Monthly Archives: October 2014

Learning About a Saint: St. Nectarios, the Wonderworker (Commemorated on Nov. 9)

A boy named Anastasios was once born in Greece to parents who loved each other, God, and their 7 children very much. Anastasios loved to obey his parents, to learn from his grandmother and his siblings, and to study in school. He especially liked learning to read. Why? Because he wanted to be able to read the Holy Scriptures, so that he could learn more about God!

When Anastasios was 14, his parents had to send him to another city to work and study. The work that he found did not pay very well, so he had ragged clothes and very little food. One day, he wrote a letter to Christ. In his letter, he explained that he did not have enough food or clothes. He asked his Lord, Jesus Christ, to send him what he needed. He sealed up the letter, marked it “To my Lord, Jesus Christ,” and went off to mail it. On the way, he began to talk with a kind man named Themistocles, who offered to deliver the letter for him. Anastasios gave the letter to him and went back to work.

Themistocles was curious about the letter, so he opened and read it. He knew that he could be the one that God used to answer the letter, so he then went out and bought the things that Anastasios needed, and sent them to Anastasios with a note saying these things were “for Anastasios, from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anastasios was so grateful to God for answering his letter: he kept on thanking and thanking Him for providing what he needed.

Themistocles soon offered Anastasios work in his own shop, where Anastasios was better cared for and even had evenings free to read, pray, and study. Years passed, and Anastasios grew up. All that studying made him wise enough to teach, so he got a job as a teacher. He helped children to read and write, and also taught them more about God.

All this time, Anastasios spent as much time as he could in the church, participating and worshiping in the services. Finally the time came when Anastasios realized that he wanted to serve God as a monk. He was tonsured a monk, and given the name Nektarios.

Nektarios studied in Athens, and when he finished his studying, he was ordained a priest. He worked for a while in Egypt, doing the usual work of a priest like performing the services, as well as baptisms and marriages. He worked hard to help people stop arguing with each other, so he helped to bring God’s peace to his people. The people liked how Father Nektarios helped them, and they worked hard to obey him, because they knew that God was with him. Before too long, he was consecrated as a bishop.

Some unkind people didn’t like Bishop Nektarios. Because of that, they lied about him to the Patriarch, saying that Bishop Nektarios wanted to take away the Patriarch’s job. The Patriarch believed those people, and Bishop Nektarios was banished from Egypt and sent back to Greece. Bishop Nektarios was so sad to leave his friends, but he had to leave.

When Bishop Nectarios got to Greece, he was even more sad because of what he learned. The unkind people had sent the same lies to Greece ahead of him, so he was not able to serve in the Church or teach about God in Greece, either. But, instead of feeling sorry for himself or getting angry with God, or complaining, the Bishop prayed. He prayed that God would give him one place where he could preach.

God heard Bishop Nektarios’ prayers and provided an island, Evia, where he was allowed to preach. Bishop Nektarios was so happy that he went to the island and began to pray and preach there. At first, no one would listen because they had heard the lies, too, but the bishop kept praying and preaching. Soon the people of Evia got to know the bishop and they began to love Bishop Nektarios and attend the services with him.

After a while, Bishop Nektarios was asked to be the principal of a school for young men. He moved to Athens to do this job. He worked hard, teaching the young men about the True Faith. One day, the school’s janitor became sick. That man would lose his job if he did not get his work done. Bishop Nektarios, even though he was very important as the principal of the school, began to do the man’s work for him (such as sweeping, cleaning toilets, etc.) while the janitor was sick, because the bishop wanted to show his students that one must have faith but one must also do good deeds. He was a good teacher who knew how to teach not just with words, but also with his life.

While doing all of this, Bishop Nektarios helped every poor or sick person who came to him. People realized that he was kind and loving, so they came to him when they needed help. He always knew what to do to help the people who came to him; whether to give them things, tell them wise words from God, or to pray for them.

When Bishop Nektarios was old, he wanted to retire from being a principal. Years before, he had met some young ladies who had wanted to become nuns. He had told them to wait to be tonsured as nuns, to be sure it was God’s will. They had waited, so finally he gave his blessing for them to look for a place for a monastery. They found a deserted monastery on the island of Aegina, and the people of the island came to help restore it. Bishop Nektarios tonsured the young ladies as nuns, and then he built a cell outside the monastery for himself so that he could live nearby. (He also helped to build cells for the nuns, and also a church, even though he was old.)

