14390620_10209328505361409_518468269671058884_n

Bedtime and Other Rituals: Winding Down and Gathering Together

As we begin our series on bedtime routines for Orthodox families, we need to start at the very beginning. We need to consider how and where these evening gatherings take place. In the survey we conducted this summer, we asked what families do to wind down, and where they gather. Here are the responses that we received:

How does your family wind down? What do Orthodox Christian families do to help each other calm down and be still before bedtime? Here are the results of the survey question regarding pre-bedtime wind-down activities (respondents could select more than one answer):
We quietly stand together in our icon corner. (23%)
We do bedtime stretches to wind down. (30%)
We do a quiet exercise routine. (1%)
We sit down together to read. (55%)
We cuddle and hug each other. (57%)
We do not have a regular physical activity to quiet our children down. (18%)

So, most families cuddle and hug, and/or sit down to read. Many also do exercise routines, and a fair number stand quietly in their icon corner. And some do nothing specific. A few respondents offered these additional ideas of ways that they quiet down together as part of their bedtime routine:

  • “We hang out in the bedroom and chat before going to sleep.”
  • “I listen to my Russian orthodox cd.”
  • “Nursing/breastfeeding.”
  • “Being that [the children] are a year old, bath time is the main activity.”
  • “A walk around the block prior to the start of bedtime routine.”
  • “Sometimes a cartoon.”
  • “A ‘no electronics’ rule.”
  • “Getting pajamas, and brushing teeth, drinking water, etc. Occasionally a story.”

Of course there are many other quieting activities to do together as a family to wind down before bedtime, but perhaps these can help us be more cognizant of what we are (or are not) doing to help our children be still and prepare for bed.

Where does your family read together at bedtime? We were curious about where other Orthodox families gather for their evening bedtime routine. In the survey, we asked respondents to tell us where they read if reading together is one of the things that they do in their bedtime routine. Here are the responses for where the reading families gather to read (again, respondents could select more than one answer):

We read in our living room. (30%)
We read in the children’s bedrooms. (69%)
We read at our icon corner. (4%)
We read around the dining room table. (4)
And several people offered additional places where they read:  

  • “In Mom’s bedroom”
  • “In the playroom”
  • “In bed”
  • “Parent’s bed”

Where does your family pray together at bedtime? We asked the respondents whose families who pray evening/bedtime prayers together where they gather to do so. Here are their responses (again, the survey allowed them to select more than one answer):

We pray at our icon corner (53%)

We pray around the dining room table(3%)
We pray in the children’s bedrooms (53%)

We pray in the living/family room (3%)

Other places where Orthodox Christian families gather to pray together in the evening include:

  • “We made a chapel in our house.”
  • “[We pray] in our own bedrooms. [We have] older children.”
  • “[We pray] in the children’s icon corners.”
  • “[It] varies between the chapel or our icon corner.”
  • “[We pray] in front of the icons in the children’s room.”

It is our hope that sharing these results will encourage each reader to press on in what their family already is doing at bedtime, while also gaining new and helpful ideas.

Read more about quieting children down at bedtime here:

***

Are you out of ideas of ways to quiet down with the children before bedtime? Here’s a list that may be helpful: http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/66-things-to-do-with-kids-before-bedtime/

***

Read several parents’ suggestions of ways to calm toddlers at bedtime here: http://parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/207/how-to-calm-a-toddler-before-bedtime

***

“An easy relaxation game like starting at their toes and making each body part still as you say goodnight to them is an easy one for kids to practice on their own after a few goes with adult help.” Find this suggestion to help children still themselves at bedtime and more in this blog post: http://picklebums.com/five-ways-to-help-your-child-wind-down-for-sleep/

***

Find some age-level-appropriate quieting activity ideas that could be useful before a family bedtime routine here: http://modernparentsmessykids.com/quiet-time-activities-perfect-getting-kids-settle-bed/

