Dr Despoina M. Kalogeraki, Bth, Mth, PhD
The Purpose of Agogi (Upbringing/Education)
The purpose of Christian agogi, according to St. Chrysostom is the act of shaping a child into an icon of God1. Thus, he exhorts the parents “to raise their children” as if they were raising “athletes in Christ”. He counsels them that though they live in the world (Gk κόσμος) they should teach their children το be pious from their first steps2.
The purpose of Christian pedagogy is not secular and “from this world” (Jn 18, 36)· it is rather “Christocentic”, not man-centric but Godman-centric (as Jesus Christ who has two natures, human and divine)3. Thus, it goes without saying that the core of the pedagogy of St. Chrysostom has long-lasting power as it is derived from the divinely inspired Scriptures, the Word of God. That is why referring to a disciple he notes, “even if you have not a teacher to follow his advice you have Jesus’ Christ advice to follow… He is the perfect teacher to obey to”4.
The enlightened father of the Church teaches that as the first human being was created according to the “image” of God (Gen 12:6), likewise every child that is conceived, bears the imprint of God on its soul. It is actually an image of God. This image however, was injured by sin. This injury is now to be healed by the pedagogy in Christ. A pedagogue’s ultimate purpose is to lead his disciples off any kind of sin. Thus, as we have already noted above, its value is priceless.
Furthermore, it goes without saying that a pedagogue is not capable of intervening in the process of the creation of God as it is utterly God’s work. He can however, affect the willingness of a man in order to help him act according to God’s commandments. For, human’s soul “is not bad or good by nature”, on its own. To the contrary, one’s good or bad will makes a person a good or a bad human being5. Thus, the pedagogue, either a parent or a teacher, tries to cultivate children’s will and teach them to abstain from every kind of sin. And, as St. Chrysostom points out, this is where the great responsibility lies. So, it seems that with the proper education-pedagogy, nature is to be overcome6.
Undoubtedly, St. Chrysostom has stressed the pedagogical role of both parents and family as a whole7. What makes somebody a father or a mother, he points out, is not only to give life to their children but to raise them in the proper way, namely in Christ8. Hence, parents have to transform their families to an “ecclesia=church” (Gk ἐκκλησία), which means a gathering of the faithful to worship God. In doing so, “fathers and mothers, by bringing up their children shall not lose their reward”9, he notes. He also develops what we would call today “parental counseling”10 underlining how much the sentimental environment affects the upbringing of children. One cannot expect much when a family resembles to “a ship, while being in a storm, the captain is arguing with the officer at the bow”11. For Chrysostom, marital life and upbringing of children is actually a kind of “a science”12.
1.PG 62, 154. See also V. Tatakis, Studies on Christian philosophy, ed. Papadimirtiou, Athens 1967.
2. “About vanity and how…, par. 19.
3. See Eph 4, 13.
4. “Have you a teacher who is not virtuous? Still you have Him who is truly a Teacher, whom alone you should call a Teacher. Learn from Him: He has said, “Learn of Me, for I am meek.” (Matt. 11, 29.) Do not take heed, then, to your teacher, but to Him and to His lessons. Take thence thy examples, you have a most excellent model, to it conform yourself”. On Philippians, PG 62, 273. See Heb 12, 2.
5. On Thessalonians 2,4· PG 62, 478.
6. See also, About children’ upbringing, PG 63, 767.
7. “…fathers may be benefited by the virtue of their children, and mothers also, when they have brought them up well. But what if she be herself addicted to wickedness and vice? Will she then be benefited by the bringing up of children? Is it not probable that she will bring them up to be like herself? It is not therefore of any woman, but of the virtuous woman, that it is said she shall receive a great recompense for this also”. See On first letter to Timothy, PG 62, 547 .
8. Just like Anna raised Samuel. See To Anna…, Logos A΄, PG 54, 652-660. See also, On Maccabees…, Homily I, PG 50, 621 See also, To a widow…, PG 51, 329.
10. On Ephesians, Homily XX, PG 62, 146-148.
11. On first letter to Corinthians, PG 61, 153.
12. On first letter to Timothy, Homily IX, PG 62, 547.
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