"The solution is to be found through the sanctification of the parents. Become saints and you will have no problems with your children." Father Porphyrios , Wounded By Love

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Root of Jesse Tree: Christmas Activity

The sayings of the prophets are now fulfilled!

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)

Zachariah: the Lampstand (chapter 4)


Read more excellent quotes of the Fathers here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Root_of_Jesse

Monday, November 17, 2014

40 Days of Christmas Saints


Each year, we begin decorating our home on November 15, as we begin the 40 day fast for Christmas. It's beneficial for all to begin seeing the transformation around us and within us. 
Here are the 40 days in icons. We're aiming to cut them out, and create an ornament for each day until Christmas. If you follow the old calendar, I can post January as well.


Enhance this activity by chanting the troparion for each day, or paste a short story from the Saints' life on the backside of each ornament.

At this link, many Orthodox ornaments are sold, and you can get a few ideas: http://www.easterngiftshop.com/Category/CO

Paste each icon in the center of a star or snowflake if you wish!  gold star

After you're finished, that's forty ornaments! Plenty to fill a tree!



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas Worksheet

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. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saint Andrew - First Patriarch of Constantinople

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.


Please visit www.patriarchate.org to learn more and view photos.

Here is a nice interactive timeline http://www.patriarchate.org/patriarchate/timeline

The program "60 Minutes" on CBS broadcast a series on the Pariarchate:
Visit these links to watch:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6754652n

On Cappadocia
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6001620n&tag=segementExtraScroller;housing

Question and Answer page on the Patriarchate
http://www.patriarchate.org/patriarchate/faq

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christmas Crossword



********REVISED**********

Click on the crossword puzzle
to the right for a little
Christmas trivia!
Located for free download here.

Hopefully, it will be challenging
for parents and kids of all ages.


"Make ready, O Bethlehem:
let the manger be prepared,
let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away..."


Sticheron at the Royal Hours
by St Sophronius of Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christmas Orthodox Craft Ornaments

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. 


Here is the site to order the ornament frames and other craft goodies
http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/Product/ProductDetail.aspx?product=15805&keyword=ornaments&scategoryid=0&CategorySearch=&Brand=&Price=

We're either considering printing various icons ourselves, to ensure the proper size, or we may even have the children color their icon first.


If you are also planning a craft idea or lesson, please do share!
The beginning of our fast begins before you know it. How time flies~

Monday, November 10, 2014

Teen Lesson for Christmas - Scavenger Hunt

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.

  • Did God need to become man?  (CREATION)
  • How could God act to save us?  (SALVATION)
  • Why can man now become god or god-like? (THEOSIS)
To read and print this Lesson Plan "On the Incarnation" in a PDF format  click here: or visit http://www.scribd.com/doc/74236030.

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.

"May it be blessed"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Christmas Coloring & Symbolism

 
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!


Friday, November 7, 2014

NEW Orthodox Book for Christmas


 "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 hagionpanton@gmail.com

All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Direct Archdiocesan District
P.O. Box 802
1676 Middle Rd.
Calverton, NY 11933




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Orthodox Coloring

Add these to your collection of coloring icons and Orthodox Christian imagery












Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dwelling Place for Christmas

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.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Parenting by Chrysostom


"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)

Friday, October 31, 2014

10 Fun Facts About Angels


"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!

http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/11/synaxis-of-archangels-michael-and.html______________________________________________________________________________

1. Angels have two roles: the first is in Heaven to glorify God, and the second on earth to carry out God's orders concerning men.

2. The word "angel" itself means herald or messenger.

3. How many are there? The great Daniel saw God on His throne-and a thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and 10,000 x 10,000 stood before Him (Chapters 9 & 10).

4. Their types? There are nine ranks of angels. Thrones, dominions, principalities, seraphim's, cherubim's, powers, sovereignties, archangels, and angels.