***

“Bedtime is a daily opportunity to build and nurture your relationship with your child. There’s something about a quiet darkened room that invites conversation. This is a time to take stock, to snuggle, to talk about some of the important things that your child is thinking about. When children know that bedtime is a time when you give a few minutes of undivided attention, they often save up their most sensitive questions for sharing. Yes, sometimes they’ll use it to hang onto you when you really want to get to your own projects or the newspaper. Calmly set some limits and carry on. This is the real stuff of parenting — building your child’s sense of personal value, answering the big questions, teaching your values through stories and talk.” http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-value-of-a-childs-bedtime-routine/

***

“According to the Mayo Clinic, relaxing activities like a bath, reading books and soft music help your child wind down for sleep. Children should spend at least 30 minutes preparing for bed, but one hour is optimal.
“Stay away from electronics an hour or more before bedtime. That means no television, iPads or video games. Children model what their parents do, so it’s ideal if you aren’t watching Breaking Bad before bed. You may find that you sleep better as well.
“Avoid vigorous exercise and adrenaline-producing activities too. That means no talent shows, hide-and-seek or tag. No trampolines. No wrestling. No Daddy Tickle Contests. It’s a fun time of night when the entire family is together, but if the kids are running screaming through the house, that may not bode well for drifting quickly off to dreamland.” Find this and more in this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelle-howell-miller-/the-ultimate-bedtime-routine-for-young-children_b_5982848.html

***

If you find yourself struggling to get your kiddos to go to bed, try including “wind down” time in your nightly routine. Each of these calming activities is great for spending quality time together as a family in the evenings:” https://pathways.org/blog/6-activities-help-child-wind/?gclid=CIfQ9MrXoM8CFcQehgodaSkIHA

***

 

14358677_10209262514991691_7381802012168981096_n

Bedtime and Other Rituals – an Introduction

This fall we will be focusing our attention on bedtime routines and other rituals. Over the summer we posted a survey that many of you took time to answer for us. Those answers will be a significant portion of some of these posts. The first question on the survey invited respondents to rate the importance of a bedtime routine in their family, on a scale of 1 (having no routine at all) to 10 (using the same routine every night). An overwhelming majority (more than 82%) rated routine at bedtime as having an importance level of 7 or higher. We were curious to see if the general public, beyond our Orthodox Christian Parenting community, considers a regular bedtime as truly important or not. We also wondered whether or not it is important to do the same sequence of events in preparing for bedtime every night. We did a little research, and here is what we found:

It seems that a regular bedtime, in and of itself, is of great benefit to children. National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” featured a report (1) several years ago about the importance of a regular bedtime. The report covered a British survey of 10,000 children studied at ages 3, 5, and 7, assessing the effect that having a regular bedtime had on each child’s daytime behaviors. They took into account differences like family size, income, whether or not the child had breakfast, etc., and still came to the same conclusion across the board: the children with irregular bedtimes had a much more difficult time managing themselves during the day. “If you change their bedtimes, say, 7 o’clock one night, 9 o’clock, the next, 8 o’clock the next, 10 o’clock the next, if we do too much of that switching, we end up inducing this kind of jet-lag effect, which makes it really, really difficult to regulate behavior.” said researcher Yvonne Kelly from University College. The study found that children with irregular bedtime were more likely to act out, be hyperactive, or be withdrawn than their regular-bedtime counterparts.

And what about having a routine at bedtime? Is it necessary to follow a certain schedule every night, or does it not matter as long as everyone ends up in bed with clean teeth? Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker answers this question in her article “The Value of a Child’s Bedtime Routine,” posted on PsychCentral.com: “Repetition and structure help children feel safe. Bedtime declares that the day is over. When you are loving and firm about when it is time for bed, you are building your children’s confidence in their world. Repetition for young children is comforting — ever wonder why they want the same story over and over? The repetition of the getting ready for bed routine (getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, a drink of water, a story, a hug, goodnight) lets your child know what to expect and helps him or her feel secure.” (2) So while a bedtime routine may not be imperative (even without one, they will still eventually fall asleep!), it seems that a routine at bedtime is more beneficial to a child than having none.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come to find some ideas that could answer questions like these: How do Orthodox Christian parents in today’s world guide their children in the Faith at the end of a crazy busy day? What routines and rituals can families do to calm their bodies and their minds so that they can rest? What stories, books, songs, and prayers are helpful? We value your input, so please add your own ideas in comments along the way. If you do so, we can all benefit from your family’s experience! And once again, thank you to all who filled out the survey. We look forward to sharing you are doing with the rest of the community!

