Friday, February 10, 2017

Stump the Priest: Spanking Children?

Question: "Some have argued that the verses in Proverbs regarding corporal punishment are referring to the punishment of adults and not to children. Can you clarify?"

Let's take a look at a couple of the verses in question:
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15).
"Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:13-14).
The word translated as "child" these verses is na‛ar (נער), which means "boy" and is used with reference to boys from the age of infancy to adolescence. I doubt very much that any reputable commentary has ever been written that would seriously argue that this refers to an adult rather than to a child.

But consider the words of St. Basil the Great, which unambiguously, and approvingly speak of small children receiving corporal punishment:
"As small children who are negligent in learning become more attentive and obedient after being punished by their teacher or tutor, and as they do not listen before the lash, but, after feeling the pain of a beating, hear and respond as though their ears were just recently opened, improving also in memory, so likewise with those who neglect divine doctrine and spurn the commandments. For, after they experience God's correction and discipline, then the commandments of God which had always been known to them and always neglected are more readily received as though by ears freshly cleansed" (St. Basil the Great, Homily on the Beginning of Proverbs 5, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, Vol. IX, J. Robert Wright, ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervasity Press, 2005) p. 147).
St. John Chrysostom recognized that for normal parents, their natural inclination is not to use the rod of correction because of their affection for their children, but that this is why Scripture admonishes them that if we truly love them, we will use it appropriately:
"Spare the rod and spoil the child (Proverbs 13:24). Here there is reference to the people who appear to love their children, but in fact do not; so spoiling is the result of sparing -- not of not sparing. Having children is a matter of no little import: we are responsible even for their salvation. On that reasoning Eli would not have paid a severe penalty. Whereas those who love them correct them diligently -- not casually, but diligently: since nature bids us be sparing, he makes no mention of excess. Hence he says, I instilled affection in you, not for you to harm your loved ones, but for you to care for them; so refrain from inappropriate affection" (St. John Chrysostom, Robert Charles Hill, Trans., Commentary on the Sages, Volume 2, Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Press, 2006,  p. 133f).
See also: 

Spanking: What Saith the Scripture?

When to Spank

Friday, February 03, 2017

Stump the Priest: Two Questions on House Blessings

Question 1: "Should a house be blessed every year?"

Question 2: "What should a family do to prepare for a house blessing and what should they expect?"

There are two types of house blessings: The blessing of a new home, and the blessing of a home at Theophany.

The Blessing of a New Home

The blessing of a new home is done only once, and is a more elaborate service. A table is needed, which should ideally be covered with a nice cloth, on which the priest will place the Book of the Gospels, the Cross, four lit candles, Holy Water, a hand censer, and a small bowl or cup of olive oil. Ideally this table would be in front of, or very near, the family Icon corner.

Other priests may handle this differently, but what I would like the family to have in such cases are a bowl the holy water, and a small bowl or cup with olive oil; and either four candle stands or four small saucers, on which the candles can be placed. I bring the Gospel, the Cross, the hand censer, and the Holy Water, and usually have candles with me, if the family doesn't have four candles that are suitable.

During the course of the blessing of a new home, the olive oil is blessed and a small Cross is made with it on the four sides of the home. The four candles are placed below the Crosses, after each one is made. Then the house is sprinkled with Holy Water, at which time a member of the family (usually the head of the house) leads the priest around the house with a candle in his or her hand, going through all the rooms of the home in as much of a circle as possible, and ending back at the same place the service began. Then there is a Gospel reading, and then the house is censed, and again a member of the family should lead the priest around the house for that purpose, just as with the blessing of Holy Water. Then, after a litany, there is a dismissal, followed by the singing of "Many Years," and everyone in the family kisses the Cross.

You can find the text for this service, in Word format, by clicking here.

The Blessing of a Home at Theophany

The blessing of a home at Theophany is done each year on or after the feast of Theophany, but before the beginning of Lent. All that the family needs to have ready is a candle and a bowl for the Holy Water, which should be placed on a table, which would ideally be in front of the family Icon corner. You should also make out a list of both the living and the dead that you would like to have commemorated, which should include all the members of the family. The family commemoration book used at the Liturgy can be used for this purpose.

The service begins with the usual opening prayers ("Blessed is our God... the Trisagion, etc), followed by the singing of the Troparion of Theophany. When we begin singing the Troparion, this is when the priest begins blessing the house with Holy Water, and so a family member with a candle in hand should lead him around the home, going through all the rooms of the home, making as much of a circle as possible, and ending back at the same place the service began. Then there is short litany, a prayer, the dismissal, and the singing of "Many Years." Everyone then kisses the Cross and is blessed with Holy Water.

You can find the text for this service, in Word format, by clicking here.

If you would like the priest to stay for dinner, you should discuss that ahead of time, so that the scheduling of other house blessings allows for it. If there are several homes close together, it is nice to bless them all relatively quickly, and then for everyone to get together at one of those homes for a time of fellowship. However, all of this is up to each family.

The reason why we bless homes each year at Theophany is because all of creation is blessed and renewed at Theophany, and this blessing and renewal is brought to each home, every year. Every Orthodox home is a little Church. We have communal prayers in our parish Church, but we all should also have a life or prayer in the home. Once each year, the Priest comes to each little Church in the parish, and leads the family in this service of blessing.

See Also:

Homily on Theophany by St. John (Maximovitch)