Archive for March, 2007

extreme humility

 “From the heights Thou didst descend, O compassionate One.”

He could have called 12 legions of angels to his aid, but instead He chose to be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. Therefore, consider St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 12:15b:

 “do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” (and if one counts oneself the chief of sinners, this is not a condescending action)

Orthodox Worship

Our worship has been crafted by the Holy Spirit to touch all who come- including those with developmental disabilities whose intellectual capabilities are limited to concrete thinking (and have trouble with abstract reasoning) as well as those who lack certain senses.

Alongside the rich theology of our liturgy there are concrete actions, music, fragrance, icons, and more. There are words relating to everyday life and words that carry one through the Incarnate Christ into the ineffable heavenlies. The Holy Spirit can address the heart through all, or some, or even just one of these modes. The symbols of Orthodox worship- lighting candles, making the sign of the cross, kissing icons, prostration, and the like are enacted by all.

There is no need for separate services. The “spiritual sensuality” of our Divine Liturgy offers mentally retarded persons much to respond to: there is repetition, concreteness, physical contact; the staples of their unique pedagogy (method of learning) inhabits the services.

Search the resources and read Fr. Stephen Plumlee’s  The Handicapped and Orthodox Worship. (In the full list of Orthodox Christian Writings, under “The Resource Handbook for Lay Ministries” in the PARISH DEVELOPMENT section. Hit the http: after Parish Development.)

unfolding gifts

Robert Naseef, a psychologist whose son, Tariq, has a more involved form of autism (he never talks) writes in his book Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles and Rewards of Raising a Child with Disabilities,

“Tariq’s gifts to me were not in packages, but, rather, they have continued to unfold and develop over time. Like a tree, they have sunk roots and grown inside me. Tariq has taught me the meaning of unconditional love. I have learned to honor his sacred right to be loved for who he is. My attachment to his achievements dissolved over time. This was hard to let go in our world driven by appearance and money. Tariq has made good progress. He will probably go to a sheltered workshop after his graduation.” (P. 255)

In the epilogue of this book Naseef brings forth a valuable term: Differently Abled

Dr. Naseef has a web-based Special Families Guide: www.specialfamilies.com

Another book from the point of view of adults with disabilities from the other direction: Reflections from a Different Journey: What Adults with Disabilities Wish All Parents Knew, edited by Stanley D, Kllein, Ph.D., and John D. Kemp. McGraw-Hill, 2004.

the butterfly

 Sarah-Louise Casey,

Great Britain, World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships, Limerick, Ireland, September 2006

The butterfly is a very difficult stroke. I could never do it. I could score points for my high school track team in sprints and the discus, but I couldn’t do this.

Experiencing the Mysteries

Even if persons with developmental disability lack the potential to ever reason abstractly, their experience of the Mysteries (the Sacraments) can be just as rich as those who can reach that stage. For the Mysteries have Divine depth, and always beckon one forward to greater participation and fuller comprehension of their import. For the experience ultimately transcends conceptualization.

Fr. John Breck, in “Down Syndrome at Pascha,” in his book God With Us: Critical Issues in Christian Life and Faith, describes Marie, a woman who had Down Syndrome, at the Holy Friday service: (pp. 66-67)

She was entirely dressed in black. Her face was streaked with tears, her head was bowed, and her arms hung down at her sides. As she approached the shroud, she slowly made the sign of the cross three times, prostrated herself before it, and for a moment kept her head to the floor. Then she rose, kissed the face and then the feet of Christ, and finally venerated the Bible and the Cross. “

Boojamra on socialization

John BoojamraIn his book “Foundations of Christian Education” John Boojamra of blessed memory lays out the key means by which persons are socialized. (We all have strengths and weakness, abilities and disabilities, as it were. Its just that some people’s strengths and other’s weaknesses are more noticeable.) Consider these statements:

The family and the Church, in that order, are the matrix of socialization. (P. 10)

Orthodox Christian socialization is, in general terms, the process of human growth toward the uniting of oneself and others to Christ and His Church.

Those who have not, (or perhaps never will) reach the stage of abstract reasoning learn by experience, by watching- it is therefore imperative to include them in Church events. (pp 42-43)

Prayer by rote is one of the steps to sharing in the adult world. (P. 50)

Self-worth develops through accomplishment, acceptance, and a sense of belonging to both family and Church . . . the Church’s symbols and their constancy are assimilated; later, concepts [may] grow. The growth beyond egocentrism is facilitated by the shared experience of [these] symbolic structures, [whose] Divine depth invite eternal growth and discovery of the image of God inherent in every person.

The sensual- art, music, vestments, color, and tastes, experienced in the Liturgy- is the way (p. 53) Christ became flesh; touch is essential. Liturgy, fasting, prayer, and service, at Church and at home, socialize a person into [active citizenship] in the Kingdom. (p. 55)

Two key ingredients for socialization in the family: 1. the father’s commitment to the Faith and to love; 2. a loving relationship between the husband and wife (p. 80)

The Church and the lateral relationships it provides undergirds its families. (PP. 91-93)

Parish-based family-centered catechesis, balancing cognitive and affective elements, and addressing family efforts to worship, play, learn, and serve together, are a priority for the liturgy after the Liturgy if the parish is to be healthy, cohesive, and growing. (pp. 95-97)

The Church could be a clearinghouse for family support specialists; workshops by such specialists would be helpful. (P. 170)


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