Poetry in Orthodox Education
In his classic books, The Spiritual Life, and How To Be Attuned to It, and The Path to Salvation, St. Theophan the Recluse writes a considerable amount on the powers of the soul. As part of his description of the sensual, or feeling, power of the soul, he writes:
In the sensual [or feeling] part of the soul, there appears a yearning and love for the beautiful. The eye does not want to tear itself away from the flower and the ear does not want to tear itself away from the song, only because the one and the other are beautiful. We go for a walk and select a place for the single reason that it is beautiful. Above this is the enjoyment received from paintings, works of sculpture, music and singing, and even higher than this, the enjoyment received from poetry. (Spiritual Life, pg. 69)
St. Barsanuphrius wrote poetry, both before and after he became a monk. St. Nicholai Velimovich also wrote poetry. Without doubt, other saints expressed deep sentiments in poetry. Are not the Psalms the poems of King David? If one considers the language of Orthodox liturgical services, especially in the many Canons and Akathists, it is easy to see that they are full of poetic images. This poetic element is a major part of the beauty of Orthodox liturgical life. A crucial part of teaching in an Orthodox manner is making sure that what is important in the Church is also important in the school.
St. John of Kronstadt, in writing about the education of children wrote that "it is dangerous to develop only the intellect and not pay attention to the heart." Learning poetry is part of the development of the heart. Beautiful poetry is especially important in today's world in which so much of education, and life itself, is reduced to a mechanical and technological world-view. Poetry helps to offset this sterile view of life.
With this in mind we are making available, for free download, some of the many poems our students learned at St. Michael's. We would print out the poems in a large format, tape the pages together (after cutting away unnecessary paper), then laminate the poem and put it on the wall of the classrooom. We would recite the poem during our first period, which the students called The Opening. You may have your own favorite poems to add to what we are offering. If you do, let us know. Perhaps we could add them to this collection.
This is the newest section of the website, and we have barely started. We will continue to wortk on it.
There are three categories: poems by author, seasonal poems, and poems for younger children. There is definitely some overlapping of categories, but these three form the general framework of the poems being offered.
To search for poems by author, click here.
To search for poems by season, click here.
To search for poems for younger children, click here.