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Gleanings from a Book: “Orthodox Christian Parenting Cultivating God’s Creation” By Marie Eliades

We recently discovered the book Orthodox Christian Parenting – Cultivating God’s Creation by Marie L. Eliades, published by Zoe Press in 2012. This book is a compilation of quotes and writings about raising and educating Orthodox Christian children. The text is gathered both from Church fathers and contemporary Orthodox Christians, and is presented by theme. (An important note: the introduction to the book tells more about the project and encourages readers to discuss what they read with their spiritual father to see what is best for their own family.)

Themes include:

“The Bigger Picture” (addresses why the book’s content is important)

“Marriage and New Beginnings” (sets the foundation for a new Orthodox family, and offers Orthodox perspectives on infertility/pregnancy/childbirth/adoption/loss of a child)

“Raising our Children” (speaks to childrearing from early childhood through youth)

“In the House of the Lord” (offers the basics of Orthodox family life at Church and at home)

“Adolescence and Growing Up” (talks about the issues and challenges that older children and their related adults face)

“So, They’re Leaving Home” (suggestions for launching a young adult)

We found many encouraging and challenging quotes throughout the book, and will share a few of them with you. This book will be of great benefit to any Orthodox Christians who marry, raise children, and/or teach children about the Faith. We recommend that people in those categories consider reading the book because of its insights into what the Church has taught about raising and teaching children of all ages.

Find the book here: http://www.shop.zoepress.us/Orthodox-Christian-Parenting-Cultivating-Gods-Creation-978-0-9851915-0-4.htm

Here are a few quotes from the book:

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“Marriage… is a journey through sorrows and joys. When the sorrows seem overwhelming, then you should remember that God is with you. He will take up your cross. It was He who placed the crown of marriage on your head. But when we ask God about something, He doesn’t always supply the solution right away. He leads us forward very slowly. Sometimes He takes years. We have to experience pain; otherwise life would have no meaning. But be of good cheer, for Christ is suffering with you, and the Holy Spirit through your groanings, is pleading on your behalf. (cf. Romans 8:26)” (p. 58)

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“When a woman is pregnant she must be calm, read the Gospel, pray, say the Jesus Prayer. Thus the child is also sanctified. The child’s upbringing begins in the womb. One should be very careful not to upset a pregnant woman for any reason. When my wife was expecting a child the Elder [St. Paisios] told me: ‘Be careful not to upset her now in any way! Be very carefull!! Tell her to say the Jesus Prayer and to chant. That will help the child a lot! She should do this later on as well.’” (p. 70)

***

“I once understood Orthodoxy as a beautiful expression of faith on Sundays and holidays, but I have learned that we must bring every moment of our days and every inch of our homes into the Church. I learned first how to surrender myself to Him, and now I am learning how to surrender my children and everything else as well. The only path to healing is to offer up our entire world to Christ. We must lift up these broken pieces of our fallen world and have faith that He will restore them. He will.” (p. 83)

***

From a section from St. Porphyrios:

“The sanctity of the parents is the best way of bringing up children in the Lord. When the parents are saintly and transmit this to the child and give the child an upbringing ‘in the Lord,’ then the child, whatever the bad influences around it, will not be affected because by the door of its heart will be Wisdom—Christ Himself.” (p. 86)

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From a section from St. Tikhon of Zadonsk:

“A gardener binds a newly planted sapling to a stake driven and fixed into the ground lest it be uprooted by winds and storms; later, he prunes unneeded branches from the tree lest they harm the tree and dry it up. You should act likewise with your small and young children. Bind their hearts to the feet of God lest they be shaken by the machinations of Satan and depart from piety. Prune away the passions that grow in them lest they mature and overpower them and so put the new, inward man that was born in holy Baptism to death. For we see that as children grow up, sinful passions also appear and grow with them as unneeded branches of a tree.” (p. 112)

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From St. John Chrysostom:
“If artists who make statues and paint portraits of kings are held in high esteem, will not God bless ten thousand times more those who reveal and beautify His royal image? For man is in the image of God. When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, and to be forgiving—all attributes of God; to be generous, to love their neighbor, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them.” (p. 137)

***
“Tired of laundry? Parenting and homemaking are indeed a holy calling. Daily chores are a blessing to us and to our family. Even laundry is blessed—no children, no laundry. What would our life be like without them? So as we wash, fold or iron each item we can say, ‘Lord have mercy on (name of clothing wearer).’ This works for your husband’s clothing, your children’s and your own clothing. ‘Lord have mercy on me.’ This sanctifies our time and work. It also helps us acquire peace and unceasing prayer.” (p. 171)

***

“Pray, pray, pray for your children and trust our most holy Lady with their guidance. Please do not think that just because you attend church with your children, receive Communion regularly, or because they belong to a youth group that this is some sort of fail-proof guarantee. No, that is not enough You mothers and fathers must pray as much as you can for your dearest possession, the children God has entrusted to you.” (p. 269)

***

“When I first read a quote by Elder Porphyrios that parents should talk to their children less and pray more I did not understand it since my children were young and at home and they needed me to speak to them to teach them. But since they have all grown and left home I understand. This may be difficult for some parents to understand yet we all should know that even as our children are a gift from God, they are a temporary gift. From birth until they leave home they are our gift and it is our job to love and teach them; but once they leave we are to release them on their path with their Guardian Angel and God’s Grace. Then our job is to pray for them, not to control them…” (p. 275)

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Through the Eyes of a Young Reader: “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks

You may remember the blog post we published about the recently-published Orthodox children’s book, “Queen Abigail the Wise,” by Grace Brooks. Our blog post was published in May 2015. (If you did not get a chance to read the blog before, find it here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/gleanings-from-a-book-queen-abigail-the-wise-by-grace-brooks/.

We are in the new calendar year, which means that Great Lent is not too far off. The entire story of “Queen Abigail the Wise” takes place during Great Lent. We are revisiting the book in this blog post for two reasons. First and foremost refers to my statement in the first blog post about the book, “I must share this book with my 10-year-old goddaughter.” I did exactly that, and gave my then-10-year-old goddaughter Hope her own copy to read. After she read the book, we got together and talked about it. I thought you may be interested to hear Hope’s perspective on the book, not just mine, so here it is! (Mind you, there are spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet, don’t say we didn’t warn you about them!)

When Hope and I got together to discuss this book, I came with a series of questions for her. I tried to think of questions that would help “grownups” have a sense of how relative and enjoyable the book is for a young Orthodox Christian. (As you may have read in the prior blog post, the book is geared to children, but I found it to be uplifting even though I am an adult. I thought it was a great book, and I was pretty sure that Hope would like it. The older I get, though, the more I realize that what I think is nice for a person of a certain age may not necessarily sit as well with them as I thought it would. So I wanted to test this in-my-opinion-wonderful book with Hope to get her opinion of it. Here it is.)

