Monthly Archives: September 2014

Learning About The Saints: Saint Thekla (commemorated Sept. 24)

On September 24, the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Thekla. Our Sunday Church School students will benefit from hearing about her, because we can learn many things from her life. Here is her story, written in child-friendly language:

St. Thekla was born in Iconium, in AD 16, to parents who were pagans. When she was 18 (and betrothed to be married to Thamyris), Sts. Paul and Barnabas arrived in Iconium. Although Thekla’s mother Theokleia wouldn’t let her go to where the saints were preaching, Thekla discovered that she could still hear them preach if she sat right by her bedroom window. She especially liked St. Paul’s teaching about remaining pure for Christ. Theokleia and Thamyris didn’t like this at all, so they complained to the city governor about Paul. The governor put Paul in prison, saying that he was disturbing the public, and left him there, waiting for a trial.

When Thekla learned that Paul was arrested, she went to the prison secretly. She bribed the guard with her jewelry, so that he would let her into the prison. While she was in the prison, Thekla listened to St. Paul speak about Christ. She stayed there for a long time.

Meanwhile, Theokleia and Thamyris checked with Thekla’s servant to find out where she was. When they discovered that Thekla was visiting Paul in prison, they went back to the governor, asking that Paul be judged immediately. The governor scolded Paul for causing a disturbance, and then he had Paul stoned and expelled from Iconium. Then the governor advised Thekla to stop being foolish, and to go home. Thekla announced that she wanted to remain a virgin, staying pure for Christ’s sake. Theokleia was furious and asked the governor to threaten Thekla, so he did: he said she would be burned at the stake if she did not stop following Christ.

Thekla did not change her mind, so she was taken to the arena. A vision of Jesus Christ gave her strength while she was being tied to the stake and then as she faced the flames. The authorities lit the fire, and it began to burn. As the flames came closer to Thekla, however, a thunderstorm came up, and the heavy rain and hail put the flames out. The governor was embarrassed and angry, so he released Thekla and ordered her to leave Iconium immediately.

Thekla found St. Paul outside the city, told him what had just happened, and asked to be baptized. St. Paul would not baptize her, saying that her baptism would happen in God’s timing and God’s way. They then left Iconium, and traveled together to Antioch.

When they arrived in Antioch, a nobleman named Alexander saw Thekla. She was so beautiful that he rushed up to her and tried to convince her to be his girlfriend. She embarrassed him by refusing him, in front of all of his friends. Alexander was so upset that he went to the governor of Antioch and complained that this girl had come into town and disgraced him in public even though he was a nobleman. He told the governor that Thekla should be killed as her punishment. The governor agreed and said that Thekla would be put into the arena with wild beasts.

On the day that Thekla was taken into the arena, a lioness was also released into the arena, to attack Thekla. Instead of attacking Thekla, the lioness walked up to her and lay down at her feet. Next, a bear was released. The lioness defended Thekla, killing the bear. Next, a large lion was released into the arena. The lioness again defended Thekla, and died while killing the lion. Finally, all the other cages were opened so that more wild animals could enter the arena. Thekla crossed herself and prayed that God would make her brave. She noticed a large tank of water nearby, also containing dangerous animals. She climbed into the water, asking Christ Himself to baptize her as she did so. The dangerous water animals did not hurt her.

When they saw that none of the wild animals would harm Thekla, the authorities gave up and released her. After her time in the arena, she spent 8 days in the home of a wealthy lady named Tryphaena, telling her and her household about Jesus, and converting all of them to Christianity. When Thekla left Antioch, Tryphaena gave her gold and jewels as a gift.

Thekla gave these gifts to St. Paul (so that he could give them to the poor) when she found him in Myra, after leaving Antioch. She told Paul all that had happened, and asked that he bless her to spend the rest of her life as an ascetic. St. Paul blessed her to do so, and so she left for the mountains in Syria.

For years, Thekla lived alone, praying, in those mountains. One day, a young man found her alone in the mountains and wanted to hurt her. He blocked the only way she could escape! Thekla prayed and asked Jesus Christ to protect her. A miracle happened: the canyon wall split at that very moment, and she could escape through a crack in the rock.

Thekla lived the rest of her life as an ascetic. She fell asleep in the Lord when she was 90 years old. Soon after she passed away, a group of young ladies went to live in her cell in the mountains. They built a small chapel to house her body. This was the beginning of the Convent of St. Thekla near Ma’loula, Syria.