Sources:
(1) “Why a Regular Bedtime is Important for Children,” NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Dec. 16, 2013, found here: http://www.npr.org/2013/12/16/251462015/why-a-regular-bedtime-is-important-for-children

(2) “The Value of a Child’s Bedtime Routine,” by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, PsychCentral.com, May 17, 2016, found here:  http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-value-of-a-childs-bedtime-routine/

Read more here:

***

“Regardless of age, regular schedules and bedtime rituals help us get the sleep we need and to function at peak levels. When it comes to children, this is especially true. Establishing and maintaining good sleep habits helps your child fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up rested and refreshed.” Read this and more about bedtime routines here: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/childs-bedtime#1

***

“Enforcing a bedtime can seem impossible at times, but it is well worth it.  Doing so makes things easier when it’s time for the kids to get up in the morning, it enhances their performance at school, and it keeps them healthy.  It’s never too late to start a soothing bedtime routine that will help your child get the rest she needs.” Read this article on the importance of bedtime and sleep, including suggestions for how much sleep children of different ages need, here: http://www.celestialhealing.net/childrens_health/Childhood_Sleep_Routine.htm

***

“Establishing a bedtime routine helps you create an environment and situation conducive to sleep for your child. Before your child is able to express him or herself verbally, it’s creating signals for the conscious and subconscious that now is the time to settle down… Used consistently, routines help children (and you) set expectations and get into rest mode more quickly.” Find ideas for setting bedtime routines in his article: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/825711/the-importance-of-bedtime-routines

***

Responses varied when we asked what families do together as a bedtime routine. Here are a few:
“Our routine varies but we always do reading and prayers.”
“We cross ourselves before bedtime”
“We do a special blessing for each child”
“At the end of night prayers, my husband always says, ‘If I have offended or sinned against you in any way, please forgive me.’ And all the kids say the same to us and to each other.”
“We read something — sometimes Scripture, sometimes book, sometimes Saint’s life… but not all 3.”
“Kisses and hugs for each child after they’re in bed.”
“Venerate the icons.”
“Dinner, pajamas, teeth, compline (or preparation for Communion).”
“Read or watch TV together before prayers.”

Parents with babies who are looking for ideas of how to establish a bedtime routine may benefit from watching this short video: http://www.parents.com/baby/care/american-baby-how-tos/how-to-establish-a-bedtime-routine/

***

“Scientists found that as children switched from having an irregular bedtime to a regular bedtime their behaviors improved. Hope dawns anew with each morning, so remember to set aside that nightly time to read, sing, pray, share highs and lows, or whatever lovely routine you and your kids have established together.” Read this article, complete with five suggestions of things to do (or not to do) as part of your children’s bedtime routine: http://www.thedcmoms.com/2014/11/sponsored-the-importance-of-strong-bedtime-routines/

***

 

14233092_10209210978063300_993273974538467415_n

On the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14 or 27)

The Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross celebrates not one, but two important (but very much related) events in the history of the Church. In this feast, we celebrate both the finding of the Cross by St. Helena in 326 and the return of the Cross to Constantinople (and then on to Jerusalem) in 628. Here is a short synopsis to refresh your memory:

Although the empress Helena was 79 years old, she left on a journey to Jerusalem to find the precious Cross in the year 325. She had never seen a basil plant before this time. Just outside of Jerusalem, she noticed this unusual plant (the basil) that was growing all over the ground. The unfamiliar plant’s appearance and its location caused her to suspect that this was a special place. She decided to have her men dig at that spot in search of the Cross. It turned out that she was right! Three crosses were found in the ground under the growing basil. All three were tested on a sick woman (and/or a dead man – traditions vary), who had no response to the two other crosses, but became immediately well after touching the Cross of Christ. Many, many people came into Jerusalem when they heard that the Cross had been found. The leaders of the Church held the Cross up high for all to see. The people responded by saying, “Lord have mercy!” again and again.

