Tag Archives: Help

Gleanings From a Book: “Sasha and the Dragon” by Laura E. Wolfe

Author’s note: I would have loved to have read (and re-read) this book with my children when they were younger! “Sasha and the Dragon” is a powerful story of a boy who conquers his fears with the help of St. Michael the Archangel. Although it is a picture book, “Sasha and the Dragon” is appropriate for Orthodox Christians of many ages because of all that it addresses. This story opens the door for conversations about how strange a new country feels to an immigrant; what to do when you are alone and afraid at night; the reality of the saints’ readiness to come to our aid if we ask them to; and how the light of Christ illumines our world when we invite Him to do so!

Sasha has just moved to New York City from Russia. He misses the familiarity of his old village near the river: its sights, smells, and sounds. He felt safe there, and close to God. His new home, however,  is filled with shadows and seemingly uncaring people. It is grey and cold, and no one seems to know or love God or His saints. Other boys his age seem to mock Sasha at every turn instead of befriending him. Even his new house is not a very comforting place: his Baba who used to sing to him lies still in a scary room at the end of the hall. Sasha is afraid of everything in New York City.

Night time is the scariest for Sasha. Even though he signs himself with the cross before going to bed, he always feels the grey, unfamiliar shadows of the city lurking. One night, as Sasha lies in bed trying to go to sleep, he hears sounds under his bed, which he discovers to be a huge dragon. To his dismay, the dragon comes out from beneath his bed. Sasha is terrified and just wants to hide under the covers. Instead, he finds the courage to do all the right things: he kisses the cross he is wearing and then prays for help! An icon of the Archangel Michael hangs on the wall by Sasha’s bed, and Sasha is confident of the Archangel’s help. He asks St. Michael to kill the dragon with his sword.

As the dragon approaches, St. Michael’s icon begins to radiate heavenly light into the dark room. He races out of the icon on his great red steed and kills the dragon with his sword. As he does so, the room is filled with peace and hope. Sasha drifts happily to sleep. The next morning he wakes to find a slash from the dragon’s claw still remaining in the floor of his room, covered with a golden feather from St. Michael’s wings.

That very morning Sasha begins to notice and enjoy New York’s colors and good smells. A scarlet feather drifts into his hand as he walks. When he meets up with two of the mocking boys, instead of cowering or retreating, he surprises them by offering the feather to them. Sasha even braves the spooky hallway to take the golden feather to his Baba. Her delighted smile encourages Sasha, and he begins to sing to her, for he is no longer afraid!

This story is a delight, and Nicholas Malara’s drawings fit it perfectly. The art in this book is part “normal” picture book, part superhero story. The figures that are the most realistic are the accurately styled icons found on some of the pages. The tone of the illustrations changes from gloomy greys and muted colors at the beginning of the story to cheery bright colors at the end. This change is clearly intentional, and it greatly strengthens the story.

“Sasha and the Dragon” is an excellent addition to an Orthodox family’s library. It has a great story which also presents multiple possibilities for family discussion. Chances are, this book will be read again and again, offering many opportunities to discuss its contents.

“Sasha and the Dragon”  is available from Ancient Faith Publishing here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/sasha-and-the-dragon/

Here are a few discussion ideas and suggestions of ways to learn together after reading “Sasha and the Dragon”:


Bedtime fears come to mind with the book “Sasha and the Dragon.” We recently wrote a blog post addressing them that may offer some helpful links. You can read it here. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/bedtime-and-other-rituals-conclusion-and-facing-fears-at-bedtime/


“Sasha and the Dragon” features a little boy who has recently moved to New York. He may very well have been a refugee; at least his sudden change of environment hints at a similar experience. Help your children learn about what a refugee is (if the term is new to them), and how a refugee’s life changes radically when they arrive in their new place. This Jewish article suggests a few books that you may want to check out and read so see if they’d be helpful ones to share with your children, to better help them understand this topic: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/216190/explain-refugee-crisis-to-kids


What if your family were suddenly forced to be refugees? Think about that for a moment! How do you think a new world feels to those entering it? How did New York feel to Sasha when he moved there? Have you ever gone someplace completely different? Perhaps thinking back to that time can help you relate a tiny bit to a refugee’s experience, and give you an idea of what it would be like if you had to flee your own home and move someplace completely different, like Sasha did. When you were in that different place, did those around you speak your language? Did they do things the way that you are accustomed to doing them? Did you feel comfortable in the new place? Why or why not? Keep these thoughts in your mind as you meet new neighbors or classmates, refugee or not, and try to think from Sasha’s perspective: how does it feel to be that other person who finds themselves in a strange place? What can you do to welcome them and extend kindness?