Thekla suffered very much for her faith. Because of this, the Church calls her a “Protomartyr.” She brought so many people with her into the Christian faith, so she is also called “Equal-to-the-Apostles.” (abridged from http://www.antiochian.org/life_of_thekla)

Troparion – Tone 4
You were enlightened by the words of Paul, O Bride of God, Thekla, and your faith was confirmed by Peter, O Chosen One of God. You became the first sufferer and martyr among women, by entering into the flames as into a place of gladness. For when you accepted the Cross of Christ, the demonic powers were frightened away. O all-praised One, intercede before Christ God that our souls may be saved.

More background about St. Thekla’s life can be found here:http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/09/24/102715-protomartyr-and-equal-of-the-apostles-thekla

Here is a version of St. Thekla’s life story that includes icons as well as pictures of the recent monastery that was built at the site of her ascetic labors: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/09/st-thekla-protomartyr-and-equal-to.html

Allow the life of St. Thekla to challenge you to become more like Christ! Read these two sermons about St. Thekla: http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/2011/10/met-ephrem-two-sermons-on-st-thekla.html. How will you teach what you’ve learned about her life to your Sunday Church School students?

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Learning About The Saints: Saint Thekla (commemorated Sept. 24)

On September 24, the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Thekla. Our Sunday Church School students will benefit from hearing about her, because we can learn many things from her life. Here is her story, written in child-friendly language:

St. Thekla was born in Iconium, in AD 16, to parents who were pagans. When she was 18 (and betrothed to be married to Thamyris), Sts. Paul and Barnabas arrived in Iconium. Although Thekla’s mother Theokleia wouldn’t let her go to where the saints were preaching, Thekla discovered that she could still hear them preach if she sat right by her bedroom window. She especially liked St. Paul’s teaching about remaining pure for Christ. Theokleia and Thamyris didn’t like this at all, so they complained to the city governor about Paul. The governor put Paul in prison, saying that he was disturbing the public, and left him there, waiting for a trial.

When Thekla learned that Paul was arrested, she went to the prison secretly. She bribed the guard with her jewelry, so that he would let her into the prison. While she was in the prison, Thekla listened to St. Paul speak about Christ. She stayed there for a long time.

Meanwhile, Theokleia and Thamyris checked with Thekla’s servant to find out where she was. When they discovered that Thekla was visiting Paul in prison, they went back to the governor, asking that Paul be judged immediately. The governor scolded Paul for causing a disturbance, and then he had Paul stoned and expelled from Iconium. Then the governor advised Thekla to stop being foolish, and to go home. Thekla announced that she wanted to remain a virgin, staying pure for Christ’s sake. Theokleia was furious and asked the governor to threaten Thekla, so he did: he said she would be burned at the stake if she did not stop following Christ.

Thekla did not change her mind, so she was taken to the arena. A vision of Jesus Christ gave her strength while she was being tied to the stake and then as she faced the flames. The authorities lit the fire, and it began to burn. As the flames came closer to Thekla, however, a thunderstorm came up, and the heavy rain and hail put the flames out. The governor was embarrassed and angry, so he released Thekla and ordered her to leave Iconium immediately.

Thekla found St. Paul outside the city, told him what had just happened, and asked to be baptized. St. Paul would not baptize her, saying that her baptism would happen in God’s timing and God’s way. They then left Iconium, and traveled together to Antioch.

When they arrived in Antioch, a nobleman named Alexander saw Thekla. She was so beautiful that he rushed up to her and tried to convince her to be his girlfriend. She embarrassed him by refusing him, in front of all of his friends. Alexander was so upset that he went to the governor of Antioch and complained that this girl had come into town and disgraced him in public even though he was a nobleman. He told the governor that Thekla should be killed as her punishment. The governor agreed and said that Thekla would be put into the arena with wild beasts.

On the day that Thekla was taken into the arena, a lioness was also released into the arena, to attack Thekla. Instead of attacking Thekla, the lioness walked up to her and lay down at her feet. Next, a bear was released. The lioness defended Thekla, killing the bear. Next, a large lion was released into the arena. The lioness again defended Thekla, and died while killing the lion. Finally, all the other cages were opened so that more wild animals could enter the arena. Thekla crossed herself and prayed that God would make her brave. She noticed a large tank of water nearby, also containing dangerous animals. She climbed into the water, asking Christ Himself to baptize her as she did so. The dangerous water animals did not hurt her.