The first question I asked Hope was whether or not she liked “Queen Abigail the Wise.” I was rewarded with the anticipated resounding “Yes!” and a huge smile on her face. Curious, I asked why, and she said, “I liked how [Abigail] had to do something to get something.” and “I like that she figured out that the young priest was the the iconographer by the end of the story.” (Remember, I already warned you that there are spoilers!)

I went on to ask Hope if there were parts of the book that she could relate to, and she said “Yes…” So I asked her which parts of the story she could relate to. She said, “Well, sometimes I get bored in church, too…” and went on to explain that she can understand how that felt to Abigail. She also said that she could relate to Abigail’s feelings at Pascha, when Abigail felt hot and cramped. Hope said that, like Abigail, she’s also not a crowd person and also, she is not hungry when she’s tired — just like Abigail.

Hope named Abigail as her favorite character in the book when asked, because, “I liked how she didn’t want to give up; and she felt bummed about missing church. I do that too sometimes. I also liked how she was willing to work hard and help others because she wanted the icon so badly.”

I couldn’t just ask about a favorite character, so I wondered aloud if Hope had a least favorite character? She said, “Well, at the beginning probably Vanessa because she seems snobby but I changed my opinion at the end. I could also say baby Jacob but he did play an important role.” (Again, spoilers! Well, almost…)

Although “Queen Abigail the Wise” is a chapter book, it contain a few illustrations. I am a visual person and love pictures, so I was delighted with the sketches: I found them charming. But, as mentioned above, I wondered if my personal theory fit with the actual practice and thus, how the illustrations would sit with a young lady of her age. So, I asked Hope if the illustrations added to the story. She said, “Yes, I like to have visuals!” (Like godmother, like goddaughter, I suppose!) But she mentioned that she wished for color, not just blackline illustrations. (I suggested that since the book is her very own, she could go through and color any illustrations that she wanted to, if she wished. A few weeks later, she came to church with her book and showed me that she had colored part of it with colored pencils! It was beautiful.)

I then asked an all-encompassing question about the theme of the book. I wondered what Hope thinks that the author, Grace Brooks, was trying to say with this story. What does Hope think is the book’s message? She give me two excellent answers: “If you set your mind to something and if you work hard you can achieve it… And no matter how much you dislike something or someone, in the end you may find that you actually love them.” Both answers were insightful. Sage words, coming from a 10-year-old.

I asked Hope if she had a favorite part of “Queen Abigail the Wise.” She answered, “The end, when Abigail gets her icon… And the way she describes the icon was pretty, too.”  I asked her if she would recommend this story to others, and she answered,”Yes!” She went on to say, “I would recommend it especially to those new to the Orthodox faith.”

Hope could not think of any part of the story that she did not like. Rather, she liked the book so much that sometimes she stayed up reading it past her bedtime! She was reading it in summer, so she could lie in bed reading until it got too dark outside to read by the snatches of light shining through her window. She got in trouble for doing so (oops!), but she really liked the book, and that’s what she does when she likes a book. (Again, like godmother, like goddaughter!)

So, as I had expected, Hope liked the book. She could relate to the characters and enjoyed learning along with them. Her experience with the story was similar to mine, and I am glad. But you’ll recall that I mentioned two reasons for this blog post, and you may be wondering about the second.

Well, the second reason I am posting about this book right now is all about timing. In a matter of weeks we will be in Great Lent again! You may want to get this book to share with an Orthodox youngster of your own, so that he/she can read it during Great Lent this year! Or perhaps you personally want to follow the related blog posts as the weeks go by: they are very challenging and encouraging for Orthodox Christians of any age! Or maybe you just want to read the book yourself, for your own growth. We’re sharing this blog post now because both Hope and I want to give you plenty of time so that you can do any (or all!) of the above!

Taking one final glimpse at my interview with Hope, my final question for her was whether or not she would be willing to read a sequel when it comes out? She answered with a resounding, “YES!.” So now there are TWO of us eagerly anticipating the second book in the “Every Tuesday Girls Club!” Our guess is that if you and/or your young Orthodox friends get a chance to read “Queen Abigail the Wise,” you will feel the same way. We certainly hope so!

Here are some important links related to the book:

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Purchase “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks, either for yourself or for young friends, here: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Abigail-Wise-Grace-Brooks/dp/1518600115/  
There is also an ebook available. (But you can’t color in the illustrations of an ebook with colored pencil!)

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Meet all the girls in the “Every Tuesday Girls Club” at the Queen Abigail website: http://queenabigail.com/

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According to this blog post by “Queen Abigail the Wise” author Grace Brooks, http://queenabigail.com/2016/11/27/december-news-with-queen-abigail/, the second book in the series will be available soon! This one is called “Vanessa the Wonderworker!”

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Follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/QueenAbigailtheWise/ for a variety of interesting posts including fresh creations by “Queen Abigail the Wise” author Grace Brooks, new blog posts that she writes, and other interesting things that she finds online and shares which are enjoyable to children and adults alike!

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Consider reading your way through “Queen Abigail the Wise” bit by bit, meditating on these wonderful blog posts by author Grace Brooks. http://queenabigail.com/2016/07/20/reading-through-queen-abigail-with-me/ Perhaps you can do this with a young friend, or even an entire Sunday Church School Class, throughout the course of Great Lent. Consider using these “Abigail” notebooks to document your learning along the way: http://www.cafepress.com/+queen_abigail_the_wise_journal,1908228623!

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Learning from the Saints: St. Nina (January 14/27)

Late in the 3rd century, in Cappadocia (central modern-day Turkey), a young girl was born to a Roman army chief named Zabulon, and his wife Sosana (who was the sister of Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem). This girl was named Nina (or Nino, as she is called in the Republic of Georgia). Nina and her parents were well off, but decided to sell everything when Nina was 12 and go to Jerusalem to live in the Holy City. Soon after they arrived there, Zabulon was tonsured a monk and went to live in a monastery in the desert, Sosana became a deaconess and helped her brother the patriarch serve the poor of Jerusalem. Nina went to live with a godly woman named Nianfora, who continued to teach her to love and follow God through His Church.

