The Byzantine Homeschoolers of Northeast PA are starting off the school year in a great way as five of our families met today at Holy Annunciation Byzantine Monastery in Sugarloaf, PA for our first gathering of the year. In the beautifully ornate chapel at the top of the hill on the monastery grounds, we began the day by celebrating the Divine Liturgy along with Father Scott Boghossian and the 13 nuns who live and work at the monastery. These contemplative nuns must surely not be used to the bumping and bustling, cries and the chatter of little worshippers in their daily Liturgies, but they heard it all today and smiled. We felt so much at home there. The nuns sing like angels and we were humbled and uplifted just being in their presence! Fr. Scott was welcoming to us as well, giving the homily especially for the children on the subject of baptism as it was presented in today's epistle reading from Ephesians 1:1-9.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,To God’s holy people in Ephesus,the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known t to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ"
Father reminded us all that we have been made sons and daughters of God by our baptism, and like the Syro-Phoenician woman in the Gospel reading of the day who brought her daughter to Christ for exorcism and was refused, we are not worthy of it, but we are given it anyway because of His wonderful and infinite mercy. He reminded the children that they had made some promises to God at their baptism, or rather their godparents made promises on their behalf. What were those promises? Many of us, young and old alike, didn't remember. Little ones readily agree to let their parents speak and do things for them, but as the child ages, he naturally strives to do things for himself. Father suggested that we should renew for ourselves those baptismal promises that we made to God as we grow older too! This is something we can all do!
More about that later.
After the Liturgy was over we all went across the way to the hall for a very gracious repast provided for us by our hosts (thank you sisters!) and conducted our organizational meeting to plan a bit for the year ahead (I'll be checking in here at ByziMom with notes after our gatherings to keep you informed about our progress.) and we listened to Mother Marija speak to the children a bit about the concept of living in the monastery as a preparation for living in heaven with God. The nuns make a practice of looking for ways to serve one another as Christ served us; of suffering little things for His sake, and for the sake of the kingdom of God; and of making offerings of themselves to Christ. As the children had difficulty understanding such a deep and complex concept, Mother suggested that the children could practice this same kind of charity at home every day by making small sacrifices for Jesus' sake such as "choosing the second best banana of the bunch for breakfast so that your sister may have the nicest one." These kinds of loving kindnesses are very pleasing to Jesus!
After our lesson Mother took us on a short tour of the monastery grounds which concluded, much to the delight of the children, at the horse barn! The nuns are raising 60 miniature horses for show and for breeding stock and have won many ribbons and prizes with them. Sister Katherine and Sister Christiana paused from their chores to allow the children to pet and feed them and love on them to their hearts content and we are so grateful!
Our goal as homeschool families is to not only prepare our children intellectually for the challenges they will face in life, but to prepare them spiritually, philosophically and morally as well. I am so grateful to Father Scott, Mother Marija, and all the nuns at Holy Annunciation Byzantine Monastery for making our first meeting of the year such a memorable and happy day. We appreciate your lessons and your wonderful example and are grateful for your help as we raise our children to become the next generation of saints.
About The Byzantine Rite of Baptism:
Consider printing this out for your children and making a point to review it with them and renew these vows regularly.
Turning to the West, symbolizing the darkness and realm of Satan, Mom or Dad may ask:
"Do you___(NAME)___ renounce Satan, all his works, all his angels, all service to him and all his arrogance?"
The children then solemnly promise:
” I DO RENOUNCE SATAN, ALL HIS WORKS, ALL HIS ANGELS, ALL SERVICE TO HIM, AND ALL HIS ARROGANCE.” (Three times)
Then turning to the East, the symbol of paradise (Gen . 2:8), to which we are being introduced through baptism, Mom or Dad may ask:
"Do you believe in Christ and promise to serve Him?"
The children may declare:
" I DO BELIEVE IN CHRIST AND PROMISE TO SERVE HIM.” (Three times)
Next we profess our faith, reciting the Symbol of Faith, I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD …
St John Chrysostom encouraged the newly baptized to repeat often their baptismal vows, saying :
“Keep repeating these words, for nothing will keep you more secure than these words, as long as you prove them by your deeds. They constitute our contract (covenant) with our Master, Jesus Christ.” (cf. his 8aptismallnstructions XII, 48-49)
WOW! We have a contract with Jesus! How do we uphold our end of this contract?
Makes one think!