When they saw that none of the wild animals would harm Thekla, the authorities gave up and released her. After her time in the arena, she spent 8 days in the home of a wealthy lady named Tryphaena, telling her and her household about Jesus, and converting all of them to Christianity. When Thekla left Antioch, Tryphaena gave her gold and jewels as a gift.

Thekla gave these gifts to St. Paul (so that he could give them to the poor) when she found him in Myra, after leaving Antioch. She told Paul all that had happened, and asked that he bless her to spend the rest of her life as an ascetic. St. Paul blessed her to do so, and so she left for the mountains in Syria.

For years, Thekla lived alone, praying, in those mountains. One day, a young man found her alone in the mountains and wanted to hurt her. He blocked the only way she could escape! Thekla prayed and asked Jesus Christ to protect her. A miracle happened: the canyon wall split at that very moment, and she could escape through a crack in the rock.

Thekla lived the rest of her life as an ascetic. She fell asleep in the Lord when she was 90 years old. Soon after she passed away, a group of young ladies went to live in her cell in the mountains. They built a small chapel to house her body. This was the beginning of the Convent of St. Thekla near Ma’loula, Syria.

Thekla suffered very much for her faith. Because of this, the Church calls her a “Protomartyr.” She brought so many people with her into the Christian faith, so she is also called “Equal-to-the-Apostles.” (abridged from http://www.antiochian.org/life_of_thekla)

Troparion – Tone 4
You were enlightened by the words of Paul, O Bride of God, Thekla, and your faith was confirmed by Peter, O Chosen One of God. You became the first sufferer and martyr among women, by entering into the flames as into a place of gladness. For when you accepted the Cross of Christ, the demonic powers were frightened away. O all-praised One, intercede before Christ God that our souls may be saved.

More background about St. Thekla’s life can be found here:http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/09/24/102715-protomartyr-and-equal-of-the-apostles-thekla

Here is a version of St. Thekla’s life story that includes icons as well as pictures of the recent monastery that was built at the site of her ascetic labors: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/09/st-thekla-protomartyr-and-equal-to.html

Allow the life of St. Thekla to challenge you to become more like Christ! Read these two sermons about St. Thekla: http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/2011/10/met-ephrem-two-sermons-on-st-thekla.html. How will you teach what you’ve learned about her life to your Sunday Church School students?

On Incorporating Poetry, Art, and Writing into Sunday Church School

Educators are always looking for ways to improve the learning experience for their students. Sunday Church School teachers should also be ever evaluating their teaching methods and seeking ideas of ways to improve. This note will offer suggestions to Sunday Church School teachers of one way to enhance the learning environment in their Sunday Church School classes: by incorporating the arts into their lessons.

“Studies clearly show the impact of arts on engaging and motivating students. The direct connection between participation in arts education and student achievement, although more difficult to prove, is also evident.” (from http://www.artinaction.org/w/whyart. Seehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/ for specific ways that children benefit from the arts.) Motivating and thought provoking, the arts allow students to think differently while using a variety of learning styles. All of these reasons strengthen the case for utilizing them in classrooms, including the Sunday Church School room!

The term “the Arts” covers a wide range of disciplines, covering everything from art to writing to theater to dance. In the interest of brevity, this article will offer ideas for incorporating only some of them into the Sunday Church School class: specifically poetry, art, and writing.  The ideas listed here are far from comprehensive, but are offered as a springboard to stimulate ideas of how Sunday Church School teachers can incorporate the arts into their classroom.
Poetry ideas:

Read poems written by Orthodox authors and talk about them.

Study a Bible story written in poetry form.

Read through the Psalms and discuss the poetry of King David.

At the end of a lesson about kindness, have the students write an acrostic poem for the word “kindness”.

After a lesson on Sampson’s life, help the students write their own riddles.

Encourage students to write a shape poem in the shape of the chalice, after studying Holy Communion.

For more ideas on kinds of poetry to write/use in the classroom, visithttps://www.youngwriters.co.uk/glossary-poetry-types.

Art ideas:

Invite artists in the parish to share their work (especially any that relates to what the class is currently studying) with the students.

Although they are not technically “works of art,” icons are beautifully written and should be ever present in the Sunday Church School room. They also should be available for study as they relate to stories from scripture or saints that are being studied in the class.
Invite students to draw a response to the lesson.

