Monthly Archives: November 2013

Giving Thanks

At this time of year, Americans are encouraged to give thanks. It is a good thing to be aware of what we have been blessed with and to be thankful for our many blessings. Let us not only give thanks, and encourage our children to give thanks, but let us also remember to WHOM we are giving thanks.

The Akathist of Thanksgiving is a beautiful way to begin to consider all that God has given to us, and to begin to offer back to Him thanks for His generosity. If you have not yet prayed this beautiful akathist, consider doing so with your family, during this time of thanksgiving. It is truly a treasure, as each Kontakion and Ikos leads the pray-er to consider yet another way in which God has richly provided for them.

The history of the Akathist deepens the challenge to anyone praying it. “This Akathist is also called the “Akathist of Thanksgiving.” The author was Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov). It contains biographical references to his childhood illness and family life, as well as other material. A copy of this hymn, in samizdat form, was amongst the belongings of the priest Grigori Petrov, who died in a Soviet prison camp in 1940, and has been sometimes attributed to him. The title is from the words of Saint John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. Thanksgiving and Prayer as a celebration is understood perhaps best by one from whom all beauty is seemingly denied; a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings.” ~ from http://orthodoxyinrolla.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Akathist-%E2%80%94-Glory-to-God-for-All-Things.pdf

Download a copy of the Akathist at http://orthodoxyinrolla.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Akathist-%E2%80%94-Glory-to-God-for-All-Things.pdfor http://www.saintjonah.org/services/thanksgiving.htm. Listen to it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPBkkDViWNI. A CD copy (and additional history of the Akathist) is available at http://store.ancientfaith.com/cd-akathist-of-thanksgiving/

This week, let us join those around us in giving thanks. May we be thankful, but may we also remember to offer that thanksgiving to God, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If people suffering the persecution of the Russian revolution can be thankful enough to God to write a hymn like this, surely we can join in and offer our thanks! Glory to God for all things!

Advertisements

Prayer for our children

“Mothers know how to express anxiety, offer advice and talk incessantly, but they haven’t learned to pray. Most advice and criticism does a great deal of harm. You don’t need to say a lot to children. Words hammer at the ears, but prayer goes to the heart. Prayer is required, with faith and without anxiety, along with a good example.” ~ +Elder Porphyrios the Kapsokalivite

After reading this insightful teaching, one wonders how to best begin to apply it! How can a mother (or father) get to the child’s heart, to truly sow seeds of faith there, where they will grow into good fruit? Whether we are mothers or fathers, the most valuable gift we can give to our children; the best way we can provide for them; the strongest defense we can offer them is to pray for them. Here is a traditional prayer that Orthodox parents have prayed for their children for centuries. It seems a good place to start.

“O God, our heavenly Father,

who lovest mankind,

and art most merciful and compassionate,

have mercy upon our children, Thy servants (names),
for whom I humbly pray Thee,

and commend them to Thy gracious protection.

Be Thou, O God, their guide and guardian in all their endeavors;

lead them in the path of Thy truth,

and draw them near to Thee,

that they may lead a godly and righteous life

in Thy love and fear;

doing Thy will in all matters.

Give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout, and charitable.

Defend them against the assaults of the enemy,

and grant them wisdom and strength

to resist all temptation and corruption of this life;

and direct them in the way of salvation,

for the merits of Thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

and the intercessions of His Holy Mother,

and Thy blessed saints.
Amen.”

Let us be careful to pray daily for our children, that they will be saved, and that they will give glory to God in all that they think, say, and do.

Preparing for the Nativity

We are rapidly approaching the season of the year when we joyfully prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Christ. Here in America, Christmas reminders are everywhere. In stores and some homes, decorations are already going up. Christmas music will soon surround us. Invitations to festive celebrations are coming our way. And, of course stores are offering all kinds of “holiday sales.” But do any of these things (decorations, music, celebrations, or sales) truly prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth?

Thanks be to God for the Nativity Fast, which offers us as Orthodox Christians the opportunity to focus on what this time of year is truly about: the coming of Christ in a human body. The fast offers us time to pray, to ponder, to attend more services, to not over-consume (food or stuff). It is counter-cultural; or perhaps better said, super-cultural; and that is refreshing to our souls. So how can we, as Orthodox Christians parents heading into a fast, help our children embrace this time which is so different from what much of the world around us is choosing?

