Category Archives: Parenting

Gleanings from a Book: “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis

(Author’s note: This book is written for parents. We have chosen to include it in this blog anyway, because of how involved we as Sunday Church School teachers are in our students’ lives. Many of the principles of this book can be applied in the Sunday Church School room as well as in the home.)

I was so excited when I learned that this book was in the works! Before reading it, I had great expectations: I anticipated that it would be filled with gentle nudges towards godliness based both on years of education and personal experience. I knew that the wisdom in this book would be presented in a practical way backed by the in-the-trenches research that life with 7 children offers to their parents. And once I received and read the book, I was not at all disappointed!

My expectations for this book were the result of personal experience. Our family had the privilege of meeting the Mamalakis family at Family Camp at the Antiochian Village years ago when they were the featured presenters for the parent sessions. We learned so much from Dr. Mamalakis (and from his lovely wife, Georgia) while we were together. My husband and I could step out of the parent sessions and immediately apply the concepts we had just discussed. Our family is the better for having learned these principles, however imperfectly we have applied them. (An aside: We also benefitted from watching the Mamalakis parents apply the principles they had shared, as they interacted with their children over the course of the family camp sessions. It is a joy to watch these parents lovingly guide their children using the principles! There is an abundance of love in Mamalakis family, and these principles allow them to parent their children in the context of that great love. It is a joy to experience.)
But I digress. Let’s get back to the book. “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” outlines the principles that the Mamalakis family has followed:

  1. Always parent with the end in mind.
  2. Respond, don’t react.
  3. Understand struggles in terms of the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God.
  4. Separate feelings from behaviors.
  5. Teach the joy of obedience.
  6. Teach the joy of repentance.

Each principle has a chapter (or four!) of the book dedicated to it. Every chapter takes an in-depth look at the principle and cites personal experiences or related stories. The stories and examples make this book very accessible to its readers. The principles can be immediately applied, just as my husband and I experienced when we sat under the Mamalakis’ teachings at Family Camp. I would highly recommend this book to any parent or educator who wants to lovingly guide the children in their care in a godly manner. The book would be a great Adult Sunday Church School curriculum, parish book study, or parenting class text.

“Parenting Toward the Kingdom” is easy read. However, its principles will take a lifetime to apply. May God help (and forgive!) all of us as we parent, grandparent, godparent, and otherwise raise His children towards His Kingdom!

Here are a few quotes from the book, to give you a taste of its contents. Purchase your own copy at http://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/.

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“…children are not problems to be solved but persons to be loved and guided.” (p. 13)

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“The only way to learn patience and self-control is to live or interact with someone who tries your patience and tempts you to react. The spiritual life is a struggle to learn how to lvoe as Christ loves, with Christ’s love.” (p. 89)

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“For children who struggle the most, let’s say with boredom in church, cleaning their room, or being patient, it is unfair to compare their behavior with others who don’t struggle in those areas. If our goal is to have children learn the struggle, then we must recognize their efforts as much as the outcome.” (p. 107)

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“The key to setting good limits is to be clear, consistent, firm, and matter of fact.” (p. 157)

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“Stay focused on effort or the virtues you are trying to instill. When children see that we are not mad at them for struggling, they learn that our love is unconditional and our expectations real.” (p. 206)

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“We teach the joy of obedience by helping our children see that obedience is not something just for children. Obedience to God’s commandments is the path for all, parents and children alike… When children feel connected to their parents and see their parents living in obedience to God, they internalize obedience to God as the path of life.” (p. 264)

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Gleanings from a Book: “Orthodox Christian Parenting Cultivating God’s Creation” By Marie Eliades

We recently discovered the book Orthodox Christian Parenting – Cultivating God’s Creation by Marie L. Eliades, published by Zoe Press in 2012. This book is a compilation of quotes and writings about raising and educating Orthodox Christian children. The text is gathered both from Church fathers and contemporary Orthodox Christians, and is presented by theme. (An important note: the introduction to the book tells more about the project and encourages readers to discuss what they read with their spiritual father to see what is best for their own family.)

