I am a mother to three busy children and a graduate of Pratt Institute (BFA) and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.) Along the way, I had the great opportunity to visit Orthodox churches in Finland, Mexico, Alaska, Germany, Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, Venice, Greece, Turkey, and Romania.
I am thankful for the online chance to share Orthodox ideas to keep our children engaged and wish your families many blessings~
Here is an Orthodox Christian Worksheet and Lesson on the Nativity that includes a bit of theology we often overlook. Although it might be for older ones, I hope it offers details that the younger ones can comprehend as well.
Click here for the PDF Lesson available at the Orthodox Christian Scribd Group.
Wishing you and your families a blessed Nativity and Twelve Days of Christmas beginning with the birth of our Lord.
Try a "Candy Cane Hunt" with your families, friends, or parishes on the Sunday before Christmas, Dec 21st. You can print out tags to wrap around each cane if you like with a short spiritual poem. It's a great way to get out energy after the Divine Liturgy!
shall come a Star out of Jacob (Numbers
He will save His
people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21)
For unto us a
Child is born, unto us a Son is given(Isaiah
He said, “Thou art My Son; on this day have I
begotten Thee” (Psalm 2:7)
We have seen His star in the east, and are
come to worship Him (Matthew 2:2)
You will find a
babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger(Luke 2:12)
For unto you
is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who
is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11)
the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his
name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
The Angels cried out, Glory to God in the
highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14)
will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of
these 15 versus from the Bible out on different colors of paper, or at a minimal on green construction paper. Cut them
into strips with a paper cutter, trim the lengths, and ask your children or teens to glue
them into the Christmas story tree to white or blue paper. If you have younger ones, you could
always number the phrases, but even if the order gets rearranged, it
still works. Have fun learning holy scripture! To download the PDF file, click here:
Here is a small book compiled on the life and miracles of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra. It is my first attempt to extract scenes from "vita" icons of the Church's beloved Saints in order to bring them to life with simple stories for children and teens. I hope this idea can extend into a series, maybe one day even a published collection, to build our libraries with illustrated books for years to come ~ May it be of some small use to you and your families.
A PDF file can be downloaded
from the Scribd.com Orthodox Education Collection here.
Use this study to learn the prophecies of the Old Testament with your children and teenagers. (Download the free printable PDF file here, in color or black/white.) All verses are weaved into the hymns of the Orthodox Church and chanted during the Christmas services. The richness and depth of the season is remarkable!
Complete this "Root of Jesse Tree" by first gluing the Mother of God in place, and adding a prophet as you study them with the verses below. The tradition of this icon can often be found with an image of Jesse reclining at the bottom of the icon as the root - the Mother of God becomes the "rod" who springs forth the "fruit" who is Christ (2nd century Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, St Ambrose of Milan, and 8th c St Cosmas) Here are the memory verses:
A shoot will come forth from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. ( Isaiah 11:1)
Her womb was foreshadowed by the burning bush that was not consumed (Exodus 3:2)
The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: A woman shall compass a man (Jeremiah 31:22)
Lord, the God of Israel has entered through the closed gate and it shall remain shut. (Ezekiel 44:2)
Zion is our mother. a man shall say; and such a man was born in her: and
the Most High Himself hath established her. (Psalm 87:5 David)
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given (Isaiah 9:6)
Therefore my Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the concealed
one shall conceive and bear a son, and she shall call his name
Immanuel (Isa 7:14)
Discuss the symbolism & titles of Mary in the items that each Prophet carries:
Jacob: the Ladder (Genesis 28:12) King David: the Ark of salvation Aaron: the Rod/staff that budded fruit Isaiah: the Staff/Whip (10:26, 36:6) Daniel: the Mount (2:35, 2:45) Gideon: the Rock (Judges 6:20) Moses: the Burning bush Soloman: the Veil of the Temple Ezekiel: Gate of Life (Ezekiel 44:3) expressed Four Gospels (explained)
With the feast of Saint Andrew approaching on November 30, I figured this would be as great of a time as any, to introduce our young people to our Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the once glorious city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. Especially considering that most people today only know it as Istanbul. Here you'll find a coloring icon of Saint Andrew, links to nice video footage, and a map of the Saints missionary travels.