Provide a variety of raw materials, and encourage the students to create a collage related to the lesson.

After a lesson on the creation of animals, allow each student to sculpt their own animal using a bar of Ivory soap and a toothpick.

Find other art/craft ideas appropriate for a Sunday Church School class athttp://www.pinterest.com/aodce/crafts/.

Writing ideas:

Study the writings of Orthodox Christian writers (see any Orthodox Christian bookstore,http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/Indexes/orthwriterx.php, or http://myocn.net/orthodox-christian-writers/ for ideas) together as a class.

Provide a variety of authors’ writings about the topic of interest, across history, and study them together as a class.

Invite students to write a letter in response to the lesson.

Give students a journal that stays in the classroom, where they can write notes or responses to each class.

Allow students time to write a written re-telling of the story or theme of the class.

Provide letter paper, and have the students write a letter to their parents or someone who they think needs to hear what they just learned about in class.

Ask your priest for the addresses of shut-ins and spend time writing cheering notes to them after studying Matthew 25. Mail the notes if you cannot take them in person.

These ideas are just a few of the millions of ways in which the arts can be incorporated into the Sunday Church School class. Because the arts have such an impact on the integration of learned subject matter, let us work diligently to include them in our classes. Our students will enjoy the process, our classrooms will be more beautiful, and (best of all) our students will learn more than ever!

Find more reasons for using art in the classroom here:http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/art-classroom

Here is an article on using the arts in Sunday Church School; specifically with special needs students: http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_crd_ss_EforESpec_Using-Art-to-Teach-Biblical-Truths_pdf.pdf

Find articles about Holy Cross graduates practicing the sacred arts of iconography and the music of the Church in the December 2012 edition of “Together Again” magazine:http://www.hchc.edu/assets/files/Alumni%20Relations/TogetherAgain_Dec2012.pdf. The links to these Orthodox artists’ websites can inspire ideas of ways to use the arts in your Sunday Church School class. 

On Incorporating Poetry, Art, and Writing into Sunday Church School

Educators are always looking for ways to improve the learning experience for their students. Sunday Church School teachers should also be ever evaluating their teaching methods and seeking ideas of ways to improve. This note will offer suggestions to Sunday Church School teachers of one way to enhance the learning environment in their Sunday Church School classes: by incorporating the arts into their lessons.

“Studies clearly show the impact of arts on engaging and motivating students. The direct connection between participation in arts education and student achievement, although more difficult to prove, is also evident.” (from http://www.artinaction.org/w/whyart. Seehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/22/top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/ for specific ways that children benefit from the arts.) Motivating and thought provoking, the arts allow students to think differently while using a variety of learning styles. All of these reasons strengthen the case for utilizing them in classrooms, including the Sunday Church School room!

The term “the Arts” covers a wide range of disciplines, covering everything from art to writing to theater to dance. In the interest of brevity, this article will offer ideas for incorporating only some of them into the Sunday Church School class: specifically poetry, art, and writing.  The ideas listed here are far from comprehensive, but are offered as a springboard to stimulate ideas of how Sunday Church School teachers can incorporate the arts into their classroom.

Poetry ideas:

Read poems written by Orthodox authors and talk about them.

Study a Bible story written in poetry form.

Read through the Psalms and discuss the poetry of King David.

At the end of a lesson about kindness, have the students write an acrostic poem for the word “kindness”.

After a lesson on Sampson’s life, help the students write their own riddles.

Encourage students to write a shape poem in the shape of the chalice, after studying Holy Communion.

For more ideas on kinds of poetry to write/use in the classroom, visithttps://www.youngwriters.co.uk/glossary-poetry-types.

Art ideas:

Invite artists in the parish to share their work (especially any that relates to what the class is currently studying) with the students.

Although they are not technically “works of art,” icons are beautifully written and should be ever present in the Sunday Church School room. They also should be available for study as they relate to stories from scripture or saints that are being studied in the class.
Invite students to draw a response to the lesson.

Provide a variety of raw materials, and encourage the students to create a collage related to the lesson.

After a lesson on the creation of animals, allow each student to sculpt their own animal using a bar of Ivory soap and a toothpick.

Find other art/craft ideas appropriate for a Sunday Church School class athttp://www.pinterest.com/aodce/crafts/.

