My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Nothing on this earth is so important for both parents and children as prayer (cf., Ephesians 6:4; Psalm 33:11-15). All of the early writers, teachers, and Saints of Christianity, including the Holy Fathers of the Church, wrote on prayer as a part of the Living Tradition of the Faith.
Saint John Chrysostom asks us to look inwardly: "Find the door of your heart; you will discover it is the door of the Kingdom of God." Saint John also wrote: "We truly speak to God at the time of prayer." Saint Basil the Great wrote: "Prayer is a request for some good, addressed by the pious of God." Nothing, good parents and children, is so spiritually important than to begin our prayers with our entire mind, with all our heart, and with all our soul. Our Lord God loves to hear us pray in this spiritual manner, and praying in this way brings one to greater spiritual heights. What can parents do to encourage more prayer as a family?
When you as a parent wake up, you should begin your day with prayer, and encourage your child to pray, too. Encourage one another, as a family, to make the sign of the Cross as soon as you wake up, and to go to your place of prayer--your icon corner. Make sure that you place holy icons in your children's rooms, or in a special icon area for prayer. At the beginning, however, you should join with your children in morning prayers and encourage your children to pray even when it is impossible to get together as a family. Praying together as a family can have a great effect on you as parents, and for your children later on.
Keep holy icons of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Mother of God the Theotokos, as well as the Patron Saint of your child in his room. I once blessed a home of a child who had many holy icons in the room and afterwards gave me a full description of every holy icon. How many of us really know about the holy icons--that they are blessed in the church and are holy? When you get a new icon, you should bring it to the parish priest to place it in the holy altar for forty (40) days. On the fortieth day the priest will bless your icon with holy water, and you can take it home. I have noticed, while blessing homes, that some families have special icon boxes and others have a special place for their holy icons. [The Icon Corner should be facing east just as the holy altar of the church).
After you are finished with your morning prayers and come to breakfast together as a family, stand up together by saying the greatest of all prayers, the Lord's Prayer. (Orthodox Christians stand when praying and never offer prayers while sitting down. It is considered to be disrespectful to pray while sitting.) Also make the Sign of the Cross, but do not rush; make it very slowly. Now you can all sit down, knowing the food you are about to eat has been blessed by our Gracious God. (Note: these prayers are available through your priest, on line, or in the many published Prayer Books.) What is most spiritually rewarding is saying these prayers, for the family as a whole, is that the family is blessed, sanctified by our God.
Make the sign of the Cross over your children as they go off to school; and, if you drive your children to school, all of you should first make the sign of the Cross and then proceed.
Remember that both Wednesday and Friday are fast days. Tell your children that we always fast on these two days of the week: on Wednesday to remember the betrayal of Christ by Judas, and on Friday in remembrance of the Crucifixion of our Lord on the Cross.
Just before it is time for you all to rest, and if your children rest before you, you should encourage your children to go to their rooms earlier to begin their evening prayers. If it is difficult for our children to do these prayers by themselves, then you should join with them to encourage prayer. Of course, you and your children could do evening prayers together.
Finally, once your children are about to rest, have them make the Sign of the Cross before going to sleep. We will always have a restful sleep if we say our evening prayers. Let the holy icons be visible for your children to see just before they fall asleep. Remember too, as an Orthodox Christian parent, that you should say your evening prayers, if it might be impossible for you all to say them together. I must humbly remind you that the first Church is in the home.
Prayer is a Habit
Recitation of the Lord's Prayer has been a bedtime ritual since infancy. This always followed by a specific "God bless..." to include family. In the past, if I had ever turned out the light without initiating prayers, I was reprimanded. My mother, who made sure we said our prayers every night, in Slavonic, passed down this "habit" to me. She, in turn, said that Church (and prayer) is what kept her connected to her own family, from whom she was taken during WWII and never saw them again. Her mother, despite the harsh communist rule under which they lived in the Ukraine, always prayed, and she passed this on to her children.