Themes include:

“The Bigger Picture” (addresses why the book’s content is important)

“Marriage and New Beginnings” (sets the foundation for a new Orthodox family, and offers Orthodox perspectives on infertility/pregnancy/childbirth/adoption/loss of a child)

“Raising our Children” (speaks to childrearing from early childhood through youth)

“In the House of the Lord” (offers the basics of Orthodox family life at Church and at home)

“Adolescence and Growing Up” (talks about the issues and challenges that older children and their related adults face)

“So, They’re Leaving Home” (suggestions for launching a young adult)

We found many encouraging and challenging quotes throughout the book, and will share a few of them with you. This book will be of great benefit to any Orthodox Christians who marry, raise children, and/or teach children about the Faith. We recommend that people in those categories consider reading the book because of its insights into what the Church has taught about raising and teaching children of all ages.

Find the book here: http://www.shop.zoepress.us/Orthodox-Christian-Parenting-Cultivating-Gods-Creation-978-0-9851915-0-4.htm

Here are a few quotes from the book:

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“Saint John [Chrysostom] says that the souls of children are soft and delicate like wax. If right teachings are impressed upon them from the beginning, then with time these impressions harden as in the case of a waxen seal. None will be able to undo this good impression… There is no more wonderful material with which to work than the souls of children. Parents create ensouled icons of God, living statues.” (p. 24)

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From a section from St. Porphyrios:
“Teach the children to seek God’s help. The great secret for children’s progress is humility. Trust in God gives perfect security. God is everything. No one can say that I am everything. That cultivates egotism. God desires us to lead children to humility. Without humility neither we nor our children will achieve anything. You need to be careful when you encourage children. You shouldn’t say to a child, ‘You’ll succeed, you’re great, you’re young, your fearless, you’re perfect!’ This is not good for the child. You can tell the child and say, ‘The talents you have, have been given to you by God. Pray and God will give you strength to cultivate them and in that way you will succeed. God will give you His grace.’ That is the best way. Children should learn to seek God’s help in everything.” (p. 86)

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From a section from St. Porphyrios:
“Young people these days say, ‘You need to understand us!’ But we mustn’t conform to their ideas. On the contrary, we need to pray for them, to say what is right, to live by what is right, and proclaim what is right, and not conform ourselves to their way of thinking. We mustn’t compromise the magnificence of our faith… We need to remain the people that we are and proclaim the truth and the light. The children will learn from the holy Fathers. The teaching of the Fathers will instruct our children about Confession, about the passions, about evils and about how the saints conquered their evil selves. And we will pray that God will enter into them.” (p. 90)

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“The Orthodox educator does not project himself as superior because he sees his own self as more sinful than everyone. His students teach him. He cooperates harmoniously with his colleagues; he bases the success of his work on prayer. He educates himself daily in order to be able to educate his little brothers in Christ. How different is this model of educator from that of the various educated people of our age who often, ignoring the education of the Three Hierarchs, set out with a  luciferian egotism of knowledge, of projection, of worldly wisdom and often more based on their individual net worth. In fact, the Three Hierarchs as brilliant stars can serve to enlighten the darkness of our age, to cast light on the facts of ‘education’ of which our purported leaders of education are entirely unaware.” (p. 135)

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“Orthodox holy Tradition teaches us humility, obedience, repentance and love. Tradition can only be passed on by example. ‘Youth ministers’ will not be able to communicate much about Orthodox spirituality unless the young ones are actually seeing this happen in the home or at least in the homes of other church members. SOMEBODY actually has to start living Tradition in order for it to be conveyed. It is no wonder that the Greek word for Tradition, ‘paradosis,’ means to pass along or hand down something that is living and active.” (p. 160)

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From a section by Fr. Artemy Vladimirov:

“We very much pity those Orthodox Christians who think that the best rest for their exhausted soul is to watch television news. This isn’t a bad thing, perhaps, but it’s a dead thing. You may spend all of the earthly time you have been allotted with such distractions, but you will never be at peace. If you want to calm your mind and ease your heart, try calling instead on the most holy name of Jesus Christ, without haste and with only one intent: to attract His attention and repent of your sins.

“Try taking a walk for ten minutes as you invoke his miracle-working name, and you will see spiritual profit. Begin in a simple, humble manner, ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ You may even do this somewhat mechanically, knowing that this tradition has been sanctified by generations of saints, but as you walk and pray, try not to think of anything else. Just walk in the presence of God.

