Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/
We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints
Week 1: Introduction
Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker begin their collaborative work, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” with important introductory pieces. Before they mention anything about building the family’s little church, they quite frankly (and repeatedly) urge their readers to each ask their priest which practices will be the best for their particular family. Each reader’s priest knows them and their family situation and thus can best speak to what will or will not be helpful to building the little church in that particular home.
The introductory chapter offers a bit of background for the book, including reasons the authors wrote it. They found that they needed a book like this when their children were younger, but there was none to be had. So they undertook the task to write this one. This introductory chapter offers suggestions of where to begin the process of creating an Orthodox home. It takes a moment to explain the concept of “the little church”. It also touches on what it means to live an Orthodox life. This first chapter is foundational to the book, and prepares the reader well for the subsequent chapters.
Here are a few gleanings that can offer you a closer look at the beginning of the book:
“As you attempt to implement the concepts you find here, you may run into trouble. Whenever you’re in doubt, please ask your priest.” (p. 5, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“‘Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments. Our children need remedies for all these things! We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we were equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!’” ~St. John Chrysostom (p. 7, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“This book is for parents… We offer this book from sincere hearts to you who desire to present the rich heritage of the Orthodox Church’s teachings for families — what our great saints and elders have often called ‘the little church’.” (p. 9, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“For many families, it is hard enough to get the family up and out of bed for the Divine Liturgy each week — let alone to take on daily prayer, frequent Scripture reading, weekly fasting, Lenten seasons, Vespers, vigils, Matins, and feast days! How can we do everything we’re ‘supposed to do’ when it’s hard enough to find time to do the bare minimum? How are we to raise saints when our toddler doesn’t want to keep his diaper on?” (pp. 10-11, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“‘My wise priest advised me to stop comparing, to know that we are all running this race together but we must run it with our heads down. When I stopped worrying about what others were doing, I was better able to focus and to lead my own family.’ ~ Elissa Bjeletich (p. 12, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“‘One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a parent was ask for help… Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll never know what your family can accomplish when you seek counsel and guidance along the path.’” ~ Caleb Shoemaker (pp. 13-14, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“In our modern culture, we compartmentalize our lives… Yet Jesus clearly calls us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. There is no compartmentalization in this, but true unity… Christ is calling us to a unified understanding of ourselves and our lives. Love for God must become the foundation of everything, and all aspects of our lives — our jobs and our families and our recreation, our meals and our entertainment — must all be connected to and part of a unified whole…” (p. 15, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“…the reality is that young people are fleeing the faith of their families, but not those whose families have instilled a deep faith within their hearts; and the little church is one of the defining reasons children stay in the Church as they grow up.” (p. 17, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
“The Orthodox life is not complicated. It is beautiful in its simplicity, wondrous in its depth, vivifying in its ritual and sacraments. The complications are typically self-imposed when, instead of following the Church’s teachings or the admonitions of our priests and confessors, we try to cobble together a hodge-podge religion based mostly on external trappings and false deadlines.” (p. 19, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)
If you’re interested in learning more about the ideas found in “Blueprints for the Little Church”, check out this webinar https://www.goarch.org/-/blueprints-for-the-little-church; this keynote address https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHPZ57H5zPo; Elissa’s author website https://elissabjeletich.com/; and/or Caleb’s YouTube channel, “May I Have a Word?”: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDmih9jUJ5QKGXfU8iKI-aA/videos
Here are the details for creating each of these items, as well as a few related pages. May the Lord guide each of us and strengthen us as we continue to learn to pray without ceasing!
Find a printable document featuring prayers which may be helpful for children to pray here. (You may wish to select and print other favorite prayers instead.) Print the prayers you want to carry with you, then cut them out and glue them to colorful paper or cardstock.
Coat both sides with clear contact paper to seal them.
Tuck the cards into your car, purse, or backpack. Add adhesive magnets to the back if you wish to display them to a filing cabinet or locker.
