Friday, June 22, 2012

Everybody Knows How to Love God

A few days ago, I was sitting in a classroom at Hellenic College and listening to Catherine Varkas give a lecture on Baptism, the nous, and the spiritual nature/development of children.
     She started by simply quoting the Philokalia, "The spiritual faculty, the nous, of the baptized infant knows God through immediate experience".
    We all sat and tried to absorb that concept, contemplating the many ways it presents itself in our Church and in our work.
    This is a lecture I've heard more than once, as this is the third time I've sat in on the Orthodox Christian Spiritual Formation course, but every time I hear it, I receive it differently, with different impressions, observations, and questions.
     This time, I internalized a spider web of connections between that quote from the Philokalia, Father Meletios Webber's book Bread & Water, Wine & Oil, the letter Montessori dictated on her death bed, and something a 3 year old once said to me.
     Father Webber writes that "fragmentation within the human personality is observed essentially as the division between the mind and the nous".
     Montessori urged teachers on her death bed to "protect in [the child's] development those natural energies implanted in their souls by the guiding hand of God". Protect. Not enlighten. Protect.
     I once left work (a Greek Orthodox Preschool) during my lunch hour to run up the street for confession. Since I was going to church, I changed into a dress, and when I came back, I didn't have time to change again. Of course, the children noticed. One in particular was very curious about it, and the following conversation occurred:
          "Miss Anna," she asked, "why did you change your clothes?"
          "Because I went to church."
          "Why did you go to church?"
          "I went to see Father for confession."
          "What's confession?"
          "Well, I talked to Father, and he told me how I could love other people better and how I
           could love God better".
    Here she stopped and looked at me with a confused look on her face before saying,
          "But everybody knows how to love God. You know how to love God, Miss Anna."
     The child isn't fragmented. Not like adults are anyway. Her mind and nous exist in harmony within her. She comes to us this way. She experiences God before she is even old enough to recognize anyone other than her mother, and even her she recognizes only by sensation. She is a child, and yet she inherently loves God so much that she can't fathom that someone wouldn't know how. And that is indeed something that I desire to protect in every child.

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