Have you or anyone in your household ever felt afraid? “Sasha and the Dragon” is an excellent segue into a discussion on fears – especially fear of the dark – and how to best handle those fears. Talk together about what Sasha does when he feels afraid: He makes the sign of the cross, reverences the cross that he is wearing, and then expectantly prays for help! Find other ideas of ways to help your child who is afraid here: http://www.orthodoxmotherhood.com/what-to-do-when-your-child-is-scared/


Who is St. Michael? Together as a family, learn more about him on the page dedicated to him in the back of “Sasha and the Dragon.” Look up other icons of him and compare them to the one in Sasha’s room. Learn to sing the troparion to St. Michael, found here: http://antiochian.org/sites/default/files/Trop-Archangel.Michael-HTM-choir.pdf . Remember to ask him for help and protection when you need it!


Consider purchasing an icon of St. Michael to place in your child(ren)’s bedroom, to remind them that St. Michael is watching over them and ready to help them, as well. Or print an illustration of St. Michael for them to color and hang in their room.


With older children, discuss the story. Also talk about the meaning/symbolism behind the story and many of the illustrations. For example:

  1. In the beginning of the story, everything in Sasha’s world is dark, grey, hushed, shadowed, and Sasha’s baba’s room “smells like the dead crow he had found at the park”. Why do you suppose it is this way? Do the shadows reflect how Sasha feels in any way? How do the pictures in the beginning of the book make you feel?
  2. Sasha sees dragon shadows everywhere at the beginning of the story. They are not mentioned in the story, per se, but show up in the illustrations. How many dragon shadows can you find in the book? What do  you suppose is the reason that the illustrator included these shadows in these illustrations? What do you think they represent?
  3. How do the other children respond to Sasha at the beginning of the story? Why do you suppose they do that? Does Sasha like it? How do you know? Have you ever felt that way around other children?
  4. What does Sasha do to help calm his fears? What do you do when YOU feel afraid? Can you tell about a time when you did something just like Sasha does, and it helped you? Why do you think it helped?
  5. The dragon in Sasha’s room was very real to Sasha! Do dragons exist in the world? What do you think Sasha’s dragon was or represents? Do you have any “dragons” in your life?
  6. Why did Sasha turn to St. Michael for help with the dragon in his room? What do you know about St. Michael that makes him a good saint to ask for help with your own “dragons”?
  7. What other saints can help us with the “dragons” in our life? How can we get them to help us?
  8. The illustrations in the book make us look hard at the difference between God and His angels and saints and satan and his “helpers” (for example, in this book, the dragon). How do the illustrations help you to see the difference between the two? Does that difference appropriately illustrate the difference in real life?
  9. Sasha does something that shows his complete trust in St. Michael’s ability to save him. What does he do? When you are feeling afraid and attacked, to whom do you turn? Do you have the courage to trust God and His saints fully to help you in those times? Why or why not? Try to remember Sasha kneeling on his bed, pointing right at the dragon, and shouting, “Kill it with your sword!” every time you are feeling afraid!
  10. How does St. Michael enter Sasha’s bedroom? Why do you think the author included smells and sounds in her description of his entrance? How does it make you feel about St. Michael’s presence with Sasha?
  11. Describe St. Michael’s victory over the dragon. If you were there, what would you have thought? Did St. Michael accomplish what Sasha asked him to do, or did he accomplish even more? What makes you think that?
  12. Is Sasha’s life any different after St. Michael kills the dragon in his room? Just by looking at the picture, how can you tell?
  13. Sasha finds a feather on a gash in his floor. What is special about the feather? How would you feel if you found a feather like that in your room? What would you do with it if you found one?
  14. How does Sasha’s world change on the morning after St. Michael’s visit? Describe what Sasha sees as he goes out for a walk with his mother. Is anything different? What is missing?
  15. What does Sasha do with the two feathers he receives? Why do you suppose he does that? How do the others feel after they receive a feather from Sasha?
  16. Compare the first illustration in the book to the last page of Sasha’s story. Are these illustrations alike or different? How so? And how did it happen that they came to be that way? Then compare Sasha at the beginning of the book to himself at the end. Is he the same, or different? How can you tell?