When Nina was 14, she began to wonder about Our Lord’s robe and whatever happened to it. She asked Nianfora how something so precious could just be lost for hundreds of years? Nianfora answered that it was somewhere in Iberia (now Georgia) because it had traveled there after the soldier won the robe with the dice toss at the cross. Nina was very pious and thought that this holy item that had belonged to Our Lord should not be lost and forgotten, so she began to pray, asking the Mother of God to make a way for her to go. One night she had a dream in which the Theotokos blessed her with a cross made of grapevines tied together with hair. The Theotokos told Nina that the cross would be her protection as she traveled to Iberia. When Nina woke up, she was still holding the cross in her hand! She kept that grapevine cross with her for the rest of her life. Soon after this dream, Nina set out to find Christ’s robe with the blessing of her uncle, the patriarch.

Nina traveled first to Rome. While she was there, she met Princess Ripsimia and her teacher Gaiana, and let them to the Faith. The emperor at that time was Diocletian, who was persecuting Christians. Diocletian wanted to marry Princess Ripsimia because she was so beautiful, but she and Gaiana and Nina (and 50 other young ladies) ran away to spare their lives because they were Christians. They escaped safely to Armenia. Unfortunately, Diocletian was so angry he had sent soldiers to follow the young ladies (and to warn King Tiridat of Armenia about them). When the now-warned King Tiridat saw the beautiful Princess Ripsimia, he wanted to marry her! When she refused, he killed her, Gaiana, and the other 50 young ladies with them. Nina narrowly escaped this martyrdom by hiding in some rosebushes.

Alone, Nina continued her journey to Iberia. When she first arrived in Iberia, she befriended some shepherds who gave her food and helped her know where to go to find their capital city of Mtskheta. Along the way, Nina was very discouraged. She began to wonder why she was doing what she was doing. One night as she slept, she had a dream. In her dream, a heavenly visitor appeared to her and gave her a scroll. When she woke up, Nina still had the scroll in her hand. She could even read the scroll: it was written in Greek! It was full of scripture verses which encouraged her to continue on her journey so that she could help others learn more about Christ and His Church. This gave Nina the strength that she needed to continue her journey, and she made it to Mtskheta.

Soon after her arrival in Mtskheta, Nina was saddened to watch a ceremony where the people of Iberia were gathered to worship idols covered in metal. The people shook before the idols as their priests prepared sacrifices for the ceremony. Nina was so sad that she began to pray hard and loudly for the people, that God would enlighten them and show them that He is the true God. Suddenly, a storm came up and all the people had to take cover! Lightning destroyed the idols, crumbling them to nothing. The rain washed away the crumbled pieces. Nina had taken cover in the cleft of a rock, so she was safe, but she saw the whole thing happen. After the idols were washed away, the sun shone once again, and the people came looking for their idols. Of course they found no trace of them. This made the Iberian king wonder if there is another God greater than the gods that they worshiped.

Nina was welcomed into the palace garden by the gardener and his wife, who allowed her to live in a corner of the garden (some sources say in a hut; others say under a bramble). The couple was unable to have children, but Nina prayed for them, and God blessed them with many children after that! They became Christians, and so did many others in the land, as Nina prayed for them and told them about Christ. She became well known because of her godliness and her kindness. God worked other miracles through her prayers as well. For example, once a mother was carrying her dying son through the city, begging for help so that he would not die. St. Nina took the boy, laid him down on her leaf bed, and prayed for him. As she prayed, she touched him with her grapevine cross, and he was healed!

Nina preached even to the Jewish people of Iberia. Interestingly enough, it was through the Iberian Jewish High Priest (who converted to Christianity as well through the teaching of Nina) that she learned about the one thing that she had come to Iberia to find in the first place: the robe of Christ! He told her the story of his great-grandfather Elioz, who had gone to Jerusalem to witness Christ’s death (His death was considered by the Jewish people to be a victory for their nation, so invitations were sent out prior to its happening). Elioz’s mother had warned him not to ally himself with those who killed Christ, because she knew that He was the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies! Elioz went to Jerusalem and was present at the crucifixion, and managed to get Christ’s robe from the soldier who had won it. He brought it back to Mtskheta, where he found out that his mother had died around the time that Christ did (after feeling in her heart the pounding of the nails as they were pounded into Our Lord and proclaiming that she sensed that He had been killed). Elioz’s sister Sidonia took the robe of Christ when she saw it in his hands, and began to venerate it with kisses. She hugged it to herself and immediately died! Elioz tried to pull the robe from her grasp but was completely unable to do so. He felt afraid about what could happen to the robe at that point, so he secretly buried her, still clinging to the robe, in an undisclosed location. Some say it was in the middle of the palace garden in Mtskheta, where a cedar tree suddenly grew, but no one knows for sure.

When Nina learned this, she was still uncertain of the actual location of the robe of Christ, but began to pray at that cedar tree in the middle of the royal garden in case the robe was truly under there. One night after her prayers, Nina saw many black birds perch in the cedar’s branches. They flew from there to the river, bathed, and came back as white as snow! The now-white birds sat in the cedars branches and sang beautifully. God revealed to Nina that this was to help her to realize that the people of Iberia would come to know Him, be baptized, and continue their lives cleansed of sins. It encouraged her to keep telling all the people around her about Christ, and to pray for them and for their salvation.

The queen of Iberia, Queen Nana, who did not like Christians and worshiped false gods like the Roman goddess Venus, became sick around this time. She went to doctors, but just got worse and worse. It looked like she would die. Although she did not like Christians, Queen Nana had heard that Nina could heal people through her prayers. She commanded that Nina be brought to her. Nina replied that if she wanted to be healed, the Queen would need to come to her humble dwelling instead. The queen was desperate and so she humbled herself and they carried her to Nina’s little living space, where her servants laid the queen on Nina’s bed of leaves. Nina prayed for her, and touched her head, feet, and shoulders with the grapevine cross. As soon as Nina finished making the sign of the cross over Queen Nana in this way, the queen was completely well. She was so grateful to be healed that she stopped worshipping idols and became a Christian instead. Queen Nana and Nina became close friends.

The king of Iberia, King Mirian, was not happy that his queen converted to Christianity. He was ready to have all of the Christians in Iberia killed, even though that meant that his own wife would die. While he was thinking of this plan, he went out hunting on a beautiful day. As he hunted, suddenly a dark cloud came up where he was. It was so dark that the king could not see! Winds began to blow, lightning was all around, and it was all very similar to the frightening storm that hit back when Nina first came to Iberia and the idols had been destroyed. All of the king’s hunting companions left him because they were afraid. Alone, King Mirian cried out to his gods to save him. The storm got worse, and of course the gods did nothing. Finally, King Mirian cried out to the God of Nina, asking Him to save him from this storm and promising to follow God if He did. At that moment, the storm stopped, and the sun shone! King Mirian returned to the city, found Nina and told her of his experience and his promise, which he kept. And that is how the  Light of Christ entered into King Mirian’s life and the lives of his people as well. His joy at his conversion led the king to build many churches to help his people to be better Christians.