Here are the directions for creating a paper pocket prayer corner:
- Print this pattern and cut it out.
- Trace the outside of the pattern on the plain side of a piece of decorative paper or cardstock. Repeat on a second piece, cut them out, and glue the two together.
- Collect small paper copies of the three icons you wish to include in your pocket prayer corner.
- Select a prayer to include. (Perhaps one of these would work.)
- Find a cross sticker or print a cross picture for the center of your pocket prayer corner.
- Glue an icon in the middle of the top section and in each side section of your pocket prayer corner.
- Glue the cross in the middle section of the pocket prayer corner.
- Glue the prayer on the bottom section of your pocket prayer corner, in the upper portion of it, near the middle section.
- If desired, cover the front and back of the pocket prayer corner with clear contact paper, and cut it out.
- Fold the sides and top of your pocket prayer corner towards the center, overlapping each other.
- Fold the bottom of the pocket prayer corner up over all of these. Bend its extra length over the top, enclosing the whole pocket prayer corner.
- Use adhesive hook and loop fastener on this extra length to create a way to close your pocket prayer corner.
- Carry your pocket prayer corner with you, taking it out and opening it when you are ready to pray!
Here you can find directions for creating a fabric pocket prayer corner:
- Print this pattern and cut it out. Trace the outside of the pattern, adding an extra ½” all the way around for a seam allowance, on the wrong side of two pieces of fabric (or stack both pieces, right or wrong sides together). Cut the fabric.
- Collect small paper copies of the three icons you wish to include in your pocket prayer corner.
- Select a prayer to include. (Perhaps one of these would work.)
- Choose a cross pendant or fabric adhesive cross for the center of your pocket prayer corner. (If you use an iron-on adhesive, be sure to adhere it in place at this point! After this, ironing it will likely melt the vinyl and create a mess.)
- Cut pieces of clear vinyl that are ¼” larger at the sides and bottom than each icon and the prayer.
- Sew the sides and bottom of each piece of vinyl to the interior piece of fabric, using a topstitch that is ⅛” from the edge of the vinyl.
- Sew one piece of the hook and loop fastener beneath the vinyl pocket for the prayer on the inside of the cross.
- Fold the sides and top of the outside of the cross down, towards the middle. Fold the long bottom side up to cover the folded-down top. Turn the cross over so that you can see where the extra fabric at the bottom will meet the back. Pin the other piece of hook and loop fastener here, where it will match with its mate when the two crosses are sewn together.
- Sew this piece of hook and loop fastener to the outside of the cross.
- Pin the right sides of your two pieces of fabric together.
- Sew them together, using a ½” seam, and leaving a stretch of the bottom of the cross open so that you can turn it right-side-out.
- Clip the fabric off of the outer corners and make one cut toward each inner corner. With these clippings, be careful not to clip the seam at any point.
- Turn the cross right-side-out.
- Hand-sew (or topstitch) the opening at the bottom of the cross, to close it.
- Slip the icons into the vinyl pockets at the top and sides of your pocket prayer corner.
- Hand-sew the cross in place, in the middle (unless you are using an iron-on adhesive and have previously attached it).
- Slip the prayer into the bottom vinyl pocket.
- Fold the sides and top of your pocket prayer corner towards the center, overlapping each other.
- Fold the bottom of the pocket prayer corner up to cover all of these. Bend the extra length over the top, matching the hook and loop fasteners to close the pocket prayer corner.
- Carry your pocket prayer corner with you, taking it out and opening it when you are ready to pray!
Here are directions to recycle a mints tin to make a diptych:
- Select a pretty paper or cardstock to cover the inside and outside of your tin.
- Trace the shape of your tin onto the paper and cut four pieces to that shape.
- Use mod-podge glue to adhere the paper to the tin.
- Select a prayer and a paper icon (or two icons) for your tin. (Perhaps one of these would work.)
- Cut the prayer and/or icon(s) to size and use mod-podge to glue them into place on the insides of the tin.