Gleanings from a Book: “When My Baba Died” by Marjorie Kunch

How do you help a child to process what occurs when a beloved family member or friend passes away? What do you say? How can you explain what the child will see, feel, and experience? If you have ever been in this position, you most likely asked yourself these questions and then did the best that you could to answer them and help the child. If you have not yet had this happen, you are blessed. Either way, allow me to introduce you to a resource that will help you help them if/when someone precious to you and/or your child(ren) passes away.

Mortician (and mother) Marjorie Kunch has written a wonderfully helpful book to familiarize Orthodox Christian children ages 4 to 8 with what happens after the loss of an Orthodox Christian loved one. When My Baba Died features color photos and the story of a little girl from the moment she learns about her baba’s death all the way through her baba’s funeral service, graveside service, and memorial service. The story is told from the little girl’s perspective, and everything is explained as she observes and begins to understand it.

Every page is illustrated with photos of the little girl and/or what she is experiencing. The photos were taken with such attention to detail that the reader feels as though the story is taking place before their eyes. The first time I read this book, I thought, “Wow, it’s really nice to have such thorough pictures of this story, but how difficult it must have been for the photographer to take them without being in the way of the family during this significant and difficult event in their lives!” When I later learned that the photos were all staged, I was happy that no family had a photographer snapping photos during their loved one’s funeral, and at the same time I was amazed at how realistically the photos communicate the story! (A side note: at no point in the book do you see the “departed loved one.” All the photos cleverly hide the fact that the photo essay was staged and that the casket was in fact empty!)

There is so much terminology for a child to learn when their loved one departs. Throughout the story, important related words such as “grief,” “funeral,” “casket,” “grave,” and “koliva” are presented gently but clearly. Each new vocabulary word is appropriately introduced in context, and many are referred to again later in the story, to help cement their meaning in young readers’ minds. There is a glossary at the end of the book as well, with simple definitions for many of the new terms used in the book.

Tucked into When My Baba Died here and there are snatches of scripture or portions of the services and prayers that relate to that part of the story. These can be read aloud along with the story or can just act as a gentle reminder to the adult reader of what is happening at that point in the process. It is up to the reader to decide how to include them.
Readers in our community who have been following our blog regularly may well remember Carol Federoff’s suggestion in our blog “On the Cross of Christ and Leading Children Through Holy Week” with regard to discussing death with children. She wrote, “Use picture books that deal with death… Don’t wait until someone significant in their life passes… pick these books now… so that this subject can be a gentle introduction rather than dealing with it after such a crisis in their life.” When My Baba Died is an excellent book for just such a purpose. It can be read as a story and is a helpful discussion-starter even without the context of having just lost a loved one. It will, however, be even more invaluable to a family with young children when one of their beloved members has just departed this life. This book provides a child-friendly way for young Orthodox Christians to process what they will experience when someone they love passes away.

Read more about the book (how it came to be, etc.), find out where to purchase your own copy, and discover what else this brand new publisher, Pascha Press, is up to at their website at http://www.paschapress.com/home.html.

Here are a few favorite quotes from the book:


“This book is not about eternal life, but rather how we send-off our beloved ones into eternal life. The funeral service—and all of its components—in the Eastern Orthodox Church, is mainly about two matters: prayer, and love; two matters which never die.” ~ Fr. Miloš M. Vesin, foreword, When My Baba Died, p. 10


“You may hear the priest say your loved one ‘fell asleep’ in the Lord. It is entirely different than falling asleep at bedtime. That is just when my body rests and I awaken to a new day. To die is to have your soul rest and then awaken to the never ending Paschal day.” When My Baba Died, p. 15

“The funeral is a ceremony where we say goodbye to our loved one. Father and the funeral director will help take good care of Baba’s soul and body. They will help take good care of my family.” When My Baba Died, p. 18


