Monthly Archives: June 2015

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 other resources for helping children who are experiencing grief:

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Find age-appropriate ideas for helping children through grief and tragedy here: http://www.goarch.org/special/september11/archival/youth/developmental

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Read an excellent and very personal article (based on Albert Rossi’s experience with his own children when his wife departed this life) on talking to children about death here: http://oca.org/the-hub/the-church-on-current-issues/talking-to-children-about-death

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Here are basic (Christian, but not specifically Orthodox) ideas of ways to help your child grieve: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/your-childs-emotions/how-to-help-your-child-grieve/how-to-help-your-child-grieve

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Always and Forever by Alan Durant discusses the death of a friend and how the memory of them helps them to live on in your heart. http://www.amazon.com/Always-Forever-Alan-Durant/dp/015216636X

After reading this book together, talk about how the friends ended up remembering fox and what they did in his memory. Then, discuss what we in the Orthodox Church do together to remember those who have departed this life (memorial services, koliva or bread, Saturday of Souls, Bright Monday graveside service, etc.). After that, do something together to remember the person who the child is grieving: make koliva together for their memorial service, make something the person enjoyed making or eating, go where the person enjoyed going, or do an act of service in their honor.

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Read I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm to help children talk about what happens when a pet dies. http://www.amazon.com/Ill-Always-Love-Hans-Wilhelm/dp/0517572656

Encouragement for Orthodox Christian Fathers

There are many definitions of the word “father.” Here are a few of them:

“Father:

b) A male whose impregnation of a female results in the birth of a child. c) A man who adopts a child. d) A man who raises a child.…

…A male ancestor: He has died and now sleeps with his fathers.…

…a) A man who creates, originates, or founds something: Chaucer is considered the father of English poetry. b) A man who serves or is thought of as a protector: beloved as the father of the nation.

Father-Christianity

…a) God. b)The first person of the Christian Trinity.

…One of the leading men, as of a city: the town fathers.

Abbr.- Fr.

…a) A priest or clergyman in the Roman Catholic or Anglican churches. b) Used as a title and form of address with or without the clergyman’s name.”

From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fathering.

It is our hope that the Orthodox Christian fathers in our community are fathers that exemplify many of the definitions above. An Orthodox Christian father needs to move beyond the mere biological portion of fatherhood to being the man who raises his child(ren), founds the little Church in his home, protects all therein, acts as Our Father (God) would act towards his child(ren), leads the family, and takes seriously the role of priest in his own home.

To encourage the fathers in our community, this week’s blog post focuses on Orthodox Christian parenting from a father’s perspective. Each link will offer thought-provoking ideas on fathering and encouragement to the fathers among us. May God bless all of you fathers, and grant you many years, as you raise your children in the Holy Orthodox Church!

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The Spiritual Aspects Of Fatherhood

by Al Rossi, Ph.D.

A conference participant once asked the speaker, “What is the best way for a father to love his children?” The speaker replied, “The best way for a father to love his children is to love their mother.” I reflect often upon that superbly accurate statement. And I think the reverse is equally true: the best way a mother can love her children is to love their father.

More than anything else in the world, children need a loving family and parents who support each other, even if the parents are apart through separation or divorce.

Christ challenges us to love one another, and that challenge becomes even more compelling within our own families. Even in the best of families, there is broken-ness. And that is why the man’s call to fatherhood is so important. We fathers are called to show our families strong, manly love and forgiveness, virtues modeled powerfully in the father of the prodigal son (Luke 11:32).

This father is stable, loving, and generous. In his fairness, he avoids violating the freedom of either of his sons. When the prodigal demands his inheritance and decides to leave, the father does not attempt to withhold the money. He does not pressure the son to stay by trying to make him feel guilty. And the father is wise enough not to send care packages to relieve the son’s distress. The father allows both of his adult sons to make their own mistakes and to learn from their failures, an appropriate form of discipline for older adolescents and young adults.