- Coat the outside (and inside, if you wish) paper surfaces with an additional coat of mod-podge glue, to seal them.
- When the glue is dry, adhere magnets to the back of the diptych if you plan to keep it in a locker or filing cabinet.
These icon flashcards are a nice size to fit in a pocket or locker, to remind you to pray and that you are not alone: https://www.monasterygreetings.com/product/Orthodox-Flash-Cards/Saints-Icons-and-Images
Find additional children’s prayers (including ones for when a child or their friend is afraid) in this printable prayer booklet: http://www.saintkassianipress.com/PrayerBook.html
Lenten Resources for Parents and Sunday Church School Teachers
Gathered by the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education
- Ancient Faith Radio offers many podcasts to help you prepare for Lent, including these:
- Chart idea to help Children embrace Lent
- Coloring for Lent and Pascha
“Color Your Way Into Pascha” offers pages for little ones to color, from the Triumph of Orthodoxy through Pentecost. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1796731684
“Color Your Way Through Holy Week” offers coloring pages for each day of Holy Week. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1796742805/
- Helpful weekly chart for families to use during Great Lent.
- Lenten Calendar for each day of Lent and Holy Week
Here’s a daily activity for Lent and Holy Week, themed by week: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/a-calendar-for-great-lent/
- Lenten activities, including printable charts for families to keep track of where they are during Great Lent:http://manymercies.blogspot.com/2017/02/lent-resources.html
- Lenten vocabulary
Help your children learn some of the vocabulary of Lent with the ideas found here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/learning-lenten-vocabulary/
- Live the Word Bible Study Guide
For a daily study based on the Sundays of the Triodion period, check out Y2AM’s “Live the Word Bible Study Guide.” This free guide offers 100+ pages of explanations, quotes from the Fathers, and study questions to help you learn from the readings for the next 10 Sundays. Y2AM created this resource to help you to make the most of Great Lent. Find more information (and the link to download your free copy) here: https://blogs.goarch.org/blog/-/blogs/free-live-the-word-bible-study-guide-for-the-triodion
- Orthodox Pebbles present lessons and activities for Great Lent here: https://orthodoxpebbles.com/orthodox-basics/great-lent/
- Pascha Passports
These booklets take their readers on the journey to Pascha, with descriptions of the “destinations” along the way. At each “destination” (Lenten services, confession, the Jesus Prayer, Lenten retreat, and other important parts of the Lenten journey), travelers are given a stamp (beautiful icon sticker) to place in their passport with the destination information. These books are a pocket-sized way for children to mark the passage of the Lenten season, and embrace the journey! These passports can be used by a family, at home, but they also could be easily incorporated into a Sunday Church School classroom. Find the passports, stamps, and other materials, available individually or in quantities for parishes/church schools here: https://lenten-embassy.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage
- Printable workbook for children for Lent
- Saints Box
Saints Box’s mission is to help Orthodox Christian families connect Church and home. Subscribers are sent tools to prepare for the Divine Liturgy each week: readings, games, activities, and more! They have two different weekly mailbox programs, one for children ages 4-8 and another for those aged 8-12, and each is available as a hard copy (mailed to the child!) or download (mailed to your inbox): https://www.saintsbox.com/
- Tending the Garden of Our Hearts: Daily Lenten Meditations for Families
This book is a new book published by Ancient Faith Publishing, written by Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger. Each day’s meditation can help your family’s spiritual growth through stories, questions, and discussion. You can purchase a hard copy or ebook here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/tending-the-garden-of-our-hearts-daily-lenten-meditations-for-families/
St. Kendeas, who lived sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries, was born in the Alemanni region (part of today’s Germany). When he was 18, he became a monk in Palestine, near the Jrdan River. He lived there in a cave, spending his days in prayer and fasting. While he was there, a rich man nearby was trying very hard to find a way to heal his possessed child. He spent a lot of his money trying to help his child. When he heard about the monks who lived by the Jordan, he took his child to one of them, named Ananaias. God told the monk Ananaias to send the child to the monk Kendeas. Kendeas prayed, and the child was healed!