Even though he was retired, Bishop Nektarios went on teaching. More young ladies came to be nuns at the monastery. So many of them came from poor families that they did not know how to read or write. Bishop Nektarios taught them how to do so, so that they could read and chant the services in the church. At the same time, other people on the island came to see Bishop Nektarios, to ask him for help, advice, and/or prayers.

Bishop Nektarios spent the last few years of his life in this way, on Aegina, working hard, and helping everyone that he could. After a few days in the hospital because of a disease he had for a long time, he departed this life on November 9, 1920. He had served God well for all of his life, and was ready to go to be with God. The nuns and the people of Aegina were sad to say goodbye to their bishop, but they also knew that now they had another person in heaven praying to God for them.

There are many, many stories of people who were healed through Bishop Nektarios’ prayers, both throughout his lifetime, and since he has departed this life. He is a good saint to ask to pray for you when you are ill. His prayers bring people peace just like his presence and his wise words did, when he was still alive on this earth.

A man, with his mind in heaven were you, in the world still living,

O Nektarios, Hierarch of Christ. You led a devout and holy life,

and in everything you were truly impeccable, righteous, and inspired by God. “

~ from the Oikos

 

St. Nektarios, please intercede for our salvation!

Together as a family, read this picture book about the life of St. Nektarios: https://orthodoxchristianchildren.com/component/virtuemart/1071/9/children-s-books/the-story-of-the-holy-hierarch-nectarios-the-wonderworker-detail?Itemid=0

Following are additional ways to learn about St. Nektarios together as a family:

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Prepare to tell your children about the life of St. Nektarios by reading more about him! Find a summary of his life here: http://stnektariosfund.org/stnektarios. Read about his life and see actual photographs from his life here: http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/Holy_Fathers/St._Nektarios_of_Aegina/.
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Find an icon of St. Nektarios, as well as a summary of his life here: http://www.iconograms.org/sig.php?eid=283

Send this iconogram to someone who may need to be encouraged by reading about St. Nektarios’ life.

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“When he was still a young man, Anastasius (St. Nektarios’s name before he became a priest) made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the voyage, the ship was in danger of sinking in a storm. Anastasius looked at the raging sea, and then at the captain. He went and stood beside the captain and took the helm, praying for God to save them. Then he took off the cross his grandmother had given him (containing a piece of the Cross of Christ) and tied it to his belt. Leaning over the side, he dipped the cross into the water three times and commanded the sea, “Silence! Be still.” At once, the wind died down and the sea became calm.

“Anastasius was saddened, however, because his cross had fallen into the sea and was lost. As the boat sailed on, sounds of knocking seemed to come from the hull below the water line. When the ship docked, the young man got off and started to walk away.

“Suddenly, the captain began shouting, ‘Kephalas, Kephalas, come back here.’ The captain had ordered some men into a small boat to examine the hull in order to discover the source of the knocking, and they discovered the cross stuck to the hull. Anastasius was elated to receive his ‘Treasure,’ and always wore it from that time forward.” See a photograph of St. Nektarios wearing that cross, and read more stories of St. Nektarios’ life at: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/11/st-nektarios-wonderworker-bishop-of.html.

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“St. Nektarios is considered the Patron Saint for people who have cancer, heart trouble, arthritis, epilepsy and other sicknesses. Visitors to this shrine leave filled with the love and peace that St. Nektarios gave to all when he lived.

“St. Nektarios is a true icon of Christian love and patience. We are all called to love all people and to encourage them. As people of faith, we offer prayers as a means of help for all. St. Nektarios encouraged others by being with them at difficult times. He prayed to God to give them peace and courage to face their problems. We take him as our example. ” ~ from http://www.stnektarios.org/historyofsaint.php

Talk together as a family about how to love and encourage all people. How can we learn from St. Nektarios and continue God’s work on earth, acting as he did? Think of people that your family can help, and make a plan for how to pray for and encourage them.

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This blog about St. Nektarios,

http://prayingwithmyfeet.blogspot.com/2010/11/st-nectarios-wonderworker.html, says, “He is a good example of remaining humble when being accused unjustly.”

Together as a family, read this version of his life story and then talk about this quote. How is he a good example of this? What can we learn from St. Nektarios’ example? What steps can we take to be more like him when we are accused unjustly?