The prodigal’s father demonstrates manly leadership by taking loving initiatives, and he takes many such initiatives. He maintains a thriving business to provide the generous inheritance. He creates and supports a loving family for the prodigal to run from and for the older son to remain with. And there was his last generous, joyful initiative as he runs out to embrace the returning son, kiss him, and put on him the best robe, ring, and shoes. He celebrates the return of his son with a feast. And in a scene all of us fathers can recognize, he opens up the conversation with the sulking older son.

The father takes the initiative in bringing about forgiveness and reconciliation in the whole family. He is a model for us in responding to our call to follow the Spirit of Jesus in taking many initiatives in our families, especially that of boundless forgiveness for our children.

When a father takes responsibility for his own spiritual life, for the way he prays, goes to church, and practices virtue in the family, he gives good example. Then his leadership in the family is authentic, based on his own solid relationship with God, and he is less likely to be concerned about any resistance his children may give him. He can lead family prayer. When I suggest that we stand in the living room and pray before a trip or that we pray in a restaurant, I often feel an initial resistance in my children. But quiet cooperation and peacefulness soon follow. Sometimes the children will even tell me that they prayed in a restaurant when I wasn’t there.

At times the father’s role of leading the family to great forgiveness and prayerfulness is an unpopular one. But as a man grows in his own spiritual life, he becomes more sturdy and willing to accept responsibility. Although all this is impossible for us fathers to do alone, God can do all things. God can even bestow the awesome spiritual power of fatherhood upon us.

Dr. Albert Rossi is a Professor of Psychology at Pace University, Pleasantville, NY and has a private practice in family counseling. Reprinted with permission from Resource Handbook, Vol. II, 95.1, Department of Lay Ministry, Orthodox Church in America.

from http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/spirfrhd.htm

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Dad Time

You feel good when your kids treat you like a king on Father’s Day. But do you treat your kids like kings and queens by spending time with them the other 364 days of the year?

Paul Lewis, editor of Dads Only, squeezes time out of his schedule with these creative encounter ideas:

Body, arm, or even thumb wrestle your child

Help your child with a chore.

Talk about the values behind a TV program or commercial you’ve just watched.

Write a thank-you not of appreciation and encouragement to another significant adult in your child’s life, such as a Church School teacher, coach, or scout leader.

Give your child a back or foot rub.

“Kidnap” your child from school and have lunch together.

Together, fix and eat a bowl of popcorn.

Together, read aloud a chapter or psalm in the Bible.

Tell your child about five personal habits or traits you appreciate and admire in him/her.

Pray with your child about any problem.

Reprinted from Children’s Ministry Magazine. found at http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/dadtime.htm, used by permission.

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Smart Dads

Connect with your kids all year long-not just on Father’s Day. Paul Lewis, author of The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads ($15.99, Zondervan Publishing House), gives these tips:

Talk at bedtime. Jot down conversation-starters in a notebook. For example, ask your kids about a fear they felt today, their latest dreams, or what they’ll be like when they’re older. Note and date your children’s answers.

Take a “fun” poll. Ask: What’s the most fun we’ve had as a family in the past month? in the past year? ever? Have kids tell why and put a date on the calendar to do the events again.

Keep kids talking. Make a 20-minute recording of kids talking about topics such as weekend activities, the day at school, pets, hobbies, friends, and latest fads. Send a copy to grandparents and archive the original.

Get kids’ advice. Spark family dialogue by reading “Dear Abby” letters and debating the advice. Have family members suggest solutions. They may even be better than Abby’s advice!

Reprinted from For Parents Only, May/June 1995 (Children’s Ministry).

From http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/smartdad.htm. Used by permission.

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The following are links to other excellent resources for Orthodox Christian fathers. May they challenge each of their readers to be a more godly father!