“In these ten minutes you will find that your fevered mind is soothed, that the noisy bazaar of your thoughts has become light, clear, and direct…” (p. 201)

A Handful of Helpful Books

At the the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education, we are always on the lookout for great resources for parents. Whenever we discover some that will be beneficial, we do our best to pass them on to you! This week’s blog is about a handful of books that have come to our attention recently. They are written for children at a variety of ages. We hope that you find them helpful. We also hope to periodically offer you more “handfuls” of books that come our way!

13064502_10208132571623813_5266007699731931930_oFor the youngest children among us, we have found the board book called What Do You See at Liturgy? By Kristina Kallas-Tartara. This brightly-colored board book is filled with pictures of what a child will see when they go to the Divine Liturgy. The text is simple, with a delightful rhyming pattern. The photos are basic, featuring only the item being discussed on a white background, but the colorful photos are crisp and engaging. This book is the perfect size for little hands, and offers us an opportunity to help our wee ones enter into the service when their attention needs to be redirected. To learn more about this book, and/or to purchase it for a little one in your life, visit https://www.etsy.com/listing/196402444/what-do-you-see-at-liturgy-orthodox?ref=shop_home_listings.

13062316_10208132571223803_2347741077465837668_nYou may remember our blog post about Marjorie Kunch’s book, When My Baba Died. (Check out the blog if you missed it before, so that you are aware of this wonderful resource for parents to use to help their preschool-through-elementary-aged children learn about an Orthodox funeral: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/gleanings-from-a-book-when-my-baba-died-by-marjorie-kunch/.) We recently learned that Marjorie Kunch has also published a companion workbook to go with the book! When My Baba Died Activity Workbook is a full-sized workbook that parents and children can read through and complete together as a way to familiarize children with the Orthodox Christian funeral service and its components. The activity workbook has activities at a variety of levels, for many different ages of readers. Among other activities, there are coloring pages, drawing spaces, places to process the experience through writing, word searches, prayers to pray together, and even a recipe for Koliva! This activity book partners well with the book itself and will be helpful for parents to use to help their children learn more about what happens when a loved one departs this life. We recommend reading and working through these books before a child experiences a loss. It could also work to have them on hand to use in the event of a loss, but when such a difficult time happens to a family, there is so much going on that it may be challenging to even find the time to process in this way. That is why we recommend using them before a child’s first experience with the departure of a loved one. If your Sunday Church School class has read and worked in these books together, when a family member departs this life for one of your students, their parents will be able to pull these books out and revisit them, pointing out, “remember talking and learning about this? See, this is what we will experience with grandpa’s funeral today…” To purchase either book, or both of them together, visit http://www.paschapress.com/services.html.

13051693_10208132570823793_4281369946063680263_nSeveral years ago when it was first published, we asked two young people to evaluate Hear Me: A Prayer Book for Orthodox Teens, written/compiled by Annalisa Boyd. You may have read their evaluations here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/hearme. The third book we want to feature in this handful is the second edition of Hear Me. This edition is a smaller size at 4”x6”, so it is quite comfortable to hold and easy to fit in a backpack or a back pocket. Although it is smaller, the new edition contains additional prayers. It also answers more questions that young people have, and it tackles even more of the difficult subjects that young people face. This tiny book contains much needed help for our high school and young adult children, sweetly wrapped in a pleasant, “able-to-be-used-in-public-by-young-people” cover. 12932769_10208132571023798_421223402898251662_nIt is an excellent addition to any Orthodox Christian young person’s library. Purchase one (or a handful) for the youth in your life here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/hear-me-a-prayer-book-for-orthodox-young-adults/

So, there is our current handful of helpful books. What books have you recently found helpful that the rest of our community may benefit from? We’d love to know what is in YOUR hand! Please comment below to share your suggestions with the rest of us! Thank you in advance!

Here are a few more resources related to each of the above books. You will find additional educational ideas and spiritual encouragement at each site. Pass the links on to the parents of the children in your Sunday Church School class as well, if you think they would benefit from visiting these pages!

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What Do You See at Liturgy? By Kristina Kallas-Tartara is a lovely little board book about church and is worth noting of its own accord. However, it led us also to the the author’s blog page, called “Raising Orthodox Christians” (https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/). The blog is a wonderful resource of its own! Check out the page to find blogs about Orthodoxy, teaching children, activities that will help children to learn more about the Faith, and recipes for allergy-friendly fasting.