5. The names of Archangels? Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Barachiel, Jeremiel, Jegudiel.

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."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

NEW Coloring Icons

There is a new website dedicated to offering excellent line-art icons
and developing an on-going collection of Orthodox clip-art which makes for terrific icons to color with children. It is called the  "Orthodox Illustration Project" and can be found online here: http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/announcing-the-orthodox-illustration-project/

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Faith Journals

A powerful way to get your tween/teens to start writing, thinking, and spending time with God is through a "Faith Journal!" As a parent or youth worker, you can use these for down time, and inspire them to discover the power of solitude in a location that's special to them. The only goal is that it's private and quiet. However, you might choose to lead them into understanding exactly what to do with this "time."

Certain days, they'll write, other days draw, reflect, answer tough questions, read prayers or complete activities. Grab a smaller lined notebook or even sketchbook, and consider adding some of these components from the list below to get them started.

Decorate the front/back as they wish, with guidelines that it is "spiritual" and inspiring. Provide papers, markers, icons, glue, glitter, etc

Add Quotes: Ask them to write and decorate those pages:

  • "What will you do with the time that is given to you?" Gandolf, Lord of the Rings
  • "Be still and know that I am God."
  • "Teach your mouth to say what is in your heart." Abba Poemen
  • RE“The Christian is one who imitates Christ in thought, word and deed, as far as is possible for human beings, believing rightly and blamelessly in the Holy Trinity.” - See more at: http://www.hchc.edu/studentlife/vocation/octev_resources/quotes/johnclimacus#sthash.48fAHQ
    "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice"

Glue Icons: Ask them to write about what they see and ask:
  • 10 virgins icon - 5 inside Kingdom with Christ, 5 left out (loyalty to Christ, importance of Orthodox friends, Courage to confess Him in today's world. Do we know Him?)
  • Racheal weeping for her children icon
    (Life if precious, children are blessings, sadness over abortions today, Does the world repent?)
  • Christ being betrayed by Judas in garden (Evilness of jealousy, hatred, greed vs. the humility and love of Christ)
Add Questions:
  • "What was your cross today that you carried?"
  • "How did you put someone else first over yourself today?"
  • "Consider your sins from today and write how they happened"
Read Prayers:
"From the years of my youth, many passions combat me, but You who are my Savior, assist me and save me."
Encourage creativity! Consider including:

  • Memory Scripture Verses
  • Hymn lyrics
  • Orthodox Photos 
  • Poems
  • Miracle Stories
  • Saints lives

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Exaltation of Cross Skit

 
For the feast of the Cross on September 14, our classes have enjoyed putting on a skit re-enacting how St Helen found the Cross of Christ. It does not need much planning ahead of time, and most items you have at home!

You'll need:

  • An icon of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  • Dark blanket for the earth/dirt
  • Three large crosses cut from cardboard
  • One shovel or more, plastic from sandbox will do
  • A crown for St Helen, colored paper taped round
  • If you choose, second crown for St Konstantine
  • A Bishops' garment -drape a cloth around the neck and pin
  • Fresh basil, found at site of buried crosses
  • Extra: a cardboard coffin / tomb

Assign the parts:


  • St Helen and her entourage on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem...those who will dig!
    St Konstantine, her son the King, who was not present actually, but part of history
  • Jude, the secret Jewish man, who helped find the way to Golgotha
  • A child for the corpse in funeral passing by
  • Bishop Makarios, Archbishop of Jerusalem, who will exalt the Cross and lead the procession
  • The rest of the class are the faithful believers following the procession!
I narrate and pause for the kids to enact what I state from the story which can be found in many places online (here) or (here)  or (here).


Main points:

  • St Helen begins pilgrimage
  • Stops to ask Jude for directions
  • Finds Golgotha, where crosses are hidden under basil & blanket
  • Begin digging
  • Finds first cross
  • Finds second cross
  • Finds third cross
  • Places Crosses over corpse of passing funeral. Nothing happens at first two.
  • Third cross raises the corpse back to life!
  • Bishop exalts the Cross, begins procession to Jerusalem, get everyone walking! Journey to another part of your parish into the Sanctuary if you can!
  • All involved chant and venerate the Cross.
 The story varies a bit on who actually was healed on the third cross, we enact the corpse passing by in a funeral. At the end, we all chant together "Son son Kurie" or the Troparian for the feasts. We also, naturally, venerate the Cross, and discuss/identify the icon.


**Note: this feast is always a strict fast day**

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