There were always holy icons in our home, and our son grew up with a special icon of his Patron Saint given to him by his godfather, a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. It continues to hang over his bed to this day. Over the years we have celebrated many Paschas at a Monastery, where he is able to be part of the preparation and celebration of Pascha. Father S. has played a special role in our lives. He has been present at all of the major events in our lives. Now, in our son's teenage years, I have to believe that the routine of prayer is instilled in his mind and helps to close his day peacefully. I have also always suggested that before an exam or stressful situation, he take some deep breaths and say a prayer to center and calm himself...
"...Since our son is half Greek and half Russian, he has attended a variety of Orthodox services (Greek, Slavonic, English), and has a sense of his diverse background. Now that we are living in Greece, across from a monastery, he sees and hears religious activity on a daily basis. As I write, I can hear the evening services, as if they were in my living room; and the bells can be heard every morning and evening. Lastly, he knows of his father's love of the church, how he sang in the choir, served as an altar boy, and had dreams of becoming a priest. This too, no doubt, has made an impression.
Pray All Day
Besides prayers at mealtimes, asking God to bless our food, we always teach our children from the time they talk to say a bedtime prayer before sleep. Our babies are put down for sleep with a prayer and the sign of the Cross made over them. We really stress the importance of prayer before sleeping so that our children grow up with that good habit.
We begin each morning with a piece of dried holy bread (antidoron) and a sip of holy water, when we say our personal prayer rule alone. Then as a family, we read the Gospel and Epistle of the day (i.e., daily readings found in the religious calendar). The Prologue [Lives of Saints] (by Saint Nikolai Velimirovic), and we pick a book and read a page a day. Through the years, we have read many a good spiritual book this way. This only takes about 15 minutes.
God Accepts Whatever we Can Give
Saint Macarius of Optina---+1860
"When you do not have much time for prayer, be satisfied with the time that you do have and God will accept your good desire. Remember that the feeling of the Publican in prayer is pleasing to God, and beware of evaluating your prayers: that is the work of God, not us.
Call Upon the Saints
We can petition special saints to help us in time of need. Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco is one example. Our daughter suddenly developed a mysterious ailment. She was ten, exhausted, and unable to walk without falling or intense pain. The doctors had no answers for her problem. After one important medical visit we went to venerate Saint John and we believe that was the turning point. During Divine Liturgy one day, when I was so worried for her, I heard the Cherubic Hymn: "Lay aside your earthly cares. Lay aside your earthly cares. Lay aside your earthly cares." I realized then that God loves her more than I do and I released her to Him. From then on I did what I needed to do as a mom seeking help but I no longer worried about her. Within nine months she was slowly but mystically cured. The doctors never diagnosed her nor did they cure her. Saint John Maximovitch played a major role in our lives, in many ways. Glory to God for all things. ( Source: Orthodox Christian Parenting. Cultivating God's Creation by Zoe Press).
(Next: FOOD, FASTING, ALMS AND BEYOND)
ON OCTORBER 11th --Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church celebrates and commemorates the Holy Feast-Day of the Holy Apostle Philip, One of the Seven Deacons.
Saint Philip, who had four daughters that prophesied, was from Caesarea of Palestine. He preached throughout Samaria; it was he also who met the eunuch of Candace, the Queen of the Ethiopians, as the eunuch was reading the Prophet Isaiah, and he instructed and baptized him (Acts 8:26-39). He reposed in Tralles of Asia Minor, while preaching the Gospel.
"...So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the Prophet Isaiah, and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And he said, 'How can I, unless someone guides me?' And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him...Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him..." .
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Apostle. Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Philip, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Kontakion Hymn of the Apostle. Fourth Tone
Since thou was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, thou enlightenest the earth and all its fullness with the beams of thy wise teachings and miracles, Apostle Philip, thou sacred initiate.
DIVINE SERVICES FOR WEDNESDAY:
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Place of Worship: Saint Nektarios Chapel
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God