There are many wonderful ideas to embrace the fast. As far as decorations are concerned, we can decorate our homes with decorations that point our hearts in the right direction. For example: we can make a Nativity Fast wreath, which focuses each week on a different theme for the week, and at evening prayers each night, light the candle for that week and remember the theme for the week, perhaps discussing how it was evidenced in your lives that day. (See http://www.stjohnaz.org/stjohnaz/index.cfm/resources/feasts-of-the-church/orthodox-advent-wreath/ for more) Another decoration possibility would be to decorate a Jesse Tree (see http://festalcelebrations.wordpress.com/2007/12/27/jesse-tree-project-2008/ for ideas), which will daily walk our family through the story of mankind from creation to Christ’s birth. Or, we can create and use an Orthodox “Advent” calendar such as this one (http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/xmas/advcal.htm), which can add to the daily remembrance of what the season is truly about. Or we can choose to wait until Christmas Eve to decorate/set up their Christmas tree, to heighten the focus on Christ and His birth. We as parents need to decide what is best for our family: what will best point our children towards Christ.

As for the other seasonal opportunities listed above, let us also use them as learning moments with our children. As for Christmas music, as a family, we can enjoy Christmas music, but let us also sing together Orthodox songs such as the Nativity Troparion and Kotakion, helping our children learn these important hymns of the church. We can celebrate with others. But let us also invite family and friends to a festive celebration during the 12 days of Christmas, perhaps introducing some of our family/friends to the original “12 Days of Christmas” celebration. (See http://www.antiochian.org/content/let%E2%80%99s-celebrate-12-days-christmas for more ideas on this.) We will probably take advantage of sales in order to purchase needed items or gifts. But let us also teach our children that “holiday” means “holy day” and doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have anything to do with sales.

The Nativity Fast is a great opportunity to focus on Christ’s birth in the midst of a selfish season in our culture. Let us fully take advantage of this opportunity by actually doing fewer outside activities during this season. Instead, let us try to pray more. Let us read more from the scriptures and the lives of the saints. Let us look for those in need around us and try to help them as we can. Let us eat less, and pray for the hungry when our stomachs growl. Let us daily offer thanks to God for at least one thing we haven’t recently thanked Him for. In the face of a consumer, “me centered” culture, let us fly to Him about whom this season was (no, IS) meant to be: Our Lord, and God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May God bless us as we enter the Nativity Fast, and grant us the ability to point our children to the true meaning of this season.

Learning About the Saints: St. John Chrysostom, Nov. 13

St. John Chrysostom (347-407), archbishop of Constantinople, was known for his wisdom and eloquence. His “golden mouth” nickname (Chrysostom) is evidenced by the fact that his sermons and sayings have been passed down over hundreds of years, and yet are still applicable to Christian life today. As Orthodox Christian parents, we have much to learn from this saint, while sharing his words with our children.

From his life, we learn that a Saint can be someone born into privilege, who chooses simplicity. A Saint can be raised by a single parent who, despite inevitable difficulties, works diligently to raise her child in the faith, and provides an excellent education for her son. A Saint can be someone who is extremely intelligent yet chooses not to show off that intelligence. A Saint can be someone who is not afraid to call out wrongdoing regardless of whether or not it is popular. There is so much more: there are just so many things we can learn from St. John’s life!

Even his passing teaches us much. At the end of his life, St. John had been exiled. Forced to walk a great distance although ill, he nevertheless still managed to write letters to his flock, encouraging them and spurring them on in their faith. The last of his golden words, spoken on that exile journey, are also a lesson: “Glory be to God for all things!” Wow. To say such things in the midst of such difficulty and humiliation is to succinctly teach a life goal in merely 7 words.

St. John Chrysostom is commemorated on Nov. 13. Let us remember him on that day, asking him for his prayers on our behalf. Let us also teach our children about his life and teachings; so that they can learn from his life and example.

Through the prayers of our holy Father, St. John Chrysostom, oh Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us, and save us.

To read about St. John Chrysostom’s life, visit http://orthodoxwiki.org/John_Chrysostom

There is more at http://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/11/13/103292-st-john-chrysostom-the-archbishop-of-constantinople  

and also at http://www.antiochian.org/saint_john_chrysostom

A video about St. John Chrysostom, featuring his Paschal sermon which we all hear every year at Pascha, can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QP9W4hk8cc.