Soon thereafter, St. Helena had a church built at the site, and most of the Cross stayed in that church, with a small piece going back to Constantinople. And so it remained for many years. In 614, however, the Persians conquered Palestine and stole the Cross. A few years later, in 628, Emperor Heraclius and his men were able to recover the Cross after defeating the Persians. At that point, the Cross was returned to Jerusalem, to the Church of the Holy Resurrection.

We celebrate both the initial finding of the Cross and its recovery with this fasting feast. It may seem odd to celebrate a feast day by fasting. But we celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross with fasting because of what we are commemorating: the Cross on which our Lord suffered and died. A fast is the most appropriate celebration of that. As we celebrate, we should also be renewing our own determination to follow Him and live our Faith to the best of our ability, even though doing so may cause us to suffer. In this way, our fasting feast can help us to become the kind of Christian we are meant to be.

Oh Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance,

Granting to Thy people victory over all their enemies.

And by the power of Thy Cross

Preserving Thy Kingdom!

Blessed Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross!

 

Here are a few ideas of ways to learn about this feast and to celebrate it together as a family:

*

For more background on the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, listen to Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory)’s podcast: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/the_universal_exaltation_of_the_precious_and_life-giving_cross

*

Another excellent resource is this article on the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, complete with details of the reason for the feast, here: http://www.antiochian.org/feast-of-the-holy-cross

*

Read this blog post with your children to help them understand the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/2015/08/24/elevation-of-the-holy-cross-september-14-part-1/

*

Create your own set of clothespin people and small props to tell (and let your children retell) the story of the finding of the Precious Cross with this detailed tutorial: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/2015/09/04/elevation-of-the-cross-peg-dolls/

*

Tuck this idea away for next spring, so you can be ready with your own fresh basil at next year’s Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2015/04/20/traditions-planting-basil-for-the-elevation-of-the-holy-cross/

*

Next time the feast occurs, you may want to print this pop-up centerpiece to help decorate your table for the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/804f8cedc57699833cfee4824634a4b5.pdf

nativity of the Theotokos

On the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept. 8 or 21)

The very first feast of the new Church year is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and it is a very good place to start! After all, the birth of the Theotokos is where many of the other feasts begin. In this feast, we celebrate the miracle which God worked in the lives of Sts. Joachim and Anna, who were His faithful servants, but were never blessed with a child. Childlessness was a hardship for them. They had reached old age and had borne no children! In those days, barrenness was considered punishment from God for sins, and thus everywhere they went, people could look at them and judge them as sinners simply because they had no child. In fact, when Joachim went to the Temple to make an offering, he was turned away by the High Priest because of his childlessness (remember, at that time it meant “apparent sinfulness”). It was at this point that Joachim went off to the hills to earnestly pray for a child.

Meanwhile, Anna was in Jerusalem at their home wondering where he was, while also praying for a child. While they were praying one day, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to each of them, telling them that their prayers had been heard, and they would be given a daughter whose name would be known through all the world. He told Joachim to go back to Jerusalem, and he told Anna to wait for Joachim at the Golden Gate. They both believed the angel and obeyed him. So when Joachim arrived back at Jerusalem, there was Anna, waiting for him at the Golden Gate! God kept His promise to them by allowing them to conceive the Theotokos.

So, why do we celebrate this feast? The Kontakion of the feast tells us why:
“By your nativity, most pure Virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness, Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: ‘The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our Life.’” In other words, we are not just celebrating the miracle of Sts. Joachim and Anna’s release from barrenness. Through Mary, the child given to them, Christ was born. And through His birth, death, and resurrection, Adam and Eve were released from Hades; and we ourselves are set free from the guilt of our sin. So, why would we NOT celebrate this feast?!?

Below are some links that can help us learn more about the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Other links will help us teach our children about the feast so that we can better celebrate together.