“I am sad Baba died but I do believe that I will see her again one day. Jesus said so. He promised everyone eternal life if they believe in Him. Baba believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and so do I.” When My Baba Died, p. 21


“Everyone in church walked by Baba’s casket for one last kiss. I felt a little scared to lean in and kiss her while she lay inside of the casket, but Mama helped me… I silently asked God and the Theotokos to help me be brave. The blessed Mary once had to kiss her Son goodbye at His funeral, too. I knew I would not see Baba again in this life except in pictures and memories so it was important I gave her that final gift. I am so glad I did…” When My Baba Died, p. 29


“I thought I would be afraid, but it turns out I liked visiting Baba’s place in the cemetery. It’s not spooky at all. Visiting someone’s grave is a way to show love. Every time we go to the cemetery, I look around and give thanks for all of God’s creation: birds, flowers, trees, and Baba.” When My Baba Died, p. 37


“When my Baba died, I learned about all the different ways people can help. Although I am little, even I am a helper, because I pray for Baba. Are you a helper, too?” When My Baba Died, p. 42


The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children

While we are still thinking about mothers and Mother’s Day, having just looked together at the Theotokos as Mother, it seems apropos to take a look at one of the Akathist hymns, The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children.


The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children is a prayer for children which should be prayed by mothers to the Mother of God. (Simple word changes can make it a prayer fathers can pray for their children, or that parents can pray together for their children.) My husband and I pray a part of this Akathist together every evening until we’ve prayed the whole thing and begin again, and I pray the entire hymn several times a week as I am able. The more times I pray this prayer, the more I ask the Theotokos for help, the more I realize how carefully she cares for my children, for me, for the Church, for all of us. I also realize how much we all need her intercessions. Glory to God for providing a Mother for us all!

The hymn begins with this kontakion:

Victorious Leader and Good Nurturer of the Christian race, we Thy servants, delivered from evil, sing out grateful thanks to Thee. But as Thou hast invincible might deliver my children from all dangers that with tears I may cry to Thee: Raise my children (names), to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and make them heirs of eternal blessings.

Let’s ponder what this part of the hymn says, phrase by phrase. The Theotokos is truly a victorious leader! She has set the example to us all of how to live one’s entire life in submission to God, as she was victorious over her own passions. She leads us humbly, by her own example. She nurtures us by providing sustenance to us all in the form of her Son, Jesus Christ, and also by her intercessions on our behalf. Because of her willingness to become His Mother, we are all delivered from evil and therefore it is appropriate for us to thank her. She truly does have invincible might – she has the ability to pray without interruption, to pray perfectly, directly before Our Lord Himself, and therefore she is the perfect person to ask to pray for our children’s deliverance from all dangers! Who better is there for us to ask to raise our children – both physically and spiritually, as she raises them in prayer to Christ Himself – than the Theotokos? She knows what they need in order to be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. She knows how to ask that they become heirs of blessings that last forever. She is truly our best ally in prayer for our children!

The hymn continues with this ikos:

Intercede with Thy Son and God, O most Holy One, that an angel from heaven be sent to my children, just as to Thee was sent a most mighty protector, the Archangel Gabriel; and vouchsafe me to cry to Thee thus:

Raise my children to be earthly angels.

Raise my children to be heavenly men.

Raise my children to be Thy servants.

Raise my children to cry out to Thee:

“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord with Thee!”

Raise my children (names), O Lady,

to be made worthy of the Kingdom Of Heaven

and make them heirs of eternal blessings.

This part of the hymn not only asks that the Theotokos pray that God will grant spiritual protection to our children, but also that they will act on that protection. It asks her to pray that an earthly change takes place in our children, so that they live not just “protected” spiritual lives, but physical lives in which their very bodies reflect the protection that God is granting them. It asks her to pray that our children live in a way that shows the world that they belong to God; that their lives be full of praise to God; and that their lives be directed towards the Kingdom of Heaven and towards blessings that are of true value.

The hymn goes on with 11 other kontakia and ikoi. Each is unique and focuses on a different theme important to the Theotokos and her intercession for our children. Each verse asks the Theotokos to take our children under her protection, to ask her Son to enlighten their lives, to raise them to live the Beatitudes, to travel with them throughout their earthly life, to unceasingly pray for them, etc. We will not look at all of them in depth, here, now. Rather, as we pray the Akathist, let us study each verse as we have time, and really think about what we are praying!

