Saturday, January 17, 2015

St. Anthony the Great

Known as the Father of All Monks, St. Anthony the Great was a Christian saint from Egypt, and a  prominent leader among the Desert Fathers. He is often erroneously considered the first monk, but as his biography and other sources make clear, there were many ascetics before him. Anthony was, Accounts of Anthony enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Eastern Desert of Egypt inspired the often-repeated subject of the temptation of St. Anthony in Western art and literature. 
however, the first known ascetic going into the wilderness (about AD 270–271), a geographical move that seems to have contributed to his renown.
One day after a teaching on Jesus saying to the people, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Matthew 19:21), St. Anthony sold everything he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, and left the city behind to live in the desert.
Although he held no titles or position, his holiness marked him as one whose wisdom commanded respect. When the Synod of Nicea was convened, he was invited to participate. His eloquent defense of the Orthodox doctrine concerning the person of Jesus Christ was instrumental in weakening the position of Arianism. His witness led to the eventual and complete elimination of Arianism.
He instructed his followers to bury his body in an unmarked, secret grave, lest his body become an object of veneration. The monastic rules of Saint Anthony, the "patriarch" of monastic life, have served as the basis for countless monasteries.

Anthony is appealed to against infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases. In the past, many such afflictions, including ergotism, erysipelas, and shingles, were historically referred to as St. Anthony's fire.

 Read "Saint Anthony the Great: Angel of the Desert" Translated from the Greek by Thomas Arnis.
 Troparion to Saint Anthony the Great (Arabic)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

St. Felix of Nola

St. Felix was the elder son of Hermias, a Syrian soldier who had retired to Nola, Italy. After his father's death Felix sold off most of his property and possessions, gave the proceeds to the poor, and pursued a clerical vocation. Felix was ordained by, and worked with, Saint Maximus of Nola. When Bishop Maximus fled to the mountains to escape the persecution of the Roman emperor Decius, Felix was arrested and beaten for his faith instead. He escaped prison, according to legend being freed by an angel, so that he could help bishop Maximus. Felix found Maximus alone, ill, and helpless, and hid him from soldiers in a vacant building. When the two were safely inside, a spider quickly spun a web over the door, fooling the imperial forces into thinking it was long abandoned, and they left without finding the Christians. A subsequent attempt to arrest Felix followed, which he avoided by hiding in a ruined building where again a spider's web spun across the entrance convinced the soldiers the building was abandoned. The two managed to hide from authorities until the persecution ended with the death of Emperor Decius in 251.
After Maximus's death, the people wanted Felix to be the next bishop of Nola, but he declined, favoring Quintus, a "senior" priest who had seven days more experience than Felix. Felix himself continued as a priest. He also continued to farm his remaining land, and gave most of the proceeds to people even poorer than himself.
Legend assigns to Felix a martyr's death either in the year 255 under Emperor Valerian (253-260) or, in another version, in the general persecution instigated by the Emperor Decius (249-251). According to Butler, Felix died in a good old age, on the fourteenth of January.

Burial place of St. Felix of Nola in Cimitile, Italy:
"Saint Felix and the Spider" written by Dessi Jackson, illustrated by Lydia Grace Kadar-Kallen

Spider webs snacks inspired by St. Felix! Cute and yummy :)

A few spider crafts to inspire children to remember the sacrifice of St. Felix:

St. Macrina the Elder

 Saint Macrina the Elder (before 270-c. 340) was the mother of Saint Basil the Elder, and the grandmother of Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Peter of Sebaste, and Saint Macrina the Younger.
St. Macrina lived in Neocaesarea during the persecution of Christians under Galerius in the late third and early fourth centuries. In her childhood, she became acquainted with St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, the first bishop of Neocaesarea, who was responsible for converting the entire Christian population of that city to Christianity.
During the persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian, Macrina fled with her husband to the forest near their home. They endured many hardships, but patiently waited and prayed for the persecutions to end. They survived on vegetables and wild game for over seven years. When they were free to return, they discovered that their belongings and property had been taken from them.
She raised her grandchildren in the Christian faith, and St. Basil was one of her favorites. As an adult, he praised her for all the good she had done to him and thanked her for teaching him to love Christ.
St. Macrina survived her husband and died around 340.

