Monthly Archives: March 2014

St. John Climacus’ “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

This Sunday, we will be commemorating St. John Climacus. St. John was a 7th century monk who joined the Monastery of St. Catherine at the tender age of 16. He remained a monk in that region, pursuing holiness, loving God, and writing books and icons for the rest of his life. He is much remembered for the book he wrote, “Klimax” (Greek for “ladder”), from which he gained his name “Climacus.” The book primarily addresses monastics, but is a wonderful guide for anyone seeking to grow in their faith and become more like God. It is appropriate for us to remember him in the midst of our Lenten journey, and for us to (re)visit the ladder of divine ascent at this time.

Many monastics read this book during Great Lent, as a guide to help them in their pursuit of holiness. Many laypeople do the same! Each “step” of the ladder describes a way in which an Orthodox Christian can climb one step closer to holiness.

The ladder can help us as parents to become more like God; and thus, better lead our children as they, too, “climb the ladder.” Each of the ladder’s 30 steps is listed at, along with a few suggestions of how to learn about them together as a family. Let us take time to study these steps and work on them together as a family!

The book itself is available as a pdf at or as an ebook at An accompanying lectionary is posted at One mother’s ideas of introducing the ladder to her children is found at

The icon of the ladder is a useful tool for children to see how we can become closer to God; and how there are angels and demons working against each other in attempt to aid/thwart that climb. It is briefly explained at, and there is a printable clip art image of the ladder at or

Parents may also benefit from listening to podcasts about the ladder, such as

Whatever method we choose to do so, let us learn more about the ladder of divine ascent, and, together with our children, continue taking steps on it, toward Christ.


Lenten Recipes

During Great Lent, sometimes one of the most basic tasks that we as parents have, the feeding of our family, is difficult and can even be discouraging. During this season of the year, let us be diligent and help each other to meet this task with joy instead of anxiety. This week’s note will provide the reader with a variety of resources to assist you with this challenging task.

Reasons for fasting and fasting-related links can be found at

Here are a few links that can help you find recipes you may not have tried, as of yet:

specifically Orthodox:


What other sites/recipes have you found helpful? Kindly share them in the comments! This sharing of recipes can be one way that we can all better support each other through the course of this fasting season.

As we are cooking for our family members, let us pray for them. Let us pray that they will become more like Christ through this fasting period. Let us do what we can to nourish them both physically and spiritually. And, while we’re at it, let us also pray for and financially/materially support people in other families who are less fortunate than we are, who are in need of any help we can offer.

May the Lord in His infinite kindness have mercy on us all and save us.

Gleanings from a book: “Walking in Wonder” by Elizabeth White

Great Lent is an ideal time for all of us as Orthodox Christians to review our lives and actively seek to become better followers of Christ. As parents, we are not only responsible for our own spiritual growth, but we are also responsible to nurture our children’s journeys towards God and His kingdom. We need all the help we can get, and a good place to start is in the slim but powerful book Walking in Wonder, by Elizabeth White.

The 67 pages of this book are packed with goals, encouragement, stories, and practical suggestions that will help its readers to nurture Orthodox Christian virtues in their children. Each chapter is just the right size to be read in a short time, which is all the time that most parents have! Despite their brevity, each of the seven chapters is packed with both ideas and admonitions. Each chapter addresses an important part of our children’s Christian lives: the spiritual needs of a child; getting ready to worship; getting ready to know God; getting ready to listen to God; getting ready to obey God; getting ready to serve others; and getting ready to share in God’s life. Each begins with related quotes; continues with goals for the chapter; goes on with several pages of insightful writing; and, finally, ends with a variety of directly-related activities that can assist the reader in helping their children to grow in that aspect of their Christian life.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 7 (more can be found at