Blessed Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos!

***

“The icon and the feast… acknowledge a transition from barrenness to life. This was but another foreshadowing of what would be offered through Christ, the transformation from death to eternal life.” Read more about the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, including a brief explanation of the icon, here: http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/vmnativity/index_html

***

Find an explanation of the icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as well as a gallery of this icon as written by different iconographers, here: https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/the-nativity-of-the-theotokos-icon/
Together as a family, look at the different icons. In each, seek every detail mentioned in the explanation, and note how it is written in that icon. What can your family conclude about the consistency of icons written by different iconographers? What aspects of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos are the most important, as demonstrated in all the icons? Talk together about how those aspects apply to your family: how do they change your life?

***

Celebrate the birth of the Mother of God with lots of blue, the Theotokos’ color! On the Feast day, dress in blue; decorate the house with blue; eat a “blue” meal (including as many blue things as possible: maybe a salad with blue cheese, fruit salad or fruit pizza decorated with blueberries, blue jello, etc.); you get the idea! Find this and other fun ideas, as well as a printable wheel for all of the feast days here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/nativity-theotokos-0

***

Find a list of books to read together as well as a variety of activities to consider doing with the family, in celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, here: http://www.charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.com/2011/09/festal-learning-basket-nativity-of.html

***

Families with very young children will want to take a look at the ideas of ways to celebrate the Nativity of the Theotokos mentioned in these blog posts: http://churchyearforchildren.blogspot.com/search/label/Nativity%20of%20the%20Theotokos

***

Find a plethora of information, as well as thought provoking and inspirational encouragement related to the Nativity of the Theotokos in this wonderful book: http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth

 

14095804_10209086226264583_6061631209455639672_n

On the Transition Back to School

In North America, it is the time of the year when children head back to school. For some, that means stepping back to the homeschooling routine, while for others, it means going back to the classroom. Either way, it is a change from the break of summer and offers us an opportunity to build healthy family habits for the year ahead.

Take a moment to think about this transition and to consider what changes from last year’s “school norm” would improve your family’s educational experience and life. Then begin to take steps in that direction. In the process, be patient with yourself and with your family. To quote my husband, “Change, even good change, is stressful.” Expecting to encounter some stress and extending grace to ourselves and our children during this season of changes in the family schedule will help us to successfully guide our children through the new-school-year-transition in a more godly way.

We have gathered a few links to blogs and articles that we hope you will find helpful. Each is different from the others, but focuses in some way on the transition back to school. As we make this transition, let us first and foremost pray for our children, for ourselves, for the children’s teachers, and for other students/teachers/parents in our parish, that this year will be blessed! May God grow us all towards Him throughout the course of this school year. And may we make the transition, aware of His presence in our life.

***
This blog post can help us to prepare both ourselves and our children for school: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/preparing-for-school/

***

Our children’s teachers, co-op leaders, skills instructors, coaches, and Sunday Church School teachers will need our support this year! This blog post offers ideas of way that we can support the other adults influencing our children’s life: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/on-supporting-our-childrens-teachers/

***

Here is an excellent prayer for us to pray daily for our children: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/prayerful-sighing/

***

Students returning to college are making a huge transition! Whether or not we have a college student in our family, there are ways we can help our fellow Orthodox Christians who are college students to successfully make the transition! Read this article for ideas: http://www.ocf.net/from-high-school-to-college-the-first-forty-days/

***
Is one of these Orthodox Christian schools near where you live? Whether or not you choose to send your children there, consider helping the students at the school grow in their faith by offering to volunteer in the school! Check this list for ideas of where there are Orthodox Christian schools: http://www.orthodoxschools.org/schooldirectory.html

***
Homeschooling families may want to check out this online Orthodox Christian school option that weaves the Faith into learning, using the Charlotte Mason style: http://www.raphaelschool.org/

***

The school year and its stresses (and, many times, the proximity to others that it affords) gives both our children AND us many opportunities to take the high road. Read (or re-read) this blog post on doing just that: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/on-taking-the-high-road/

 

2017_festivals_logo_color_web

On Mark 11:17, “My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All Nations.”

