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The Three Hierarchs

January 30, 2010

Three Hierarchs IconThe Three Hierarchs, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory “the teachers of the whole world” were people who excellently combined science and virtue, education and action, theory and practice, truth and love . They nurtured great trust in the reformative power of schooling and education, “There is no greater art than this. What else can equal educating a soul and forming a young mind? ” (PG 58, 584) , asks St. John Chrysostom. St. Gregory states  (although he could equally be speaking in the name of the other two hierarchs): “I suppose that in the understanding of everyone with a mind, education takes first place amongst our blessings!” Indeed, how much truth is hidden in this statement by St. Gregory, that the work of educating and bringing up children and teenagers, today, especially, is the “art of arts” and the “science of sciences” and still that teachers “must be cleansed, before cleansing others; become wise, and then make others wise”. He exhorts teachers, “either teach by example or don’t teach at all.” St. Basil underlines, “the person lying down has got up to help the fallen” which means the teacher educates or teaches as much with example as with knowledge.

For all Three Hierarchs, the teacher is aware of his words and his actions and for that reason “does nothing unsuitable, nor neglects his own conscience”, which means he should be aware of his high vocation. The pedagogical ideas, opinions and views of the Three Hierarchs, from that distant past, conform with contemporary pedagogy on the upbringing of children. St. John Chrysostom was a supporter of a singular upbringing of children “in freedom”, without oppression or authoritarianism. His words are clear, “Don’t  exasperate your children, as many do…  not treating them as free people but as enslaved .”

The purpose of education according to St. Basil is to raise up the person being educated, the student, to the philosophical life. An educated and wise person is not a know-all, but one who is made perfect in Christ. St. John Chrysostom briefly sets out the fundamental elements of effective education and sums up with four points inevitably connected with love and the purpose of education. 1. “Reining in with precision” that is exactitude in restraining youth. 2. “to be accustomed to what is necessary”, that is, getting used to a certain way of life. 3. “Regulation”. Education is about bringing people up through teaching, and it is necessary to adopt such positions and patterns of behaviour towards the student, so that they can know with a “critical spirit” and “critical consciousness” what is  best for themselves and the future of humanity. 4. To “punish the diseases of the soul”. The attempt to heal the sick symptoms in a young persons soul.

The Three Hierarchs, like all the spiritual guides of the Church, believed that the greatest school is the school of love and that the development of a young people is the most important art. Love for one’s students is the a fundamental attribute of the educator, as well as the key feature of Christianity (P.G. 63,213). Such a school encourages students with the words of St. Paul, the Apostle of Europe and the World, in his letter to the Philippians, ” whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—think on these things.”

Source: Metropolis of Rhodes, Magazine

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