Happy New Year!
For Orthodox Christians, September first is the beginning of the new Church calendar. We begin again the cycle of feasts and fasts that guide us through the life of Christ and the history of salvation. We are once again invited to enter into the ancient rhythm of the Church.
Now, everyone has heard of New Year’s resolutions, right? But, have you ever thought about setting spiritual goals with the new Church year?
How to Create Spiritual Goals
One nice way to begin the spiritual new year is by making goals for yourself and your family. Now, these goals differ from the common New Year resolutions in a few ways:
1. First, spiritual goals differ in their focus.
Instead of just trying to become a better person or kick a bad habit, the ultimate goal is to become more like Christ.
2. Secondly, spiritual goals need special guidance.
It is best to discuss any spiritual goals with your priest or spiritual father. Because your priest knows you and your spiritual state, and ultimately is responsible for you, he can determine areas of particular need in your life.
3. Finally, spiritual goals have no true completion in this life.
We cannot complete a spiritual task and become complacent. As the desert fathers and monastics have taught us, “working out our salvation” is an ongoing task that requires constant repentance and prayer.
Once we understand the differences between spiritual and secular goals, we can prayerfully begin creating some for ourselves.
There are often four areas that Orthodox Christians focus on in this task: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study. If you are new to goal-setting, consider starting with one or two spiritual goals to focus on for this liturgical year.
Here are some goals that I have set in the past. You can use them to get your wheels turning:
Spiritual Goals for Prayer
-Pray the Morning Prayers together as a family 4 days a week
-Pray the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God Nurturer of Children once a week
-Pray through the Psalter each month
-Teach the children the Jesus prayer
-Purchase prayer ropes for older children and teach them how to use
-Pray the prayers for after a meal
-Visit a monastery, stay all night, and have a prayer retreat
Spiritual Goals for Fasting
-Create a binder with fasting recipes
-Teach children the purpose of fasting
-Plan for Wednesday and Friday fasting days when meal planning
-Try one new fasting recipe a week during Lent
-Fast from yelling at my children
-Focus on simple, healthy, inexpensive meals during fasting periods
Spiritual Goals for Almsgiving
-Find one charity to support consistently throughout the year
-Volunteer as a family at a local charity
-Write letters to elderly relatives
-Teach children about stewardship and model it for them
Spiritual Goals for Study
-Read through the Old Testament
-Read through the New Testament
-Read one spiritual book a month
-Read/ listen to the life of the saint of the day as a family
-Purchase more Orthodox children’s books to add to your family library
-Take an adult education class at your church
Now, obviously, these goals may not be appropriate for everyone. And, I certainly didn’t have ALL of these goals for one year!
However, setting a few spiritual goals for yourself (under the guidance of your spiritual father), and encouraging your older children to do the same, can be a very powerful way of beginning the new Church year.
Help for the Busy and Overwhelmed
Are you reading this and thinking, “Yeah, right! I barely have time to take a shower during the day, let alone create spiritual goals!” I get you.
Like you, I am busy. I am a wife, a mother to three little ones, a full-time teacher, and a writer. There are days when I am lucky if I move the laundry to the dryer before it starts to mildew! So I felt overwhelmed at the thought of trying to integrate the Church calendar into my home life. One more thing to add to my to-do list? No, thank you.
Then I realized that by matching my family’s rhythm to the rhythm of the Church, I actually had more room to breathe. I was able to slow down and focus on what was really important. Even in the midst of the busy, I felt the peace that comes from finding the “one thing needful.”
I know so many Orthodox parents who are just like me. They long for a deeper connection to life of the Church, but they don’t know where to start. That is what my book, Seasons of the Faith, is for. I want to share with you what I have learned through research, guidance from my spiritual father, conversations with older and wiser parents, and years of trial and error.
Seasons of the Faith Book
In this resource for Orthodox families, you will learn
- The Story Behind Every Feast
- Simple Practical Ways to Celebrate the Feast as a Family
- Fun Learning Activities Designed for Younger Children
- Engaging, Age-Appropriate Activities for Older Children
- Tips for Fasting with Children
Inside the eBook you will find 20 chapters of practical ideas designed to help you, a busy parent, guide your family in celebrating the feasts and fasts of the Church. Written by a mom for moms.
Each chapter focuses on one feast or fast of the Church year–adding up to almost 200 pages of immediately actionable strategies and activities designed to help your family learn about and celebrate the feasts.
All of this for $12. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to check it out HERE.
I pray that you have a blessed new year!