After that miracle, Kendeas became known in the area. He was made the Metropolitan of Jerusalem, and served in that role for a while. He missed living as a monastic, though, so a few years later he went back to the cave to live.
Some people came to the monks to be healed, but many others came to steal things from the monks. Being robbed so often became frustrating to the monks. Eventually the monks left that area and traveled to the island of Cyprus, to live there instead. The seas were terribly rough as they traveled, and their ship broke into two pieces! But Kendeas and the others walked on the water and arrived safely at the shore. Kendeas ended up in the Paphos region of Cyprus. Another monk, his friend Jonas, went on to Salamina.
After a few years, Kendeas went to Salamina to visit his friend Jonas. Along the way, Kendeas found a cave near the village of Avgorou. He went inside the cave. He liked it so much that he promised God that he would stay there until he died. However, Kendeas was so hot that he knelt down on a rock inside the cave and prayed for water. He also prayed to see his friend Jonas. Two miracles happened because of his prayers: clear water began to pour from the rock, and a cloud full of light carried Jonas to Kendeas, to visit him! The two friends were so happy to see each other again, and they enjoyed talking together. After a while, the cloud took Jonas back to Salamina.
The people in the neighborhood saw that water was coming from the rock in the cave. They knew that there had not been water coming from there before, and they wondered about it. They asked Kendeas how it got there. When they found out that his prayers were so powerful that he could pray and have water pour out of a rock, the people began to bring sick people to him so that he could pray for them and heal them!
Kendeas lived in his cave for a long time. During the time that he lived there, there was a long stretch of time when there was no rain on Cyprus. When there’s not enough rain, we call it a “drought.” This drought on Cyprus went on for 17 years. Finally the people begged Kendeas to pray for rain. He told them all to go home! When they were home, he held his hands up in the air and began to pray for rain. Right away, clouds gathered, and it rained and rained!
Kendeas did not like to be comfortable. You might have guessed this because he chose to live in a cave instead of a house. But there was something else that he did so that he would not be too comfortable. Beginning when he was a child, Kendeas did not sleep in a bed. He slept instead on the ground.
One day when some of the people of Cyprus brought their sick family and friends to Kendeas to ask for his prayers for healing, they discovered that he had departed this life. His body was still there in his cave, and it smelled miraculously beautiful, like heavenly flowers. The people buried Kendeas right there in his cave.
A church was built in the area of his cave after he died, and a monastery, too. Today, the nuns in the monastery continue St. Kendeas’ work of caring for the sick. The water from his miracle prayer still pours out of the stone in the cave.
St. Kendeas’ miracle working did not stop when he died. He continues to pray for people, and God hears his prayers and heals them. He also often appears to people. Many people who live in the area have seen him, especially the nuns who live in the monastery. But the people who meet him are not afraid, even if they do not know who he is. He is so friendly, that if people meet him who do not know him, he just introduces himself!
St. Kendeas is celebrated on October 6/19. Holy St. Kendeas, please pray for our salvation!
Troparion to Saint Kendeas
Having hallowed through struggles the Jordan wilderness and the island of Cyprus,
You shone out upon all through remarkable battles as a fixed star.
Therefore, having seen the fullness of your wonders,
O God-bearing Kendeas, we lift our voices:
Glory to You, O Christ, through him who extols.
Glory to You through him who magnifies.
Glory to the One who through you heals illnesses for all.
