My Children’s Thoughts On The Great Canon

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I grew up in a protestant home. Because of that I always find it interesting to see my own children’s faith growing and their reaction to things. Growing up in the Eastern Church is definitely different then coming into it. I often have to remind myself that this world is all my children know; they never knew life without the Church, without the sacraments, this beautiful life they live is simply normal life for them.

We went to Matins and the Great Canon of St. Andrew. Manny and I only took two of the kids. The service was three and a half hours, ended late at night, and being 33 weeks pregnant I knew I wasn’t going to be up to handling the little kids. So we took Diego (11) and Magdalena (10). There were college students spending their spring break at the monastery so besides us and the monks, there was also a small crowd in the chapel and Diego and Lena ended up hanging out on the staircase for most of the service until they finally became too tired and went up to the choir loft.

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They were troopers and made it through the three and a half hour service with only a small break. As we went home I started wondering what they thought of the service and the long life story of St. Mary of Egypt. Were they able to pay attention? Were they bored? They are kids whose worst offenses are usually fighting with their siblings, what did they think of all these prayers for mercy and verses about our sinfulness? What would they have gotten out of the story of St. Mary of Egypt?

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So instead of wondering I decided to ask them. I told them I was gonna interview them and write a blog post about it if they didn’t mind. They agreed. I spoke to each of them separately so neither one would hear what the other had to say. I told them to answer truthfully because I wanted their honest thoughts. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear them say they were bored and weren’t able to pay a whole lot of attention to the service. Surprising to me they didn’t say this, (I didn’t add this in below but Diego repeated back much of St. Mary’s life even) here are their thoughts:

Me: What did you think about the Great Canon?

Diego:  First, it was really tiring. It was nice, it was beautiful.

Magdalena: It was long and tiring. There were a lot of prostrations. I liked it; I liked the chanting, the music and words were pretty.

Me: Diego, what was beautiful to you?

Diego: The chanting, the words. I thought it was inspiring and beautiful that the guests especially, who are not used to the long services and prostrations, participated so much.

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Me: What did you think of the story of St. Mary of Egypt?

Diego: Well my honest opinion is she lived a crazy life! The fact that the priest, St. Zosimos, joined a different monastery by God’s will, traveled for twenty days into the desert with very little and prayed the hours facing the East, and turning and running away from any monks he might encounter in the desert, and then when they returned home couldn’t ask or discuss what they did while out in the desert for Lent taught me to mind my own business! To only worry about myself and God and not worry about what other people are up to! I also learned, don’t be a coo coo brain when you grow up. Also, if you pray and make promises, like when St. Mary couldn’t get into the church to see the true cross, just beware the power of the Lord! Watch what you promise and pray about!

Magdalena: She used to be a very proud lady and became very holy. She liked to make men admire her but she was never satisfied with her efforts. She ended up having cool powers because of all of her praying. She lived off of only three loaves of bread at first and then just herbs. Being alone probably made it easier to control her temper when she didn’t have a lot to eat!

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Me: What did the story teach you?

Diego: Do not lie, do not commit adultery. Pray harder.

Lena: Not to be proud and vain and want men’s admiration. If you pray enough you can change, if you are really sorry for what you do you can still change and repent.

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Me: Do you think this was an important service to attend? Why or why not?

Diego: Yes, to ask for St. Mary’s help and to ask God for mercy on us.

Lena: Yes, because it is really important to repent of your sins and if we don’t go to confession we won’t go to heaven. It is also a good time to think of the bad things that you’ve done and then repent of your sins so God can forgive you.

That pretty much sums up the interview of my kids. I was surprised by their answers and pleased. It is reassuring to me to know they got so much out of this service. My children live and express their faith a lot like their dad. It’s very quiet, natural, and honest. Because of this, I will sometimes wonder what’s going on with them, and I wonder what they think about things. I try not to intrude on their relationship with God and the Church but I do encourage them and teach them while respecting their own consciences and knowing I cannot live their faith for them. Praying for God to draw them near to Him is one of the most important things I do as a parent, living the faith and raising my children practicing their faith are the other things.

13 Comments

  1. What thoughtful responses your children gave! This one from your daughter was especially precious, “Being alone probably made it easier to control her temper when she didn’t have a lot to eat!” My husband is a convert (to Roman Catholicism) & I am a cradle Catholic (from the Roman Catholic tradition)…but as we have been attending an Eastern Catholic parish for nearly 10 years now (& formally transferred several years ago), it is also the only way of living the Faith that most of our children know. You are so right, praying for God to draw them near to Him is one of the most important things we as parents can do for our children. Blessings & peace to you & your beautiful family! (& extra prayers for you & baby!) 🙂

    • Patricia,

      The comment from Lena about controlling her temper was so funny to me; I had to keep myself from laughing as she talked to me! We are deep in the fast now and people are getting grumpy!

      Thank you for the prayers! God bless your family too, and thanks for reading! 🙂

      -Jessica

  2. That is awesome! …I wish we had a monastery nearby…

    • We had the canon for clean week and also the whole thing like we did here at HRM when we went to the parish in California. But it took a lot of people being committed to making all the extra services happen, it certainly didn’t just happen on its own or because of the priest only. I do not doubt the sacrifices your family makes to serve the church. It must be hard and lonely. God sees and I am sure He is grateful.

    • Oh and thanks, I am glad you liked the post!

  3. Love the liturgies of the Byzantine Eastern Churches. It is so sacred so beautiful

  4. Just finished reading your post this morning. I remember my first encounter with St. Mary of Egypt 15 years ago as our family was preparing for its entry into the Catholic Church and my son Gabriel (and your godson) was still within me. How curious St. Mary appeared to me in that little monastery gift shop in Newberry Springs, CA. , so thin and haggard with just a remnant of garment draped about her emaciated female frame,. I had to ask to be certain whether the saint was indeed a female! Fr. Basil assured me of that and Fr. Moses briefly enlightened me as to her story. Then he added, ” Just you wait until Lent, we read her story aloud. You will weep.” And weep I did. I will never forget that day in the monastery gift shop, when all other people and icons faded away for a moment and I became face to face with St. Mary of Egypt. The first prominent icon my husband obtained for our household was this very Icon of my beautiful encounter with her.

    • That is so beautiful, I am glad you shared your experience. It is amazing how deeply St. Mary’s story resonates with people, even with children. Please give Gabriel my love!

      -Jessica

  5. I’m just crying over here… it’s fine. How absolutely and utterly beautiful! I am so touched by their beautiful hearts. We read the life of St. Mary of Egypt at the service for the first time this year – and I got to read her relaying her sins! Talk about compunction, I could barely read it without crying. It reminded me of my first Canon of St. Andrew, where I really met St. Mary for the first time and bonded with her. Thanks for writing this! Wonderful!!

  6. Insightful and tender responses as only Diego and Magdalena can offer. Thank you for the post.

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