You may be asking, “What in the world does she mean? Aren’t the events on the Church calendar historical?” Well, yes and no. While all of the saints and events on the Church calendar are historical, in the sense that they did actually exist and historical events did take place, are they not also a part of our present and our future? In a real way all of the feasts and days of commemoration are present and real.
I accepted this wholeheartedly when it came to Christ, He is eternal and the I Am. The Trinity has no beginning or ending. However, when it came to accepting the living presence of the saints that was another story. We converts have a rough go of it. (I was raised Protestant, and later converted to Catholicism, only to find my home in the Orthodox Church). And this is where I began to see the wonderful nurturing and loving aspect of the Church. It’s as if we’ve been invited to a great feast. In fact, the Church uses the word feast. Everyone who enters the Church is in essence entering the Great Paschal Feast, the resurrection and life of Christ. All the saints who have gone before us reveal Christ. And we homeschooling mothers get to open up this wonderful life of the Church, which is the life of Christ to our children. How awesome is that?
However, this realization was not as easily walked out, and I continue to grow in this area. Making the decision to center our homeschool plan around the Church calendar is one that I have struggled with. Here’s why. I may have to adjust our academic load. I have found that if we attend services, participate in the readings, hymns, and commemorations, do hands on activities to reinforce the beauty of the feasts, and read books that correspond with a certain feast or saint we have to let go of some of my academic ideals. We cannot do it all, and that is just the truth of it.
In the process of renewing my mind in this area, I have discovered that the pride of life is a major weakness and area of sin in me. I am not saying that everyone who follows a strict academic rule is prideful. Absolutely not. This is just something I struggle with. It is simply my desire for my children to succeed, perform, stand out, be smart, get into a great college, win spelling bees, and be affluent that drives me. I envision that success in this world is what will make them happy (or better, what will make me happy), and so I fashion my goals, training , and curriculum with a secular mindset. What is worse is I fear that if I fail my children in this area they will not succeed in life. This kind of thought life, even heart life, is very toxic for a homeschool mother. My perfectionism is the very root of my guilt when it comes to the training and raising of my children.
But, this is not my only option, I do not have to be a slave to this worldly system of fear. There stands the Church, the Noah’s Ark of time, the timeless feast of Christ Himself; humbly and gently calling me to enter the feast. And my eyes fill with tears. Not because I am sad, but because I am safe. The Church is the one place I can trust when it comes to nurturing and growing my children. Even more so than my own arms. In Christ, my children will become more than I could ever produce, even with the best academic education money can buy. In the Church they can become saints!
This is what I believe about the Church calendar, this is the potential. What is available to us cannot be valued in any terms that I can describe. And this is what I tell myself at homeschool book fairs, or when I see another homeschool mom who is organized, focused, and diligent with subjects that I simply do not have time for, or when I cannot check any boxes or record any progress, or when someone asks my seven year old who the president is and she has no clue, or when I feel alone, or when I feel like giving up.
My favorite book that helps me refocus and go deep within my heart to raise my children is Raising Them Right by Saint Theophan the Recluse. I have read this book several times, and it is a good read before the homeschool year begins.
So while I think it is valuable to teach the historical aspects of the Church, at appropriate times and ages, what is more important for me is the active and dynamic participation in the Church calendar, the liturgical year, which is, not was, the Life of Christ. This requires that my husband and I constantly evaluate our daily lives, our goals for our children, and the direction we are heading. This is a hard work for those of us who pay bills and know that someday our children will have to pay bills too. However, Christ asks us to trust Him, the Church shows us the way, and ultimately it is the Kingdom of God that we seek to enter.