Here are some related links that you may find helpful as you learn more about St. Kendeas:
Paterikon for Kids has just released a perfectly-child-sized book about St. Kendeas. Sweetly illustrated, it tells many of the stories from his life in a way that children can easily understand. The book is written by Dr. Chrissi Hart. (This brand new book is actually the reason we are featuring St. Kendeas now, even though it is months before his commemoration date!) http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Paterikon-for-Kids-81-86-NEW/87-Paterikon-for-Kids-Saint-Kendeas/flypage-ask.tpl.html
“Many years before I was born, in 1909, my grandmother lay on a bed under the shade of a grapevine, dying. She was just five years old. Then one day, a kind grandfather figure—a holy man, a saint—appeared to her on his white horse and miraculously changed her life forever. This event not only made my life possible, but filled it with inspiration as well.” So begins an article, “Touching Heaven Through Children of the Past and Present,” by Dr. Chrissi Hart, author of “Under the Grapevine” and “Stories from Under the Grapevine” podcaster on Ancient Faith Radio. The “kind grandfather figure” that she mentions is St. Kendeas! Read the article here: http://ww1.antiochian.org/node/16907
“Under the Grapevine” is a picture book by Dr. Chrissi Hart. It tells the true story of how her grandmother was healed by St. Kendeas under the grapevine at her family farm. The book is no longer in print, but is still available here: https://www.amazon.com/Under-Grapevine-Miracle-Kendeas-Cyprus/dp/1888212845
Listen to Dr. Hart read the story of her grandmother’s healing in the first episode of her podcast “Under the Grapevine,” here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/readings_from_under_the_grapevine_program_1
Read another account of a miracle through the prayers of St. Kendeas here: http://www.chrissihart.com/2010/10/saint-kendeas-feast-day-2/ Glory to God in His saints!
See photos of the church built on the site of St. Kendeas’ cave here: http://www.chrissihart.com/photos/church-of-saint-kendeas/nggallery/page/1
If your family studies the life of St. Kendeas, you may want to talk about whether or not anyone that you know would benefit from a visit with the saint. Let your children draw/write about the person on this printable pdf. Take some time to pray and ask St. Kendeas to pray for your friend or family member.
Note: This week’s post features the theme for the 2019 Creative Arts Festival of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. Philippians 4:13 graces the archway to the Antiochian Village Camp, a place where children, adults, and clergy meet together to play, hang out, worship, and be transformed together. This verse is an excellent scripture for all of us to live by and to learn, whether or not we have been to the Antiochian Village!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
This verse shows up time and again in Christian circles, usually implying that whatever we do, Christ will give us the strength to do it. It is true: He does! But perhaps this verse is about more than us getting the power from Christ that we need to accomplish/succeed in the things that we want to do. Could it mean more than just that?
It is helpful to study Bible footnotes to get additional information about specific passages, so we went to our Orthodox Study Bible (OSB) and looked up Philippians 4:13. The OSB offers a footnote on the verse. To be more precise, the footnote is about this verse as well as the two before it. The footnote on p. 1616 reads, “Here is the secret of contentment.” And that’s all it says!
At first glance, this seems a diminished notation of what is, in some Christian circles at least, one of the most popular verses in the Bible. But this little footnote forces us to actually look at those preceding verses. When we read them, not only does the footnote make sense, but we also can begin to understand verse 13 in its intended context. When we do that, we see that the footnote is spot on.
Philippians 4:11-13 reads, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The passage speaks to success and accomplishment, yes, but it also is talking about emptiness and need. And St. Paul says, “I can do all things” (both success/accomplishment and emptiness/need) “through Christ who strengthens me.” In context, the verse is so much more than we thought it to be!
Now that we know the context, we can understand why Philippians 4:13 is such an appropriate verse to have on the arch at the gateway to the Antiochian Village Camp. It reminds all who enter the camp that our whole life is powered by Christ. Time at the Antiochian Village Camp offers the opportunity to connect with Christ and His Church in a special way, which “recharges” all who pass through that arch. At the same time, the verse reminds all who leave there that, regardless of what they face away from that place, Christ is with them to give them strength. And those who have studied the context of the verse know that it is also a nod to choosing contentment in whatever state we find ourselves.
Children participating in the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts festival this year will have their choice of subject matter, ranging from the Antiochian Village to how camp has changed them to how God strengthens us to asking God to help us. And of course, thanks to that little footnote, they can also focus their project on choosing contentment in all circumstances!