Writing ideas:

Study the writings of Orthodox Christian writers (see any Orthodox Christian bookstore,http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/Indexes/orthwriterx.php, or http://myocn.net/orthodox-christian-writers/ for ideas) together as a class.

Provide a variety of authors’ writings about the topic of interest, across history, and study them together as a class.

Invite students to write a letter in response to the lesson.

Give students a journal that stays in the classroom, where they can write notes or responses to each class.

Allow students time to write a written re-telling of the story or theme of the class.

Provide letter paper, and have the students write a letter to their parents or someone who they think needs to hear what they just learned about in class.

Ask your priest for the addresses of shut-ins and spend time writing cheering notes to them after studying Matthew 25. Mail the notes if you cannot take them in person.

These ideas are just a few of the millions of ways in which the arts can be incorporated into the Sunday Church School class. Because the arts have such an impact on the integration of learned subject matter, let us work diligently to include them in our classes. Our students will enjoy the process, our classrooms will be more beautiful, and (best of all) our students will learn more than ever!

Find more reasons for using art in the classroom here:http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/art-classroom

Here is an article on using the arts in Sunday Church School; specifically with special needs students: http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_crd_ss_EforESpec_Using-Art-to-Teach-Biblical-Truths_pdf.pdf

Find articles about Holy Cross graduates practicing the sacred arts of iconography and the music of the Church in the December 2012 edition of “Together Again” magazine:http://www.hchc.edu/assets/files/Alumni%20Relations/TogetherAgain_Dec2012.pdf. The links to these Orthodox artists’ websites can inspire ideas of ways to use the arts in your Sunday Church School class. 

Gleanings from a Book: “The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms” by Annalisa Boyd

“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

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

As a rule, adults have so many obligations, so many places to go, and so much work to do. Sunday Church School teachers willingly add lesson planning and caring for their students to their long “to-do” lists, as well. With so many responsibilities, how can we find time to “pray without ceasing”? Annalisa Boyd meets that question head-on in the introduction to her uplifting and helpful book, The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms. “No matter how little time we feel we have, we can always take a moment to pray. Learning all or some of the daily prayers… will help you take advantage of even those fleeting moments to pray.” (p. 26)

This book is aimed at Orthodox moms who want to prayerfully raise their children in the Faith; but it is equally useful to any Orthodox Christian, male or female, who works with children and desires to see these children raised in the Faith. The heartening chapters at the beginning of the book set the reader’s mind at ease that he/she is not the only one going through tough circumstances or wondering how on earth to live her Faith in the midst of the mundane tasks of life. The bulk of the book is the myriad of prayers for various situations, which have been carefully gathered and organized by topic, and can therefore be easily found. The book includes basic daily prayers, prayers for times of trouble, prayers for the sick, preparation for confession, prayers of blessing and thankfulness, prayers through the stages of motherhood, prayers for godchildren and other “bonus” children, prayers for the future, and more.

A highlight of the book (and the largest chapter of all), titled “Tea Time at the Abyss”, references this quote:

“Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.” ~ Elder Sophrony of Essex

In this chapter’s introduction, Boyd reassures the reader, “Let us step back and take tea together … Of course we may not be able to sit at each other’s tables and sip a perfectly steeped pot together, but we can pray for one another and be an encouragement. We can make a pot of gratitude for all the Lord has blessed us with and sip it throughout the day through prayer and the reading of His word. We can choose to face the difficulties, in the strength of Christ our Lord and lay down the idea that we must somehow bear it all. How freeing is that thought alone? May we take hold of even the smallest moments each day to enter into prayer, allowing us to step back and drink in Christ, for He promises to quench our thirst and give us His peace. Thank God!” (p. 38-39) The rest of the chapter lists topics from “Addiction” to “Special Needs,” which include quotes from scriptures and saints, as well as prayers related to each topic. (Note: some of the prayers in this book are prayers prescribed by the Church. Others are “simply prayers from the heart of one mama to another… (to) be used for encouragement and to promote your own personal prayer time with Our Lord.” ~ pp. 11-12)

This book is a wonderful resource for anyone who works closely with children. While it is aimed primarily at mothers, most of the quotes and prayers will be just as uplifting and useful for fathers or teachers, as well. It will be a much-used companion to anyone who adds it to their library and then faithfully uses it to help them to “pray without ceasing.”

