Orthodox America


  Pastoral Discussions with Children - On Visiting the Church of God


Part VIII

Children! I have already told you not to be lazy about praying at home: in the morning, in the evening, before and after meals; likewise in school, before and after lessons. Besides this, it is essential to pray at all times, everywhere and before each good work. God is everywhere present and will hear your prayer. Be especially diligent in going to church. God Himself told people to pray not only individually, but to come together for prayer. When we all pray together, God hears our petitions all the more. Listen to how the youth Theodore loved to attend church and how God loved him for it.

At the age of eight Theodore began to go to school. Every day following lessons the other pupils hurried home to eat lunch, but Theodore ran to the church instead, in order to pray to God. He especially loved to visit the church of Saint George the Great Martyr. He only returned home in the evening and then he would eat his meal. His mother often demanded that he come home right after school, and not go to church. But Theodore loved church more than food, and continued to attend church directly after school. It also happened that everyone at home would be asleep, and he would get up before dawn and run to church. His relatives would try to scare him with tales of dogs and wolves, in order to keep him from going to church so early. But the boy feared nothing: it was revealed to him that Saint George invisibly accompanied him to church with a lance in his hand.

Once Theodore's mother, awakening early, did not find him in bed. She angrily went to church, dragged him home by his hair, and kept him by her side all day. She forbade him to go to school and at night she tied him to his bed. Then the Lord Himself came to Theodore's defense.  He sent His saint for the enlightenment of the mother and as a protector for the boy. He appeared to the mother at night with a burnished sword and threatened to smite her if she continued to harass and punish the boy for going to church. The mother thus understood that her son was acting in a God-pleasing way, that God Himself loved and protected him, and she stopped preventing him from going to church. Later, when Theodore grew up, he left his parents' home and went to live in a cave which he dug not far from the church of Saint George. He wanted not only to pray but to serve in this church. At the age of eighteen Theodore was made a priest in the church of Saint George the Great Martyr. This was the blessedTheodore Sykeote (+613).

Children, you too be diligent about attending church. Each Sunday, each feast day, when your parents, brothers and sisters go to church, go with them, so that God will love and preserve you the way He did the youth Theodore. For your efforts God will grant you every good and you will be happy in life. If, however, you misbehave and run around in the streets while all the others are in church praying, God will be grieved and you will not be happy.

Translated by Maria Naumenko from Pastyrskiye Besedy s Det'mi, Moscow 1997 (reprinted from a 1901 edition).

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