Here are some quotes from saints and excerpts from meditations on Philippians 4:13:
“The enemy draws near to us in afflictions, and trials, and labors, using every endeavor to ruin us. But the man who is in Christ, combating those things that are contrary, and opposing wrath by long-suffering, contumely by meekness, and vice by virtue, obtains the victory, and exclaims, ‘I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me’ (Phil. 4:13); and, ‘In all these things we are conquerors through Christ Who loved us’ (Rom. 8:37).” ~ St. Athanasius
“Throw your weaknesses before God, and the Lord will become your strength.” ~ St. Moses the Strong
“You feel straitened upon earth from all sides. Everything betrays you; your relations, friends, acquaintances, riches, the pleasures of the senses, your own body; all the elements — earth, water, fire, air, light — play you false. Cling, therefore, to God alone… Be bold, resolute in every good work, be especially generous in words of kindness, tenderness, sympathy, and still more so in works of compassion and mutual help. Consider despondency, despair in any good work, as an illusion. Say: ‘I can do all things through Christ Which strengtheneth me,’ [Philippians 4:13] though indeed I am the greatest of sinners.” ~ St. John of Kronstadt
Read the rest here: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2014/07/dont-despair-cling-to-our-lord-and-savior-jesus-christ/
Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis offers this short meditation on Philippians 4:13 by thoughtfully contemplating each word. http://myocn.net/daily-devotion-i-can-do-all-things-through-christ-who-strengthens-me/
“There is such great power in merely invoking the name of the Lord and meditating on placing yourself in His care. When all hope seems lost, Philippians 4:13 is a great place to start over again. So, wherever you are in your life today, whatever challenges life is going to throw at you today, go with Christ. He is the strength behind our success.” Read the rest of this meditation by Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis on Philippians 4:13 here: http://myocn.net/i-can-do-all-things-through-christ-who-strengthens-me/
If you have a creative bent and want to make a piece to remind you of this verse, consider this inexpensive and simple craft that features Philippians 4:13:
On August 26, 2017, His Grace Bishop Basil, Diocese of
Wichita and Mid-America, wrote: Prayers are requested for
the people of Texas as it is expected that millions of them will
continue to suffer the adverse effects of former-Hurricane
now Tropical Storm Harvey for the next several days.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is preparing
to send response teams to the area, and included among
them will be Fr. Raphael Barberg
(firstname.lastname@example.org ), second priest at St Elijah in
Oklahoma City, OK, who is a trained “IOCC Frontline Clergy.”
Here are some Prayers for Deliverance from Hurricanes.
Find details here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/events/holyweekprepare
The Divine Liturgy, the work of the people, is indeed work. I don’t know about you, but during the Liturgy, I often struggle. My eyes look all around me, my ears pick up all kinds of sounds unrelated to worship, my mind wanders, my feet complain, and I could go on and on about how poorly I attend to this work. In light of my own struggle, I will spend the next weeks focusing on the Divine Liturgy and sharing my learnings in this blog. Our children are learning about the Liturgy through their own experiences and observations in the context of Sunday Church School, and (if they are blessed to attend) at church camp as well. It is important that we as parents learn along with them, and add to that learning in whatever ways we can. It is my hope that whatever I encounter and share here will be helpful to all of us as we lead our families towards Christ and His Church.
Building an Orthodox Christian Family, A Handbook for Parents from the Archives of the Orthodox Family Life Journal (unfortunately no longer in print) offers a wonderfully helpful section about the Divine Liturgy. One article, “The Divine Liturgy: an Explanation for Parents & Children” (p. 27- 33) discusses the origin of the name “liturgy.” “In the world of the Roman Empire, the Greek word Liturgy meant ‘any public work’ or ‘work done for the common good.’ Thus the freemen stood in the forum, voted, and took part in the liturgy or public work of the Roman state. The assembly of Christians, free and slave, who stood in the church building and prayed, was a work done for the spiritual welfare and well-being of all, and was called the Divine Liturgy. The prayers of the Orthodox Church’s Liturgy are believed to uphold the whole world.” (p. 27)
Wow: upholding the whole world sounds like important work. It seems that it may be important for me (and for all of us) to better focus and participate fully when I’m in church! So, where do I begin? What can I do to truly be a part of “the work of the people” during church, and how can I help my children to do the same?