St. Macrina is the patron of widows and the impoverished.

Read the book "Keeper of the Light: Saint Macrina the Elder, Grandmother of Saints" by Bev Cooke

To honor St. Macrina on her Feast Day, pray for all those who have lost their husbands.

Prayer of a Widow
Lord Jesus Christ, Who through your mercy, resurrected the only son of the widow in Name; I pray to You in need and all alone, putting my hope in God and asking for help. O You who fulfill our every need and complete everything we lack, grant me faith, courage, love and understanding of Your Will. Remember Your Servant (name of departed) in Your kingdom, always now and forever. Amen

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Joyous Feast of the Epiphany!

Today we celebrate Epiphany (Theophany) of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! This observance commemorates Christ's baptism by St. John the Forerunner in the River Jordan, and the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry. The Feast of Theophany is the culmination of the Christmas Season, which starts on December 25 and ends on January 6 (aka the 12 Days of Christmas). In mystic commemoration of this event, the Great Blessing of Water is performed on this day, and holy water so blessed is used by the local priest to bless the homes of the faithful.

The feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ the Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for the first time, the Father's voice is heard from Heaven, the Son of God is incarnate and standing physically in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove. 

Here is a good visual explanation of the Epiphany icon for kids:

As mentioned, it is traditional to attend Divine Liturgy where the blessing of the water takes place, and the water is changed to HOLY WATER.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

In Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia, a priest typically casts a cross into the water. If swimming is feasible on the spot, any number of volunteers may try to recover the cross. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household (it is said that good health will be bestowed upon the home of the swimmer who is the first to reach the cross).

In Russia, another tradition is for Orthodox faithful to reinact Christ's baptism by walking into ice cold water!

Teach your kids the Troparion (Tone 1) of Epiphany - in several languages!
When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. 
For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son! 
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ our God, 
Who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee!
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Some of the traditions on Epiphany include the annual blessing of your home 
Children can help assist by cleaning the house up before the priest arrives, getting an icon (preferably the patron saint of the household!), a candle, a bowl full of water, and a censor (if you have one). 

One craft that I found can be made easily with young kids! St. John Baptizes Jesus:  (Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 1 - Jesus' baptism using upside down blue paper cup and Popsicle stick)

In Macedonia, special food jelly form pork and beef meat and bones called "pacha" (пача) or "pivtii" (пивтии) is prepared the day before, but served on the day after Epiphany, together with warm local brandy, rakija.
In Romania and Moldova, Epiphany, is called Boboteaza. In Southeastern Romania, following Liturgys, men participate in winter horse races. Before the race, the men line up with their horses before the priest who will bless them by sprinkling them with green branches that have been dipped into the holy water. Sometimes people desire to have this blessing for themselves as well. Winning the Epiphany race is a great honor for both horse and rider, while the post-race celebrations, win or not, are highly festive.   
In Slovenia, especially in the Western part of the country, children go from house to house because villagers will give them almonds, dried figs, nuts, cookies or other good things that they have at home.

Friday, January 2, 2015

St. Seraphim of Sarov the Wonderworker (Feast Day: January 2)

St. Seraphim of Sarov, was a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was born on July 19, 1754. His parents, Isidore and Agathia Moshnin, lived in Kursk. Isidore was a merchant. Toward the end of his life, he began construction of a cathedral in Kursk, but he died before the completion of the work. His little son Prochorus, (the future Seraphim), remained in the care of his widowed mother, who raised her son in piety.

After the death of her husband, Agathia Moshnina continued with the construction of the cathedral. Once she took the seven-year-old Prochorus there with her, and he fell from the scaffolding around the seven-story bell tower. He should have been killed, but the Lord preserved the life of the future luminary of the Church. The terrified mother ran to him and found her son unharmed.

A short video on his life (Russian)
Books for young children on his life:
"St. Seraphim's Beatitudes: Blessings for Our Path to Heaven - Based on the Life of the Wonderworker of Sarov" by Priest Daniel Marshall (Author), Paul Drozdowski (Illustrator)
"Saint Seraphim Wonderworker of Sarov and His Spiritual Inheritance" by Helen Kontzevitch