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“In a world that values wealth and fame, the Christian father is called to remember that no matter what other accomplishments he has in his career or his life, the greatest influence he will have on the world will be as a father in how he shapes the souls of his children.” Find this quote in the context of an excellent article on fatherhood, in Praxis, written by Dr. Philip Mamalakis, from the Praxis archives, Winter 2008, “The Church at Home,” pp. 12-14. Download it here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis/praxisarchive

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Fr. Joseph Honeycutt shares a few things he learned in his almost 9 years as a stay-at-home parent in this podcast. Be sure to listen to the end to hear the excellent advice he received from his mother-in-law, and also from his bishop, when his first child was born: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodixie/father_mom

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Dads, whether or not you know it, you are pastoring a domestic church! Read Dr. Albert Rossi’s encouraging and helpful article on the subject here: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/pastor.htm

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Dads, how’s your inner life? What is its connection to your influence on your children? This interview will help you think about these questions and more! http://myocn.net/expectations-of-fatherhood-today/

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“I believe being a father means creating a world… I draw on a communion of artists and saints to shape our children’s imaginations, hearts, and minds with the wonder of God. My calling as a father is to create space for myself and my family to discover the wonder of God. I believe I’m called to both model and create an environment that encourages curiosity about God and his world. For where there is curiosity, there will be discovery. And where discovery of God’s beauty happens in its many and varied forms, there will be wonder and joy. And that joy–created, given, and shared–is what fatherhood in the Kingdom of God is all about.” http://www.knoxpriest.com/fatherhood-means-creating-world/ (The article is not written by an Orthodox father, but is still well worth the read!)

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Dads, if God has blessed you with children, there are things He wants your children to learn from you (and vice versa)! After all, we are placed in families for our salvation. Here are a few (not written by Orthodox dads, but still worthy of consideration) suggestions of what your children should learn from you:

8 basics every dad should teach his sons: http://matthewljacobson.com/2013/09/30/future-men-8-basics-every-dad-should-teach-his-son/

12 things daughters need their parents to say to them: http://emilypfreeman.com/12-things-your-daughter-needs-you-to-say/

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God is our Perfect Father, and no earthly dad can measure up to His infinite goodness. But dads who love God can learn much from Him, and imitate Him to the best of their ability! Here are ideas of 3 characteristics of a Godly father: http://www.imperfecthomemaker.com/2014/06/3-characteristics-godly-father.html#_a5y_p=1847102

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Ideas for Honoring Fathers on Father’s Day

Since Father’s Day is just around the bend, this week’s blog will focus on ideas for ways to celebrate dads. Suggestions include activities, foods, and gifts. A little planning ahead can help to make Father’s Day a great celebration of the fathers in our midst. Enjoy planning and celebrating!

Celebrating Father’s Day

As a family, remember Dad with these ideas:

Write a thank you note to God for all of Dad’s attributes. Then give him the note.
Make a large Father’s Day card by clipping articles and photos, then make a pictorial collage.
Prepare dinner with Dad’s favorite food. Decorate his chair like a throne. Have children make menus and “play restaurant” by serving the meal at a candlelit table.
Draw a comic strip featuring what you love about Dad. Post it where he can see it.
Wash, wax, and clean the interior of the car.
Bake a batch of Dad’s favorite cookies.
Rent a favorite video, pop a batch of popcorn, and watch the video together.
Have an art show of drawings or paintings of Dad.

Adapted from For Parents Only, May/June 1995 (Children’s Ministry).

© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).

From http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/secular/fordad.htm, used by permission.
Here are more ideas of ways to bless a father on Father’s Day:

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Find one Orthodox Christian mom’s gathering of ideas for Father’s Day gifts here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2013/06/12/diy-fathers-day-gift-ideas/

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At http://eighteen25.com/2012/05/free-download-book-for-dad/ and at  http://www.hellowonderful.co/post/KID-MADE-FREE-PRINTABLE-FATHER—-S-DAY-BOOK#_a5y_p=3862808 find printable books that kids can draw on and write to finish for Dad, for Father’s Day.

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Instead of a card, invite children to decorate this fun poster for dad: http://www.confettisunshine.com/2014/05/free-printable-fathers-day-poster.html

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Children can draw a (reversible) picture with fabric crayons. Have an adult use an iron to transfer the crayon drawings onto a tie for dad. http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/13123/fathers-day-ties#

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Fill a “six pack” (of treats) for dad, and a bunch of other ideas here: http://99crafting.co/fathers-day-crafts/

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Find clever, cute, and free printables for dads at http://www.the36thavenue.com/fathers-day-gifts-ideas/

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Make dad “dessert in a jar” http://www.livinglocurto.com/2013/06/fathers-day-gift-dessert-printables/. (The materials for this project can easily make more than one gift. It would work well if you have several men you wish to honor, or if you are working with a group of children.)