After the king’s conversion, Nina continued to preach and teach about Christ to the Iberian people. Her hard work, and the cooperation of the people around her, established Christianity firmly in that part of the world. (Even today, 82 % of the people of the nation of Georgia are practicing Orthodox Christians!)

Nina reposed in the Lord in the early 4th century, in the village of Bodbe, in what is now eastern Georgia. King Mirian had a church built at the site of her repose. Her body is buried there.

O handmaid of the Word of God,

Who in preaching hast equaled the first-called Apostle Andrew,
And hast emulated the other Apostles;
O enlightener of Iberia and reed-pipe of the Holy Spirit,
Holy Nino, equal to the Apostles:
Pray to Christ God to save our souls!
(troparion to St. Nina, in tone 4)

Sources:

http://www.antiochian.org/node/17330

https://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/01/14/100191-st-nino-nina-equal-of-the-apostles-and-enlightener-of-georgia

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/67914.htm

http://www.stnina.org/st-nina/life-st-nina-karen-rae-keck

Here are additional sources that can help us learn and teach about St. Nina:

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This picture book is a great way to help younger children learn about the life of St. Nina: http://www.stnectariospress.com/the-life-of-saint-nina-equal-to-the-apostles/

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Share this 8-minute video about the life of St. Nina with middle-years children: http://trisagionfilms.com/project/life-st-nina-enlightener-georgia/

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This book full of saint stories includes the story of St. Nina: http://www.stspress.com/shop/books/livesofsaints-holypeople/childs-paradise-of-saints-a/

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Create a grapevine cross together to help you remember St. Nina. First, procure some grapevine (from your own plants, or a friend’s, or from a craft store or nursery). Cut sticks of two different lengths and use strands of embroidery floss “hair” to tie them into a cross. Your cross can be small, made of just two grapevine twigs, or large, crafted from multiple strands of each size: it is up to you and your family! Place the cross where it will remind you to be faithful to God and to trust Him as St. Nina did. (Here’s a blog post that can give you an idea of how to tie the cross together. The cross in the blog is made with twigs from a tree, but would apply to grapevine as well: http://www.gratefulprayerthankfulheart.com/2012/04/little-wooden-cross-from-sticks.html)

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Together as a family, study the Republic of Georgia. (Check a book about the country out of the library, or look online for informational sites like this one: http://www.ducksters.com/geography/country.php?country=Georgia, or this one http://www.encyclopedia.com/places/commonwealth-independent-states-and-baltic-nations/cis-and-baltic-political-geography-24) Where is the Republic of Georgia located? Would you like to visit? Decide whether or not St. Nina had a huge impact on the country by just looking at its flag! Then cook something from Georgia and enjoy it together! (For example, this cheese bread looks delicious: http://www.food.com/recipe/georgian-cheese-bread-308047, as do all of these desserts:http://georgiastartshere.com/top-10-georgian-desserts/! For more recipes, see https://georgianrecipes.net/tag/republic-of-georgia/)

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Study the Gospel verses that were written on the scroll miraculously given to St. Nina in her dream when she was feeling most discouraged about her journey. Here they are:

“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. (Matt.26:13).
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal.3:28).
“Then said Jesus unto them (the women), Be not afraid: go tell my brethren… (Matt.28:10).
He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him that sent me (Matt.10:40).
“For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist (Luke 21:15).
“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say: for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:11-12).
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul… (Matt.10:28).
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt.28:19-20).”

After reading the scriptures together, talk about how these words must have encouraged Nina. Do any of them stand out to encourage you? Select one (or several) to write on a chalkboard or whiteboard in your home, so that it can continue to encourage you. Or print it out in a readable font, have your children decorate the edges of the paper, then frame it and hang it up in your home.

 

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Bedtime and Other Rituals: Conclusion and Facing Fears at Bedtime

We have examined so many different aspects of an Orthodox Christian family’s bedtime routine. We discussed winding down together; reasons to read books (as well as suggestions of what books to read); scriptures to share together; learning about the saints together; singing together; and praying together before bed. If you have missed any in the series, you can find it in its entirety on our blog at https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/category/bedtime/.

We have come to the end of the series, but before we conclude, we wish to once more thank those of you who participated in our survey over the summer! Your myriad of ideas and suggestions were indispensable to us in this project. We are sure that your responses have been helpful to the rest of the community as well. Thank you for taking the time to share them!

To conclude our series, we will begin by offering the following meditation called “the Liturgy of Bedtime.” It reaffirms some of the things that we have discussed in prior posts. We also know from experience that nighttime can be a fearful time for children, so occasionally “the liturgy of bedtime” is still followed by children feeling afraid. Thus, we will also offer links to ideas of ways to help children face their nighttime fears. Speaking to our children about God and leading them to Him on their way to bed during the “bedtime liturgy” is the best way to begin to address nighttime fears.  

May God grant you wisdom to know exactly what your children need at bedtime to help them relax and rest in the safety of God’s protection and the Theotokos’ watchful prayers. May He bless you as you then create and carry out that bedtime routine. May He grant peace to your children and great joy to you in the process. And may He have mercy on us all and save us. Amen.

“The Liturgy of Bedtime,” an excerpt from “Talking to Children About God”

By Dr. Albert Rossi, Ph.D.

Published originally in Orthodox Family Life,  Vol 2 Iss 3,

reprinted with permission (entire article can be found here: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/inchurch/talkgod.htm)


One of the more regular times of “Letting the children come” to God is bedtime. Often stories and prayers at bedtime can be relaxed, non-competitive time with children. When everything is right, bedtime can be a time when the unconditional love of parent for child is almost tangible. Children are usually tired and sometimes less frenetic. It also goes without saying that some nights seem more like thinly veiled chaos. But, hopefully, most nights are more peaceful.


Going to sleep for children happens gracefully only within an elaborate ritual. This is the liturgy of going to sleep and is not totally unlike other liturgies. Father Alexander Schmemann spoke of the Eucharist beginning with the long ritual of getting dressed for Church and continuing through the trip to Church and all the beautiful liturgy preceding Communion. In a similar way, children go to sleep after intricate ceremony. This usually includes taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing their teeth, kissing everyone in the household goodnight, hearing a story, saying prayers, getting tucked in, and for little ones, a Linus blanket and Teddy for special security. This is the liturgy of bedtime. It’s a tender time, a loving time. It’s a rare and precious time. It’s a time to be close to each other and to God.