Note: the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts Festival 2017’s theme is the inspiration for this blog post. We will take a closer look at the theme, to help them to better prepare for the festival in case they participate. Whether or not they do, what we can gather from this passage of St. Mark’s Gospel is applicable to all of us, not just the children participating in the festival!

Have you ever thought about that time when our Lord went into the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove out the salesmen? Why did He do that? What can we learn from His actions? How can we apply this passage to our own life?

It all began with the Triumphal Entry, the glorious reception that Jesus was given when He arrived in Jerusalem. Even the fact that He was riding on a lowly donkey did not stop the crowd from singing His praises. But instead of glorying in that acclaim, He went straight to the temple and “looked around at all things.” (Mark 11:11) His means of entry into Jerusalem modeled humility and His choice to go directly to the temple exemplifies the priority that should be given to being in God’s house.

Something else is tucked into this passage that could easily be missed. The passage says that He “looked around at all things” but “as the hour was already late He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” This shows us something else: it models self restraint. After all, as He looked around, our Lord saw all of the greedy money-making happening in what should have been a very holy, completely God-focused place. He knew that it was wrong, and had every right to be furious about it. But instead, He left to be with His disciples, calmly choosing being with people over being frustrated about stuff.

The next day our Lord returned to Jerusalem, and went back to the temple. This time He “drove out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.”  (Mark 11:15-16) He thus demonstrated the importance of keeping what has been set apart for God free from greed and from earthly stuff.

Once the temple was restored to its intended state, it could also return to its intended purpose of worship and godly teaching. And so Christ taught the people, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” This teaching was appropriate for the people who had gotten so accustomed to seeing (and doing) marketing in the temple that they perhaps didn’t even think about how inappropriate it was. It turns out that this teaching is also appropriate for those of us living 2000+ years later. Concepts that we can take from this passage include: honoring God’s house as a place to pray; welcoming all because God’s house is for everyone, regardless of nationality; and guarding against deceit and greed that can steal us away from right relationship with God.

St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians pushes us to look at this event in an even more personal light. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reads, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” Reconsidering the account of our Lord’s cleansing of the temple from the perspective of our own body being a temple, set apart for God, offers us even more insights for our Christian life. First and foremost, we need to aim to live humbly as our Lord did, especially when things are going well and others are lauding us. Secondly, God should always be our first stop, whether we are looking for personal guidance or we are prioritizing our schedule (being in church at the Divine Services should be at the top of our list). Thirdly, we need Christ Himself to cleanse our hearts, drive away the greed and selfishness in us, and restore us to the way we were intended to be. Finally, we need Him to teach us: how to guard the holiness of His temple, keeping our bodies from being marred by greed; how to welcome all around us to worship Him as well; and how to keep ourselves pure so that we do not house thoughts and desires that steal our focus away from Him.

May the Lord indeed cleanse us, that we may each become a worthy temple that properly worships Him and welcomes others to do the same.

Here are some ideas of ways to help our children (whether or not they will be participating in the aforementioned Creative Arts Festival) to learn about this passage:

***

If your parish will be participating in the Creative Arts Festival, you can find information about it here: http://www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf

***

Together as a family, read this easy-to-understand version of the story. If your children would enjoy them, print some of the activity pages or play some of the related online games found at the bottom of the page. http://gardenofpraise.com/bibl39s.htm

***

This series of 5 devotional readings can help your family learn more about the temple, Christ cleansing the temple, and being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Note: the readings are not written from an Orthodox perspective, but can still be very helpful discussion-starters. http://children.cccm.com/NTDevotionsPDF/DEVNT261.pdf

***

If your children enjoy doing activity pages related to family discussions, you will want to peruse the printables in this pdf about the cleansing of the temple: http://freesundayschoolcurriculum.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/5/0/12503916/lesson_11_jesus_clears_the_temple.pdf

***

These commentaries on the Mark passage offer insights into the passage: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/coffeecup/mark_1115_intro, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/coffeecup/mark_1117_19, and http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/transforminglives/part_59_mark_1115_19.