I especially love Kontakion 13. Repeating it three times helps me to focus on what I am saying, and gives me the opportunity to pay attention to what I might otherwise have missed. If you have no time in your schedule to pray the entire akathist, at least consider praying this kontakion for your children. It summarizes the rest of the prayer well, and succinctly puts our desire for our children’s salvation into the Theotokos’ capable hands:

O All Hymned Mother of our Sweetest Jesus! Accept this small hymn of supplication for my children as a sweet fragrance and take them under Thy compassionate protection. Grant them to think, know, hear, say and do, only that which brings them close to Thee and Thy Son, and helps them attain eternal salvation. And send them in this present life all that is profitable for the salvation of their souls, that they may cry to God: Alleluia.

The older my children become and the less I can physically do for them, the more I realize how much I need to pray for them. I wish that I had begun praying this prayer much sooner, asking the Theotokos to mother my children. After all, she is the best mother that ever was! And my children have needed her prayers from Day 1. (Mind you, she has been praying for my children since Day 1! But praying this prayer reminds ME of that fact.) Every part of this hymn speaks to a need in our children’s lives, and the Theotokos knows how to perfectly pray for those needs. I am so grateful to her for her intercessions for my children and for all Christians, and so glad for this way to participate in that intercession.

Most Holy Theotokos, intercede for our salvation! Amen.

Find the Akathist at http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/nuturerofchildren.htm so that you can pray it for your children, as well!
Here are additional links about the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children:


Find a printable copy of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, set as a service to be prayed in church, here: http://www.stgabrielashland.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Akathist-to-the-Mother-of-God.pdf.


Buy the booklet The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/akathist-to-the-mother-of-god-nurturer-of-children/


Listen to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green’s reading of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frederica/akathist_to_the_mother_of_god_nurturer_of_children


Purchase a cd copy of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/cd-akathist-to-mother-of-god-nurturer-of-children/


“About nine years ago, a group of mothers in my parish discovered an Akathist to the Mother of God, called “Nurturer of Children.” We banded together to pray these prayers and were greatly comforted and encouraged. While spontaneous prayer from the heart is always blessed as well, the supplications of the Church are particularly good for verbalizing exactly what it is we need for our salvation.” Read these words by Virginia Nieuwsma, and more on her take of the Akathist, here: http://pemptousia.com/2012/07/praying-the-akathist-for-our-children/.


On the Theotokos as Mother

Author’s note: as we approach Mother’s Day, I was thinking about this blog and wondering what we could post that would be helpful to the mothers (and, for that matter, to all women who care for children) in our Orthodox Christian Parenting community. Again and again, I thought of the Theotokos and her example to us. I am learning so much about the Theotokos and growing daily in my respect of and love for her. She is the best-ever-mother, a woman to emulate and aspire to, and a Christian like no other. (Addendum: most of the ways listed below are written in past tense, because they were things the Theotokos did while she was alive on earth. They could also be written in present tense, as she continues in her faithful love of Christ and His people.)

Ways in which we can aspire to be like the Theotokos:

The Theotokos willingly said yes to God, even knowing that what she was agreeing to would be culturally inacceptable and thereby very difficult for her. “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) were words that implied that Mary’s life would be completely changed, scandalously outside “the norm.” And yet she said these words. And then she lived them. I am a Christian whose faith is far from perfect. These words which the Theotokos spoke to the archangel – and to God Himself – imply perfect faith, perfect trust in His Omniscience. May we Orthodox Christian mothers also willingly say yes to God, whatever He calls us to do. May we aspire to be like the Theotokos and willingly “let it be to me according to Your Word.”

The Theotokos was thoughtful. “…Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2: 19) The Mother of Our Lord didn’t just allow things to happen and then gloss them over, or ignore words that were said to her. Instead, she was attentive to her son, she absorbed events and messages, and then she carefully thought about them. May we Orthodox Christian mothers also pay attention to our children, the events that happen to us, and the words spoken to us. Then, may we ponder these things and allow God to speak through them to us, for our growth.