There are many ways to talk to children about God at bedtime. As was said, we do this primarily by the way we put them to bed. We do this by mustering patience as our own busy day comes to an end. We do it with a tender kiss and an “I love you” as we leave the room. But, we can also do it with stories.


Children love stories, stories, stories. In our family there is one type of story which is the regular, nightly request. It takes the form of “Daddy (or Mommy), tell me a story about when you were a little boy.” This has been going on so long that I am running dry of stories, or so it seems. Rather than forego a story, Beth will beg for a re-run of some oft-told story. I have overheard her telling these stories to her little friends as they played in her room. As I get older I am beginning to appreciate this form of story more. It tells of heritage, of lineage, of roots. Inevitably, these stories involve grandparents, moments of virtue, of relatives, humor, tales of Church events. All this is a remembrance of God’s activity in one’s personal history, and can occasionally be explained as such. Grandparents can have a incalculable value in strengthening the faith of a child with stories about “When Baba [grandmother] was a little girl.”

Here are some ideas of ways to help children face fears at bedtime. (Note: Not all are Orthodox, but there is enough that is helpful in each that we are sharing them anyway.)

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This blog post is written in the context of Halloween, but the Orthodox Christian suggestions of what to do when your child is scared suggest very practical steps that every Orthodox parent should “have in their back pocket” and be able to offer to their child anytime he/she is afraid. http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/what-to-do-when-your-child-is-scared/

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Here is a concrete way to show our children how prayer helps us to face fear. This piece is not Orthodox, but is a very helpful visual for our kids. (We should also be sure to remind our children that we have the added peace-giving knowledge of the prayers of the saints as an additional, much stronger protection for our little “flame” than just our own prayers can offer!) http://www.playeatgrow.com/2013/02/grow-helping-your-child-deal-with-fear.html/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+PlayEatGrow+(Play+Eat+Grow)  

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Here are two blog posts related to bedtime prayer by Fr. Stephen Freeman. We are including them here because of his son’s personal bedtime prayer (in the first blog) which he wrote when he was 4 years old. His sweet prayer includes a sound answer to what to do with bedtime fears: ask the saints to extinguish them! https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2009/10/14/what-do-you-say-when-you-turn-out-the-light/  And this post is an interesting look at a non-Orthodox children’s bedtime prayer: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/11/05/now-i-lay-me-down-to-sleep/
The comments after each blog are both interesting and helpful, should you have time, read them as well! (Comments include some practical suggestions such as sprinkling the bed with holy water before going to sleep.)
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This blog post recommends praying the Jesus Prayer if you (or your child) are having trouble sleeping: http://simplyorthodox.tumblr.com/post/32070899950

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When our family was in the process of converting into the Orthodox Faith, my young children found that having the “new-to-us” opportunity to make the sign of the cross to be helpful to them when they had bad dreams or felt afraid at nighttime. This book can help children learn how and why to make the sign of the cross: http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/our-books/on-our-shelf-every-time-i-do-my-cross/

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Find ideas for helping your child with bedtime fears/sleeplessness in the “When a Child Sleeps Poorly” section of this Orthodox Christian psychotherapist’s booklet: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/orthodox_psychotherapy_d_avdeev_e.htm

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This non-Orthodox post offers practical Christian solutions for parents to extend comfort to their children after bad dreams: http://www.faithgateway.com/praying-through-bedtime-fears/#.WBDN31QrLIU

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In previous blog posts, we talked about sharing the scriptures at bedtime. Here are some suggestions of specific scripture verses that we can share with our children for them to think about instead of focusing on their fears at bedtime:

http://www.graceparenting.com/BibleVersesAboutPeacefulSleep.html

http://learnscripture.net/verse-set/5-sleep-not-sheep-bedtime-verses/

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On the Feast of the Nativity (Dec. 25/Jan. 7)

On December 25/January 7 every year, we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. This day is an important one for humankind. For on this day the eternal God, who had deigned to take on human flesh in order to save us from the power of Death, is born into time and space. On this day we celebrate His birth to the Theotokos in a cave. We recognize Joseph’s obedience to God’s messengers in the midst of doubt. We remember the shepherds who were the first to know the Good News of His birth when the Angels of God announced it to them. Thus, “the least of these” were granted great mercy. We remember the Magi whose love for and intense study of creation revealed the Good News to them in a manner so convincing that they acted on it and traveled to a foreign land to pay homage to a King they’d never even heard of before. In them, “the wealthy” and “the foreigners” were granted great mercy as well. We recall how nature (for example, the star and the animals in the cave) proclaimed and honored His birth. We observe that Life can come from the depths of the earth, for in a cave our Lord was born, and again later, in a cave, humanity is born into life eternal when He conquers Death and rises from the dead.

It is likely that our children are already familiar with the story of this feast. Let us teach them where to find it in the Scriptures, in Luke chapter 2. As we read this passage aloud together, we find opportunities to discuss the things mentioned above. We can also take a look at the icon of the feast as we read. We can challenge our children to identify different parts of the scripture passage as they are found in the icon. We can talk with our children about the feast and its importance. Once we have established the importance of the day, we should take some time to discuss what we will do on the day of the feast, and together agree on how we can have our actions focus on celebrating the feast itself, not just bending to societal trends and expectations. This can be difficult, especially if we have established so many other Christmas lower-case-t-traditions in our family. Even a little step towards celebrating the feast is a step in the right direction, and will be worth the effort!

The feast will be upon us soon. Let us prepare and celebrate as we should. Blessed Nativity to you and your family!

Here are some ideas of ways to learn together about the Nativity Feast:

 

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Find descriptions of the icon of the Nativity at these links:
Click on parts of the icon  to read about them here: http://www.antiochian.org/icons-explained-nativity

See the icon and descriptions about each part of it here: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/70/62/e2/7062e21a4c0a4cc5358ffe18586bf7fb.jpg

You may wish to create some Nativity icon ornaments to use at home or give as gifts. Here is one idea of a way to do so: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2011/11/christmas-orthodox-craft-ornaments.html

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Does your family have a Christmas tree? Have you talked together about how some of its symbolisms can point us to the true meaning of the Nativity Feast? In the feast’s pages in the book “Heaven Meets Earth,” there is a section dedicated to the many symbols of the Christmas tree. For example, “God’s light, symbolized by the lights sparkling all around the tree, reaches into the deepest, darkest crevices of our being.” (p. 20) If your family enjoys simple crafts, consider making paper Christmas trees. To make one, first accordian-fold a large green paper circle to make a “tree” shape. Then decorate it with markers, tiny paper icon “ornaments,” etc. Add two star stickers (back to back) at the top of the “tree.” Use a hole punch to punch holes from the fold side of each of the accordian folds of the tree. Set the tree over an led votive (many dollar stores sell them two to a pack) so that the tree can “light up.” When your tree(s) are finished, review again the symbolisms mentioned in the book, looking for each on your paper tree and your Christmas tree (if you have one).