***

“The first and most important temple for the holy spirit is us.” Listen to this short podcast on keeping our bodies, our temples, clean: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/isermon/living_as_a_temple

13934932_10208971346992673_5854501327622173774_n

Learning About the Saints: St. Phanourios (Commemorated on August 27/September 9)

This morning when I checked my plans for what I would be writing about for this blog post, I immediately got goosebumps. Months ago I had planned that today I would write about St. Phanourios, but I had forgotten that plan until I was ready to begin. Mind you, St. Phanourios is one of my favorite saints, and I frequently request his prayers for myself and for my family. I am indebted to this saint for his multiple intercessions on our behalf. Time after time, his prayers have worked miracles for us, and we are grateful. But the reason for my goosebumps was because St. Phanourios’ prayers just worked a miracle for our family yesterday, so the timing is impeccable. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about this wonderful saint!

Very little has been passed down about the life of St. Phanourios. Around 1500, a previously-forgotten chapel was unearthed in a building project in Rhodes. All the icons in the chapel were disfigured or crumbling, but one was still intact. In fact, it almost looked freshly-painted, it was in such good shape. It features a young man named as “St. Phanourios,” holding a candle-topped cross. Surrounding the central icon are a series of twelve smaller icons depicting the saint’s refusal to give up his faith and the tortures that he endured in the process.

Because of the icon’s miraculously fresh appearance in the midst of rubble, as well as the evidence that St. Phanourios maintained the Faith through his tortures all the way to his martyrdom, the Church leaders in Rhodes agreed that he should be revered as a saint. A church was built in his honor on the site of the ruins. People began to venerate the icon, and they became aware that the prayers of St. Phanourios are blessed with miraculous intervention. Because his icon was found after being lost for so long, and because his name is derived from the Greek word  φανερώνω, or phanerono, which means “I reveal,” people began to ask St. Phanourios to pray that they would again find lost items and/or that they would regain their health. Time and time again, he has done so, and many people have been blessed through his prayers. Somewhere along the line, people began to bake a special sweet bread to share in thanksgiving for the saint’s prayers. (Some have said that he wants this bread to be baked, accompanied with prayers for his mother, who died outside of baptism, but that is not the official reason for baking it. Phanouropita should be baked as a request to the saint for help, or in thanksgiving after he has helped, then shared with an account of the miracle God has wrought through the prayers of His servant.)

Our family will be baking phanouropita very soon because of the most recent miracle God worked for our family through the prayers of St. Phanourios. It’s a long story, so hang onto your hat: Two and a half weeks ago, our son’s computer refused to turn on. Part of his schooling includes online classes, so he uses that computer to connect with his classes and his schoolwork is stored on that computer. He’s also a budding photographer and his most recent work is only on that computer. We really need that computer to work for him, so we prepared to send it to the company from whence it came so that it could be fixed. Unfortunately, this happened on the day before we left for vacation, and we had little on hand to properly package a computer, but wanted to get it off as soon as possible. So we grabbed old packing envelopes and tissue paper, thoroughly wrapped the computer in them, and packed it into a box so that when someone came home a few days later, the shipping company could schedule a pickup and it would be off for repairs before we all got home from vacation. After the pickup, we waited for confirmation that the computer made it to its destination, but we heard nothing. A week later, vacation over, we began to wonder where the computer was, so my husband began to call points along the shipping route to try to track down the package. Through a long and tedious process, we discovered that it had gone missing. We suspected that it had lost its shipping label, and my husband spent hours on the phone, daily, for many days, trying to learn all that he could. And of course we prayed, asking St. Phanourios to help us find the package.

We had many false leads, and there were a few times that we thought it had been found. But every time we’d realize that we had misunderstood or we had received automated confirmations that did not match up to reality. Two weeks after its shipping date, we were becoming convinced that the computer and all of our son’s work which it holds were gone. We continued to pray and ask St. Phanourios to intercede on our behalf, but it was beginning to look like the answer this time would be “no, you do not need to have that computer anymore.”