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Give dad a gift that offers hours of ideas for fun interaction with his kids. Purchase a book with science project directions, the ingredients for a few of the projects, and a box to store everything. This gift will be used over and over, and offer opportunities for dad/kid fun! (If dad isn’t a science fan, consider basing the project on an art book, a craft book, a game ideas book, etc.) http://curlybirds.typepad.com/curly-birds/2011/06/fathers-day-gift-activity-tub.html

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Find a variety of sweet homemade Father’s Day gift ideas here: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/20-fathers-day-gift-ideas-with-kids/

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Even a small child can help to make this yummy dessert for dad on Father’s Day: http://www.thediaryofdaveswife.com/2012/06/13/fathers-day-fruit-pizza/

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Here’s a simple but beautiful Father’s Day project that can be made by a child who likes to sew: http://teachbesideme.com/dad-string-art/?utm_content=buffer0e116&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Instead of giving dad a “thing” for Father’s Day this year, consider making a contribution in his honor to the IOCC (https://www.iocc.org/giving/giving_honorgifts1.aspx) or the OCMC (http://www.ocmc.org/donate/index.aspx)!

On the Beauty of Nature: Noticing God’s Handiwork

Summertime offers us plenty of opportunities to spend time out of doors with our Sunday Church School students or other children. While we are outside, whether with children or alone, let us be careful to take time to look at the world around us. Let us not just see God’s workmanship, but let us take time to actually notice it! Let us marvel at the beauty, wonder at the intricacies, and find God in His handiwork. As a rule, our busy society has removed “time to smell the roses” from our schedules. The change in schedule that summer offers grants us the opportunity to actually take back that time, and to teach the children in our care to do the same.

Let us teach children to love creation.Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.~ Starets Zosima, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. To some degree this comes naturally to children. After all, they are usually the ones bringing a crumpled flower (or bug!) in their fist and proclaiming, “Look what I found!” Perhaps what we really need here is to allow children time and space to be in creation. Or maybe what we need is for them to (re)teach us to love creation!?!

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Let us urge children to nurture their sense of wonder. St Silouan urges us to ‘love every created thing; and emphasizes the beauty of nature. From my childhood days I loved the world and its beauty. I loved the woods and green gardens, I loved the fields and all the beauty of God’s creation. I liked to watch the shining clouds scurrying across the blue sky.’ If we lose our sense of wonder before the beauty of nature, so he believed, this suggests that we have at the same time lost our sense of God’s grace. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). Read more at http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2314168.html. I don’t know about you, but my very being sighs in delight as I wander (and wonder) in a woods. God’s creation is filled with wonder. We must not miss it; and it is imperative that we nurture it in the children’s lives!

Let us encourage the children in our care to treat all living things with compassion. “The compassionate love of St Silouan extends beyond animals to plants: ‘Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees’ (Revelation 7:3). On one occasion when the two of them were walking together, Fr Sophrony struck out with his stick at a clump of tall wild grass. The Starets said nothing, but he shook his head doubtfully; and at once Fr Sophrony was ashamed. In his own writings St Silouan says: ‘That green leaf on the tree which you needlessly plucked – it was not wrong, only rather a pity for the little leaf. The heart that has learned to love feels sorry for every created thing.Nurturing care for even the smallest of God’s creatures will help children to be more compassionate and better people! Respect for others and for God’s creation go hand in hand, and should be taught together.