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Follow Pascha Press (the publisher of the When My Baba Died Activity Workbook ) on Facebook for encouragement, tidbits of humor, and additional resources related to parenting and/or the departure of loved ones. https://www.facebook.com/paschapress/?fref=ts

A side note: the publisher selects an Orthodox-related charity to receive a tithe of their income for each quarter of the year! Find out the current charity at http://www.paschapress.com/about.html.

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Annalisa Boyd, the author of Hear Me, has also written two other books: The Ascetic Lives of Mothers and Special Agents of Christ. Both are wonderful resources for Orthodox Christian families. She also offers many ideas and encouragements for moms/parents/teachers in her podcast at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/asceticlives and on her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theasceticlivesofmothers/timeline.

 

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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On the Cross of Christ and Leading Children Through Holy Week

We are rapidly approaching Holy Week, the most wonderful week of the Orthodox Christian Church year! It is a truly holy and deeply meaningful week. Experiencing the events of Holy Week is the best possible preparation for celebrating the deep joy of Pascha.

The reality of Christ’s death on the cross is a very real part of our journey on this particular week of the year. It is difficult enough for an adult to wrestle with the idea of God Himself enduring such pain and death. With children and their many questions added into the mix, Holy Week can be a real challenge for parents to face.

As we thought about Holy Week, the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education thought it would be helpful to offer ideas and suggestions for parents preparing to enter into the week with their children. We asked a variety of people to offer their wisdom and insights. This blog will offer a compilation of their answers.

Many thanks to Father Peter Pier (parish priest at St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA), Annalisa Boyd (parent and author), Carol Federoff (homeschooling parent, blogger, and writer), Dr. Chrissi Hart (parent, child psychologist, podcaster, and author), Molly Sabourin (parent, blogger, podcaster, and photographer), and Rebekah Yergo (homeschooling parent and Sunday Church School Director) for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Their insights will help us to better prepare ourselves and our children for what we are about to experience. (And their roles are far more numerous than those listed here!)

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We will begin with the subject of death. Death is a significant part of Holy Week. It is unavoidable, and can be a very difficult topic for some people, especially children, to encounter. But Holy Week cannot happen without it! After we hear about what death, we will move through questions about why Christ had to die, what was significant about Him dying on a cross. We asked our contributors how they explained Christ’s death to their children and what ideas they have for others who are teaching children about Christ’s crucifixion. Finally, we asked them for ideas of how to prepare our children for Holy Week. Here are some of their responses to our questions:

AODCE: What ideas do you have for parents and teachers as they approach the difficult subject of death with their children?

Dr. Hart: “There are developmental considerations here – depending on the child’s age. Children under six do not have a sense of finality of death [and] so [they] do not fully understand death. Ask children what they think happens when we die. We believe that from death there is new everlasting life, with Christ. Death is not something to be feared.  Just as Christ was resurrected from the dead, so we will [rise] also, to join Him in Heaven.”

Fr. Peter: “It is my opinion that parents should not hide death from children; it is part of our human existence. Children should be aware of it. However, parents should emphasize God’s love and care for us and the fact that a person who dies in Christ will be with God and therefore we don’t mourn them as people with no hope. If you shelter your children from death and try to pretend there’s no such thing out there, how will they make any sense of Holy Week and Pascha?”

Carol: “Use picture books that deal with death. I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm and Always and Forever by Alan Durant are wonderful examples.  Don’t wait until someone significant in their life passes…pick these books now during Lent and other times during the year so that this subject can be a gentle introduction rather than dealing with it after such a crisis in their life.  Of course, read Bible stories with your child.  There are situations and hints of death all through the Bible and can spark many mini conversations that will introduce the idea of death.”

AODCE: Why did Christ have to die?

Molly: He died “to destroy the power of death… He loved this world so much [that] he became us, to shatter death’s dominion over us.”

Fr. Peter: “In my opinion the best way to explain why Christ had to die is to emphasize that God knew that the only way to destroy power of death was for Him to go to the cross Himself and give His life for us. Christ went willingly because He knew that through His death he could destroy the power of sin and death over us. I would emphasize a number of things: First and foremost, God’s love. Put the love of God the Father and the Son at the forefront. Secondly, emphasize obedience: We as humans are constantly disobedient to God. Jesus, however, was able to obey even unto death (the thing that we fear most) and in so doing shows Himself to be the Perfect Human and an example to all of us.”

