Living the Christian Calendar: Why It Matters and How to Do It

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I don’t know about you, but my life can get pretty hectic sometimes! It seems like twenty different things are vying for my attention at any point in time. If I let them, these things can start to control the flow and shape of my life.

Things like cleaning, cooking, meetings, errands, and deadlines start becoming what I center my life around. They control my schedule, my time, my energy – and too often even my emotions and thoughts.

As a Christian, these should not be the shaping forces in my life. Things like scripture, Church, and prayer should have that place of honor. But far too often these important voices get drowned out by the rushing noise of my to-do list.

How do we center our lives around Christ and His Church when we are surrounded by such loud demands from our culture?

We need to “fix our eyes on the prize,” as St. Paul teaches us in Philippians chapter 3. The Enemy does all he can to take our eyes off of Christ – even twisting things that God created to be good – things like I listed above: chores, children, work, food, etc.

St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain put it this way:

 

Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God; keep in your mind the thought that after the present hour you will not be given another and that you will have to render a strict account for every minute of this present hour.

Our Enemy is trying to trap us into putting other things before God – whether sinful things or things that we are meant to use for God’s glory.

How can we fight against this?

One of my all-time favorite quotes from a Church Father is this one from St. Anthony the Great:

 

The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the sign of the Cross.

When we are continually in prayer, doing all we do for the glory of God out of humility and love, and emerged deep in the life of the Church, the Enemy has no way in – in fact, he runs away!

This is a major part of why it is so important to live within the life of the Church – and this means following their calendar!

*By this, I don’t mean what date Easter or Christmas falls on. That’s a discussion for another time! Rather, I mean living your life in the life of the Church…participating in daily prayers, in vesper services, in fasting, in Feast Day services, and in the Divine Liturgy.*

What does “the Christian Calendar” even mean?

By “living the Christian Calendar,” I mean participating in the life of the Church. This includes things like daily prayers, vespers, fasting, Feast Days, the Divine Liturgy, and more!

Think about how the world shapes their calendar. To do this we can look at any superstore.

From January to February we see candy hearts, flowers, and teddy bears. From February to March we find clovers and leprechaun hats. From March to May the aisles are filled with bunnies, chicks, marshmallow peeps and chocolate eggs. From May to July we’re surrounded by red, white and blue. From July to September it’s Back to School sales. From September to November it’s jack-o-lanterns, costumes and face-paint. (And sometimes at least half an aisle of turkeys and pilgrims). And we all know from November to December we will see nothing but ornaments, elves, wreaths, and santas!

Or sometimes the secular world shapes their calendar around sports. Baseball is from April to September, football spans September to January, and basketball is November to April.

As moms, it can be easy to shape our calendar around our kids’ school and extracurricular activities. School events, Girl Scout cookie sales, swim team season, track meets, and summer vacation fill up our planners!

Examining how we spend our time often reveals what we value most. As followers of Christ, we are called to live “in Christ.” A necessary piece of this is shaping our calendars around the Church before we shape it around other things.

So how do we shape our calendars around the Church?

This is first and foremost a matter of deciding your priorities.

We are called to prioritize Christ above all, and we are called to do this within His Body, the Church. We are called to this even if it means missing our favorite show, or your child missing out on a playdate with friends. It may even mean not signing your child up for that sports team whose games are always on Sunday, or missing that work dinner party that is scheduled during vespers service.

As hard as it may be, deciding to “miss out” on some things for the sake of Christ is one of the best things you can do for your family. It is this to which we are called, to die to ourselves.

St. Paul says,

 

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

How beautiful is being found in Christ! How incomparably precious compared to anything and everything this world has to offer!

First, we must decide to make Christ and His Church our priorities.

Second, we need to be in the know. We need to know what the Church calendar looks like!

One of my favorite tools for this is the Orthodox Calendar App by David Leselidze. Download it here for an iPhone and here for an android. Not only does this app have the feasts and fasts on it, it also tells you which saints are venerated on that day. Sometimes it even has links where you can find out more about them!

We also hang an Orthodox calendar in our family desk area. (Don’t have a family desk area? Check out my post on how to make one!) Our calendar tells us major saints on each day, what tone will be used for that week, when the major feast days are, when to fast, and each month has a quote from a Church Father or elder.

You can order an OCA Desk Calendar here!

Being in the know also means being in the know about your own parish. Find their calendar of services and events and print that out, too!

Finally, living the Christian calendar means intentionality. This requires planning.

To help myself keep track of everything going on in our lives, I use a day planner. My favorite is The Happy Planner by Create 365. I love their “faith” collection! It’s great for people like me who love decorating and sticking stickers on everything! Find it here.

Once I have collected all my various calendars (the app or the wall calendar and my parish’s calendar), I sit down with my planner and fill in it.

While I don’t fill in all the saints or the quotes, I definitely fill in fasting days, Feast Days and services. I especially pay attention to major Feast Days.

Feast days, like Pascha and Theophany, are so central to our Christian faith and life! I make these and everything that goes along with them (vigil, etc.) MUST-DOS in our family calendar.

Once these are written in my planner, I can use this to plan other things around our participation in the Church. For example, when scheduling a dinner with friends, I know not to schedule it on Thursday, April 25th, as that is Holy Thursday.


So, decide today to make participating in the life of the Church your family’s priority! I promise you will be blessed abundantly. Since my husband and I have really begun doing this, the Lord has blessed us with spiritual growth and deep peace. 

Grab some Orthodox calendars and your own planner, and start planning!

Leave a comment below about how the Lord uses the life of the Church in your life. I love to hear how God is moving in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Have a suggestion for how else to live out the Christian calendar? Leave it below!

Living the Christian Calendar...How to center your family's schedule around Christ

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