Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Lies Beyond

Before we came to St. Vladimir's, I remember searching eagerly through the photos on Facebook of someone who had just visited here. I was looking for clues about what the place I was going to live in would look like, or be like. I badgered the wife of the one seminary family I knew with questions about everything. It all seemed so foreign and different.

Once we arrived, after a period of adjustment, during which we got to know the members of the amazing community here, we began to watch that year's outgoing class go through the process of ordination and placements (or lack thereof). Even from that time, though, if I am honest, I was not only looking at my friends' experiences out of love and concern for them (though that was there). I was doing the same thing I had done back in Texas. I was searching for clues about the place I was headed. What was going to happen to us when we were in their shoes?

Some were ordained priests before their third year even began, while others were not ordained until the day of graduation. Some knew for a year or even more where they would be placed; others were still paying rent to the seminary as the month of July began. We, on the other hand, seem to have ended up somewhere in between.

It was actually in the fall of 2010, my husband's middler year, that he received a call about a non-canonical church in the Miami area looking for a Spanish-speaking priest to help bring them into Orthodoxy. It sounded good, but, as has happened so many times in this process, we had little information to go on and really no say in how the events unfolded. Several months later, things picked back up. Discussions resumed, and by the end of September, husband, littlest bean, and I were off to Miami to visit this parish. Upon return, we were asked our impressions and opinions, and then we heard nothing again for months. Now it seems that talks have resumed again, but we're still lacking many important details.

This time, there are no pictures to comb through for details. There is no one to ask questions of. No one has been exactly where I am. But by now, I think I may have finally learned that that is okay.

Regarding ordination, we actually had about two and a half weeks notice this time that my husband will, God willing, be ordained to the priesthood this coming Sunday, March 18th. I find it significant that his ordination will take place on the Sunday of the Elevation of Cross for a couple of reasons. The first is that I count this day as a special anniversary in my spiritual walk. It was the first Sunday I ever spent at the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. That visit changed my life and I hope I am always grateful to God (and to the nuns) for it. Without it, I am certain I never would have been ready for my husband to go to seminary, and now, on the exact anniversary of that visit, he will be ordained. It's also significant because we both realize that his ordination is really a calling; he's answering the call to take up his cross and follow Christ in a particular and public way. What a blessing to get to do so on the Sunday of the Cross.

I invite you to read his take on it, and ask you to keep us in your prayers.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Family's Path to Pascha

What we did in our house was to make “pebbles” printed on brown construction paper (cut down to fit through the printer). Then we made a “pathway” printed on tan construction paper (also cut down). We cut all of these out and taped the path across the living room wall, attaching the pebbles to the pathway with double-sided tape.

Then there is a page with the gospel readings available from the Festal Celebrations Yahoo! Group. Based on these, I made up a small coloring page to fit inside each “pebble.” These we printed on plain copy paper and the kids colored. Each day of Lent, we are cutting the appropriate picture out and putting it on its brown paper stone on the pathway.

Here's a sample page: 

This helps us is several ways:
1.       The entire pathway is a visual way to keep perspective on how much time there is left in Lent. After the image is attached to each stone, it is clear how many plain brown stones are left each day.
2.       At the end of the pathway, we have hung an icon of the resurrection. This reminds us what the whole journey is about.
3.       It ensures that we are at least reading a little scripture and focusing on the life of Christ some each day.
4.       In our family, we do this at the time that our kids would normally have “screen time” each day, as something different to look forward to.

If you give me your e-mail address, I'm happy to send you the coloring pages I've made.

Lenten Activities - A Compilation

I guess there's a sense in which some would say the title of this post - Lenten Activities - is a contradiction. We should be doing less during Lent, simplifying our activities so we can fast, pray, and give alms. But we do have children to raise and I think it helps to do things with them that emphasize the nature of our lenten journey and Christ's road to the cross.

So here's what I've found:

Links and Resources:

·         Pascha boxes – decoupaged craft boxes with special contents for each day of holy week
Learn about them and how to make your own here and here. Or buy pre-made ones here.

·         Lesson Plans – the OCA has a great entire unit on the Journey to Pascha you can check out here

·         Sundays of Lent: There are coloring and activity pages available for the Sundays of Lent (and other Sundays throughout the year at OrthodoxOnline and Let Us Attend.

·         Calendars to Purchase: similar to advent calendars, these have readings or activities for each day of Lent. Find onewith icons/readings and one with activities.
      Other activities along the way: this is a nice little blog for all sorts of activities to engage children in the church year. Two posts about Lent are Pre-Lent and Lent.
     Path to Pascha with Festal Celebrations Group - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FestalCelebrations/?prop=eupdate – if you have (or create) a yahoo account, you can join this group, which they say is a “ list is for organizing group ornament exchanges for an Orthodox Jesse Tree, 12 Days of Christmas ornaments and Lenten Path to Pascha. Other ideas of conforming our homeschooling life to the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church are also discussed.” My family’s Path to Pascha activity is based on their program.