Carol: “I’m assuming these questions are for very young children and with them I would focus on the resurrection more than the death.  Christ died because he loved us and he died and rose to Heaven taking the people that were in Hades (a dark place that wasn’t fun to be in) to make it possible for us to go to Heaven when we die and leave the earth.  By Christ rising from the dead and going to Heaven, it gave us the chance to be like Him and do that too.”

AODCE: What is the significance of His death on a cross?

Annalisa: “In the Old Testament the Israelites disobeyed God (Numbers 21).  After they were delivered from slavery in Egypt they complained to Moses.  They were tired, hungry and angry at God.  God sent snakes into the camp of the Israelites and these snakes bit the people causing many to die.  The people realized they had sinned against God and repented.  God made a way for the people to be healed.  He told Moses to make a fiery snake, put it on a pole and lift it up for the people to see.  Anyone who looked at the snake on the pole would be healed.  This was a picture of Christ and the Cross.  Jesus was put on a cross so we could be healed from sin and death. The Israelites received healing for this life but through His work on the Cross Christ offers us eternal life!

“We cross ourselves all the time.  We cross ourselves at church, when we pray and any time we hear the words ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’  Sometimes we can forget why we cross ourselves and what it means when we do.  Each year during Great Lent we walk with Jesus through the most painful time of His life on earth.  His good friend betrayed Him and the rest of the Apostles ran away at the first sign of danger.  He was lied about, made fun of, beaten and finally hung on the Holy and Life Giving Cross.  When we cross ourselves we are reminding ourselves and telling others that we follow Jesus whether we are betrayed, lied about, made fun of beaten or even killed.  But it doesn’t stop there.  When we cross ourselves we remember that we take up our own cross and follow Him wherever He leads.  We no longer live for ourselves.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was crucified, Jesus asked God the Father to take the burden of death from Him.  Then He said something very important, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Luke 22:42.  That is what we are saying when we cross ourselves, “Lord, if there is another way please show me.  But I will do what You say no matter what.” In the Bible we read, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20 NKJV  When we cross ourselves we remember that the Cross of Christ is powerful and just as we followed Him in His passion if we love and obey God we will follow Him to life eternal.”

Molly: “Why the cross? Because crucifixion was seen as such a humiliating way to die, for common criminals. Everyone expected God’s kingdom to be an earthly one but Christ’s death on the cross communicated loud and clear our calling to live humbly on this earth and in hope of His heavenly, eternal Kingdom.”
Rebekah: “God created man with a physical body. You cannot be born without a body. It is part of the very essence of humankind. God, who made us this way, knows how important physical things are to us. Touching, seeing, tasting, hearing, and smelling things around us is how we understand the world we live in, and how we understand and connect to bigger and more complicated things- including spiritual things. God, who is spirit from before all worlds and bigger than the universe, sent Jesus to put on flesh; to become a man, in order to save us from the curse of sin and death. We learn of this mystery when we celebrate the Nativity. This was Love come to us. Man could now see God. Man could hear His words, straight from His own mouth. They saw His miracles and His compassion for all those around Him. And now, Christ Jesus showed us exactly what essence God is made of. God is Love. And in His loving-kindness, not only did he sacrifice His flesh on the cross, but in doing so, he left a physical reminder of this most loving act. It is a reminder to us that perfect Love not only died for us, but he raised himself from the dead and is seated on the right hand of the Father in heaven, awaiting that great day when He shall come again to call all of us to be joined with Him.

“From our prayers, we pray: ‘Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the cross and say in gladness: Rejoice, most venerable and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified on thee, Who went down to hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His venerable Cross, for the driving away of every adversary.’

Carol: “For a young age group, I simply state that that is the way they killed bad people who were dangerous back in those days.  I try not to give too many details at this age (toddler through around 1st grade) as these kids, in my opinion, are not always ready for details and need more focus on the resurrection and that it’s very important for us. When they are getting older and actually ask for those details, I use the guidance of books!  We have many Orthodox picture books around and other sources.”

Dr. Hart: “The Cross is the symbol of our salvation, and of hope, love and redemption. The Holy wood of the Cross was predestined from the beginning of time, to be the instrument of Christ’s death and also of our salvation, as prophesied by the prophets of old. We worship and love the cross because Christ died on it to save us.” (An aside: read her book, The Legend of the Cross, for more on this!)

“Fr. Thomas Hopko in his CDs, The Word of the Cross, by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, described the Cross as the definitive act, word and manifestation of God: ‘Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more God can do. Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more God can say. Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more to be revealed.’”