The Theotokos knew that her Son would suffer, and that thereby she would also suffer: “Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against, (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also)…’” (Luke 2:34-35) She was aware that there is suffering in the world and that it would touch her Son, and therefore, it would also touch her. She did not allow any fear she may have felt of that suffering to stifle her life or her Son’s life. May we Orthodox Christian mothers also be aware of this truth: that our children will suffer, and that we will suffer as well. And may we not allow our fears of that suffering to keep us from doing the work that God has set before us.

The Theotokos was steadfast in her faith. “[Mary and Joseph]… performed all things according to the law of the Lord… His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” (John 2:39, 41) Not just at the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth did Mary and Joseph follow God’s directions for faithful worship; but clearly they did so quite regularly! Making that annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem took effort and had to have been a challenge for the family, but they did it because it was the right thing to do. May we Orthodox Christian mothers make the steadfast efforts needed to strengthen our own faith and the faith of our children as well, no matter how difficult it may be. It is the right thing to do.

The Theotokos took her responsibility as a mother seriously. “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” (Luke 2:48) Imagine having God’s own Son in your care, and then losing track of Him?!? It must have been a frightening moment for Mary and Joseph when they realized He was not traveling in the caravan with them and they did not know where He was. They clearly cared deeply about Jesus, and they carefully retraced their steps until they found Him. Once they found Him, they asked the above question, which indicates the depth of their love for Him and concern when He went missing. May we Orthodox Christian mothers also care deeply for our children, looking after them and asking questions that show our children that they matter to us.

The Theotokos was in the background, supporting her Child, all of her life. Here’s what we know about Christ’s childhood, from the Gospel of Luke: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit…” (Luke 2:40) There is no mention of the Theotokos or all of the work that she was doing to help him grow and/or to nurture that “strength in spirit.” And when our Lord was an adult, she remained in the background. “While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with him.” (Matt. 12:46) Never front-and-center, the Theotokos nurtured, loved, served, cooked, sewed, cleaned up, and who knows what else, allowing Christ to grow. And even when He was grown, she did not demand or even expect the place of honor. She just stood outside and waited to have a chance to talk to Him. May we Orthodox Christian mothers serve and nurture our children, and be ready and humbly waiting for chances to speak with them all of their lives, as well!

The Theotokos prayed for those around her. “And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine!’” (John 2:3) She saw a need. She knew He could meet it, and so she simply stated the need to Him and asked Him to intervene. May we Orthodox Christian mothers also see the needs around us, simply bring them to Christ, and ask Him to meet those needs.

The Theotokos pointed people to her Son when they needed help. “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5) Knowing that Christ can do anything, Mary pointed the people who needed wine in His direction, with the expectation that they would do whatever He said. May we Orthodox Christian mothers (because we, too, know that Christ can do anything!) also point our own children – and all others around us – to Our Lord, with the same expectation! May we also lead the way, setting the example of doing whatever it is that He says to us!

The Theotokos intercedes for us. Her proximity to her Son allows the Theotokos to continue in constant prayer for the world. There have been many examples of people throughout the ages who have asked the Theotokos to pray for them, and God has heard and answered her prayers. There are also examples of times when people have witnessed her praying (ie the Fool-for-Christ Andrew at Blachernae, who saw her put her veil over the people and pray fervently for them). Clearly, she prays for all of us. May we Orthodox Christian mothers also pray for others; and may we also ask the Theotokos to pray for us and for our children!

I’ll never forget one special Sunday morning when I walked into the nave of our parish for Divine Liturgy. It was the first time I saw the Platytera icon which had just been installed in the apse of our church that week. The sight of the Theotokos and our Lord literally took my breath away. I gasped, thrilled at the beauty of the icon and in awe of the reality that it represents. What a joy to “behold the maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38): not just on “The Sunday After the Installation of the Icon,” but every single day of our lives. The Theotokos, the Mother of God, is a joy to behold, a mother to aspire to be like, and a fervent intercessor for us all. Glory to God for her love for Him and for all of us!

Most Holy Theotokos, please intercede for our salvation!