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St. Nektarios is called “The Wonderworker” for a good reason: God works many miracles through him, even to this day! Here is one story of a miracle of St. Nektarios, which happened recently in Romania: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2009/11/04/miracle-of-st-nektarios/

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After learning about St. Nektarios’ life, spend some time together praying the Akathist to St. Nektarios, asking for his intercessions on your behalf. Find the Akathist here: http://www.angelfire.com/planet/parastos/akathistnectarios.html

After praying, discuss the repeated label “model of patience and lover of virtue” which is at the end of each ikos. How was St. Nektarios a model of patience and lover of virtue? What can we do to act in that way, as well?

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On Materialism

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal;” (Mt. 6:19)

 

In this age in the United States of America (and, indeed, throughout the world), the acquisition of “stuff” is what society embraces as the goal for life. With the forthcoming holiday season, in particular, the fight-to-convince-everyone-to-acquire-more-stuff will be intensifying all around us. But is more stuff really what we or our children need?

 

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos) said, “I have realized that the destruction of man lies in the abundance of material goods, because it prevents him from experiencing the presence of God and appreciating His benevolence. If you want to take someone away from God, give him plenty of material goods. He will instantly forget Him forever.”

 

As Orthodox Christian parents, we do not want to see our children forget God forever. Nor do we want them to miss out on experiencing God’s presence and appreciating His benevolence. Therefore it is imperative that we be aware of the amount of material goods we are amassing as well as how much stuff our children have been/are being given.

 

There are many articles available to parents to help them combat materialism in their home and with their families. Here are suggestions gleaned from a few:
Begin by focusing any comparisons on those less fortunate than you. Because, as Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it, “comparison is the thief of joy,” let us be careful not to compare ourselves and our stuff to others. If we must compare, then  let us compare ourselves to those who have less than we do. Then we will be amazed at all that we have, and hopefully find it in ourselves to do what we can to share from our abundance with those who have less. (Idea found at http://www.becomingminimalist.com/consumer-isnt/.)

Give time, money, and/or things away to someone else in need together with your child. “The real opposite of materialism is spirituality… Try to do something with your child that’s focused on giving to others in a way that she can see,” says Paul Coleman, a family therapist and author of How to Say It to Your Kids. The article at http://www.babycenter.com/0_materialism-how-to-discourage-it_67142.bc goes on to encourage parents to include their children in a project like making a meal together and taking it to an elderly neighbor.

 

Foster your children’s creativity. Rather than buying them all the latest gadgets and toy sets, provide materials and allow them to make or build their own. Once they’ve built them, encourage them to play with these toys. Better yet, play along with them! The memories you will make together are far better than any purchased gift, even if you are “just” cooking in a cardboard “kitchen” or driving toy cars all over a butcher paper neighborhood. (Ideas found at http://www.kristensguide.com/Family/Parenting/kids_arent_materialistic.asp.)

 

Use the plethora of advertisements appealing to our greed as an opportunity to talk with your children about how the companies paying for the advertisements are trying to make you feel discontent with what you have, and convince you that you need to buy their product. Talk with your children about the product being advertised. Do your children really think it’s as amazing as it is advertised to be? What makes you think so/not? (Idea from  http://www.parenthood.com/article/10_simple_ways_to_combat_greed.html#.VEf6AseJOuZ.)

 

Consider challenging another family to join you in the Minimalism Game (see http://www.theminimalists.com/game/ for details). On day 1 of the game, each participant (or participating family) gets rid of (gives away, recycles, or otherwise shares) one item before midnight. On day 2, two items; day 3, three; etc. The participant who keeps at it the longest is the winner! (Actually, everyone who participates wins because of eliminating excess in their home while helping others!)

 

‘Tis the season… Let us prepare to face materialism head on, and find ways to combat its influence in our lives and in the lives of our children. As we successfully turn away from our greed and toward Christ and His people, we will, indeed, be storing up “treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21)

Below are additional ideas for combating materialism:

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Work on improving your gratitude. Not just at Thanksgiving. Not just when you have all that you need. Even when you do not have everything that you need. “Begin focusing more on your blessings than your troubles.” ~ from http://www.becomingminimalist.com/consumer-isnt/
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“The surest path to contentment is generosity,” so look for ways to give. Generous people generally feel more fulfilled and grateful. “Giving forces us to recognize all we possess and all we have to offer. It allows us to find fulfillment and purpose in helping others.” ~ from http://www.becomingminimalist.com/consumer-isnt/.

