Tents and Altars

by Dn. Mark Oleynik

For parents, one of the most important things we must do for our children is build a Christian home. If we fail here, we fail everywhere.

Clearly there are two things necessary in the building of a Christian home. It isn’t a question of one or the other: it is a question of both. The first is to have a place to live in—that means shelter. The second is to have something to love by and for—that is salvation.

Abraham offers us a striking example of a man who sought to provide for himself and his inner circle of friends when he, “pitched his tent…and he built an altar to the Lord” (Gen. 12:8). A tent—something to live in and under—for the body; an altar—something to live by and for—for the soul.

Obviously there are many differences between us and Abraham—between his time and today; the way he made a living, and the ways we make ours. But these differences do not nullify the implications of his action: the fundamental needs of man remain the same across the generations. Today we may call our dwelling an apartment or a bungalow, it may be one or a hundred stories high, but, like a tent, it is the place and means of shelter. The point is we all must be conscious of two fundamental needs: a place in which to live and something to live by and for. We all need these from the day of our birth to the day of our departure.

A home is not simply a shelter; nor is it simply an altar. It is both. But because the need for shelter is so obvious, our primary emphasis must be placed upon our need for an altar. Whatever else a child may do or become, he needs guidance to give expression to the altar-building instinct of his soul. It is sad to see many men and women, through no fault of their own, live without so much as a tent over their heads. But it is infinitely more disturbing to see the rich as well as the poor struggling to live without an altar. Many have become blind to the fact that paganism begins where prayer ceases. If the light of Christ is to gather and grow in the life of the world, it must be nurtured, guarded, and shared by the family at home.

Our homes must be grounded upon spiritual experience and reality: prayer, Bible reading and study, fellowship with God. Without these, not only is the heart taken out of the home, but the home—though it be a castle built of rock—will be as insecure as an umbrella in driving rainstorm.

Courage, integrity, character—these are not assured by having roofs over our children’s heads but, rather, by having moral and spiritual principles girding their lives. Tremendously interested in having a tent for their children, fathers and mothers must be no less interested in an altar for their souls. For it is the altar and not the tent which gives security against the greatest of all enemies of the home: fear, pain and death. It is at the altar that the home finds a heart, a focus and fellowship, a source of refreshment, and a place of vision. It is at the altar that family life and love remain unbroken, parents and children transcend the ebb and flow of earthly circumstance and hold together with mystic hands, something better than life itself—something no unceasing procession of the years will wear away in their home, in their school, and throughout their life.

Extra “Scoops”

On Sunday October 7, following the Divine Liturgy, all parents are asked to gather in the Narthex for a “Parents” session. The objective of this session is to explore the possibility of parents meeting on a regular basis to discuss the religious training of their children, common concerns regarding the raising of Orthodox children in a non-Orthodox world, and to help parents understand the basics and basis of Orthodox teachings and practices. There will be babysitting available for parents of young children and the session will be limited to thirty (30) minutes.

All children are invited to get into the holiday spirit while we create new Christmas-themed banners for the church on Saturday, October 13 at 3 p.m. 

TEACHERS are vital to our Sunday School and this year our parish is blessed by an abundance of talent and enthusiasm. Please take a few minutes to say thank you to the teachers and lift up their names in prayer: Ravi Patel, Becky Oliver, Holly Torbic, Samar Al Maalouf, Anna Stickles, Ann Therese Pelikan, Darrin Torbic, Gary Cattell, and Megan Leathers.

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