Here are a few links related to this week’s blog:


Find out why the Orthodox church so reveres Mary as the Theotokos, and find a myriad of her other nicknames, here: http://orthodoxyinamerica.org/article.php?id=31


Read more about the Theotokos, how we can be blessed by her prayers, and more about how much we need her, here: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MetrakosTheotokos.php


Read answers to questions you may have (or hear!) about the Theotokos, here: http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/questions.htm


Ask the Theotokos for help every day of the week! Find a prayer every day here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2012/08/03/prayers-to-the-theotokos-for-every-day-of-the-week/


Pray the Akathist to the Mother of God found here: http://www.stsymeon.com/akathist.html


Read the story of the Fool-for-Christ Andrew at Blachernae, who saw the Theotokos put her veil over the people and witnessed her fervent prayers on their behalf, here: https://oca.org/saints/lives/2008/10/01/102824-the-protection-of-our-most-holy-lady-the-mother-of-god-and-ever


Find information about the Platytera icon and its beautiful symbolism here: http://dormitionpgh.org/tidbits/platytera.asp


On Supporting Our Children’s Teachers

It is the beginning of a new school year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a good time to set goals and also begin good habits for the year. As our children participate in school, homeschool groups, library or park classes, clubs, Sunday Church School, and other such groups, let us as parents be mindful of those who are leading and teaching the children in these groups. This school year, let us set a goal to do a better job of supporting these teachers, and let us also begin the habits that will help us to meet that goal.

Here are a few ways that we can support our children’s teachers:

  1. Prayer. First and foremost, let us pray for them. They have a very important job, and will need all of the support that they can get! We can pray for them before we even meet them; and even more so as the year goes on and we learn what challenges they are experiencing with our children and/or their classmates.
  2. Empathy. Let us remember that these teachers are also people, and that they, too, have been made in God’s image. Let us keep this truth foremost in our minds every time we interact with them. They have feelings, they have struggles, they have needs; but they are working past all of those things to do their best in helping our children learn and grow. Having a mindset of empathy will affect every interaction with our children’s teachers, allowing us to interact with kindness and respect, and leading to mutual respect and compassion.
  3. Communication. It is imperative that we communicate with our children’s teachers. Now is the time to reach out to the teachers with our contact information and offer them different ways to contact us with any comments, questions, or concerns they may have regarding our child(ren). Since communication is a two-way street, now is also the time for us to initiate communication with the teachers with comments and any questions we may have. Let us get the year off to a positive start by sending supportive feedback to the teachers on what our student is learning, how the teacher has set up a learning-friendly environment, or how much we appreciate their communication with parents, etc.
  4. Gratitude. A simple “thank you” goes a long, long way. Let us look for things that our children’s teachers are doing and be sure to thank them for those things. Whether the teacher is a classroom teacher, a club leader, or a Sunday Church School teacher, the job that they have is a big one and often does not pay well financially. Most teachers take the job anyway because of their love for children and their desire to help our children grow. Since we share that common goal, and they are helping our children to reach it, the least we can do is thank them. Let us thank our children’s teachers regularly; perhaps even with a plate of cookies or a bundle of new pencils to accompany those thanks.
  5. Help. Let us find out ways in which we can assist our children’s teachers accomplish our common goal of helping children to learn. We may be able to work right in the class; or maybe we can create a display or game that can be used by the class/assemble classroom sets of items needed for learning/bake something for the class; etc. Even if we are not available to help during class time, there is always much work to do, and many teachers will be able to find something that we can do from home/as it suits our schedule that will be helpful to them. Ultimately, our goal is to allow the teachers to be able to focus more on our children and less on the logistics of making the lessons happen. (Note: even if our child’s teacher can’t think of any way in which we can help, just knowing that we are willing to help them will certainly offer them support.)

This is only a beginning of a list of what we can do to help our children’s teachers. May we be mindful of what they need, and determined to find ways to help to meet those needs. The more we work together with the teachers in our children’s lives, the smoother the year will go, and the more our children will learn. That learning is, after all, everyone’s ultimate goal for this year. Let’s do what we can to help make it happen!

One place to begin would be to think from a teacher’s perspective. Here is a list of the top 10 things teachers wish parents would do. Read it and see which of these you’re doing well, and which you may need to work on improving: http://school.familyeducation.com/parents-and-teacher/38781.html