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Spend time on your kids instead of money. If their parents are always busy, children may likely retreat back to their toys and electronics: materialistic stuff! A real family life, full of doing fun activities together as a family, is an excellent replacement for the materialistic alternative. ~ from http://www.babycenter.com/0_materialism-how-to-discourage-it_67142.bc)

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Talk with your teens about the pull of materialism and how to balance it by printing and reading this pdf: http://www.lordoflifeonline.org/Youth/Materialism.pdf

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It will be Christmas before we know it. There is an excellent article about handling materialism as Orthodox Christians, especially at Christmastime. Find the article at http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/whatdoesyourfamilycalldecember25th

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Dressed Like a Saint

It is that time of the year in the United States when many children and adults dress up as someone else and go out. This year, if our children plan to dress up as someone  else, let us encourage them to consider dressing in a way that reminds them (and others) of someone whose life was pleasing to God. They can dress up as a saint!

The first task to this end will be to help our children think of a saint whose life they admire; someone they want to emulate. Perhaps they would like to dress as their patron saint; a Bible saint; or another saint whose life somehow stands out to them. This may be a quick and easy process, or it may take some research, but it is important that each child selects a saint that is somehow significant to them.

Once they have selected a saint, it is our job to help our child learn about the saint they have selected. We can check websites such as http://www.abbamoses.com/, where there’s a daily listing of lives of the saints commemorated for that date. We could also listen to the lives of the saints together at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday. Or we can read from books such as A Child’s Paradise of Saints, by Nun Nectaria McLees. As we learn about the saint together, we need to think of ideas of how to help others know more about this saint.

The final challenge is to figure out a way to make a costume that makes our child look like the saint who they have chosen. Many times, a simple costume made with a sheet or bathrobe, towels, and belt(s) will do the trick. Finding a prop or two (a cross? a wheel? a platter?) for the child to carry will add to the final effect. (The icon of the saint can often offer ideas of something for them to hold. The story of the saint’s life can do the same.) The costume does not have to be elaborate to be effective.

In the end, this costuming option offers a win-win situation for us as parents. We spend quality time with our children, helping them learn about the faith, as we work together to learn about the different saints they are considering. We help our children to dress as someone wholesome; emulating someone that we indeed want them to grow up to be like. And, last, but not least, we help our children to have fun while helping their peers learn more about the saints, too! (And if our church should happen to have a Saints Festival, our children will already have their costume planned!)

Holy Saints, please intercede for us and for our children, that we will follow Christ faithfully as you did and that we will live all of our lives (even our costuming choices) in a way that is pleasing to Him. Please pray also for our salvation. Amen.

Note: These printable story/activity books about saints http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/ can be an excellent starting place in the process of finding a saint your child would like to dress as/pretend to be. There are 12 in each of the three activity books, and each saint’s story is told in an easy to read format. There are also activity pages included for each saint.

Following are a few sample suggestions of costuming ideas:

Saint costuming idea #1: Listen to a podcast (or read the transcript) about Sts. Justina and Cyprian. The story of these saints can inspire children who want to be brave in the midst of frightening surroundings. The podcast can be found at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/raisingsaints/halloween_and_st._cyprian. Either saint would be a good one for a child to study, dress as, and ask for their intercessions.

Saint costuming idea #2: St. Seraphim of Sarov was an ascetic who lived in the wilderness. Wild animals loved him and would come regularly to his hut to be with him. Read more at http://orthodoxwiki.org/Seraphim_of_Sarov. A child dressing as St. Seraphim would want to bring along many stuffed forest animals such as a bear, a rabbit, a wolf, a fox, etc.

Saint costuming idea #3: St. Catherine the Great Martyr was the daughter of a ruler in Alexandria. She was beautiful and wise, and wanted to marry someone at her level of beauty and wisdom. When she learned of Christ, she dedicated her life to loving and serving Him. She was martyred for her faith. Read more about her at http://orthodoxwiki.org/Catherine_of_Alexandria . A girl who wants to dress up as St. Catherine could wear a fancy dress and jewelry (especially a ring), and could carry a cross (for martyrdom) or a wheel (an instrument of torture used against St. Catherine).

