Christmas Parties in Desolate Places

02closeup_scrooge_cratchit“I’m a Christian, so I don’t go to parties,” said a person to me recently. There was a time in my life I would have accepted such a judgment about parties without qualification. The theology behind the idea of canceling Christmas is partly to blame for this tepid approach to life. Indeed the Lord does give his peace to us not as the world gives  with the implication that all worldly parties without Him will always fall short of the mark. But where does this trepidation towards partying in general and towards specific Christian feasts/parties mean for the life in Christ? How do we answer Scrooge’s argument to his jubilant nephew in our musical adaptation of Dicken’s classic Carol:

“The 25th of December from what I remember is no special day, just a date.” Continue reading

The Weapon of Discernment

For my yearly Back-to-School post, I would like to republish an article I wrote when I was just a young teacher. It is the first day today for my alma mater, St. Herman of Alaska Christian School, for whom I wrote this article almost 20 years ago. Good strength to all in your September return to learning. God bless your studies in this new school year!

Sunflowers, Autumn 1997

The Weapon of Discernment
by Aaron Friar
Instructor, Grades 3-8

mirrorbbc-758689Many parents have felt the wonder of the moment when their child was old enough to utter his first word. Perhaps, equal to excitement is the moment when he begins to read. He sounds out everything in his path All goes well until he decides to exercise his phonics skills on a supermarket tabloid. Words “scandal” and the easier monosyllable “sex” send his impressionable mind reeling as he asks parents a barrage of troubling questions.

In our age of free access to information, it is more important than ever to learn discernment of words. It is not enough for us to set our children free to roam aimlessly in the abyss of choices provided by almost every media imaginable; we must also give them the tools which will enable them to make wise choices. They do not just need to know how to read but what to read. And our greater task as Christian parents and teachers is to enable our children to discern the words they read and hear by the measuring stick of Christ. The world around them is more than what meets the eye or impresses the mind, and we must give them the mastery of words which is necessary to see a bigger and more truthful picture. Continue reading

Waiting for the Word

tumblr_inline_nkt5dacs2t1tp32k5It’s rare that we cry through a film. Hollywood cheesiness has about as much effect on us as a doorbell on a deaf person. But when my wife and I saw this recent French film about a blind and deaf girl in the late nineteenth century, we could not help but weep for joy, sorrow, and deep, abiding Hope in the world to come. Continue reading

September. Again.

Had our first day of school today in our newly created Home School dedicated to the Royal New-Martyred Family of Russia. It was glorious to be teaching in a classroom again, especially to my own dear children. It has been quite a long time since I have had such a pleasure, as I am by trade and calling a teacher and only secondarily a tour guide. I took a break from that calling several years ago so that I could have the energy to start a new family and to finish a seminary education. But now I am fully ready to get back into the fray, and this is so far a wonderful reintroduction for me, like the one described by another home schooler today.

The title of my post comes from a dearly loved college magazine I used to subscribe to as a young man called Campus Life. It was the caption of a memorable September issue which featured on the cover one of the most poignant scenes I have ever beheld. A single little boy in a yellow rain jacket, holding a tiny lunch pail boards a yellow school bus in a gentle, early morning autumn rain. Continue reading

Calling the World to the Resurrection

I once taught a history course in my former school entitled Traveling the World with the Apostles, in which we learned about the various and diverse cultures of the world through the perspective of the first Christian apostle to those cultures. While a lot has changed at the school since I taught there almost a decade ago, there is still a strong sense in the curriculum of the universality of the Christian faith and how Christ calls the whole world to new life in Him. In this season of the resurrection, the Church celebrates this universality by chanting the paschal (Easter) hymn in as many different languages as our local choirs can muster. Here is just a sample of that diversity: Continue reading

Tap Dancing the Orthodox Way

tap-shoes1When I first came to Boston several decades ago, I was a newly minted college grad sent on a mission to enlighten the world with my presumed wisdom. In fact, one of the ways I hoped to make my living teaching others with something I thought I knew well was through tap dancing. Growing up in a podunk town in the Midwest, I nevertheless somehow managed to receive instruction in the modern art and rose to a level I felt was proficient enough to make me a teacher. Do not presume to be teachers, my brethren, for the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. Continue reading

The Word on the White Board

From foreverdigital on flickr.com

“Mr. Friar, what does paradox mean?” In my many years of teaching, I have fielded a variety of questions from students with a relative thirst for knowledge. Some ask with a genuine desire to know; others out of an attempt to trick the teacher into an interesting but irrelevant tangent from the lesson at hand. But I sensed that today’s query into the meaning of a difficult theological word was coming from a need deeper than idle curiosity or a mere thirst to know. And as the day progressed and my second assignment as a 5th grade substitute for a local Catholic elementary school concluded, the need of this particular student for meaning was revealed. Continue reading