AODCE: How would/did you explain His death to your children?

Carol: “I have explained the reason that He had to die and explained that the men who put Jesus on the cross did not know or understand that He was truly the Son of God.  It is sad that they did not know this but Jesus forgave them, so we need to forgive them and others who have wronged us.”

Annalisa: “When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they brought both sin and death into the world.  Because of their sin, and our sin, we could not be permitted into heaven to be with God, just as Adam and Eve could no longer be permitted to be in the Garden.  The “bridge” between God and us had been broken by mankind and only God could fix it.  Jesus didn’t just die, He took the sins of the world upon himself making a way for us to be saved.  In the resurrection icon we see the Apostles, Jesus and two people being lifted out of the tomb. Those two people are Adam and Eve.  Christ’s death and resurrection fixed what had been broken in the Garden of Eden.  At Pascha we sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Christ conquered death by His death so we can be forgiven for our sins and death no longer means separation from God.”

Dr. Hart: “Christ died for us to give us eternal life. Because of the fall, sin came into the world through the first man, Adam. Christ opened the door to Paradise to those who believe in Him, love Him and accept Him as our Savior.”

Fr. Peter: (We spoke once again about how he we should emphasize the love that God offered to us all through the Cross. And then we took this helpful detour:) “Sometimes we think our answers have to explain everything, that we must leave [our children] asking no questions. However, there are things about our Faith that we don’t understand. For example: How does the Eucharist happen? Why does Christ continue to offer Himself that way? We don’t know and we can’t explain it. If our adult answer doesn’t satisfy our children, that is not a bad thing: far more important is accepting the Gift that is being given to us! We don’t always have to have a pat answer for everything; we can allow for the fact that God really is beyond our understanding. If children demand more, it’s not bad to humbly say, ‘That’s the best explanation that I have, but God is far bigger than we are and we really shouldn’t expect to understand everything.’”

AODCE: What suggestions do you have for parents and teachers as they teach their children about Christ’s crucifixion?

Fr. Peter: “Above all, emphasize the love of God for us and how much He cares for us. We have to emphasize that God’s love is perfect and He loves us with a love that is even beyond what we can understand; the Cross is part of that mystery of God’s love. Christ offers Himself to death, to destroy death and power of sin over us because of that Love.”

Carol: “Start with the story of Lazarus!  Alexander (age 4) was thrilled when we recently read the story of Lazarus! He told many people about the man that Jesus told to ‘Come Out’ when he was dead and he came out!  So the following week, when we got to the story of [Christ’s] death on the cross in the Children’s Bible Reader (American Bible Society – 2006 Greek Bible Society) I immediately reminded him of the story of Lazarus when I saw that he was showing some upset over what was happening to Jesus.  ‘Do you remember what happened to Lazarus?’ I asked, smiling. ‘Let’s keep reading!  The same kind of thing is going to happen to Jesus too!’  Then he got excited!”

Annalisa: “When we teach about the death and resurrection of Christ it is important to keep the information age appropriate.  We don’t have to go into as much detail for the little ones while still communicating how awful and painful it was.  We also want to remind them that He did it because He loves us.  For older children we can talk more about the prophecies in Isaiah and how brutal His passion was to help them understand how great the sacrifice was by Jesus for us.  He was not just hung on a cross, which in and of itself is excruciatingly painful, clumps of his beard were pulled out, he was beaten to the point he did not look human anymore and all this because He loved us.”

Dr. Hart: “Contemplate the meaning of the cross and salvation.  Ask children what the Cross means to them. Why do we wear our cross?  We wear it because we are Christians and to remind us of what Christ did for us.”

AODCE: As we approach Holy Week, how can parents best prepare their children for what they will see and hear?

Fr. Peter: “It’s appropriate to talk about the services in advance to tell children what we’re going to experience and what it’s about to prep them so they can look forward to services. For example, ‘Tonight we’re going to the service of Holy Thursday evening. It’s all about the crucifixion of Christ. We’re going to see the priest carrying the icon of Christ out and put it on the cross. This is to remind us of how Jesus was nailed to the cross and died for us. We’re going to read from the Gospels. We’re gonna hear that story again about how Jesus offered His life for us, for the world…’ I think it’s good to do some prep like that. It helps children to anticipate and to look forward to each part, and to remember, ‘Oh, this was what mommy was talking about!’”

