Theological education is one of the main concerns of the Russian Orthodox Old-believer Church. Its importance today is even more increasing, considering that in the near future, a course of “spiritual and moral education” is being introduced in mainstream schools at the initiative of the President of the Russian Federation.
At the Consecrated Council of 2009, we expressed our point of view on the introduction of teaching “spiritual and moral education” at school and decided: “To approve the participation of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church in the development of the course ‘Fundamentals of Spiritual Culture’”. A committee was established in the Ministry of Education to prepare a textbook on spiritual and moral education, in which representatives of the Old-Rite Church also took part. We offered our version of a textbook on spiritual and moral education, and also made comments in the draft textbook of deacon Andrei Kuraev. I would like to hope that the new textbook will take into account the commentaries of the Old-believers.
The church, family and school are called to give people spiritual guidance that awakens love for God and for people. From childhood, a person must cultivate the concept of morality, sin and its consequences. Of course, in such an important matter as spiritual education, haste, coercion or indifference are unacceptable as they can have dangerous consequences.
Today, the moral, spiritual and economic crisis in Russia is shaking the traditional family way of life. Therefore, the experience of the home pedagogy of an Old-believer family can be very useful. These educational traditions of the younger generation took shape in the era of Holy Rus’, when holiness was the ideal of life for the Russian people.
Today in our country, there is a gap in the continuity of spiritual and moral traditions, which creates disconnect and mutual misunderstanding between parents and children. Often the action started by parents is not supported by the children and is not continued by them. However, this should not be the case in the families who live by the unity of views on the Orthodox traditions, which bond families and educate moral values in the younger generations.
St. John Chrysostom, addressing parents, calls them to: “Make your home a church: you are responsible for the salvation of your children and members of the household.” Only a family with well-established spiritual traditions is able to raise a person of firm convictions, who can distinguish between good and evil and to live righteously. Of course, in education nowadays, a large role is played by the school, where the fundamentals of science and art are being learned. But neither the school nor the institution of higher education will replace for a child the kind, deeply religious grandmothers.
In Old-Rite Orthodoxy, the foundations of the Christian family are faithfully observed, since for believing parents, the spiritual and physical cleanliness of children is valued. The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church shares the concerns of other traditional denominations in connection with information about plans to introduce juvenile justice in our country. A strong,
spiritually and physically sound family, based on the authority of the older generation, has been and remains the cornerstone of Christian society – the school of educating people with high morals and raising true patriots of the Fatherland. On the contrary, the shattering of family foundations leads to degradation. As Apostle Paul teaches: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3, 20–21).
In April of this year , on behalf of the Council of the Metropolitanate, our Church sent the President of the Russian Federation, D.A. Medvedev an appeal in which we ask him to take measures so that the centuries-old tradition of family education in the spirit of honoring seniors is not threatened.
A family with Orthodox principles can save youth from corruption. Literacy training in the Orthodox Old-believers’ communities has always been inextricably linked with passing down the knowledge of previous generations. This always included religious topics, which taught the necessary knowledge to the younger generation.
After the church schism of the 17th century, when the life of the Russian people was shaken by religious innovations, the Old-believers were faced with the task of preserving the unshakable purity of faith and Orthodox life. To avoid spiritual corruption and persecution, many Old-believers left to live in forests, distant and remote areas, and even abroad, where they preserved the traditions of Orthodox Russia. Old-believers were reproached for pedantry literalism and for isolating themselves from a progressive civilization, but at the same time, they retained the features of the Russian way of life, which now distinguishes the Old-believers from among people who have lost the Russian appearance and culture.
The early 20th century scholar, I.A. Kirilov, wrote in his book “The Truth of the Old Belief”: “The Old-believers retained that small mustard seed of Christ’s light, from which true Christian enlightenment will develop if destined to by the Highest Providence. If it is destined for Russia to be great and free – it will be, but it will grow under the rays of enlightenment brought from the distant past”.