Let us begin the Fast with joy!
Let us prepare ourselves for spiritual efforts!
Let us purify and cleanse our flesh!
Let us abstain from passion, as we abstain from food!
Let us rejoice in the Spirit and persevere with love!
The Department of Christian Education encourages parents to remember that children are never too young to be brought to Church for services. The sooner we introduce them to the Church, her services, and her wisdom, the sooner we begin the process of “becoming” an Orthodox Christian. In order for Orthodoxy to make sense, our children need to experience all that the Church offers.
Make it part of this year’s Lenten commitment to attend more services, or attend more often. When Holy Week comes, block out all other activities. Make it a point to attend every service you can with your children. Be creative so that you can keep little ones directed and occupied. Locate service books for children who can read. Explain what’s going to happen. Talk about what Holy Week and Pascha were like when you were growing up.
Ann Marie Gidus-Mercera, author of A Way of Life: Introducing Your Child to the Orthodox Faith, urges parents to take their children to the services. She writes, “Whenever a service is scheduled, plan to attend. Services like The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete may be physically tiring with the many prostrations, but don’t think your child can’t be a part of them. In my own parish, which is filled with pre-schoolers, the children do a great job of making prostrations right along with the adults. Many of the children will join in as “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me” is sung. This experience is good for our children! If they see their parents attending services, they get the message that attending Church is important. If we bring our children to Church with us (both young and old), they get the message that their presence in Church is important. The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is especially good for teaching our children that we worship with our entire bodies….
Now is a good time to stress that the entire family should be attending services. My husband can’t make it home from work in time for all of us to get to services together, but he always meets us at Church. This tells our children that Church is important enough for Daddy to meet us there. As children get older, homework and after-school activities may tempt them (and us!) to skip Church services. Don’t let it! First of all, if we give in, then what we’re really telling them is that worldly affairs are more important than spiritual affairs. By allowing our children to miss Church, we make it extremely easy for them to fall away as teenagers or young adults.
Last of all, if we allow our older children to miss Church, we are telling our younger children that Church is not important when they get to be big sister or big brother’s age. Enforcing Church attendance by the entire family is no easy task. In fact, enforcing it may be one of the hardest jobs you encounter. Sticking to your rule will be even tougher. It’s a choice we must make as Orthodox parents. Maybe, it makes our task easier if we ask ourselves, ‘What would God want us to do?’ The answer is obvious.”