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Keeping our focus (and our children’s focus) on Christ during the Nativity “season” is not always easy in today’s world. Find resources to help in this blog post: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/ideas-for-keeping-our-focus-on-the-nativity-of-christ/

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“Each Christmas we need to ask ourselves and our families what we should get Christ. It is His birthday after all.” ~ Melissa Tsongranis, in her article “What Shall We Offer?”, which pushes us to continue to think about how to keep Christ as the focus of our Nativity celebration. http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/articles/offering

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Find pins to many Nativity ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/aodce/nativity/

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This zine can help us teach our children ages 12 and up about the Nativity of our Lord. http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/zines/nativityzine. There is a free parent guide featuring suggested ways to use it with children of different age levels; ideas for celebrating the twelve days of Christmas; and information about Christmas celebrations around the world, as well! http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/christmas_guide (You can also get a teachers’ guide to use with the zine, with these objectives: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/resources/midhightextobjectives#For to Us)

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With older children, we can take time before the Nativity Feast’s vesperal service/Royal Hours to discuss the verses we will hear and/or chant. For example this one:

“O Christ what shall we offer You;
for our sake You appeared on earth as man?
Every creature made by You offers thanks to You.
The angels offer You a hymn; the heavens, a star;
the Magi, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder;
the earth, its cave; the wilderness, the manger:
and we offer You a Virgin Mother.
O pre-eternal God, have mercy on us.”


Find the rest of the vesperal service here: http://lit.royaldoors.net/. Watch your children during the service, to see their faces light up in  recognition when this verse that you have discussed is chanted in the service!

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Bedtime and Other Rituals: Bedtime Prayers

“Whether you are in church, or in your house, or in the country; whether you are guarding sheep, or constructing buildings, or present at drinking parties, do not stop praying. When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, ‘at evening and at morning and at midday’. If prayer precedes your work and if, when you rise from your bed, your first movements are accompanied by prayer, sin can find no entrance to attack your soul.” ~ St Ephrem the Syrian

“Pray also before your body rests on the bed.”  St. Hippolytus

As we can see from the Church fathers’ quotes (and, better yet, from their lives!) prayer is a vital part of our Orthodox Christian life. Therefore we must include prayer in all parts of our day, including at bedtime. It is so important that we model this in our own lives as well as teach it to our children. Prayers should be part of our family’s bedtime routine. They give us the opportunity to review our day, ask forgiveness for sins we have committed, renew our focus on God, entrust ourselves and our loved ones to His care while we sleep, and thank Him for his kindness and mercy through the day just finished. Bedtime prayers offer the opportunity for the soul to be at peace, and are thus a great way to begin a restful night.

The survey we conducted last summer asked participants about including prayer at bedtime. Only 4% of those surveyed answered that their family does not pray together at bedtime. Of those that do pray together at bedtime, we asked where their family gathers for prayer. Our respondents answered in this way (and evidently the location varies by night for some families):
at our icon corner 53%

  • around the dining room table 3%
  • in the children’s bedrooms 53%
  • in the living/family room 3%

8% of respondents’ families pray elsewhere than the options we gave. For example:

  • We made a chapel in our house.
  • In our own bedrooms. [We have] older children.
  • Children’s icon corners
  • Varies between the chapel or our icon corner
  • Icon corner in the child’s bedroom
  • In front of the icons in the children’s room

Even more important than WHERE the family gathers to pray is the question of WHAT do they pray? Our respondents were very kind and shared their family’s traditions of prayer, often including the prayers themselves. Here are the prayers that they pray together at bedtime (in the order in which they were received). Perhaps you will find them helpful for your own family’s bedtime prayer routine:

