Ten years ago, on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, our son, Justin, moved into our home after a long fought battle to reunite him with his two older brothers. It was the first time, ever, that these three boys were able to live under the same roof together. I can't help but feel that the Theotokos was beside us through it all.
Additionally, every year on the feast of the Annunciation, we go to church and my three oldest boys buy their own seven day candle to light for their birth mom on her birthday. It's a way for them to remember and pray for her...with or without me, for the rest of their lives. For our family, we talk about the role of moms quite often on the feast days of the Theotokos. It is a natural topic of conversation for us given the role of the Theotokos and our own life experiences associated with these feast days.
A couple of years ago, I ran across a bracelet on Ancient Faith Publishing made of seeds called "Panagia's Tears" or "Tears of the Mother of God". I found the story of the bracelet fascinating and ended up buying it for my daughter for Pascha that year.
The story goes: as the Theotokos was crying at the foot of the Cross, her tears fell to the ground and there grew a grass-like plant that produces bead-like seeds called "Panagia's Tears". Much later, a monk on Mt. Athos was upset because he was having difficulty tying the traditional knots of a prayer rope. The Theotokos appeared to him and said, “My child, take my tears, cultivate them, and make prayer ropes with which men may say the prayer of the heart.”
After a little bit of searching online, I found a website that sells the seeds and after they arrived in the mail, I planted them in my garden this summer.
I found it interesting that in this story about the plant, it says that they grow really well in an area of Mt. Athos that is exceptionally wet. I'm not sure if we normally get this much rain here in the summer, since we haven't even lived here a year yet, but we've had an exceptionally wet, hot summer...and my pot of Panagia's Tears are thriving! I'm looking forward to harvesting the seeds, drying them, and making a prayer bracelet from them with my kids this autumn.
Orthodox Curriculum: Worship, Formal Learning, Praxis
Dr. Constance Tarasar explained in her doctoral dissertation about a framework we can all use for creating Orthodox curriculum. She proposed worship, formal learning, and praxis (living our faith) as the three ways to synergistically further our own knowledge about Orthodoxy as well as how to teach it to others.
For this lesson on the Theotokos:
Worship: attending and participating in the services
- Akathist to the Mother of God: Fridays during Lent
- Paraklesis to the Mother of God: explanation
- Feast Days of the Mother of God
Formal Learning: expanding your knowledge or explaining it to others
- Sprang forth at the foot of the Cross from the Theotokos' tears
- Give to a monk to cultivate and make into prayer bracelets
- Learn the Jesus prayer and how to use a prayer rope
Praxis: living our faith in our daily lives
- Plant Panagia's Tears in our own garden
- Make our own prayer bracelet
- Use the prayer bracelet, saying Jesus prayer daily
"Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner."
There are many versions, varying in length, of this simple yet powerful prayer. Below are commentaries on the Jesus Prayer which can be said while using a prayer rope:
- "Saying the Jesus Prayer" by Dr. Albert Rossi
- The Jesus Prayer (OCA Archdiocese website)
- The Jesus Prayer (GOARCH Archdiocese website)
- Using the Jesus Prayer (Antiochian Archdiocese website)
- Extensive Information on The Jesus Prayer and traditional prayer ropes for purchase (Chotki.com)
Role of Mothers
The family is not just the principle educator but the educator of such importance that the influence of all other factors is at best marginal. – John Boojamra, Foundations for Christian Education
As we gaze at an icon of the Theotokos, we can contemplate:
- the importance of her role in giving birth to Christ
- our role as mothers to raise saints
- our responsibility to give birth to Christ's presence in our own lives
Planting the Seeds in Our Garden
You can purchase the seeds here.
There are instructions on the packet of the seeds when you receive them. It suggests soaking the seeds and waiting until it's in the 80's on a regular basis before planting.
This is the first time I've tried growing this plant but it has been thriving in our wet, hot summer. I haven't watered it once yet other than just after placing the seeds in the soil.
One week after the seeds were planted
Two months after planting
Make a Prayer Rope Using Panagia's Tears