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms by Annalisa Boyd is available for purchase here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-ascetic-lives-of-mothers/

Follow the author’s blog, “The Ascetic Lives of Mothers,” here:http://theasceticlivesofmothers.blogspot.com/

Gleanings from a Book: “The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms” by Annalisa Boyd

“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

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

As a rule, adults have so many obligations, so many places to go, and so much work to do. Sunday Church School teachers willingly add lesson planning and caring for their students to their long “to-do” lists, as well. With so many responsibilities, how can we find time to “pray without ceasing”? Annalisa Boyd meets that question head-on in the introduction to her uplifting and helpful book, The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms. “No matter how little time we feel we have, we can always take a moment to pray. Learning all or some of the daily prayers… will help you take advantage of even those fleeting moments to pray.” (p. 26)

This book is aimed at Orthodox moms who want to prayerfully raise their children in the Faith; but it is equally useful to any Orthodox Christian, male or female, who works with children and desires to see these children raised in the Faith. The heartening chapters at the beginning of the book set the reader’s mind at ease that he/she is not the only one going through tough circumstances or wondering how on earth to live her Faith in the midst of the mundane tasks of life. The bulk of the book is the myriad of prayers for various situations, which have been carefully gathered and organized by topic, and can therefore be easily found. The book includes basic daily prayers, prayers for times of trouble, prayers for the sick, preparation for confession, prayers of blessing and thankfulness, prayers through the stages of motherhood, prayers for godchildren and other “bonus” children, prayers for the future, and more.

A highlight of the book (and the largest chapter of all), titled “Tea Time at the Abyss”, references this quote:

“Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.” ~ Elder Sophrony of Essex

In this chapter’s introduction, Boyd reassures the reader, “Let us step back and take tea together … Of course we may not be able to sit at each other’s tables and sip a perfectly steeped pot together, but we can pray for one another and be an encouragement. We can make a pot of gratitude for all the Lord has blessed us with and sip it throughout the day through prayer and the reading of His word. We can choose to face the difficulties, in the strength of Christ our Lord and lay down the idea that we must somehow bear it all. How freeing is that thought alone? May we take hold of even the smallest moments each day to enter into prayer, allowing us to step back and drink in Christ, for He promises to quench our thirst and give us His peace. Thank God!” (p. 38-39) The rest of the chapter lists topics from “Addiction” to “Special Needs,” which include quotes from scriptures and saints, as well as prayers related to each topic. (Note: some of the prayers in this book are prayers prescribed by the Church. Others are “simply prayers from the heart of one mama to another… (to) be used for encouragement and to promote your own personal prayer time with Our Lord.” ~ pp. 11-12)

This book is a wonderful resource for anyone who works closely with children. While it is aimed primarily at mothers, most of the quotes and prayers will be just as uplifting and useful for fathers or teachers, as well. It will be a much-used companion to anyone who adds it to their library and then faithfully uses it to help them to “pray without ceasing.”

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms by Annalisa Boyd is available for purchase here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-ascetic-lives-of-mothers/

Follow the author’s blog, “The Ascetic Lives of Mothers,” here:http://theasceticlivesofmothers.blogspot.com/

The Feast of the Elevation of the Cross (September 14)

Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, Sovereign Lord,
and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify!

The Elevation of the Cross commemorates both St. Helen’s discovery of Christ’s Cross in the fourth century, and its recovery from the Persians by Emperor Heraclius in the seventh century (at which time it was “elevated” in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem).

From this victory celebration on, the “universal elevation” of the Cross was celebrated annually in all of the Churches of the Christian Empire. The day of the feast became the national holiday of the Eastern Christian Empire, and on that day it was “elevated” by the priests and bishops. The Cross served as the official emblem of the Empire, and was displayed on all building and uniforms.

The Troparion of the feast was sung on all public occasions, as a “national anthem” of sorts, and originally petitioned God to save the people, grant victory in war, and preserve the Empire “by virtue of the Cross”. Today that Troparion, and all the hymns of the feast, are spiritualized: the adversaries are the spiritually wicked and sinful, including Satan and his armies, and the “Orthodox Christians” replace the ruling officials of the Empire.

This holy day, although is obviously has a political origin, remains with us as a day of prayer and fasting: the Cross is held up as the only symbol worthy of our total allegiance.

Adapted from The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

(used by permission, from http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/09-14.htm)

This week’s daily posts will offer suggestions of ways for you to help your Sunday Church School students to learn about and celebrate the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross.