Lenten Family Time
Our Holy Orthodox Church offers us a Lenten period each and every year to help us change. Will this season be different than any other one? Will our children know that it is Great Lent? Will our family activities reflect that we are striving for repentance? Will our family fast, pray and give alms? The objective of this article is to help families to take some quality time together, to help them focus on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and find joy in the Pascha of our Lord.
The following suggestions are meant to help families learn change and grow together in Christ. Now you may ask, "Do we have to do more than we are already doing?" Not necessarily—this is more about changing priorities. Whether it is now, the third week of Lent, or later, please read on!
- Quiet Time: Schedule a block of quiet time when everyone is home, but not asleep. Turn off all the noise, cell phones too, for a set period you decide on, so each family member can experience some silence. Parents can set the rules and boundaries of what is allowed—reading, writing a letter or in a journal, praying, working on a puzzle or hobby—anything that does not involve talking.
- Bible Time: Choose one or a few times during the week (or daily if you are really disciplined) to read the Lenten Scripture readings appointed by the Church. This is a wonderful time to read the books of Genesis, Proverbs and Psalms as a family. Allow your children to take turns reading aloud, including time for discussion and questions. Younger children may enjoy a picture Bible.
- Meal Time: Lenten meals will of course alert the family that it is a time for fasting from certain foods. Encourage fewer outside activities during this season so your family can actually sit down and eat together. Use this time to discuss upcoming events in the family or the day's activities. Perhaps each family member can share at least one thing they experienced during the day.
- Prayer Time: Some families pray together before or after a meal or before bedtime. Us a church prayer book. The Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim is highly recommended. Take turns using a prayer rope and praying for others who are sick, struggling, in need of help, your loved ones, friends, missionaries, and people in the world that you know and do not know. The litanies from the Divine Liturgy may offer a helpful outline for these intercessory prayers.
- Music Time: Play Lenten or other Church music as your family participates in chores around the house or as you drive in the family van. Check out your parish bookstore, or order CDs and tapes from the many Orthodox resources on-line or through catalogs.
- Worship Time: Check your parish monthly calendar and make a point to attend at least one Lenten service as a family during the week. If you only worship on Sundays, your family will miss the liturgical treasures that help make Great Lent more meaningful.
- Giving Time: Visit or phone people who are elderly or unable to get to church. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen as a family. Save money during Lent to give to the poor, or various ministries you feel are worthwhile. Use this valuable time to think about the needs of others.
- Forgiveness Time: Make a more conscious effort to forgive one another each night before going to sleep. Just taking the time to think about one's sins and how one might change their actions so they do not repeat them over and over again, is a step towards repentance. Schedule a time during Lent when the whole family (if possible) can go to Confession together.
Do not feel guilty if you do not attempt all of the above suggestions. But try to do something! Our holy fathers and mothers of the Church always practiced and taught. So we as Orthodox Christians have a responsibility to God, ourselves and our families to "do and teach" so that our children will learn by our example. Do not be shy in asking your parish priest and church School teachers for assistance. We are all disciples, and students of Christ, no matter what age. May your family experience a fruitful Lenten season, so at Pascha you may all sing joyfully, Christ is Risen!
Reprinted with permission from Life Transfigured: A Journal of Orthodox Nuns, Volume 39, Number 1, Pascha 2007(The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, Pennnsylvania)