As an Apostle of Christ, Saint Andrew was tasked to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor (Now Turkey), Macedonia, Romania and even as far as Russia. He is considered the founder of the Christian Church in Constantinople, as each and every ordination of a Patriarch, a Bishop, a Priest or Deacon can be traced back to the original Apostle Andrew. The liturgical act of laying on of hands in the Orthodox Church with the grace of the Holy Spirit is the transfer of the original Christ-given authority to the Apostles.We call this Apostolic Succession. Because of this lineage, we can truthfully say that the Orthodox Church is the Ancient Christian Church, over 2000+ years old.
Here is my personal photo of the relic of the "X" cross that St Andrew was martyred on, which can be venerated along with the Saint's skull at this giant cathedral in the port city of Patras, Greece on the Ionian Sea.
The life and example of Saint Katherine (Agia Aikaterini /Katerina)is truly a unique witness for all youth, and especially handmaidens of Christ. If you do not know her story, take a moment to be inspired for her feastday on Tuesday, Nov 25 and color the icon. Especially for all girls involved in speech & debate!
As a young woman of great beauty and intelligence, she came of age to be married, but her focus was elsewhere. She only agreed if a suitor was found that surpassed her own knowledge, wisdom and talent. What earthly man could compare? Her mother took her to meet a holy ascetic, outside the city, dwelling in a cave. He gave her an icon of Panagia and her son, to begin praying to meet such a worthy "man;" who else, but Christ Himself. But when the Mother of God appeared to her in a dream, Christ would not look at Saint Katherine, as she had not yet renounced her life to accept the Christian faith. She returned to the elder for catechesis, and baptism, then received a ring of betrothal to Christ as His handmaiden, for only He was worthy of her devotion. She preserved her body in virginity and soul until martyrdom.
You see, she gave up a perfectly easy life.
Later, she refuted the rhetoric from 150 of the King's wisest scholars and proclaimed the one true God, as Jesus Christ. For this, many miracles came to be. The wheel she was to be tortured on, was broken. The Queen and soldiers visited her in prison, and accepted Christianity. Lastly, when beheaded, her body flowed with milk rather than blood and was escorted by angels to the mountain of the great Prophet Moses of the 10 Commandments in the Sinai desert, where a remarkable Orthodox monastery lies today.
If you are fortunate enough, to be named after her, may you be blessed with such wisdom & courage! Xronia Polla~
Just wanted to share our small craft that we'll be doing with kids ages 3-12 for Christmas. We've ordered these very reasonably priced wooden photo frames, which includes a latch backing and clear photo protector. The children will decorate with glitter paint, markers, pencil, beads, crayon,sparkle stars and more...and we will insert an icon of their choice from the Nativity selection.
In response to those of you who asked for more teen resources, here is a lesson that I believe our teens are capable of grasping. Often, we don't give them enough substance - so get ready to challenge them!
Using the text "On the Incarnation" by Saint Athanasios, you can lead your group to a deeper understanding of why God needed to come in what we celebrate as the feast of the Nativity. By drawing out important quotes and asking the right questions, we can essentially tackle the messages of creation, salvation, and theosis with them.
If you so choose, make a scavenger hunt of these hidden quotes from the lesson plan alone to lead them through the lesson! Cut in strips, and hide them around your Church - taking them from places like where we enter our spiritual journey (the door) to where we find refreshing drink (the water fountain) to a reflection in the mirror to better see mankind's position to God. Regroup at the end to compile and discuss the quotes by gluing them in order to a larger poster.
I've broken this down into three possible sections for the month of December.
This can be used at a retreat or over three consecutive Sundays.
If you have feedback, additions, corrections or comments, feel free to send them. As always, my work is in progress with room for improvement. As you teach this lesson, you may find other topics arise which will be helpful to share.
