Monday, June 17, 2019

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers

This is a book review on the audiobook. I was gifted a copy of this audiobook for an honest review.

After answering the call to pick an Ancient Faith audiobook to review, I was drawn to the title of this book. I am a mother. Therefore, I probably need to read this book. But, I did not read the entire title. The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: A Prayerbook for Orthodox Moms. Imagine my surprise as I began listening to this book. It is another hectic afternoon. I have finished working for the day (part time Orthodox school principal). I am at home, earbuds in, ready to dive into an audiobook when I realize- this is about prayer. And that this book is actually a prayerbook. And, this is exactly what I needed to hear on this challenging day. When I realized what this book really was about- I paused and made the decision to spend time really listening to the prayers, quotations from our Church Fathers, direction, and advice. Normally, I will listen to an audiobook for a few hours at a time (those precious hours when the boys' are at school, my husband is in his home office working, and I am doing the mom thing). This prayerbook needed more time to digest. I listened in short bursts of time over a few weeks. I found that by listening to this book while working around the house helped to keep me focused on praying while working. The book is divided into chapters with a special focus on a specific topic, prayers for different occasions, and daily prayers. The author's voice is soothing to listen to which is especially important in audiobooks.

And, listening to the audiobook now has me wanting to purchase a copy to keep in my prayer corner as the audiobook (at least on my kindle) does not have chapter names listed. 

This book was a delight and a surprise! I look forward to re-listening to it in the future. 



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Humility


“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”

It is fitting that at the end of the year, our focus is on humility; the mother of all virtues as Mother Teresa describes it. From September to now, we have introduced a different virtue to our students each month. Our deepest desire for all of our students at ASA is that they go on to lead lives of virtue and that they, outside of our walls, will be an example to others of what it means to lead a virtuous life. We provide them with these tools based on our Orthodox Faith that when they are grown, they will remember the words and example of the ASA staff and of you, their parents, in order to persevere in the virtues.
“We suffer because we have no humility and we do not love our brother. From love of our brother comes the love of God. People do not learn humility, and because of their pride cannot receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and there for the whole world suffers.”
-St. Silouan the Athonite
May we always strive for humility in all areas of our life.
Mrs. Blankenstein


Monday, April 8, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Patience

 


And so let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God. – St.Basil the Great

Every month, I attempt to write an article on the Virtue of the Month. As I think on what to write, I search for a quotation from the Church Father’s to hopefully inspire me as I write this. Sometimes, the simplest quotation seems to convey the exact message that I am looking to pass to you and our students. This month, St. Basil the Great, beautifully writes (better than I ever could write) the importance of patience. As we enter the last few weeks of Lent, let us be mindful and continue our struggle with patience as that will be when we “are most in the mind of God”. Kalo Pascha!

May it be blessed,

Mrs. Chrstina Blankenstein

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Thank you!!!



Thank you to the nuns of Paracletos Monastery who donated a beautiful icon of our Feast day to the school!

Check out all their fabulous images at https://www.orthodoxmonasteryicons.com/collections/festal-icons/products/midfeast-of-pentecost-icon.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Generosity


“When a man really considers his neighbor as himself, he will never tolerate having more than his neighbor. If he does have more, but refuses to share things generously until he himself becomes as poor as his neighbor, then he will find that he has not fulfilled the commandment of the master. He no longer wants to give to all who ask, and instead turns away from someone who asks of him while she still has a penny or a crust of bread. He has not treated his neighbor as he would like to be treated by him. In fact, even if a man had given food and drink and clothes to all the poor, even the least, and had done everything else for them, he has only to despise or neglect a single one and it will be reckoned as if he had passed by Christ and God and He was hungry and thirsty.”— St. Simeon the New Theologian

We have reached the beginning of Lent. This is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our journey in our Faith and whether or not we are leading lives of virtue. Our virtue of the month for March is generosity. Be kind to everyone you meet. Give to all- not only to those who are less fortunate but give of ourselves (time, patience, love) to everyone that crosses our path. At Agia Sophia Academy, our staff strives to instill in our students the importance of giving to one another as one of the highest of virtues. We must continuously teach our children through our own example of giving and generosity to all.
By the way, this Lenten season, remember to pick up a “grab and give” bag to hand out to those in need. And, please look at our Food Barrel Friday list for those in need. These are all simply and easy ways to share what we have with our neighbors.
Kali Sarakosti! Have a blessed Lent!
In Christ,
Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Virtue of the month- Love


Our virtue of the month for February is love. When we think of February, we think of chocolates and hearts, cards and flowers; the exchanging of gifts with those we love. Growing up, my dad always gave us boxes of chocolate covered cherries for Valentine’s Day and even though they weren’t my favorite candy, this gift was a small act of love from my father. At other times, he sat next to me almost every evening while I practiced piano. This was not a material gift but a gift of his time. While both gifts have value, which gift is of greater value?
"A child needs a lot of love and affection, and much guidance. A child needs you to sit by his side, listen to his problems, caress him and kiss him. If a mother takes an upset and mischievous child into her arms to caress and kiss, the child will calm down. If the young child is filled with affection and love, later that child will be strong and able to face the problems of life." – St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Our goal at ASA is to guide our students through love so that they, as St. Paisios said, “will be strong and able to face the problems of life.”

May all our interactions with our children be blessed,

Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Saturday, February 9, 2019

I Live Again- Audiobook Review...


As I listened to this audiobook, my mind kept returning to one thought... Princess Ileana, during the time of the war, exemplified the Proverbs 31 woman:
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
This book is not about her monastic life or the establishment of the monastery. This book is a journal of the events of Princess Ileana's life during a very specific time period- her life during WWII and after- leading up to her family leaving Romania. How she "lives again" as she transitions from being a princess of Romania to the Archduchess of Austria to the time of WWII, and, finally, to when she is forced with her family to leave her country. 
Princess Ileana was not idle- her ability to learn nursing, build hospitals, give to the poor, and convince communist officials to support her endeavors were inspiring. 
As I finished this audiobook, I was inspired by her untiring example of giving to others and helping her fellow man. And, her adventures, which she writes about very matter of fact (almost as if she believes that anyone else would have done the same thing which shows her true humility). I am eager to learn more about how Princess Ileana became Mother Alexandra of blessed memory, how she "lives again" in monasticism. 
Technically, this audiobook is very well done. The quality of the recording is amazing. The narrator, Kristina Wenger, does an excellent job- I almost believed it was the voice of Princess Ileana herself! 
The one downside to the audiobook is that the published book does contain illustrations and photos of Princess Ileana and her family. But, that is the downside to audiobooks, especially autobiographical books, is that there is not a way to convey the photos or artwork. We happen to own a copy of the book and I was able to look through the photos/illustrations (but I waited until after I finished listening to the book in order to write a review of the audiobook). 
I was gifted a copy of this audiobook for an honest review. Purchase your own copy of the audiobook through Audible.com or purchase the printed book through Ancient Faith Publishing