STATE COLLEGE, PA — Children once again filled the Holy Trinity Parish Hall for the “over the hump day” of the local parish’s Vacation Bible School (VBS). The pace was fast and furious as the students learned about the “winter saints”.
Many students were a bit perplexed at the start of the session as to why they were studying saints since VBS is focused on the Nativity of Christ. However, the students quickly learned that knowing about some of the winter saints helps them to understand that love for Christ led some to sacrifice their lives, and others to focus their whole lives on Him. The saints discussed included Ss. Barbara and Herman (a local parish favorite).
Additionally, the students continued their study of prominent people associated with Nativity story. Today the session focused on Elizabeth, Mary’s older cousin and the mother of John the Baptist. Mary went to visit her much older cousin near Jerusalem and Bethlehem soon after she learned that she pregnant with Jesus.
Sing Unto the Lord!
Music is an important part of VBS and the students have been learning a variety of different songs and hymns related to the theme for the week.
To many, one of the most striking characteristics of Orthodox music is the fact that it’s sung without any instrumental accompaniment. In other words, we don’t use organs or pianos or guitars in our services. That’s because Christians have historically worshipped without musical instruments. Of course, there’s nothing at all wrong with organs and pianos and guitars, but none of those instruments can approach the beauty of the human voice (the greatest musical instrument given to man by God). In part, this is to manifest Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
Saints of all Kinds
St. John Kronstadt explained our relationship with saints by saying:
“We live together with them in the house of our Heavenly Father, only in different parts of it. We live in the earthly, they in the heavenly half; but we can converse with them, and they with us. God’s saints are near to the believing heart, and are ready in a moment to help those who call upon them with faith and love.”
The saints of the Church have various titles with which they are commemorated. Some of these titles include:
- Enlightener of…: the saint who first brought the faith to a people or region, or who did major work of evangelization there .
- Great-martyr: one who was martyred for the faith and suffered torture
- Venerable: a monastic saint
- Merciful: one known for charitable work, especially toward the poor
- Wonderworker: a saint renowned for performing miracles, also called “miracle-worker”
- Confessor: one who has suffered for the faith but not martyred outright
- Passion-bearer: one who faced his death in a Christ-like manner
- Fool-for-Christ: a saint known for his apparent, yet holy insanity
- Protomartyr: the first martyr in a given region
- Unmercenary: a saint who refused to take payment for healing.