Also, don't forget about the previously posted "WHY CHRISTMAS"worksheet located at this link.
It seems the most common thing families are looking for are Orthodox coloring icons! So here are the ones I have for the Nativity Christmas season. (Potamitis Publishing has others for sale.)
Also a few talking points for the icons
St John Chrysostom reminds us of the odd behavior of such a star that led the Magi from the east. It appeared in daylight! It acted like no other by coming down from the heavens to practically eye level. It disappeared while in the presence of Herod, and reappeared afterward.
Also, the magi themselves were well trained in the behavior of stars - this was their daily work! Traveling far, their ethnicity symbolizes that the Gospel will reach the Gentiles and people of the East. Their gifts are full of meaning - gold for the King of all ages, frankincense for God of all, and myrrh for His three days in the tomb as fully man.
Sometimes we ask why is Joseph turned away? The theological answer is often because he shows us he is not the father of Christ, and others say he is deep in thought, contemplating the virgin birth. In various icons, a grim figure is depicted tempting Joseph with harmful doubts, or another younger man walks with them as they travel to Egypt. Just remember to identify Joseph correctly. He was the much older widow with children from his previous wife. His care for Panagia was closer related to that of fatherly protection than ever as a husband, seeing as a marriage was never consummated between them.
Important also for our children to understand -Christ was born more likely in a cave than a barn (I cringe at such incorrect images) The cave and the Mother of God are the offerings from the world, as the hymns proclaim. Light has been born into the darkness!
Everyone offers the newborn Christ a gift! Mankind offers Panagia, or Mary, to be used for God's purpose and His work of salvation. Notice her posture. In some icons she is kneeling with arms crossed to worship her very own son as her God. Yet she is one of us, perfectly human and representative of us all created to offer ourselves fully to God as she did. The wilderness offers the cave as a dwelling place for the Savior. The heavens offer the star. The angels offer their voices of praises and song. Even the animals gather around Christ to offer their own warmth of breath, as heat in the coldness of the cave!
The swaddled clothes around Christ signify His burial cloths as well, if you remember, when St Joseph of Arimathea and St Nicodemus wrapped the body of Christ is a white linen cloth for the tomb.
The shepherds, lastly, are all of us. The simple, the unlearned, the lost sheep - called from our daily tasks to come and worship the Lord. After such an encounter, one's life can never quite be the same!
"Children of all ages are invited to enter into the feast day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ in this second book offered by the Sisters of All Saints Greek Orthodox monastery. Here you will find the rich and poetic words of Orthodox hymnography and illustrations based on traditional byzantine iconography. This humble offering will inspire every reader to worship and bow down to our Creator who became incarnate for our salvation."
ORDER NOW the second book of this series as a Christmas gift for your families. Contact the Sisters at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Direct Archdiocesan District P.O. Box 802 1676 Middle Rd. Calverton, NY 11933
As we begin our forty day fast for Christmas 2014, I offer one short reflection to ponder on with our kids. Will God find an available "dwelling place" in 2014 to be born?
When He comes, as He did then to the city of Bethlehem, to knock on our doors....will there be room in our homes, in our hearts, and in the sometimes darkness of our lives for Panagia to lay and give birth to the giver of ever-lasting peace? What state will He find our caves in? Ready, asleep, or full to capacity with other things?
You see, the cave is not only a physical place of historical importance, but a spiritual metaphor for each one of us. Isn't it also interesting that so many monks/nuns in our Orthodox tradition took up residence in an actual cave, where they decorated it with icons and burning vigil lamps living their lives in complete concentration and stillness. Hence, the "Light was born into darkness." Literally, and symbolically.
How, might we ask, could God who is grander in size than any other "fit into" the smallness of our bodies and hearts? If He wanted to, couldn't He force out the things in His way to make room? Sure, He could, but He wouldn't. Instead, He invites us to do this work because it encourages a cooperation with Him. In fact, He asks that we do so, to put forth some effort.
