Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.
One of the things that continually impacts me when in an Orthodox service is the kids. I’m kind of used to the youngest generation being left in the nursery or sent off the “children’s church” to leave the grown ups to worship in peace. But in the Orthodox church (at least most of them), there is no nursery during the liturgies. So, you see children of all ages doing their thing in the church nave with everyone else.
Not only does their presence fascinate me, but their behavior as well. The very small children, the babes in arms, behave as you would expect, and sometimes have to be taken outside to calm down for a while. But even the older children are mostly allowed to be children. They wander from their parents to their god-parents to their friends’ parents mostly at will. I’ve seen them turned around coloring in the pew, or playing quietly with a doll or toy car.
One Sunday there was a little girl drawing in a coloring book in front of me. The thought that popped into my mind was about how their parents really should make their kids pay attention a little better. But then I looked more closely and saw that she was whispering the responses during the litanies and crossing herself at proper times. It was only then that I realized that she was paying attention better than I was.
During the Great Entrance (when the clergy carry the holy mysteries around the people and deliver them to the altar), you will see children eagerly position themselves to touch the vestments of the priests as they pass by. Then when it’s time for the faithful to receive the Eucharist, all the children (who have been baptized) approach the chalice to partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord, even the infants (though they are generally carried).
While we don’t have children of our own yet, I look forward to raising them in the Church and treating them as full members of the Body of Christ.