The Orthodox Family Life Journal offers the following helpful article by Nichola Krause: “What are we supposed to do in Church?” (reprinted with permission)
“The word ‘liturgy’ means work! Everyone — men and women, adults and children — works together in Church to praise God and ask for His mercy and help, led by the priest and deacons. This work of worship is hard, and there are no shortcuts.
“The services of the Church are also where we learn about God — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — by learning and then participating in the living Tradition of the Church. We do what the Apostles did, because they taught their parish families what Jesus and the Holy Spirit revealed to them, and those early Christians taught their children, and those children taught their children… The Faith we Orthodox Christians live is the Faith of the Apostles, ‘deposited’ with us through the Church.
“Teaching a child to be an Orthodox Christian — and what that means every day — takes a huge commitment and constant effort on the part of the parents and godparents. Here are some of the things we learned the hard way, or were shown to us by people much wiser…”
The article goes on to list practical ideas of how to help our children in their early years (from birth to kindergarten age) to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Find the article in its entirety at http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/inchurch/lazyparent.htm.
My own family converted into the Holy Orthodox Church from a Protestant denomination when our children were 7 and 4, nearly past the ages targeted by that article. The article would have been helpful to me, though, in spite of our children’s ages, because of its practical ideas. For our children initially, the change from a more “entertainment-style” church service (complete with a separate children’s church during the adults’ service) to Divine Liturgy was difficult. But it didn’t take long for both of them to come to love the reverence and beauty of the Divine Liturgy, and now they are finding where their place is in “the work of the people.”
Our daughter (now 18) tells the story of how embarrassed she was on her first visit to an Orthodox church, when we did what we had always done and brought toys, books, and games to keep her and her little brother busy during the service. Looking back, she thinks of how noisy she felt that she was, compared to everyone else who was quietly standing and participating in the Liturgy. She quickly realized that she wanted to be reverent and participatory, too. Soon after we began attending Divine Liturgy regularly, she was adding her beautiful voice and musical gifts to the choir every Sunday. She found a way to contribute her part to ‘the work of the people.’
Our son (now 15) says this about the Liturgy and how he handles the challenge of focusing: “It’s (too) complicated to say it’s ‘just a service.’ It isn’t just a service: there are more layers. There are people with different roles that help to create this beautiful thing that is not ‘just’ a service. You have chanters, priests, deacons, altar servers: even the lay people have roles and jobs in the church that make it so fascinating. The reason I like being an altar server is because I can do work and have something to do and not just stand there and let my mind wander during the service. It is nice to have something to focus on. If I was just standing there and not doing anything, it wouldn’t be quite as interesting. Well, maybe ‘interesting’ isn’t the right word; it shouldn’t be interesting because it’s work! The reason that you want to come back week after week is because of what you do and your level of interest in that (work). It’s sort of like (when) you like something so much that you do it week (after) week. (It’s) kind of like salvation; it’s a struggle day-to-day, but the more you work at it, the farther you go along.” Our son loves to serve in the altar and in that way contributes what he can to “the work of the people.”
It seems that my children are learning to shoulder their share of the work, despite their mother’s struggles. Glory to God!
