The Way Home. Issue 49e  [24May02]

DUTIES OF PARENTS AND CHILDREN
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk [1]

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-1783) is one of the most loved Russian spiritual writers. His writing is known for its simplicity and depth. He was bishop of Voronezh in central Russia for a brief time before he retired to Zadonsk Monastery on account of ill health, where he wrote many of his works. Unfortunately English translation is harder to read than the original Russian.

ON THE DUTY OF PARENTS

[84] The Holy Apostle Paul says this to parents, Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), and he exhorts them to nurture their children in a manner befitting of Christians. All Christians are renewed in holy Baptism to the new, holy and Christian life, and they have vowed to serve God in faith and in truth, and so to please Him. But lest those who have been baptized become corrupt and come into a poor inheritance and have that saying come true in them, A dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that hath been washed to her wallowing in the mire (II Pet. 2-22), good nurturers of children must without fail warn them against this calamitous condition while they are yet small and young. For we sigh with pain to see that many children are corrupted in their youth; this happens to them because of the carelessness of their parents.

Many parents teach their children the arts that serve the temporal life, and spend no small sum on it, but they neglect the Christian teaching and are remiss in teaching their children to live as Christians. Such parents beget their children unto the temporal life, but close the door to the eternal.

St. John Chrysostom, in considering the misfortune of both parents that neglect the good upbringing of their children and of the children not well brought up, says this, "Parents that neglect to bring up their children as Christians, are most heinous murderers of children" (Homily 3 "Against Those that Slander the Life"). For child-killers separate the body from the soul, but these parents cast them both soul and body into fiery Gehenna. It is impossible to escape from the former death according to natural law, but it would be possible to escape from the latter death were the negligence of the parents not to blame for it. Moreover, once it comes, the Resurrection is able to abolish bodily death, but nothing can overturn spiritual destruction. Therefore, parents, listen to the word of the Lord, Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (cf. Eph. 6:4).

A gardener binds a newly planted sapling to a stake driven and fixed into the ground lest it be uprooted from the ground by wind and storm, and he prunes unneeded branches from the tree lest they harm the tree and dry it up. You should also act likewise with your small and young children. Bind their hearts to the fear of God lest they be shaken by the machinations of Satan and depart from piety, and prune away the passions that grow in them lest they mature and overpower them and so put the new, inward man to death that was born in holy Baptism. For we see that as children grow up, then sinful passions also appear and grow with them as unneeded branches on a tree. Therefore, lest these iniquitous branches mature and harm and kill the man washed, sanctified, and justified in holy Baptism, it is absolutely necessary to prune them away with the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Then, beloved, prune away these shoots from your children and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). As soon as they begin to understand reason, even a little, and to know good and evil, you should begin your work and teach them. Do thus with them:

1. Remind them often of holy Baptism and that at that time they promised God to live decently and steadfastly, to serve Him with faith and righteousness, and to keep away from every evil and sin.

2. Repeat to them as often as possible that we are all born and begotten in Baptism not for this temporal life, not for the sake of obtaining honor, glory, and riches in this world - that our very death indicates that we should abide otherwise than forever in this world - but that we are born and begotten for eternal life. All our life in this world, from birth to death, is a journey on which we travel to our promised homeland and eternal life.

Remind them often of this, lest they give themselves over to the vanity of this world, and so that they may learn to philosophize on higher and not on earthly things.

3. Let them understand Who is the God of Christians, and what He requires of us, that He hates evil and loves good, that He punishes man for evil and rewards him for good, and although we do not see Him, He does see us and is invisibly present with us everywhere and sees our every deed and hears our every word. It is necessary, then, to fear Him and to do what is pleasing to Him.

4. Enlighten their inward eyes as to Who Christ is in Whom we believe, and for what cause He came into the world and lived and suffered and died. Our sins were the cause of this, and our eternal salvation, so that being delivered from sin we might obtain eternal salvation.

5. Teach them the Law of God, and tell them what that Law demands of us: That is, that we should love God and every man; that everything that is contrary to that Law is vice and sin, while everything that is in agreement and accordance with it is virtue.

In holy Baptism we promised God to keep the Law of God and so depart from every sin and live virtuously. Whoever lives otherwise does not keep these vows and is found to be false before God, and if he does not truly repent and correct himself, he will appear false at the Judgement of Christ.

6. Set before them the last things: death, Christ's judgement, eternal life, and eternal torment, that the fear of God may so abide in them and preserve them from every evil. Pour these and other things like milk into their young hearts, that they may mature in piety.

They call you parents, then be true parents. You gave them birth according to the flesh, then also give birth to them according to the spirit. You gave them birth unto the temporary life, beget them also to eternal life.

Beloved Christians, you and your children shall appear at that Judgement of Christ, and you shall give account for them to the just Judge. He will not ask you whether you have taught your children the arts or whether you have taught them to speak French, or German, or Italian, but whether you have taught them to live as Christians.

Young children pay greater attention to the actions of their parents than to their teaching. Therefore, if you wish your children to be pious and good, you yourselves should be pious and good, and show yourselves as an example to them, and so Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (cf. Eph. 6:4). And so you and your children together shall receive eternal salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

ON THE DUTY OF CHILDREN

1. [85] First, conscience itself convinces a man to honor his parents with love. The pagans taught and made it a law to give parents first honor after God. The word of God also commands us to honor our parents, Honour thy father and mother (Eph. 6:2, also Ex. 20:12, Deut. 5:16, and elsewhere). Then give all respect, Christian, to those that gave you birth, that it may go well with you. Whom should you honor, if not your parents?

2. Second, because your parents are your great benefactors, you should render them due gratitude. Remember the pains and labors they undertook for your upbringing, and be thankful to them for it. Know well that you can give nothing in return for the benefits you have received from them. They gave to you much, and you are greatly obligated to them. Then give them heartfelt gratitude for it throughout your entire life.

3. Third, show them every obedience. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right (Eph. 6:1), and again, Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord (Col. 3:20).

4. Fourth, do not undertake anything new without their advice and consent, but you ought to take counsel with them in everything and seek their consent, lest you offend them with your disrespect and lest the matter that you have undertaken go without success.

5. Fifth, be ashamed to show disorderly conduct before them and avoid it. Say no indecent word and do no indecent deed, though Christian duty demands this of you everywhere.

6. Sixth, resolutely avoid offending them with any crude word, but speak to them and reply with every courtesy, that they may know that you love and respect them.

7. Seventh, if they punish you for something, and you know that you are genuinely at fault for it, acknowledge your fault with humility and endure the punishment with meekness. For they punish you so that they may correct you and that you should be good. But if you know that you are innocent, and your conscience justifies you, then declare your innocence with every courtesy and humility. Show judicious meekness everywhere that they may know that you are their child.

8. Eighth, do not abandon them in any need and want, but help them and serve them, and especially in their old age. Remember how much they labored for you, you should also render them service.

9. Ninth, cover with silence any infirmity you may see in them, which occur even in good people. But even if you should see something scandalous, resolutely avoid judging them and revealing it to anyone else. Do not imitate Ham, the son of Noah ' who saw his father's nakedness and went out and told it to his brothers. But follow his brothers, Shem and Japhet, who took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father (Gen. 9:23), and so on. Then you should see as though not seeing when you see anything in your parents.

10. Tenth, if you should somehow offend them in your actions and you know it in your conscience, do not delay, but fall down before them that very hour and beg their forgiveness with humility, lest you fall under God's judgement. For if you are obliged to ask forgiveness of every man whom you have offended and to make peace with him according to Christ's words (cf. Mt. 5:23-24), how much more are we obliged to do so with our parents, to whom we owe love and honor more than to any other person.

11. Eleventh, even the pagans have established great punishments in their books for those children who do not honor their parents. Terrible punishments are also prescribed against such miserable children in the holy Law of God. He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death (Mt. 15:4, cf. Ex. 21:17, Lev. 20:9), and so on. Such children, or rather degenerates of the human race, are loathsome to God and men. It is a great ingratitude and a serious iniquity to be an evildoer to your benefactors and to return evil for good. Therefore, Christian, beware, lest you experience God's avenging hand on you at that very moment. After God we have no greater benefactors than our parents. Then it is a fearful thing to be ungrateful to them.

12. Twelfth, know of a certainty that as you are to your parents, so will your children be to you, according to the words of Christ, And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Mt. 7:2).

 

May 11/24, 2002
SS Cyril and Methodius

 

Notes
[1] St. Tikhon of Zadonsk: Journey to Heaven. Counsels on the Particular Duties of Every Christian.
1994, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, 280 pages.
Translated from Russian 43rd edition published in Moscow in 1863.
(From Chapter 4 - Duties of Parents and Children), page 120-126.


Spiritual Leaflet. "The Way Home. Issue 49e -
"Duties of Parents and Children (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk)"
Website: http://www.dorogadomoj.com
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