Saint costuming idea #4: St. Andrei Rublev was an iconographer who wrote many beautiful icons. One of them that is very well remembered is the icon of the holy trinity. Read more at  http://orthodoxwiki.org/Andrei_Rublev. A child dressing as St. Andrei Rublev could carry a paintbrush and paint, and perhaps the icon of the Holy Trinity, as well. (If you don’t have a copy of this icon, you can find a printable pdf of it on the first page of this bulletin: http://www.goodshepherdbh.org/bulletins/2010/100530_GsBulletin.pdf )

Saint costuming idea #5: St. Nina, Enlightener of Georgia, was a brave young lady who packed up a few belongings and traveled all the way to the country of Georgia to tell the people there about God. The Theotokos promised that God would go with her, and gave her a cross woven from grapevines to take along with her, on her journey. St. Nina converted many to the Faith, and is lovingly called the “Enlightener of Georgia” because of how the country became a Christian nation through her influence. Read more at http://orthodoxwiki.org/Nino_of_Cappadocia. A girl who would like to dress as St. Nina could dress simply, carry a small bag or backpack, and take along a cross made of grapevine.

The Cross of Christ

As we approach our Lord’s crucifixion, let us prepare our hearts and the hearts of our students for this great wonder: that the King of Heaven and Earth, the Lord of Creation, would bow Himself to not only take on flesh, but also to be crucified for us and for our salvation. This week’s resources will be related to the cross. Once a symbol of death, it has for us as Christians become at once a symbol of Christ’s humility and of His power over death.

Here are a few suggested resources related to the cross, to use with children:

A short animated retelling of the crucifixion can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3UKd6LQKng

A longer version, also animated, is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndh7cfM7geQ

Find a variety of cross crafts for younger children here: http://www.catholicicing.com/cross-craft-for-preschoolers-a-bible-craft-for-the-letter-c/

Find a variety of cross crafts for older children here: http://www.daniellesplace.com/html/crosscrafts.html

Throughout Holy Week, look for additional resources that can be used to help children learn about the cross of Christ. Please comment, post, and share any resources that you have found helpful, as well! May these resources help us to focus on His great love for us; and also assist us in helping our precious students on the journey through our Lord’s death on the cross.

“Prayer as a Means to Make Christ the Center of Our Life at All Times” ~ from a special program on Ancient Faith Radio

“Prayer is a great weapon, a rich treasure, a wealth that is never exhausted, an undisturbed refuge, a cause of tranquility, the root of a multitude of blessings and their source.” – St. John Chrysostom

One aspect of parenting that makes an enormous difference in our children’s lives is our prayer life. When we pray, it affects not only our own selves and our own outlook: it also has a powerful effect on our entire household. We must pray so that our children can see us doing so. By including them we can teach them to pray as well. We should also pray when our children are not watching, as we endeavor to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

Following are a few excerpts from a recorded talk at a women’s retreat at St. Ignatius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Franklin, TN, in November of 2012. Mother Magdalena, from Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Elwood City, PA, gave this talk, which is posted on Ancient Faith Radio’s site at the link below. May the gleanings from the talk encourage each of us to work on our prayer life, draw us closer to God, and receive strength for the parenting task that lies before us!

 “The Church gives us three forms of prayer: Say your prayers, go to church, and don’t forget God. The first one, ‘Go to church,’ liturgical, that’s the communal worship that we do in church. The second one is the personal time where we have our own personal prayer time, morning and evening. The third time is the rest of the day: ‘Never forget God.’

“So [on] the first one, liturgical, we’re not going to spend much time, because you… all go to church, and you understand. We go to church, this communal worship. We go partially to have our own needs met, but, even more important, we go to constitute the body of Christ. That’s where the body of Christ coalesces on earth, at that particular time, is in the church during the church service…

“The second one is personal prayer… Has anybody here ever felt like your day is like running a marathon? And you just get up and you start 60 miles an hour right there, and you go through your day? The personal prayer time, at the morning and the evening, that is—if you’re going to run a real marathon and you just get up and go to the starting line and the gun goes off and you start running, you’re going to get cramped pretty quickly. Likewise, you get to the end of it, and unless you cool down, unless you walk and cool yourself down, let your body settle down, you’re going to also get pretty sick. So it’s the same thing with our days. The personal prayer time that each one of us has bookends our days, so it’s the warm-up and the cool-down.

“The warm-up, however you want to do it, to say the prayers… if you’ve got three little kids that are under the age of four, maybe you have time to wave at your icon in the morning… That’s your prayer! But if you’re 70 years old and a widow, you have a little more time… It’s the time we tell God, ‘I may forget you, but don’t forget me! I want to give my life to you this day. I want you to be there,’ so you kind of set up the parameters for your life, and then you go out and live it.

“Then at the end of the day it’s the cool-down time where you say, ‘You know, I really wanted to do this. I didn’t do a very good job. I meant to talk to somebody and it just didn’t go that well, and this is why I was a little bit angry or a little bit impatient,’ or whatever. So you have your time to kind of cool down and talk to God, go over your life with the Lord, say your prayers, ask His blessing to go to sleep, ask His forgiveness. So your days begin and end with Him.

“The third time: what about all the rest of your 24 hours? …That’s the part that we don’t talk much about, but in the monastery, that’s what we do. We try to turn our entire life into prayer. So prayer gets taken out of the realm of being a task, being a thing to do that I have to set time aside for, and it becomes a way of life. This [is] where we really have a chance to walk with Jesus…

“…I’m going to give you homework [to help you turn your entire life into prayer]…. I’m going to give you three things—you have to pick one… and to say, ‘For the next year, this is going to be my spiritual exercise. I’m going to commit myself to doing this …[and] ask the Lord to help me…’ Then at the end of the year, you can pick another one, because, …if you’ve really given yourself to that exercise, it’s going to be so much a part of you you’re simply not going to stop doing it. You’re going to feel that Christ is closer to you, that you have more of a sense of His presence in your life…

“…The first one is to ask Christ to bless everything that we do. So every time that you start a task, no matter what it is, you say, ‘Lord, bless me.’ If you are in a situation in which you can make the sign of the Cross, you make the sign of the Cross. It’s that simple. Now, that doesn’t take any time. You can make the sign of the Cross while you’re going to get the vacuum cleaner. Whatever little prayer you want—’Christ, have mercy on me. Bless me to do this.’—that’s what you do… This particular exercise helps us to bring Christ into every aspect of our life, no matter what it is.

“…The second one is to give thanks to God for everything, no matter what. We thank God for every experience, every encounter, every piece of news, everything that comes our way. This exercise brings us to more of a trust in His presence, a trust in His providence, that He knows what He’s doing, and it acknowledges that His care, His loving care, can transform everything. It’s based on the crucifixion, which is the most evil of acts that ever could be done, but that most evil of acts became our salvation. So if He can take even His crucifixion and turn it into something good, He can take anything in our lives and turn it into something good.

“…The third exercise …is something that I picked up from Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos… The exercise is: be a bee, not a fly. The fly is the one, in a room like this that’s full of flowers and one pile of dirt, and the fly finds the pile of dirt. The bee… goes into a room that’s full of dirt with one flower, and the bee finds the flower. The first time I heard it I was so clearly a fly… Elder Paisios …says, ‘You’re either a bee or a fly. You’re not half one and half the other…’ The point of this exercise is to always look for the positive in whatever happens.

“So we have three exercises here. We ask Jesus to bless everything we do. We give thanks to God for everything, no matter what. And we look to making ourselves a bee rather than a fly…

“Each one of us can make a huge difference in our world. You just look throughout history and you find numerous examples of people who have left a great stamp on the world. One person, and if that person hadn’t been there, the world would be different, whether good or bad. It can be both, either way. We, as people, each one of us can make a huge difference…”

 

Listen to this talk in its entirety (or read the transcript) here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/episode/prayer_as_a_means_to_make_christ_the_center_of_our_life_at_all_times. The entire series of talks for that retreat was recorded, and they are all posted at: http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/st._ignatius_womens_retreat.

 

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Additional excerpts from the talk:

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“I quote Fr. Hopko a lot; we get sermons from him a lot, so we get this wealth of information. Anyway, he tells this story that he went to seminary, he went to graduate school, he got all these degrees, he wrote all these books, and he’s highly educated. After that, he realized that what he had learned was what his mother had taught him when he was five years old, which is: Say your prayers, go to church, and don’t forget God.”

***

“The smallest detail in life we can turn into a present for God, over which He rejoices, and in His joy makes it great.” ~ Mother Catherine (a nun in England)
“…In other words, we can welcome the smallest event exclusively as from His hands, receive it as a token of His tender love for us, and use it for Him. That’s the point of this asking Jesus to bless everything that we do.”

***

“It’s not an easy exercise, and we don’t always want to do it… Sometimes giving thanks [in everything] is very difficult… There’s a college student that took this exercise, and after a year he wrote an article in the OCF paper. He said:

‘Halfway through the year I was discussing the talk and the homework with my dad. I explained to him that it was quite fitting that I chose to give thanks to God because I was having a very excellent year. My father interjected with a perplexing comment: “It’s the other way around. Even though you’re having trials, you’re having a good year because you’re thanking God.’