Among Christians, Orthodox parents are in a unique position as far as religious education goes. We have immediately at hand ready-made tools for impressing God’s truths upon the child’s heart in the most natural ways. Our worship involves all the senses, our bodies as well as our minds. From the beginning of life, the infant smells the incense; tastes the communion bread and wine; sees the candles and icons; hears the chanting, singing, and beautiful recitation of prayers. At an early age she touches the holy things of God and knows intuitively that she is in a holy place…
While the church can surround the child with hints of a larger reality-God’s Kingdom-through its architecture, liturgical rituals, education classes, and symbols, the parent must remain the primary religious educator. Brief Sunday school classes are not enough for such a great task. It is the parents who co-create, with God, the stepping-stones to faith; who show by their words and actions, as best they can, the journey to theosis. It is their task, more than any other’s, to teach the special kind of communication we call worship. Symbols need explaining; explanations need giving. Our religious language, or the way we communicate our faith by everything we do and say, needs careful thought. Above all, remember that religious education is not something that stops at age sixteen. Growing in faith is a family affair. As John Boojamra has said, education “belongs wherever it can take place, wherever people can be affected, changed or influenced meaningfully.”
The Orthodox Church is a church of celebration; when our children are active participants in church life, when they can share in our celebrations, they learn the reality of God’s active presence in their lives. Nor should our Orthodox rituals be restricted within the walls of the Orthodox temple. Our homes are considered “little churches,” which means that Orthodoxy must be taken home.

Let us as Orthodox Christian parents take this admonition to heart. Let us, indeed, bring Orthodoxy home to each of our children. Walking in Wonder is a practical place to start.

Order a copy of the book for your home library from

Read more about author Elizabeth White at

The Sunday of Orthodoxy ~ the first Sunday of Great Lent

What better way to begin the arduous journey of Great Lent than to celebrate our faith and to remember that we are not alone? The Sunday of Orthodoxy allows us to do both. On this day, we celebrate the victory of the true Faith over iconoclasm. We also rejoice in the blessing of being able to be surrounded by visible reminders of the Church Triumphant: those who have gone on before us, enduring the race well until the end; who continue to intercede on our behalf.

This is an exciting and memorable Sunday for our children! Throughout the service, they are able to see all the extra icons others have brought along to church, and anticipate the celebration at the end. Many of the children then join in the parade of icons, even carrying their own icon as we re-enact the Sunday when the icons were restored to the churches. Finally, the children can join in as we all speak (or read) together; getting louder and louder as we go. (We are actually noisy in church!)

It would behoove us as parents to prepare our children for that final portion of the celebration, since it succinctly sums up the Sunday of Orthodoxy in a few sentences. Before we go to church, let us take a few moments to review this affirmation with our children. We can read these sentences together as a family, and explain their meaning to our children. After reading them, let us discuss with our children why it is important to say these words together with other Orthodox Christians around the world. If our children are able to read, let us help them sound out all the words in advance, so that they can better read along on Sunday. If the children cannot read, let us repeat the ending multiple times along with them, so that it becomes familiar enough that they can loudly say as much as possible, together with the rest of us:

As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught,…as the Church has 

received… as the teachers have dogmatized,…as the Universe has agreed,… as 

Grace has shown forth,…as Truth has revealed,…as falsehood has been 

dissolved,…as Wisdom has presented,…as Christ Awarded,…thus we 

declare,…thus we assert,…thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor as Saints 

in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the 

one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other 

hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all and accordingly offering 

them veneration. 

(Louder) This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is 

the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.

The Sunday of Orthodoxy is different from other Sundays. It should be, for it reminds us of a very important event that influences our everyday life. Because of the triumph of Orthodoxy, our lives are able to be infused with icons: those visible, tangible reminders of the presence of Christ and His Saints in our lives. It is a day rightly celebrated. Let us do all that we can to prepare our children to celebrate it along with us.

For more information:

Read more about the Sunday of Orthodoxy at

Hear more about the Sunday of Orthodoxy and the importance of icons at Fr. Thomas Hopko’s podcast at Listen to Fr. David Smith’s explanation at

Be challenged to better see God by listening to Fr. Andrew Damick’s podcast at

Find the order of the celebration at