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Let us learn from the lessons that God has for us in nature. “When you walk in a forest, garden, or meadow, and see the young shoots of the plants, the fruits on the trees, and the variety of the flowers of the field, learn a lesson from God’s plants–namely, the lesson that every tree each summer unfailingly puts forth at least one shoot of considerable size, and unfailingly grows in height and dimensions. It seems as though every tree endeavors each year to advance by the strength that God has given it; therefore, say to yourself, I, too, must each day, each year, absolutely grow higher and higher morally, better and better, more and more perfect; must advance on the road to the Kingdom of Heaven, or to the Father which is in Heaven, through the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit dwelling and working within me. As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue; as the trees bring forth flowers and afterwards fruit, so must my soul bring forth the fruits of faith and good works. ~ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ, from http://www.antiochian.org/content/february-6-2013-prayerfulness-sight-nature. Teaching children to notice how determined plants grow amongst rocks; how hard an ant works; how stubbornly birds insist on flying in a biting wind; each lesson can strengthen their faith. Each part of nature gives us the chance to teach the children (and be taught, ourselves) about the greatness of God and how we should respond to it!

By “taking time to smell the roses” and actually seeing what God has placed right before our eyes in nature, and by teaching our the children in our care to do the same, we can grow together towards God. Nature offers us the opportunity to perceive the divine mystery in things, to have a better sense of God’s grace, and to have compassion on all living things. The lessons we learn from nature can make us more virtuous and result in stronger faith and good works coming forth from our lives. So, let’s go! Let’s get outside! Let’s see what God has made, and marvel at His goodness!

And let’s take the children with us…

Here are more quotes on the beauty of nature and how it points us to God. Read them for your own encouragement, or discuss them with your students.

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“Now in the springtime, when nature is wearing its most beautiful apparel, one feels inexpressible joy when this natural beauty is accompanied by a sublime spiritual state. Truly, our holy God has made all things in wisdom!” (http://lightofdesert.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-salvation-and-paradise-elder-ephraim.html)

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“The soul cannot get enough of beholding the beauty of nature. Oh, if man would only lift his mind above this earthly realm to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the inconceivable beauty of paradise where the finite, earthly mind ceases to operate… There every saved soul will live in an ocean of love, sweetness, joy, amazement, and wonder!” (http://lightofdesert.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-salvation-and-paradise-elder-ephraim.html)

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“Do not forget your goal, my child. Look into heaven and see the beauty that awaits us. What are the present, earthly things? Aren’t they but ashes and dust and a dream? Don’t we see that everything here is subject to decay? Whereas things above are everlasting, the kingdom of God is endless, and blessed is he who will dwell in it, for he will behold the glory of His divine face!” (http://lightofdesert.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-salvation-and-paradise-elder-ephraim.html)

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“ O Lord, how good it is for us to be Thy guests! How fine it is for us in Thy world. The fields are fragrant, the mountains rise high up into the sky, and the golden rays of sun and the light clouds are reflected in the water. All nature mysteriously speaks about Thee, all is filled with Thy mercy and all carries the seal of Thy love. Blessed be the earth which, with her short-lasting beauty, awakens the yearning for the eternal homeland in Thy kingdom, where in everlasting beauty resounds the song: Alleluia!” Kontakion 2, “Akathist of Thanksgiving” http://www.orthodox.net/akathists/akathist-thanksgiving.html

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“Thou broughtest me into this life as if into a wonderful garden. I see the sky deep and blue, the birds as they chirp in flight; I listen to the soothing rustle of trees and the sonorous sound of waters; my mouth is enjoying fragrant and succulent fruits. How wonderful it is in Thy world and how joyous it is to be Thy guest!

Glory to Thee for the feast of life!

Glory to Thee for the scents of lilies of the valley and roses.

Glory to Thee for the abundance and multiplicity of earthly fruits.

Glory to Thee for the glistening of morning dew.

Glory to Thee for the joyous smile of dawn / with which Thou dost waken me.

Glory to Thee for eternal life / and the kingdom of heaven.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!” Ikos 2, “Akathist of Thanksgiving” http://www.orthodox.net/akathists/akathist-thanksgiving.html

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Read Fr. George Morelli’s take on the relationship between beauty and the Divine in this article: “Beauty, the Divine Connection: Psychospiritual Reflections,” at http://www.antiochian.org/node/23896

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