So is your glass half-full or half-empty? I’m thanking God, so, yes, it’s good. So giving thanks to God for everything is the second exercise.”

***

“If we’re always looking for things that are positive, it’s harder to hold a grudge, and it gives us the strength to pray for others in all sorts of situations… We look for God’s hand in everything.”

***

“One thing that everybody can do without fail, very easy to do, is the first thing when you wake up in the morning and you kind of remember your name and who you are, is to make the sign of the Cross. The last thing you do at night, you do the same thing. You get in your bed and you’re falling asleep; make the sign of the Cross. That’s a prayer in and of itself, too. Even no matter how sick you are, you can still do that.”

Holy Week and Pascha

We are very nearly ready to celebrate the bright sadness of Holy Week, and the glorious resurrection of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ! As Sunday Church School teachers, this may mean that we will not see our precious students as often in the classroom, but we can still support their learning!

Here are a few ideas of learning activities which can happen at home. Some of these may be helpful to pass on to the parents of our students, either via email or in a brief note handed out during this week’s class:

A suggestion for creating a Pascha tree laden with icons of the miracles of Christ, to be decorated as the week goes on: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2012/04/holy-week-miracles-of-christ.html?m=1

Suggestions of things “not to miss!” with children during the services of Holy Week and Pascha: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html

A link to a page of ideas that could be used in creating a Holy Week scrapbook with (and for) kids: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-week-scrapbook.html

Suggestions for parents to maximize the week as a family:

http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/holyweekguide

Let us, as SCS teachers, engage our students as often as possible, throughout Holy Week and Pascha. We will see them at services, and should greet them with joy. Besides conveying our delight at their presence at the service(s), we can also ask each student a question related to that particular service which will strengthen their learning and encourage them to keep growing in their faith. Here are a few sample questions appropriate for varying age levels: “Who is the Bridegroom that we were singing about tonight? How are we like the servants with the lamps?”; “What happened to you when you were anointed with the Holy Oil?”; “Which part of the Royal Hours service meant the most to you this year? Why?”; “Did you remember the Lamentations songs? Which is your favorite? Why?”; “What does Pascha mean to you? How does Christ’s resurrection affect your life?”; etc.

Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ!
Make us to behold thy glorious Resurrection.

The Real To-Do List

Parents are never without a to-do list. There is always something to make, to fix, to do; or some where to go, to visit, or to deliver something or someone. In the midst of this everyday busyness, it is easy to neglect the important things: the spiritual things that really ought to be at the top of each of our to-do lists. The lazy neglect of these truly important things is harmful to our souls and the souls of our family members. Let us be diligent and press on towards the goal of our spiritual “to-do” list, as well!

“What is beautiful and well-made belongs to the world and cannot comfort those who want to live a spiritual life.  There is no wall that will not eventually be torn down.  One soul is worth more than the entire world.  What must we do for the soul?  We must begin spiritual work.  We must have only the right kind of concern.  Christ will ask us what spiritual work we have accomplished, how we helped the world in spiritual matters.  He will not ask what buildings we made.  He will not even mention them.  We will be held accountable for our spiritual progress.  I want you to grasp what I am trying to say.  I am not saying that one must not construct buildings, and not construct them well, but one must take care of the spiritual life first and then mind the rest, and do all that with spiritual discernment.” –  Saint (Elder) Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Athos

This week’s daily Facebook posts will consist of quotes from the Spiritual Fathers on our good and divine work. This work includes prayer, study, worship, trust in God, humility, and much more. May these quotes encourage us to keep our priorities right; to work to acquire the Kingdom of Heaven first and foremost; and to allow God to work in and through our lives. Work done at the true top of our “To-Do List” will trickle down through the rest of the list, sanctifying and blessing all of our work; as well as all those around us.“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” ~ St. Seraphim of Sarov (Readhttp://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/09/17/what-st-seraphim-meant/ for practical suggestions of how to do so.)

“The one thing I need now, more than meeting my deadlines, more than getting more organized, more than more money, more than losing ten pounds, more than vindication, more than being right or known, becomes mercifully clear: Christ Jesus.” ~ fromhttp://blogs.ancientfaith.com/closetohome/2014/09/24/one-firm-unquestionable-thing/, by Molly Sabourin