There's nothing so unwelcome as a summer cold. Except maybe a "back to school" one. Often, among the back to school items that are on sale now, it is typical to find tissues among the pencils and paper! It seems that just as we are winding down the summer fun and looking forward to the structure and order of a new school year, everyone comes down with the sniffles. It has always been this way, even in the times of the early church!
The Horologion tells that, in an effort to ward off these late summer and early fall illnesses, the people of Constantinople would begin a period of veneration of the Holy Cross beginning on August 1 and continuing until the feast of the Dormition on August 15. Every year, on the eve of the feast, July 31, the relic of the true cross would be taken out of the church's treasury and solemnly processed throughout the streets of Constantinople and enthroned on the altar of the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom. The relic would be processed and presented to the people for veneration daily until the Dormition feast.
The cross is, indeed, a good thing to contemplate when facing illness. It reminds us that our God does truly understand suffering, that He knows our pain and our human aversion to it, and that He can either alleviate it, or use it for some further good if we unite our sufferings to His. We need to remind ourselves of these things, and teach our children to understand them as well.
As a homeschool family, we always look for ways to enlighten our children to the ways of God as they come up in everyday life. This is another powerful example of the wisdom of the Church in organizing the calendar to help us come to know God in the seasons He created. Our family will observe the feast of the Procession of the Cross by taking our own cross from the family icon corner and processing it throughout the house, while praying for good health for the coming year. A few years ago our younger girls, while developing their hand-sewing skills, crafted a wreath of felt roses to adorn the cross. We'll bring it out and set it on our cross for the duration of the fast.
During the next two weeks, we will remember the ancient people of Constantinople by doing some things to prepare our own family for the coming cold and flu season like making aroma tablets to have on hand for opening stuffy sinuses in the shower, making and preserving some honey-lemon marmalade to add by the spoonful to our tea when we are sick, and stocking our medicine cabinet and first aid kit with medical necessities and a few herbal remedies like slippery elm bark for sore throats and elderberry syrup to stave off a threatening cold. As we work on these little projects, we will post how-to's and pictures so you can join in if you wish!
It is also interesting that August 1 was also the day that the people of our early Church designated to collect and bless new honey. Raw honey is one of our family's favorite ways to prevent seasonal allergies from becoming too tough to handle. We will stock up on this as well as we've found that there is a family of fellow-homeschoolers who rare raising bees and are willing to sell us some of their precious raw honey! What perfect timing! Our people knew how great the anti-bacterial properties of honey were for preserving food and often incorporated it into their baked goods so that they could be taken on long journeys or pilgrimages without the risk of spoilage.
These honey biscuits are called medovnicky, and we'll make these too...again, pictures and recipe to follow! By the way...it's a perfect time for homeschoolers to do a unit study on bees! Or maybe on folk medicine and herbal remedies! When you homeschool EVERYTHING becomes a unit study! Lets talk about this a bit at Coffee Hour and see if we can share sone links.
Take a look at these photos on the right and see how even the bees revere the images of God and His Saints! A monk named Simon gives us his account of this phenomenon here:
I found it fascinating!
Prayer to Bless New Honey
Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy!
O Lord Jesus Christ, Whose mercies cannot be contained and Whose bounties are ineffable; Who are wondrous in glory and Who works miracles, Who by the operation of the Holy Spirit once blessed Israel and nourished them with honey from a rock: As the same Lord, look down now from above on this Your work, and with Your heavenly blessing bless and consecrate this honeycomb and the honey that comes from it. Grant to it the action of a blessings beyond all perfection, so that all tasting of it, receiving it and eating it, may find good health, and by this nourishment be satisfied and filled with all good things. For You are He Who bestows all good things, and to You we ascribe glory, together with Your Father Who is without beginning, and Your Most-holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
And he sprinkles the honeycomb with Holy Water, saying:
This honey is sanctified by the sprinkling of this Holy Water, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[From the Abridged Book of Needs from St. Tikhon's]
Time is moving along too quickly for me and my children are growing up and reaching adulthood way ttoo fast. it came to my attention recently that I have nearly 25 years experience teaching the faith to my own children, (let alone to all the students I've had before I had them!) and I have collected quite a number of novel ways in which to make their formation in the faith both fun and memorable. It's my hope to share here on ByziMom.com, how my family has observed the liturgical year with lesson plans, games, crafts, recipes, all which have been helpful in solidifying our Byzantine faith in the minds of our children.
During this coming week, before the feast, and before the Dormition fast begins, I plan to post the plans for the little mini-unit-study on healthy home remedies. By posting them early enough, you'll have plenty of time to gather materials and resources to participate in all the fun activities and keep your kids focused on the faith as well as occupied during the last few weeks of summer vacation.
I often wished I had "known then what I know now" and I hope the things I have learned can be of help to other families who want to do the same. I'm so happy you've decided to come along with us!