  • Lord’s Prayer; Heavenly King comforter; Trisagion; Other hymns from liturgy or hymns for feasts (e.g. Troparion for Pascha and Theophany)’ “God please watch over [children’s names], give them sweet dreams and a good night of sleep so they may be good listeners, helpers and learners tomorrow. God please keep [insert names of deceased] close with you in heaven. Thank you for [children offer special thanks]. Please bless [children name special intentions]. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen” (or something similar)
  • Lord’s Prayer & Jesus Prayer
  • Lord’s Prayer, and a prayer of protection, and they each tell God the answer to the questions: something they are thankful for, something they are sorry for, and something/one they want to pray for.
  • “Now I lay me,” God Blesses, prayers from the prayer book.
  • Russian Orthodox prayer book
  • We say the Lord’s Prayer and we give thanks for each individual in our house, extended family and for our deceased family members and we give thanks for the day that we just finished and pray for a good day tomorrow.
  • We pray the prescribed evening prayers from the Orthodox Prayer Book, including the child’s evening prayer.
  • “Our Father” followed by “Into thy hands O Lord we commend our souls and our bodies. Do thou thyself bless us, have mercy upon us, and grant us life eternal. Amen.”
  • In the upstairs hallway icon corner: O Heavenly King, Trisagion, “Our Father,” the Marriage Prayer (from red Antiochian prayer book), prayer for children and godchildren (from that red prayer book), and end with seasonal (eg, during Paschal season, The Angel Cried, or during Lent, prostrations with Prayer of St. Ephraim) hymn to the Theotokos. Then as laying in bed beside toddler, saying the Jesus Prayer slowly, quietly and monotone until they fall asleep.
  • Trisaigion
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • The Jesus Prayer first and then whatever comes into our hearts.
  • Usually we sing “O Gladsome Light” as me and my son light the candles in the evening time. Depending on when we get to doing that we either go about the rest of our evening and then come back to do evening prayers or we go right into evening prayers after “O Gladsome Light” which consist of the Lord’s Prayer, “Come let us Worship,” Theotokion, “Remit Pardon Forgive O God…” (I don’t know if some of these are the actual names of the prayers but more like the first line of the prayer.) Sometimes we change it a little to say different prayers but basically it is very similar. If it is a feast day I substitute one of our daily prayers for the festal troparion. I have a bad habit of making prayers too long for my 6 yr old. I have to be careful of that!
  • We say a prayer before dinner. Both kids participate 3 & 5.
  • The Lord’s Prayer and the Trisagion sometimes
  • “Our Father”; “Song to the Mother of God”
  • From a children’s prayer book, but mostly nights from memory
  • The prayers before sleep from the prayer book put out by Jordanville. We say the whole thing with all the kids all ages (teens down to baby) it only takes 20 min.
  • We sing a hymn, usually a troparion. We do whichever one we are trying to memorize. Once the kids know it well we work on a new one. We do the Jesus prayer & Lord’s prayer or Trisagion & pray for our family & friends by name. Right now we are memorizing the Creed so we do that instead of the Lord’s prayer. Our kids are young so can’t do it all due to short attention spans.
  • We use the little red prayerbook by the Antiochian archdiocese – evening prayers
  • “O Lord our God, as Thou are Good and the Lover of mankind, forgive me wherein I have sinned this day in word, deed, and thought. Grant me peaceful and undisturbed sleep and send thy guardian angel to protect and keep me from all evil. For Thou art the guardian of our souls and unto Thee do we send up glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
  • Orthodox prayer book or menaion.
  • “O Angel you are truly mine, given to me by God Divine, to always be at my side and teach me what is right. I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong. Never go away from me. From all danger keep me free. Amen” “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John bless this bed that I lay on. Four corners round my bed. Four angels round my head. Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Keep me safe all through the night and wake me with the morning light. Amen”
  • The “Our Father”; The Jesus prayer; The Guardian angel prayer; A prayer to the Theotokos for guidance and intervention
  • Trisagion, Lord’s prayer, ask their patron saint to pray them, then venerate icons
  • At this point, the opening Trisagion Prayers from memory
  • Personal [prayers]
  • We are recent converts from Roman Catholicism and our bedtime prayers have remained the same- the guardian angel prayer and the prayer to St Michael the Archangel
  • the beginning of the formal evening prayers up to “Our Father” and to each Saint our child is named after. We extend evening prayers using the Orthodox Prayer Book as they get older.
  • We are ROCOR, so we often do a modified (shortened) version of the Night time prayers from the Jordanville Prayer Book. But we also greatly like and admire the prayers of the Western Rite Orthodox church, so I’d say about 1/3 of the time, we pray/sing either their Vespers or Compline service.
  • The evening prayers in the “Come to Me” prayer book
  • Basic prayers from Orthodox prayer book. Occasionally shorter, occasionally add hymns from vespers: “Blessed is the man,” “Bless the Lord O my soul,” “Let God arise,” “O gentle light,” etc
  • The prayers in the back of the Orthodox Study Bible
  • Trisagion, Evening Prayers, other prayers from red prayer book, special other prayers.
  • “Our Father” followed by saying what we are grateful for that day and what good deed we did for someone else
  • We pray the Trisagion and sing “More Honorable Than The Cherubim…”, then we pray for a list of sick and suffering, a list of the dead, and finish with “In Your hands, Lord Jesus Christ our God, we commit our souls and our bodies. Forgive us, have mercy on us, and grant us life eternal. Amen.” (During Paschaltide, we sign Christ is risen three times or more to open each prayer time.)
  • from the Orthodox children’s prayer book
  • Evening prayers from the Jordanville prayer book. We read the Trisagion and Psalms in the icon corner, then complete the rest of the prayers snuggling our daughter to sleep.
  • We pray the trisagion prayers and then “O Lord our God as thou art good and a lover of mankind, forgive me wherein I have sinned today in word, deed or thought….” and then we have a prayer list (names of family and those we are praying for) that the kids take turns reading, then each member of the family says their own little prayer.
  • We have switched between eastern and western rite evening prayers.
  • We pray the trisagion, and add intercessions.
  • Typical evening prayers outlined in our prayer book.
  • The Lord’s prayer, plus individual prayers with our 3 year old daughter.
  • The Aaronic blessing from the book of Numbers
  • Trisagion prayers is about all we do with a baby and a toddler!
  • The Jesus Prayer
  • “Our Father”; Jesus Prayer
  • Trisagion- chanted, plus evening troparia – sung. Then we adjourn to the kiddo’s room, read a story, hug and snuggle, sing a song, and say the prayer “Into Thy Hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, do I commend my spirit…” Then Mama goes back to the icon corner and finishes her prayers — this part has helped me not put off my own prayers till I get too sleepy.
  • Oh Heavenly King, the Trisagion
  • “Oh Heavenly King” through “Our Father”, then each night a different person says a personal prayer from the heart, then we recite a verse from the Bible that we are memorizing together that is written on a board in our icon corner.
  • At the very least the Trisagion, and sometimes the evening prayers found in the little Antiochian Prayer Book
  • small compline or bedtime prayers or prayers in preparation for holy Communion. It is easiest to share a common translation, so we found the digital text to the St. Tikhon’s “Orthodox Daily Prayers” book and have updated some of the language. We added the prayers to our private website for our family’s homeschool and use our phones/tablets for the prayers so we’re all on the same page and the rest of the lights can be kept low.
  • Lord’s Prayer; Evening prayers from a prayer book
  • The “Our Father”; Jesus loves me; Sometimes work through, over the week, the third and sixth hours. The kids (7&5) enjoy following along and then they get to say the Lord have mercy’s.
  • “Our Father”… We also recite three things we are grateful for from our day. Finally, we make special prayer requests for people we know who are sick, in need, etc.
  • Evening prayers from the little red prayer book, with family intercessions
  • We pray the “Our Father,” followed by asking God to bless our friends and family. Sometimes additional prayers. Sometimes we sing a 7th century prayer, especially when scared of bad dreams: “Before the ending of the day Creator of the world, we pray that with Thy wonted favor, Thou wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now. From all ill dreams defend our eyes, from nightly fears and fantasies: tread under foot our ghostly foe, that no pollution we may know. O Father, that we ask be done through Jesus Christ Thine only Son, who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee, shall live and reign eternally. Amen.”

As you can see, there are a myriad of prayers to pray at bedtime. Some bedtime prayers are very brief, others long: it depends on the children and what they can handle. You may have noted that some respondents told about changes that they have made in the family’s bedtime prayers as their children grow older. Each family, under the guidance of their spiritual father, needs to decide which prayers to pray together before sleep. Whatever route we choose, let us pray to the Lord, especially at bedtime.

Lord, have mercy.

