Know it by Heart
By Judith Jolma
Originally published in ByziKids Magazine, August 2021
Sweet 9-year-old Kate held a screwdriver in her hand as she looked determinedly at her bicycle. The seat was too high and she needed to make it lower. Confident she could fix it herself, she faced just one problem, she didn’t know which way to turn the screw to loosen it. Her father was at work and Mom was busy in the house. Who could she ask? Suddenly, she heard a voice. It was not a normal voice. It was a still small voice that she heard deep inside her. The voice sounded like her father’s but it had no sound. The voice was her memory of when her father taught her a little trick to loosen screws. It said: “Lefty loosey; righty tighty.” Suddenly, she knew what to do! She turned the screw to the left and the seat slid down to just the right height. She then turned it again to the right to sure it up. Thrilled with her success, Kate dropped the tool to the floor and jumped on her bike. That is when she heard another voice. This time it was her mother’s voice in her memory: “Put things away after you use them.” Obediently, she climbed off her bike and returned the screwdriver before riding off on her bike.
God speaks to us just like Kate’s memory spoke to her. His voice does not come through our ears as a voice we hear. It doesn’t usually tell us new things we never learned. Yet, the Prophet Isaiah gave us a promise full of hope: “Your ears will hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (Isa. 30:21).
But what does that voice sound like? Have you ever heard it? Most often God speaks to us through our memory. Through what we have learned of Him. That is why He tells us to “hide God’s words within your heart.” You see, God has spoken through the prophets, the Apostles, and through the Church Fathers. They wrote down God’s words so that we can read them. They gave us the Divine Liturgy so we can sing it. If we do not hide these words in our hearts we cannot hear God’s words in our memory. The Holy Spirit quickens our memory when we need to know The Father’s will.
But we have to be careful with our memory because if we fill it with messages from the world, we will become confused and may even wonder if that is God’s voice or the world’s voice speaking to us.
St. Basil The Great said, “Memory is the cabinet of imagination, the treasury of reason, the registry of conscience, and the council chamber of thought.”
Have you ever noticed that we say the same things in Liturgy every week? Like the Nicene Creed, for example. The Church Fathers knew that repeating things helped us remember them. They knew that if we repeated them often enough the Holy Spirit would be able to speak to us through our memory when we needed Him to.
For example, if ever we doubt God’s love for us, a little voice from our memory can remind us that “for us men and for our salvation [He] came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
When we fill our minds with truth, we can be confident about what we believe. If your friend asked you what you believe, would you know? Three hundred years after Jesus ascended to Heaven, Christians were still asking that question. So the church Fathers talked and debated, and in 325 at the Council of Nicaea, they wrote THE CREED. “Every Christian needs to memorize this,” they agreed. “We’ll say it at every Divine Liturgy,” they agreed. “We’ll recite it. We’ll pray it. We’ll read it. And every Christian will learn it by heart.”
Memory used to be far more important to people who did not always have the means to write things down. They would have to memorize whole speeches or histories in order to pass them on. The ancient people used poems and music to help with the big task. Our Church Fathers left us their most important knowledge — God’s Words — in the Divine Liturgy. To help us learn it by heart, they composed beautiful melodies so it will become part of us as we sing.
Have you ever tried to memorize the Creed? It is an important part of our faith and very good to know by heart. There are all kinds of tricks to help memorize. The “disappearing word trick” works really well. Start by writing the creed on a whiteboard. Then erase one word. Then read it back and see if you can remember the missing word. Then erase more words and repeat the steps until you can read and recite the whole thing by memory.
Another way is to listen to a recording of it five times in a row every day and try to repeat it. The memory likes to remember information it hears. Making up hand gestures to go with keywords helps a lot of children to memorize. Some people prefer talking about a passage — defining every word — to fully understand it, and that helps them learn it by heart.
In today’s world filled with phones and devices in everyone’s pockets, we seem to be forgetting just how important it is to memorize. Sometimes it seems like we know a lot because we can just ask our phone for whatever we need to know. But can we remember this information? Can it speak to us? And do we practice obeying the still small voice in our memory? Will The Holy Spirit be able to use your memory to speak to you?
As a contributing editor for ByziKids, it is my pleasure to share these articles with the Sophia Homeschool community as well. Although Sophia Homeschool serves all homeschooling families regardless of faith or affiliation, I think you will enjoy this delightful publication. I hope to share these articles with you each month as a regular feature here. Enjoy!
ByziKids Magazine is a pan-Eastern Christian, grassroots, monthly publication dedicated to the celebration of Byzantine Orthodoxy through the eyes of our children. We are not affiliated with any particular Church or jurisdiction, but welcome and strive to encompass the teachings and traditions common to all of Byzantine Orthodox-Catholic Christianity.
By Judith Jolma, Founder of Sophia Homeschool.
Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at Sophiahomeschool.com
Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.