home. Although this may appear to be an external matter, it is nevertheless important. The child lives through his first impressions. And just imagine: he is wearing a cross, a small icon hangs at the head of his bed, a lampada burns before the icons. What a wonderful picture, which will remain in the child’s memory for the rest of his life.
From his earliest years, as soon as the child begins to utter words, he should be taught to pray to God. He should be taught the Law of God, we should read to him from the Holy Scriptures. And he should be brought to church as often as possible, to take communion. This is the internal side of childrearing.
And we must not forget that there should be love and agreement between the parents. Thus, if we do all this, we will bring up good Christians. Furthermore, to bring up good Christians means not only to resurrect their souls, not only to resurrect our own souls, but to resurrect the society in which we live.
At this point I can foresee that I may be accused of having little knowledge of life, of being too na?ve… I accept such accusations. However, at the same time I pose a question: but what else can we do? If we do not act in such a manner, we will perish. Both we, and our children, and the surrounding society. We look upon destruction too optimistically, but it is destruction after all. Destruction! Not temporary, but eternal.
Let us imagine life as it really is. It is very rare nowadays for both parents to be believers. And baptizing a child poses a great problem. There are even much worse occasions. Let us suppose that a drunk husband comes home and becomes mad that there are icons in his house. Enraged, he moves up to the icon corner, grabs an icon and either breaks it or throws it out. What kind of childrearing is that? The child sees everything, and later he will imitate what he has seen. He, too, will drink, he will offend the feelings of others, he will revenge himself upon his parents. A chip off the old block, as they say…
What can we do about it? Just throw up our hands and let all go to perdition? But it is not only objects that become destroyed, not only cultural monuments, but human souls are destroyed.
When misfortune occurs, a fire for example, kind people always respond. And so all of us, now standing in church, should respond to our common terrible misfortune. We must respond, first of all, with prayer. O Lord, You see what is happening in our families, You see our children, for whom nothing is holy, who do not know what a terrible abyss they are approaching…
Some people may say: we pray, but God doesn’t hear us.
That is not true! God hears, but how do we pray? Most of the time we pray without faith. It is said about those who believe: everything is possible for believers, and if something is impossible for us, - that means we do not have real faith. Faith can move mountains, nothing is impossible for those who believe. Therefore, in order to be able to respond to misfortune, let us examine ourselves, how we pray, how we believe…
But in order to pray well, in order to believe, we must lead a righteous life. Let us think about ourselves, how we are living, what a multitude of sins there exists among us! It is said in the Gospel: if you bring your gift to the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift and first go and make peace with your brother. A heart which contains anger and enmity, cannot pray.
Moreover, how much adultery, lying, envy, forgery, calumny there is among us… In order to resurrect the souls of our children, we must first resurrect our own souls. When we pray in church with souls burdened by sin, we are often unable to understand prayer, unable to understand the service. Our prayer consists solely of ordering a panikhida or moleben, for example, and of then listening for the names we had submitted. And if we do not hear those names mentioned, we immediately think that there has been no prayer. If the priest tries to explain to us that our prayer should consist of an attempt to understand the words of the service, to concentrate upon these words, he is told: for what are we paying money then?
But money is not paid for prayer, prayer cannot be bought! Money in this case is like good deeds, to make the prayer more forceful, but we must never think that we can buy prayer for money.
And how can we understand the service? Everyone can understand the service as long as he has a strong desire for it. We all know that we must not talk during a service, yet we do so; that we must not push one another, yet we do so. There are moments when we must concentrate so absolutely, that even our breathing should not be heard. These are the “Cherubic hymn” and the “Eucharistic canon.” These moments represent the Lord suffering for us, the Lord being crucified for us, the Lord being resurrected and resurrecting our souls along with Him, while we, thinking of other things, are apt to walk around the church, push our neighbors, ask them to light candles for us. Yet we all hear the words: “now lay aside all earthly cares…” We understand these words, but we do not follow them. This means we do not have a Christian consciousness.
We must have a Christian consciousness! - only then will we be able to respond to all misfortune. Let us home school our children in matters of religion, let us gather them and tell them all about God. By doing thus, we will resurrect ourselves and others.
Father Dimitriy Dudko.