Annalisa: “In our home Holy Week is a time of quiet.  Keep in mind we are a household of 10 so we are certainly not silent, but we work on turning down the energy level of our home.  We only watch Christian movies, if we watch anything at all.  We stay away from video games, internet and anything that isn’t specifically focused on Christ.  We listen to church music and eat very humble meals. We participate in as many services as possible especially from Wednesday forward.  We are trying to set a particular mood in our home with the prayer that in the calming of our home we can hear the call of Christ in our hearts.  Here are some of the resources we use in our home:

Parent’s Guide to Holy Week http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/holyweekguide

The Jesus Film for Children http://www.amazon.com/Story-Jesus-Children-16-Language/dp/1894605411/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426773611&sr=8-1&keywords=the+jesus+film+for+children

We have enjoyed the visual Bible over the years.  It helps to set the tone for Holy Week as we focus on the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection.  It is a dramatization of the life of Jesus but the only words used are the whole of the book of Matthew.”

The Book of Matthew Vol. 1 http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Bible-Matthew-Richard-Kiley/dp/B00S5OBQAG/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1426789986&sr=1-3&keywords=Book+of+Matthew

The Book of Matthew Vol. 2 http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Bible-Matthew-Richard-Kiley/dp/B00S5ORM2C/ref=sr_1_4?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1426789986&sr=1-4&keywords=Book+of+Matthew

Carol: “Take your child to as many services as they are able to handle but do keep in mind the length and maturity of your child.  We want church to be a good experience and overtaxing them at a young age can take away from that.  If they are going to a service, tell them about your favorite parts or favorite hymns, etc.  Find a copy of the service book and read over a few parts with your child ahead of time so they can try to listen for those parts.  Potamitis Publishing has a coloring book on Holy Week that may be helpful!  Archangel Books also offers a book titled Glorious Pascha written by Debra Sancer that tells about the days of Holy Week.”

Rebekah: “Making a list of the services available at your local parish will help you prepare for and manage your week. Each service will teach valuable lessons. This description of the daily services from the Greek archdiocese is helpful: http://lent.goarch.org/bulletins/documents/8.5x11_JourneyToPascha_1.0.pdf There are so many services though, that it is not always possible to attend all of them.  Whether you introduce the stories to your children beforehand, or review what they heard during the services, keep in mind that each story points to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, come to redeem us from sin and death, and whom we look for to come again. There are so many witnesses to this fact, and the church has chosen wisely in showing us this. Holy Week is a time to prepare ourselves for the coming Christ. Often, on the practical side of bringing young children to evening services, it is helpful to know how long each service will last. Your local priest or choir director could best give you a time estimate.”

Dr. Hart: “Take your child to church. [Also] use Bible readings, read Orthodox children’s books, listen to the ‘Readings from Under the Grapevine’ podcast on Ancient Faith Radio and the ‘Let Us Attend’ podcast for Bible readings. Potamitis Publishing has excellent coloring books for young children.  Keep explanations simple and brief for younger children.”

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So, as we approach Holy Week, we will find that sorrow surrounds us, but resurrection pulls us forward. In the midst of this week there is great struggle, pain, and a myriad of questions from ourselves and from our children. But there is also hope. Smack in the middle of this horribly honest week where we face the reality of our own separation from God through our own choices, hope comes when we are met with Love Himself. He Who has loved us so much as to not spare His own Son; He Who loves us so much as to Himself take on our flesh and break the power that sin and death had over that flesh; He Who loves us so much as to breathe His Life back into our very core. This is the message of the Cross of Christ: Love.

May we all live this Holy Week cognizant of that Love. May we share it freely with our precious children. And together, let us approach the glorious resurrection of our Lord drenched in the love that He is pouring out on us along the way as we journey through this Holy Week.

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Thy Holy Resurrection, for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee: we call on Thy name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection, for by enduring the Cross for us, He has destroyed death by death.

On Beginning Great Lent

This week’s blog will offer resources for you to use with your own family, or for you to share with the families of your students. These resources will help parents and teachers prepare to lead themselves and the children in their care through Great Lent. We will begin with part of a helpful article by Ann Marie Gidus-Mercera, called “ Ways to Share Great Lent and Pascha with Your Child,” from Orthodox Family Life, printed in 1997. Used by permission.
Take your child to Church!