Here are links related to bedtime prayers, including links to some of the prayer books mentioned by the survey participants in their comments about what prayers they pray:

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The Russian prayer book mentioned by our survey participants is available as an app on Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Dr_John_Ellsworth_Hutchison_Hall_Daily_Prayers_for?id=5Insc_AzAkYC) or in print (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0615666205/ref=rdr_ext_tmb)

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The “Jordanville” prayer book mentioned by our survey participants offers its prayers online as well as in print. Find the prayers before bed here: http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/prayerbook/main.htm

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The Antiochian prayer book that our survey participants referred to is available online here: http://www.antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers (Find the evening prayer service here: http://www.antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers/evening-prayers.) But the printed book is such a nice size for children to handle, and it fits in a pocket or purse, so you may want to purchase it already printed: http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-pocket-prayer-book-for-orthodox-christians-vinyl-cover/

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Here is a link to one Orthodox children’s prayer book: http://store.ancientfaith.com/childrens-orthodox-prayer-book/

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Here is a (free!) printable Orthodox children’s prayer book: http://www.themccallums.org/michelle/2014/02/03/orthodox-prayer-book-for-children-2/

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Find Orthodox bedtime prayers for all ages here: http://www.orthodoxcheyenne.org/daily-prayers-for-orthodox-christians/prayers-before-sleep

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This printable booklet of prayers includes a section of evening prayers: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/for-families/family-activities/docs/tpg-dailyprayers.pdf

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Families with older children (who have been praying Orthodox bedtime prayers and are well acquainted with them) may find it beneficial to occasionally read and talk about the prayers that other Christian children pray. It can be helpful to our children to know what some of their friends are praying at bedtime. Talking about these prayers offers parents the opportunity to strengthen our children’s faith as we share the prayer, then affirm similarities and help our children understand the differences. Here are some of them: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-popular-bedtime-prayers/

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Want some help kickstarting an evening prayer routine? Check out this blog post: http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/evening-prayers-creating-a-routine-of-prayer-in-your-home/

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Bedtime and Other Rituals: Singing Together at Bedtime

As we continue our series on bedtime traditions, it is time to take a look at the practice of singing which some families include as part of their nightly bedtime ritual. Some families find bedtime to be a good time to sing together as a family, while others do not for various reasons. Our survey asked participants if they sing together at bedtime. Here is what we learned:
28% of our survey participants said that they sing together, and that they do so every night.
34% said that they do not sing together at bedtime.
38% sing together some nights, but not every night.

We then asked the participants who sing together as a family what they sing. They responded:
25% We sing our children’s favorite songs.
3% We sing the troparion of the day.
21% We sing the festal hymn of the most recent feast.
2% We sing the hymns to the saint of the day.
34% We do not sing together at bedtime.
(Apparently the other 15% sing other songs which were not listed as survey options.)

Some survey respondents sent us specifics of what they sing. Here is what they said:

  • hymns from the liturgy to help them learn (and pray of course)
  • St Raphael’s troparion
  • We sing different songs from the Great Liturgy. As my daughter learns a new song in the liturgy, we talk about it and practice singing it.
  • “O Heavenly King”,“Our Father”, and finish prayers with the “Hymn to the Theotokos”
  • Trisagion, various hymns
  • Usually we sing some of the prayers during evening prayers such as “O Gladsome Light” or “More Honorable than the Cherubim”.
  • Whatever hymns we are learning at the time & the Jesus Prayer
  • Whatever comes to mind from church or Camp Nazareth campfires
  • We often sing the Vespers or compline prayers of Western Rite Orthodoxy
  • Chant hymns from vespers
  • “Oh Gladsome Light”
  • Hymns from Divine Liturgy
  • nursery rhymes
  • Christian classic hymns
  • Usually soothing, slow hymns. “Jesus Remember Me”, “the Great Doxology”, “the Beatitudes”
  • “Hymn to the Theotokos”, “Our Father”
  • other favorite hymns
  • We always sing “All Praise to Thee, My God This Night” — to the tune of the Tallis Canon.
  • Occasionally our child asks for another “church song” and we always sing a Theotokion.
  • “Oh Heavenly King”
  • The apolytikia of our patron saints
  • Gigi Shadid music
  • “Christ is Risen”, “Lord I Call”, antiphons
  • We sometimes sing a song from Compline or I sing a bedtime song if requested.

As we prepared for this blog post, we discovered that research shows that there are many reasons why we should sing with children. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (perhaps some of us feel less-than-confident with our singing ability) many of us do not sing often or at all with our children. We may wonder if bedtime is really a good time for singing to/with children. If it is, what should we sing? Here are some links to information that we discovered about the importance of singing with children; suggested ways to improve our own singing confidence; reasons why bedtime is a good time to sing; and where to find great kids’ music (both secular and Orthodox) to sing to (and with!) our children at bedtime. So, read up, and let’s get singing!

Why is important to sing with kids?

There are at least ten things babies learn when we sing to them: https://families.naeyc.org/article/10-ways-babies-learn-when-we-sing

Music stimulates endorphins and creates security for children while helping them learn language: http://oureverydaylife.com/benefits-singing-children-16177.html

Singing helps children learn to play with (and love) language so that reading and understanding is easier for them later: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=927

Live interactive music helps children’s speech develop: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/may/08/singing-children-development-language-skills

What if I think I sing poorly and am ashamed to sing?

Find basic tips for strengthening your singing skills here: http://www.wikihow.com/Sing-With-Confidence

This article lists detailed ways to improve your singing skills: https://spinditty.com/learning/6-Tips-to-Better-Singing

Find a few free singing lessons here: http://feliciaricci.com/i-hate-my-singing-voice-help/

Is it important to sing with children at bedtime?

This article lists some of the benefits of lullabies, as well as encouragement for parents who are hesitant singers: http://www.education.com/reference/article/importance-lullabies/

Read about the importance of singing lullabies at bedtime in this article: http://www.parentguide.ca/2015/09/the-importance-of-lullabies-2/

Find an official paper from the International Journal of Business and Social Science on this topic here: http://ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_7_April_2012/35.pdf

Here are a few secular bedtime song suggestions:

This post offers specific bedtime song suggestions, complete with lyrics and links to performances of the songs, in case you are not familiar with them: http://www.everydayfamily.com/slideshow/15-perfect-songs-sing-little-one-sleep/

This article offers a list of lullabies to sing to your children, and recommends a musician that can help you learn even more: http://modernmomlife.com/bedtime-songs-for-kids/

Where can I find Orthodox Christian music to sing with my kids?

Find information about how to help your children learn about Orthodox Christian music here: http://www.antiochian.org/music/liturgical-music-children

This blog post is old, but offers some Orthodox recording artists and/or titles that may be helpful: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2008/07/orthodox-music-for-kids.html

Khouria Gigi Shadid has been making Orthodox Children’s music for many years. Find her music for sale here: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/GigiBabaShadid