Yesterday morning my husband spent another hour or more trying to track the computer down: at this point, we were running into the limit of days when they may still be able to access images, etc., of the package. And then, suddenly, I had an odd email show up in my inbox. It was from a company from which I had purchased a humble bag of chai in support of a school choir fundraiser for one of my favorite choir buddies from church. The email told me that a computer had been mailed to their company because one of their mailing envelopes was found in the computer’s packaging, although the package itself had lost its label. Upon further contact, we’ve confirmed that the computer is ours. Glory to God!

I have no idea why the shipping company sent the computer to one of the many addresses stuffed in its packaging instead of looking at all of the packing envelopes, finding the common address on all of the labels (ours), and sending it back here. However, I am thankful that they sent it to an honest company who went to the extra lengths to find our contact information and reconnect us with this much-needed computer! We are grateful to St. Phanourios for his intercessions for our computer, and to God for allowing us to find it once again. We have the recipe for our phanouropita ready and waiting to be baked upon the computer’s return. And in the meantime, we gratefully pray, “Lord, have mercy on the soul of St. Phanourios (and on the soul of his mother), save them, and save us!”

Through the prayers of St. Phanourios, Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

To learn more about St. Phanourios, visit these sites:

*

See a photo of the actual icon of St. Phanourios that was found in the rubble so long ago, here: http://orthodoxtraditions.blogspot.com/2013/12/st-phanourios-great-martyr-newly.html

*
Want to know more about St. Phanourios? Read this account of how he miraculously intervened and saved three stranded priests: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2015/08/the-veneration-of-saint-phanourios-on.html

(Also on this page, you will find pictures of shrines that have been built to commemorate the saint, as well as the stories behind some of them!)

*

Did St. Phanourios ever help you find something? You may want to make a batch of phanouropita and share it, telling about the miracle as you do! Here’s a recipe: http://myocn.net/tradition-thanks-st-phanourios-finds/

Find another recipe for phanouropita in this lovely blog post: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2010/08/27/st-fanourios-the-martyr-and-miracle-worker/

*

Read a non-Orthodox testimonial to St. Phanourios’ help (and yet another recipe) here: http://leitesculinaria.com/51916/writings-greek-phanourious-cake.html

*

Find a prayer to Christ, thanking Him for St. Phanourios’ help, and a prayer to bless a phanouropita here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/08/prayers-to-christ-and-st-phanourios.html

Find the akathist to St. Phanourios here: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/08/prayers-to-christ-and-st-phanourios.html  

*

This beautiful child-sized book tells the story of the finding of the icon of St. Phanourios: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Paterikon-for-Kids-11-20/18-Paterikon-for-kids-Saint-Phanourios/flypage-ask.tpl.html. You can also hear Dr. Chrissi Hart’s reading of this book in her “Under the Grapevine” podcast, here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/saint_phanourios

*

Print the icon of and troparion to St. Phanourios found here: https://app.box.com/s/uvph2nn833y8gr1fj7yd

*

Host an end-of-summer “Lost and Found” party that can help you teach your children about St. Phanourios. Invite other friends to join you, if you like. Read or tell the story of St. Phanourios. If you have personal examples of miracles that his prayers have caused, share them with everyone. Before (or together, during!)  the party, bake a St. Phanourios cake to share. Play some games like “Sardines,” “Hide and Seek,” have a scavenger hunt, or play a version of hide and seek where you have hidden items around the room ahead of time and the children must find them . For a craft, have the kids each make their own “lost and found” game such as  http://www.catholicinspired.com/2010/11/st-anthony-lost-and-found-game.html, only smaller (as suggested here http://www.kidspot.com.au/cute-diy-find-it-jars/ ). Be sure to pre-print and perhaps even laminate the list of items that will be put into the jar, so that your party guests will have a nice game (the jar and the list) to take home with them. Every time they play with this game, they will be able to remember St. Phanourios and how he helps people find lost things!

*

This page points to many resources about St. Phanourios: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2015/08/saint-phanourios-resource-page.html