Thursday, February 11, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Come Under the Roof of the House of My Soul: Pre-Communion Prayers for Children with printable

I was listening to this Raising Saints podcast about praying before communion with children. She discusses teaching children some prayers that they can pray. Although the languge of our prayers is sometimes complex, it is also full of beautiful imagery, and I thought the example she used is perfect. The picture of our hearts being like a manger, prepared to receive Christ, is a good image for children.

I typed up a few simple sheets with the words of this prayer, and some drawing prompts. I want them to hear the whole prayer, but I think memorizing the whole thing would be daunting to my young children. I put the words we will memorize in bold, and then divided them into 4 sections. We'll draw a picture to go with each of the 4 sections as we work on memorizing a little at a time. Sorry, no pictures, we'll let the kids make it pretty this time! Here's the download.

I would love to also include these prayers in our family prayers on Saturday night, (or before other Liturgies), but bedtime prayers are always the hardest for us! But we'll do our best.

I have always loved the pre-communion prayer that mentions the women who touches the hem of Christ's robe, (yet we dare to receive his whole body!), so perhaps that would be another prayer to focus on another day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

And a sword will pierce through your own soul also

Very close to my house a family is missing their little boy, lost in the woods for 5 days now. Listening to the helicopters overhead every day has been a constant reminder that he is still outside, and I am overwhelmed by my thoughts for this family. It seems so hard to continue on with the normal things of life when horrific things happen so close to you.

I found the psalms and prayers of the small paraklesis to the Theotokos to be a comfort. I try to pray this at home in times of need, but it seemed especially fitting for this situation:

"Entreaty do I pour forth unto the Lord,
and to Him do I proclaim all my sorrows,
for many woes fill my soul to repletion,
and lo, my life unto hades has not drawn nigh.
Like Jonah do I pray to Thee.
Raise me up from corruption, O Lord, my God.  

Most holy Theotokos, save us!
My nature held by corruption, and by death
hath He saved from out of death and corruption,
for unto death He, Himself, hath submitted.
Wherefore, O Virgin, do thou intercede with Him
Who is in truth thy Lord and Son,
to redeem me from enemies’ wickedness." 

- from Ode 6 of the Canon of the Paraklesis

The suffering of children easily reminds us the prophecy of St. Simeon to Christ's mother: "and a sword will pierce through your own soul also." God sees our grief, especially the grief of mothers who are so intimately connected to our children.

This is the mystery of our union with Christ and with one another in the body. We are not isolated individuals - we are connected. When we love as Christ loved, and we suffer for the love of one another, we share in the sufferings of Christ as his mother did. There is a story of a grieving couple who lost a child. In the face of their grief, their priest didn't offer platitudes, but told them to take flowers to the Mother of God each week, "Stand in front of her icon, or kneel there, or roll around on the floor - I don't care. Scream, yell, cry, curse, I don't care, but go and be with her. She is the mother of our Lord, and she knows." (Forest, The Ladder of the Beatitudes, pg. 40)

And so, I don't have answers. I am grieving and praying with this family, and beseeching the prayers of the Mother of our Lord for this mother, also. Lord have mercy!

Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.

- from Psalm 142 (143)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven...

To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 
It is like leaven, which a woman took 
and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.

Some of the most beautiful truths are hidden.

I am finding one of these hidden treasures in the baking of the prosfora. This is what we call the bread offered in church for the Eucharist; it means "offering." I enjoy most any baking because it is so interesting to work the dough and see it change. Yet, this bread, this offering, is offered in the work of the people, the liturgy, and the change taking place is true mystery and beauty.

I remember, in my early encounters with Orthodoxy, questioning why the church uses leavened bread when they used unleavened for the Passover meal of the last supper?

I was told by Fr. John, "well, the Last Supper wasn't the Passover." St. John explains the meal took place "before the feast of Passover" (Jn 13:1), and clearly puts Christ's crucifixion on the day of Preparation of the passover (Jn 19:14, 31, 42; also Mt 27:62, etc). The death of Christ coincides with the ritual slaughter of the passover lamb at the temple, because he is the Passover lamb. The Passover hadn't yet begun, in which case the bread would have been leavened. [links below if you're interested in historical-critical arguments.]

But really that's beside the point. The truth is so beautiful, it can clearly be seen as gospel. "You see," Fr. John explained, "Leavened bread is living bread."

Leavened bread, before yeast was easily bought in stores, was made with a bit of old dough, the starter, a living connection with the past. The yeast living in the starter is a hidden force that invisibly spreads to the rest of the lump. Dough you must work with your hands until it too comes alive. Leavened bread is living bread.

The gospel truth is that Christ is risen. Christ is the living bread.
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." - John 6:48-51
We don't continue eating the bread of affliction and die as the Israelites, but we have the living bread of the kingdom of heaven, so that we might live.

To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 

As, I measure the warm water, I take heart. I hide the bubbling yeast in the flour, and thank God for the truth he revealed. I work the dough with joy because Christ is our hermeneutic, who opens the scriptures to us on the road. I offer the prosfora with confidence and humility, because He is our leaven, hidden among us and giving life to all the body.

The first two present historical-critical arguments for John's timeline, and the third presents a theological argument for leavened bread:
Biblical Archaeology: Was Jesus Last Supper a Seder?
The Last Supper and Passover 
Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread: what's the difference?

And a counterpoint, whose conclusion demonstrates the anxiety caused by the historical critical method:
What Kind of Bread did Jesus Use to Institute the Last Supper?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gift Bread

Baking Christopsomo today for gifts. I get such a kick out of making this cool bread that looks like the bow is baked into it. After the second rise, I called the girls over to see, saying, "Look how nicely my bread has risen." J promptly responded, "Christ is risen!" Ah, yes, God is with us!

Christopsomo (or Greek Christmas Bread) - adapted from the Sunset Cookbook of Breads [The bow idea is from the same book, but for the recipe for German Kuchen]

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup scalded and cooled milk
1 cup butter
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

Add yeast mixture and gradually add 6-7 cups unsifted flour.
Knead for 10 minutes on floured board
Let rise 2 hours or until double.

Punch down and divide into 6 small balls. Brush butter around outside, and tie each ball with a strip of brown paper (the same width as your ribbon - for small loaves like mine use a skinny ribbon) and place on greased baking sheets. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled. Bake 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Serve warm, or toasted with honey.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Read good books a little at a time.

I am continuing to listen to Fr. Evan Armitas's class, "I'm a Christian, Now What?" exploring Fr. Thomas Hopko's 55 Maxims. This year in our homeschooling, I have already noticed the truth of this maxim. Sometimes its tempting to stay up all night reading a new book (as my 8 year old is wont to do). Reading slowly through good books helps you stay in the story longer, reveling in it, and so, getting to know the material more intimately, you remember it better. The girls and I have been slowly reading Royal Monastic. There is so much history that needs explanation for them, so it takes us more time to get through each chapter. Yet, now, we've been living with Princess Illeana for so long, I do feel so endeared to her.

This is maxim number 16. If you're looking for other places to read about the 55 maxims, check out Fr. Stephen's post (and comments) here. Hope you enjoy this little printable!