You see, the greatest of man's sins and the true opposite of love is not hate, but actually "indifference." We simply ignore Him everyday, and pretend He's not there.Like when we pass someone poor, in need on the street, and pretend we don't see them, even though our hearts feel differently.
If you choose and are willing try the following:
Give Him the greatest of gifts - your time and your attention. We do this by isolating ourselves in prayer, with the door shut behind us, and the television off. Eliminate all distractions.
Physically clean out space in your souls through fasting and confession. Even at the last hour if you have not yet done so, it is well worth it.
Lastly,shut out the consumerism and over commercialization of these holy days and fight to remain focused and available to Him. This has to be a conscientious choice.
Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment!
Wishing you and your families a truly joyful preparation this year of Christmas ~ 2014.
"When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, and to be forgiving- all attributes of God; to be generous, to love their neighbor, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them. This then is our task: to educate both ourselves and our children in godliness; otherwise what answer will we have before Christ's judgment seat?...
Let us be greatly concerned for our wives and our children and for ourselves as well. The good God Himself will bring this work to perfection, so that all of us may be counted worthy of the blessings He has promised."
- St John Chrysostom (Whose feast is celebrated today, Nov 13)
"Whom Christ loves, His angels love too."St. Nicholai of Zica (1880-+1956)
One often says the youngest of children can see the angels in the Orthodox Church, chasing them through the pews. You may have even read of holy priests encountering angels in the altar. Most of us however, have lost our innocence and the ability to see such visions, unless God so chooses. Angels are mostly referred to as the "invisible" of God's created beings! However, they are not "unknown" as their actions stand alone as proof of their existence and service to our Lord. Learn more below!
6.Angels are different than us because they are bodiless and invisible. They don't need to eat or drink, nor do they need clothes or shelter. They don't get married and they have no worries about the future, or fear of death. God created them good and holy.
7.Angels are like us because they have names and personalities. They are individuals with intelligence, emotions, free will and the capacity to act.
8. In the Bible and Holy Tradition, angels have done many marvelous things! Archangel Michael guarded Paradise, an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, Three Angels appeared to Abraham giving us an image of the Holy Trinity, an Angel saved the three youths in Babylon from death in the midst of the burning fiery furnace, Archangel Gabriel nourished Panagia as a child living in the Holy of Holies and later brought to her the news of Christ's incarnation, Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias (the father of St. John the Baptist) to announce the coming of his son, an angel appeared at Christ's tomb to announce His Resurrection, an angel of the Lord opened the jail cells of the Apostles, the angels will create a throne for our Lord Jesus Christ at His second coming.
9. Our Orthodox Church has dedicated Monday to the holy angels. Therefore, every Monday in the church services we are reminded of the holy angels with praise and prayer: We say "Holy Archangels and Angels, pray to God for us."
10. Everyone Orthodox Christian receives a guardian angel at the time of Baptism and asks for its intercession before God with the following prayer,
"O Holy Angel of God, guardian and protector of my soul and body, forgive me every transgression which I have committed this day. Deliver me from all evil influences and temptations, so that I may not anger my God by any sin. Pray for me that the Lord may make me worthy of His grace and to become partaker of His eternal Kingdom with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the Saints. Amen."
St. Basil the Great says: "The angel will not retreat from us, unless we drive him away by our evil deeds."
For more in-depth info on angels, see the article compiled by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes at http://fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/angels.htm
St Theophan the Recluse Homily on Prayer
"...what the Angels and saints do in the heavens, we should learn to do on earth: get used to the angelic, unceasing standing before God in our hearts. Only he who reaches this state is a true man of prayer."
Keep the colored icons of your budding iconographers in a nice keepsake folder or photo album and display the Saint on his/her feastday in a prominent place in your home throughout the year. We have a simple 8x10 frame that our family rotates daily with the Synaxarion of the Church. Before you know it, you might have half the year complete in images! Remember not to dispose of icons, blessed or not, into the garbage.
Let's teach our youth together to respect these holy images, which
should be burned and the ashes buried. Pictured to the right are the icons of the Holy Mandili, a Church, and Saints George & Demetrios