Whenever a service is scheduled, plan to attend. Services like The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete may be physically tiring with the many prostrations, but don’t think your child can’t be a part of them. In my own parish, which is filled with pre-schoolers, the children do a great job of making prostrations right along with the adults. Many of the children will join in as “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me” is sung. This experience is good for our children! If they see their parents attending services, they get the message that attending Church is important. If we bring our children to Church with us (both young and old), they get the message that their presence in Church is important. The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is especially good for teaching our children that we worship with our entire bodies.

Explain the service that your family will be attending.

Notice that the word “family” is used in the first sentence. Now is a good time to stress that the entire family should be attending services. My husband can’t make it home from work in time for all of us to get to services together, but he always meets us at Church. This tells our children that Church is important enough for Daddy to meet us there. As children get older, homework and after-school activities may tempt them (and us!) to skip Church services. Don’t let it! First of all, if we give in, then what we’re really telling them is that worldly affairs are more important than spiritual affairs. By allowing our children to miss Church, we make it extremely easy for them to fall away as teenagers or young adults.

Last of all, if we allow our older children to miss Church, we are telling our younger children that Church is not important when they get to be big sister or big brother’s age. Enforcing Church attendance by the entire family is no easy task. In fact, enforcing it may be one of the hardest jobs you encounter. Sticking to your rule will be even tougher. It’s a choice we must make as Orthodox parents. Maybe, it makes our task easier if we ask ourselves, “What would God want us to do?” The answer is obvious.

Prepare your child for Lent.

The weeks prior to Lent help us take on the right frame of mind for entering Lent. Let them do the same for your child. Read the stories and let your child color [or draw] the pictures prior to attending the Sunday services. You may want to read the story again on Saturday evening, or let your child take the color sheet to Church. A simple reminder Sunday morning concerning what the service and gospel reading will contain can be enough. Pre-schoolers have the ability to remember even the briefest of comments (even when it’s something we DON’T want them to remember!) Keep your explanation simple and BRIEF in order to hold his/her attention. Don’t try to go into a long and draw-out explanation or s/he will lose interest. If s/he has questions or comments, answer them briefly.

Don’t feel mountains have to be moved the day Lent begins, or even during Lent.

It might be a quiet, even uneventful day. That’s okay! Nothing magical needs to happen. We must only be ready to give our hearts to Christ, and we should gladly hand them over in an effort to be a good example to our children. This is our greatest task as Orthodox Christian parents.

You and/or your students’ parents may find it helpful to have a daily calendar for the Lenten Fast. Here is a printable Lenten-focused activity calendar, highlighting important days during Great Lent, that features daily suggestions of activities that families can do together during the fast. The goal of the calendar is to offer ideas that can help you live a more Christ-centered life during the Lenten fast. Find the calendar here:

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/a-calendar-for-great-lent/

Following are additional suggestions for preparing for Great Lent with children:

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Help your Sunday Church school students create a “Lenten Treasure Chest” that they can fill with “coins” of REAL value, as shown in this free printable page: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/LENTEN%20TREASURE%20CHEST%20%2B%20coins.pdf

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Share this great blog with your students’ parents. It is about ways to start keeping a Lenten fast with kids: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2015/02/14/living-our-faith-its-too-hard-for-my-kids/.

Also, here is a fun and thorough variety of fasting meal ideas that can be packed: http://www.illumination-learning.com/blog/2013/03/lenten-staples-meals-on-the-go/

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Send home this link to a creative way that a family can experience Lent together (including fasting, attending services, and giving to those in need). This easily explains and tracks your lenten journey on the family fridge: http://www.antiochian.org/content/family-activities-lenten-journey

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Here is a printable coloring/activity book for the Sundays of Lent and Holy Week: https://www.scribd.com/doc/49025598/Lent-Workbook-English-2

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Here’s an overview of each Sunday of Lent, complete with the message of the week and suggested activities, here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/48101187/Lent-HolyWeek-Chart

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Here is an overview of Lenten Sundays and Holy Week, with suggested steps of action for teens: http://www.antiochian.org/content/lenten-message-all-orthodox-teens

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Here are ideas for learning boxes for young children to explore during Holy Week. If your students are of an age that they would benefit from these, consider making these for your students, or passing the link on to their parents: http://www.sttheophanacademy.com/2011/04/revisiting-pascha-learning-boxes.html

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/