Our family belongs to a parish which bears the name of St. John Chrysostom. His words mean a lot to us because he is our patron saint. As I researched for this blog, I found these quotes of his:
“Let’s prefer attending church to any other occupation or care. Let’s run eagerly to church, no matter where we are. Be careful, however. Let no one enter this sacred area having earthly cares or distractions or fears. Once we have left all these outside the gates of the church, then let’s pass inside, because we are entering the palaces of Heaven. We are stepping on places that are brightly shining…”
“…O woe! You are in the Divine Liturgy, and while the Royal Table is prepared, while the Lamb of God is sacrificed for your sake, while the priest is struggling for your salvation, you are indifferent. At the time when the six-winged Seraphim cover their faces from awe and all the heavenly powers together with the priest beseech God for you, at the moment the fire of the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven and the blood of Christ is shed from His immaculate side in the holy Chalice, at this moment, I wonder, doesn’t your conscience censure you for your lack of attention? Think, O my man, before Whom you are standing at the time of the dreadful mystagogy [divine service], and together with whom—the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and all the heavenly powers. Consider together with whom you are chanting and praying. This should suffice for you to come to your senses, when you recall that, while you have a material body, you are granted to hymn the Lord of creation together with the bodiless angels.
“So don’t partake in that sacred hymnody with indifference. Don’t have your mind on earthly thoughts. Chase away every earthly thought and ascend mentally to Heaven, near to the throne of God…” St. John Chrysostom, from http://preachersinstitute.com/2014/11/26/attending-church-part-2/ and http://preachersinstitute.com/2014/11/27/attending-church-part-3/.
Ouch. Clearly, I still have much work to do. I have not been faithfully carrying my share of “the work of the people,” and it has serious repercussions. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar place. May the Lord have mercy on us all and save (and help!) us!
What about you? Does this sound at all familiar to you? What have you been learning about the Divine Liturgy? How can we help each other to better lead our families to Christ and His Church through the Divine Liturgy?
Following are related quotes, ideas, and resources that can help us learn more about the Divine Liturgy.
“Do you sometimes feel that the liturgy is too long and complicated for you? If you do, it’s probably because you don’t understand what is going on…” So begins Natalie Ashanin’s article “The Liturgy – Where We Meet God,” from the “Holy Liturgy” edition of Little Falcons Magazine. Little Falcons Magazine (http://www.littlefalcons.net/) is an Orthodox Christian children’s magazine full of informative articles, stories, and activity pages geared around a theme. Back issues are often available. If you are interested in ordering the above mentioned “Holy Liturgy” (#52) edition, or “God’s Kingdom” (#16), visit http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. Both issues can help families to learn more about the Divine Liturgy.
This wonderful book walks children through the Divine Liturgy with illustrations and suggestions for extending the learning and personalizing the prayers of the Liturgy: http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-divine-liturgy-for-children-an-interactive-guide/
This delightfully child-sized book offers the basics of the Liturgy, along with beautiful color illustrations. The book’s words are purposefully sparse, “to encourage their (the readers’) attention forward, toward the altar.” ~ A Child’s Guide to the Divine Liturgy, p. 1. Available at http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-childs-guide-to-the-divine-liturgy/.
“The Church is the foundation of virtue and the school of spiritual life. Just cross its threshold at any time, and immediately you forget daily cares. Pass inside, and a spiritual ray will surround your soul. This stillness causes awe and teaches the Christian life. It raises up your train of thought and doesn’t allow you to remember present things. It transports you from earth to Heaven. And if the gain is so great when a worship service is not even taking place, just think, when the Liturgy is performed — and the prophets teach, the Apostles preach the Gospel, Christ is among the believers, God the Father accepts the performed sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit grants His own rejoicing—what great benefit floods those who have attended church as they leave the church.” ~ St. John Chrysostom, as quoted here http://preachersinstitute.com/2014/11/25/attending-church-part-1/.
When Prince Vladimir of the Russian principality of Kiev in the 10th century was searching for the true faith for himself and his people, he sent messengers to the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God in Constantinople. When they returned, they reported to him,Nowhere did we see anything as beautiful as what we saw during the services. We did not know whether we were on earth or in heaven.” The Orthodox Church is like a heaven on earth, and during the Divine Liturgy we experience that. ~ from “The Church – an Icon of God’s Kingdom,” by from Little Falcons issue #16, “God’s Kingdom,” available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf.