"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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dormition Crossword Activity



 Dormition icon from http://www.archangelicons.com 

For excellent photos of the Tomb of the Panagia click here!
A full story of the Dormition and Funeral procession can be found here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dormition Word Search & Flashcards

Here's a word search and coloring activity for this year's feastday of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August, 15th. For a tougher challenge, complete the Dormition Crossword Puzzle.

"O gracious Lady, raise thy holy hands towards thy Son, the Maker and Lover of our souls, that He may take pity on thy servants."

 
Another idea is to make language flashcards of the titles for the Mother of God, often chanted in the Paraklesis or Canon. Or list these in two columns and have the older children connect the correct answer. Here are a few samples:

  • Pure One
  • More honorable than the angels
  • Only all blameless One
  • You without corruption
  • Bride of God
  • Spotless One
  • Ever Virgin
  • Mother of God (God-Bearer)
  • O Full of Grace
  • All-Venerable Abbess to Monasteries of the Entire World
  • Daughter of Zion 
  • the Door-keeper
  • the Enricher of the Harvest
  • the Inexhaustible Cup
  •  Nurturer of Children
  • Queen of All
  • Spring of Healing
  • Swift to Aid
  • Unexpected Joy

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lamentations of Theotokos


A beautiful tradition has been celebrated continuously in Jerusalem for over centuries, as well as in some of our local parishes. It is the service of the Lamentations to the Theotokos or Engomia in Greek which translates to "praises."

This breathtaking service of the Orthodox Church mirrors that of a vigil for Holy Friday or Holy Saturday Matins/Orthros. The same familiar melodies return to our ears and hearts to express the sorrow of earthly death while rejoicing in the joy of eternal life. In fact, the very first stanza repeats the same words we chant aloud for Christ... "Ei zoi en tafo" or "In a grave they laid you"

An Epitaphios of the Theotokos exists (like the one pictured here), richly embroidered with a cloth icon of the Theotokos reposed, and is used in a procession, although it is never placed on the Holy Table like the one for Christ.

For a copy in English of these special hymns, click here.

To view photographs in Jerusalem click here

Below are a few favorite stanza's:

All the earth sings glory
at your grave side, O Christ,
with all reverence, O Master, we also praise
the entombment of your Mother, ever Pure...


Now the Bridegroom calls you,to rejoice, Bride of God.
in a manner both divine and most beautiful
in the Bridal Chamber, holy and divine...
We your children offer
lamentations and love
unto you who are our Mother: accept our gift
which we offer from the depths of our souls...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Theotokos: Her Life in Mosaics


(Re-posted for the Entrance of the Theotokos feast approaching Nov 21)

Did you know that in the history and tradition of the Orthodox Church we have more scenes depicted from the life of the Theotokos than anyone else? You might be surprised to learn that there are over 16 different mosaics to teach us about Panagia's life at the Church of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) in Constantinople, Turkey.

This Church was once part of a monastery, but is now Museum, and has one of the best-preserved collections of Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Here are just a few of the scenes depicted:

**A PDF of most of the Mosaics with short descriptions has been posted here on our Scribd Orthodox Group. Please take a look - it is a valuable teaching tool**

1. Joachim's offerings at the Temple
2. Annunciation of Saint Anne (the angel of the Lord announcing to Anne that her prayer for a child has been heard)
3. Meeting of Joachim and Anne
4. Birth of the Virgin Mary
5. First seven steps of the Virgin
6. The Virgin given affection by her parents
7. The Virgin blessed by the priests
8. Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
9. The Virgin receiving bread from an Angel
10. The Virgin receiving purple wool to weave the curtain for the Temple
11. the High Priest Zechariah praying
12. Zechariah calling widowers together to place their staffs on the altar, praying for a sign showing who the Virgin should be entrusted to
13. The Virgin entrusted to Joseph
14. Joseph taking the Virgin to his house
15. Annunciation of the Virgin
16. Joseph departing the Virgin for a trip; when he returns, she is pregnant

Click Here to read more about the Church in Chora and to view several of the mosaics.

For several online virtual tours of the Church of Chora click here

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Theotokos & Teenagers

Start with an apple. A whole, clean, delicious apple without bruises or blemishes, just sweet and ripe.This apple is going to be the example. If it happens to be red, then we will liken in to she who fittingly is clothed in red, the Most Holy Theotokos, at the END of our lesson. Next, present this apple as a body, one with an inner part, the flesh, as the soul. Ask what color this inner soul is? Of course, we all know it to be white, the cleanest and most pure of colors.

If this apple were us, let's consider the course of it's life. Let us say  that when the apple was 8 years old, it began to say mean things to its sibling....(with a knife, slowly begin to take small bites from the apple)...then as the apple grew older, it experienced a fight on the soccer field, and hurt another player (another large chunk taken away) Then, at age 15, the apple began having bad thoughts everyday for a whole year about a teacher at school....(yet again, more wounds) and at age 16, the apple started to date and fool around with other apples outside of marriage. (several wounds inflicted for each date.) But in fact, by the time the apple was 19, it had already dated 10 different apples, and even experimented with its body in harmful ways outside of marriage (unfortunate vary large chunks taken away). Finally, the apple made a very bad decision, and disrespected its parents without apologizing. (one final chunk taken away)

Now this apple is turning 21 tomorrow. It is beginning to think about leaving the supermarket one day, and desired for someone to come and buy it to take it to its new home. However, compared to other apples....ours was beginning to look pretty ugly. It's skin had faults and bruises, large scars and wounds. Slowly, its soul was turning brown with each passing day. You could barely recognize it for the beautiful apple it started as.

What happened? Can you see the effect that sin has on the body and the soul? If I asked you today to think about the state of "your" apple... what do you  think it would look like?

Can you image what the body and soul of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, looked like? We can see right here in the icon of the Dormition. Can you find the small child clothed in white in Christ's hands...this is the pure soul of Panagia - just like the inside of the apple! It is unblemished and has a halo for holiness. Do you remember that when the body dies temporarily the soul leaves the body and waits for the Resurrection. This is what we see happening. We see the Mother of God asleep, but the angels are present too surrounding Christ to take her soul into heaven! Let's talk about her life, how she was born, her parents and how she grew up. How did she pass her time, and become a "teenager?" Even afterwards? Do you remember how she honored her son and God, and supported the growth of the Church through the spreading of the Gospel? She became the Mother of all Christians!

The difference between us and the Theotokos is that she kept herself and her life pure, just as God first created her. Of course, she may have made mistakes, and could have sinned, for no one is perfect except Christ, but she was found favorable in God's eyes, and He helped to preserve her. She is an excellent example for us to follow. We call upon her with some of these titles:
  • Pure One
  • More honorable than the angels
  • Only all blameless One
  • You without corruption
  • Bride of God
  • Spotless One
  • Ever Virgin (three stars on shoulders and head for virginity before Christ, during the birth of Christ and all the days of her life after Christ)

Finally, we believe in her as the "Protection of Christians" which means she will and does help us when we ask her to! Although an apple may be irreparable, our souls are not! God can heal our wounds, if we strive to return to our most delicious state of perfection through the Sacrament of Confession and God's great mercy. In our prayers and the hymns of the Church we desire greater strength against temptations and difficulties, to remain pure in our virginity and in our thoughts, so we too can honor God with our lives as did the Panagia.






Monday, August 3, 2015

Transfiguration Journey


UPDATE: WORKSHEETS & ICON available here for free download 

For this activity, you'll need a few blindfolds, a Bible, an icon of the Transfiguration, and a lot of trust! Our goal is to lead the children or teens on a journey to understanding God better. Remember, Peter, James, and John were still not able to identify Christ as God before the Transfiguration happened on Mt Tabor. We say that their eyes were yet to be illumined...

To begin, consider your surroundings: your home, a park, the Church? Where might you hide the icon of the Transfiguration, so that you can lead the children or teens to it? Can you climb up stairs, while holding hands blindfolded, to simulate ascending Mt Tabor? Can you convince them to trust you, while they are uncertain where you are going, and why? When you arrive at your destination, only then can the blindfolds be removed, hands let go, and the story revealed.

ASK: Who do you say I am?
ANSWER: Come with me, and you will see

Explain that God had a very important message for the disciples before His crucifixion, just like Moses who climbed Mt Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments. Like them, you have ascended to a high place to learn about who Christ is. How did it feel trusting the leader? Are they ready to see why they've taken this journey?



Ask one of the children to read out loud Matthew 17:1-9.

Next review the icon together and identify why each person was there: Moses, represents the Jewish Law, Elijah, represents the Prophets, Peter, James and John, represent all those alive in Christ. The Holy Trinity is also present. Can they identify how? The Father speaks, Christ is present both fully divine and human, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Light surrounding Christ.

Complete the discussion by asking the children to draw out the important lessons they have learned about God. What did He want to teach us?


* That Jesus is fully God and fully Man

* That Jesus is the bridge of the past, present, and future:
by having present Moses, Elijah, and the new disciples

* That God is the Holy Trinity

* That we too can become like Christ, transfigured and
radiant with the Holy Spirit


Along your journey back, chat with the kids/teens about the timing of this event in Christ's life and explain that the Transfiguration happened right before Jesus was to be crucified. For us today, we can feel equipped with the Truth and prepared for the trials ahead of us, as the disciples did entering the Lord's Passion.

Please e-mail eleniemarie@gmail.com if you would like to receive the Word Scramble handout on this lesson or the icon larger which includes the journey up the mountain together and back down.

Metamorphosis Transfiguration




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Main Entry: meta·mor·pho·sis
Pronunciation: \ˌme-tə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs\
Function: noun
___________________________________________________

Etymology: Latin, from Greek metamorphōsis, from metamorphoun to transform, from meta- + morphē form. Date: 1533

1a: change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means

1b: a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances

2: a typically marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching

___________________________________________________

If you've ever put two and two together, today's feast which we call the Transfiguration in English, is called "H Metamorfosi" in Greek, and what true beauty lies within this word. Imagine, for a brief moment, what Saints Peter, James, and John had the opportunity to witness. Without expecting anything, suddenly before them, Christ possibly likened to the average looking caterpillar, is transformed into something glorious and radiant, like the butterfly, glowing in the light of the Holy Spirit. As the definition above barely does justice,
"a striking alteration in appearance" happens - unexplainable really, in human words.

Then a voice from within the cloud of light speaks - it is God, the Father bearing witness to His Son. With awe and fear the Apostles fall to the ground, unable to even maintain eye contact. Then as they turn again to look, Christ is transformed back into the caterpillar we know so well, as one of us.

Today, the Church calls our attention to the words of Saint Peter in his second epistle, first chapter, so that we don't think in today's terms, that maybe this didn't really happen but instead is some sort of parable. Rather, we read, "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory,saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain."

If we look deeper, we even find the path to our own "metamorphosis" spelled out...

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world..."

From the constraints of the cocoon, we can be set free, no longer as hostages, but rather as inheritors of eternal life in the perfect freedom of His love.

~ I wish you all a blessed feast! ~

Sunday, June 7, 2015

12 Apostles Activity


Tomorrow begins the 'Apostles fast' in the Orthodox Church, and here's an activity to assemble the icon day by day until the feast on June 29/30. On the first day, the children will cut out and glue the icon of Christ in the center of the Tree, learning the memory verse, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." from John 15:5. Each day(s) to follow, focus on one Apostle at a time, reading their life, learning their experiences and placing them on the icon. Each has a troparion as well to chant!

Click here to download the smaller icons

Click here for the tree document. 

Once the tree is colored by the children, it can be laminated, along with the icons.  We have placed velcro on the backsides, and the children re-attach the icons each year during the fasting period. 

Saints Peter & Paul celebrated on June 29 (fast ends)

Synaxis of the Twelve Holy Apostles, celebrated June 30: Peter, Andrew, James & John the sons of Zebedee, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Jude(Thaddaeus) the brother of James, Simon & Matthias


Purchase the book "The Lives of the Holy Apostles" here from the Holy Apostles Convent in Colorado
 

Teaching Points:
1. The "Apostle" - The term "apostle" ("apostolos" in Greek; a derivative from "apostellein", meaning "to send") signifies a special mission or "one who is sent."
 
2. Why Christ chose 12? We read from Mark 3: 14,15
"He ordained twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach and to have power to heal sickness and to cast out devils." Twelve was the number of the twelve sons of Jacob who later became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.  After Pentecost, Christ’s 12 disciples became the leaders of the “new Israel.” The number 12 was considered so important that very shortly after the falling of Judas Iscariot, the remaining 11 voted in a new Apostle by the name Matthias, so that there would be 12 once again

3. Why are they men? A symbol of the ordained priesthood of men and of Christ's own gender, however, remembering that later on the Church honors other female Saints with the title "Equal-to-the Apostles," without showing any discrimination in gender, rather only designated roles.


4. What they each hold? Notice the scrolls from the icon of Pentecost, which the figure "Kosmas" holds representing the people of the world living in darkness and sin, and involved in pagan worship. The scrolls represent the teaching of the Apostles of the Holy Gospel which they carried as a message  to all parts of the world. Try to find the Evangelists, who hold an open Gospel book, or Saint Paul who holds a collection of letters.

5. How the Tree extends? The Apostles organized the converts and formed what we know today to be the One, Holy, Apostolic Orthodox Church, who has kept the Holy Tradition of Apostolic succession. In other words, each and every ordained priest of the Orthodox Church can trace his authority back to one of the Apostles, through each Bishop and Patriarch. This continuation is nothing short of a miracle of the Holy Spirit and of Christ's promise. 

Today, every baptized Orthodox Christian has been grafted into this Tree, as Saint Paul spoke of in
the book of Romans, chapter 11, " If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,..."
Gigi Baba Shadid | Fruits of the Spirit

SONG activity:  If you are able, try learning the Troparion for the feast. Another fun idea to help learn the names of the disciples by heart, is from the CD by Khouria Gigi   TRACK 9. It's a family favorite of ours!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Pentecost Coloring Icon

The 12 disciples are seen in the icon of Pentecost gathered together waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit. The hymns of the Orthodox Church remind us that the Apostles are anticipating this moment with joy and gladness.  "I am with you, no one can be against you." Kontakion of the feast of the holy Ascension.
Often, kids ask who is this man depicted in a crown, and what is he holding? He is the figure of the whole world, "O Kosmos"and he bears the twelve scrolls signifying the message of God's salvation that will go to all the lands through the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. Some of the Apostles will write the Gospel account. Find them with your children Matthew, Mark Luke and John in the icon as they hold Gospel books. The other Apostles will write letters to be sent to the first Christian Churches, thereby holding scrolls in the icon.
Lastly, identify the symbolism of the Holy Spirit which descends as tongues of fire upon each head, granting the disciples the ability to speak in a language unknown to them for the benefit of those who heard the teaching. Remember, in Scripture we read how the sound came in like a rushing wind from heaven, uniting both what is above and what is on Earth!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Preparing for Pentecost


Christ is Risen! But then what?
The story continues of course, with more exciting details and events to engage our young listeners. Christ spends the next 40 days displaying His physical Resurrection. He appears in the upper room to the Apostles twice when the doors are sealed shut, granting them peace. He is seen along the road to Emmaus, but unrecognizable to Luke and Cleopa, until He breaks bread with them and is known essentially in the Eucharist (see the lesson plan here). Then at the fortieth day on Mt Olivet the disciples with the Mother of God, stand in awe as Christ is taken up before their own very eyes into the sky with the angels at His side on His return to the Father (The Ascension). What could possibly come next for the followers of Christ.....they must wait ten more days!

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”

Click this link for the printable lesson: Pentecost Worksheet & Kneeling Prayers

The great feast of Holy Pentecost- "peninta" or 50 days after the Resurrection

Be sure to connect for your young people the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel. They'll probably remember well that God "mixed up" the languages to stop the wicked plans of the people. Now, in the story of Pentecost, God is doing the opposite. He sent the gift of languages, for this one time purpose, to spread the good plan of His salvation to the whole world.

..."Grant to my thoughts the Spirit of your wisdom, to my folly the Spirit of understanding, with the Spirit of your fear overshadow my deeds. Renew a right Spirit within my inward parts and make firm the instability of my mind with the sovereign Spirit, so that guided each day by your good Spirit to what is profitable, I may be found worthy to do your commandments and always keep in mind your Coming, which searches out all that we have done..."

*** Print the kneeling prayers with you on Pentecost Sunday  ***

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What is a Spiritual Father?

If the best doctors help to heal our physical bodies by knowing the "right" medicine, so even more does the spiritual father, who is enlightened by God, prescribe the much-needed healing for our soul. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." This is the path to purification, and one does not accomplish it on his own. The Church is our hospital offering the healing medicines of Holy Confession, the Holy Eucharist, and Holy Unction. Without the Church, we are easily mislead into wrong "treatments" prescribing ourselves pain killers when we might need a spiritual heart transplant!!! (Mark 2:17 or Matthew 9:11-13, Luke 5:31)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

St George Skit & Coloring Page

While enjoying the light of  Pascha for 40 days, don't forget that there are still many great Saints on the calendar to learn about! Coming up Thursday April 23rd is the great martyr Saint George, who bears the title trophy-bearer in English.
The Dragon
Traveling on a white horse (Saint Demetrios is on the red horse), the soldier Saint George met a young girl, a local princess chosen by lot, who was about to be offered as food for the hungry dragon who threatened a certain town in Libya. He encouraged the maiden to have faith in Christ whom she did not know yet, and dropped to his knees in prayer, asking God to use that opportunity for others to believe in Him as the One True God. Upon meeting the dragon face to face, he made the sign of the cross, and the dragon fell like a meek puppy at the feet of the Saint. He instructed the girl to take her belt off and use it as a leash for the dragon
His Suffering
The Saint openly confessed himself as a Christian, and for that faced many tortures. He bore the weight of a large stone on his chest, was stretched on a wheel of knives, was buried in a pit with only his head above ground for three days and three nights, and was given a poisonous potion to drink from a magician. From all this, God healed and preserved him. When the Saint raised a boy from the dead through his prayer to God, the Empress Alexandra, wife of Diocletian, converted to Christianity. The furious Emperor imprisoned the Saint and beheaded Him in 303 AD. (Can you find those scenes below in his vitae icon?)
His Appearances
God continues to work miracles through the Saint, even until today. About fifteen years ago a generous man in Syria came to Germany to build a "home" as he was instructed for someone whom he saw in a vision. The Syrian man met our priest on the street corner who was exhausted and ready to give up building our Church because the money ran out. After an explanation and a large gift from the Syrian man, the Church was completed, bearing the name and icon of Saint George. The man finally recognized who spoke to him in the vision when he came face to face with the Saint George's icon!

Video located here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu6egtZcun0

Try ST GEORGE'S SKIT located here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/90523467

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lazarus - Arise!

This is a great way to involve your kids in the Raising of Lazarus! Wrap them in "burial" cloth and see who will be first to break free on your command!

It's extremely significant that the Church places Lazarus Saturday exactly one week earlier than the Resurrection of Christ. The miracle teaches us the power of God over death, so that we may learn to truly believe and have our faith transformed at Pascha. Just as we begin Holy Week, we get a glimpse and foretaste of the way God will save the world from the corruption of sin, from sickness and pain. As Christ said, Lazarus was merely sleeping. Although death had claimed him for four days in the tomb, and he smelled from the corruption of his body, he will live again. This is our Orthodox theology! Our view of death as sleeping in anticipation of whats to come. This is the joyful sorrow of what we are about to experience in Holy Week.
We mourn, all the while expecting the greatest of all miracles!

Lazarus is also one of the most convincing examples used to explain the respect, honor, and sanctity of the physical body in the Orthodox faith as we fully believe in the Resurrection of the BODY and the SOUL for eternal life. Although it remains a mystery, and we will not be in need of food as we'll be more like angels, we will indeed have our physical bodies. See  Ezekiel 37:5.

Lastly, remember: Lazarus is each one of us. Each and every time we attend a funeral or place a loved one in the grave, we should remember this very real example as a foretaste of our own earthly death. How does God feel about each one of us? Does He weep for us as He wept for Lazarus? Is He a loving God that desires us to be with Him? Why has He allowed Lazarus to die?

We find the answer in the words of Christ to His Father, which are for our benefit. He says, "So that they may believe."

Christ attends the funeral to join the people in their sadness, to display His own mourning over all of humanity's fallen and deteriorated state, and to transform the event into a celebration of life! He turns our tears of sadness into tears of joy!
Christ - the Joy, the Truth, and the Light of All, the Life of the World and the Resurrection - has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all. - See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/saturday_of_lazarus/learn/#sthash.w0V0m0Jz.dpuf
Christ - the Joy, the Truth, and the Light of All, the Life of the World and the Resurrection - has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all. - See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/saturday_of_lazarus/learn/#sthash.w0V0m0Jz.dpuf

Pascha Poem & Orthodox Craft Idea

With a long white piece of paper, we made three folds and created our very own accordion Pascha card with original poem to accompany the Passion and Resurrection of Christ icons cut out from Orthodox catalogs. This simple craft turned out to be a nice way to reinforce the meaning behind each day for young and old. Especially for godchildren and penpals far away, it helps us stay in touch spiritually since we will not be able to celebrate together. Here are the words to our poem:

  1. To Christ our God, Who raised Lazarus from the dead...
  2. You traveled to Jerusalem with the people you led...
  3. Teaching all to be servants rather than trying to get ahead...
  4. Your Body and Blood for eternity us you fed...
  5. Then nailed to the Cross, You conquered death for three days dead...
  6. As we wait to proclaim with our eggs dyed red...
  7. "I am the Resurrection and the Life,
      he who believes in me shall never die." Jesus said.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Holy Week for Kids

Anyone with kids knows that Holy Week can be a challenging yet extremely rich experience!  Although the night services postpone bed time, we try to remember, it's just for one week, and nothing else quite seems to matter. Yes, the services can be long, so this post is dedicated to the "something special" in each night that makes it all worth it for young and old. Here's our list of things not to miss with your kids and teens ~

Palm Sunday Morning- Find the kids worshiping Christ in this icon and hold your palms proudly like them for the procession. How do we greet a King? Who is our King?

Palm Sunday Evening - Kneel for the Procession of the icon of Christ as the Bridegroom when the priest brings Christ out from the Holy altar for the first time.

Holy Monday- Light a candle in the dark serenity of  this service. Bow down to make full prostrations in front of the Bridegroom icon of Christ.

Holy Tuesday- Memorize beforehand and listen for the verse "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching" Work on handwriting this phrase, or copying / tracing it as a memory verse.

Holy Wednesday/Thursday MorningDraw near to receive the Holy Body and Blood of Christ while commemorating His Last Supper and the beginning of this Life-giving Sacrament. Find the "one sided profile of Judas in the icon" which symbolized his two-facedness. Discuss this betrayal with your kids

Holy Wednesday Evening- Count 7 Readings for 7 Candles, Try fasting before receiving Holy Unction from a certain point in the afternoon; often we forget this is a Sacrament of our Church. (Some Priests also wash the children's feet - try this at home for the experience!)

Holy ThursdayTake the chance to bow before, kneel and kiss our Lord on the Cross. Even offer vinegar for your own kids to smell and taste as the soldier offered Christ on the Cross when He thirsted.

Holy Friday Afternoon - Royal Hours - Witness or participate in the taking down of Christ from the Cross, identify in the icon who was involved (St Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus). Observe a period of silence and identify Christ's white burial cloth. Compare it to the white cloth of His manger at Christmas.

Holy Friday- Chant the memorable melody of the Lamentations, Join the Procession outside the Church, Pass under the Tomb, take home a flower, prepare your red eggs

Holy Saturday Morning - Ring a small bell and throw the bay leaves, save one in your book! Chant the words of the 3 Youths (Shadrach, Meshach and Abendago). Hold hands dancing in a circle as your practice singing this again and again "Praise Ye the Lord and Exalt Him Forever"

Holy Saturday Evening - Experience a great celebration at Midnight - See the Church go dark, and witness the light of Christ illuminating all! Share your light with others - Plan to receive the Holy Eucharist of the Resurrected Christ after midnight, return home to crack your eggs and taste the traditional lamb soup mageritsa. Take the holy fire home to re-light your vigil lamps!

Holy Sunday - Ask to read the Gospel in a different language, which is a tradition that conveys the  "good news" spreading to the whole world.

Bright Week  - Practice saying "Christ is Risen" (click link)  in as many languages as you can learn!

If you parish plans other additional opportunities for the youth, please share! I have witnessed Holy Friday Retreats with activities and lessons, Holy Week Scrap booking , others ask the children and teens to decorate the Epitaphion (Tomb),  in some parishes, girls of innocence and purity dressed in white sprinkle rose petals during the procession with the Tomb,  others show a video from the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem , and an all time favorite, one parish taught the children the hymn for Palm Sunday and the children lined up to create a passage way for the Entrance with the Gospel chanting and waving their palms!

How precious it is to see them involved! Our kids may not be awake, but they can still go home smelling like incense, which in some small way, reminds us of the unseen blessings we all receive just by being in there.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Akathist from Alpha to Omega


This "poem" to Panagia has been lost in translation!

Refresh your alphabet skills

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eeta, Theeta, Iota, Kapa, Lamntha, Mee, Nee, Xee, Omikron, Pee, Ro, Sigma, Tauf, Eepsilon, Fee, Xee, Psee....Omega!

Go back, and re-look at your Greek versions for you will find the author (could be St Romanos) wrote this hymn with each stanza corresponding to a letter in the Greek alphabet. It begins with Alpha, in order, until Omega, which is also fitting as our Lord used these letters Himself to show us He is the Beginning and the End. At various Orthodox monasteries abroad, you may even find this famous and beloved hymn illustrated in Byzantine iconography. I've gathered and compiled a document to use with your parishes and youth showing just that. Click here to download the PDF for FREE. I hope you enjoy the stunning imagery and symbolism as I have. Wishing you a blessed Lent for 2014!

St Mary Egypt Craft - Turn Life Around

The powerful story of repentance that we find in the life of
Saint Mary of Egypt which was recorded by the monk Zossimos, can be a memorable one for teenagers and college students. For the younger children though that you might be working with, consider this Orthodox craft:

1. Color two images of Saint Mary of Egypt
The first, from her former life possibly with brighter clothing, youthful skin, etc
and the second after her years in the desert as an ascetic. I chose these two images because one depicts the humility needed to bring about repentance, and the second with hope and stronger faith, prepared to meet God at her death.

2. Cut the images out

3. Glue those images, back to back, with a popsicle stick in between

4. Write the word "METANOIA" (or REPENTANCE) on the sticks with the definition "Turn one's life around" on the reverse side.

As I retell the story, I'll ask the children to show me which side of her we're looking at. Then, we will literally, TURN HER LIFE AROUND, but rotating our sticks to see her as a transformed woman of God, one of the most memorable Saints of our Church.

For more inspiration from her story, here is an excellent sermon in video form:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC3tEQlqdGY&feature=youtu.be

Talking Points to Remember:

  • She left home at 12 years old, to a live a life of sinfulness in the city, one which would not bring her happiness, but emptiness and distance from God.
  •  When God prevented her entrance into the Church to venerate the Cross of Christ, it was a BIG WAKE UP CALL, to stop and look at herself as unworthy, and in need of healing.
  • She did not flee to the desert to punish herself, but TO FIND HERSELF, that is, the true self that God created her to be, beautiful in His eyes.
  • She departed for the desert without much, but had one important thing: faith in God that He would provide for her daily food and shelter for 47 years.
  • Lastly, the four miracles show us that she became transformed and pleasing to God: she had the gift of clairvoyance and knew Father Zossimas' name before he told her, she was seen elevated off the ground in prayer, she walked on water to cross the river to receive the Holy Eucharist, and lastly, the lion was sent by God to help bury her.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pascha Basket

If you are looking for ways to keep "Christ" in your celebration of Easter, consider making an Orthodox Pascha Basket instead of the typical egg & candy overload! Each of the following traditional foods has a symbolic and spiritual significance.

We focus on saying "Pascha" which is our spiritual journey
to the Resurrection of Christ., our "passage" from the Hebrew "pesche, or passover." Remember this is also why Orthodox Christians around the world have a different date for the Resurrection. Each year, the Church follows the same sequence of events - Christ raising Lazarus, Christ's Entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), Christ's arrest (Bridegroom) the Passover (Christ's Mystical Last Supper on Holy Weds) the Crucifixion, Burial and Tomb, all culminating at the glorious Resurrection of our Lord.



FAMILY BASKET INGREDIENTS: 

Many parishes will bless the baskets all together after the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning. Ask your local priest to try this custom!
  • a yeast bread,
  • a bitter herb
  • wine, 
  • cheese, meat, butter, salt, and a red egg. 
  • Sweet bread is always included, leavened with yeast. This is a symbol of the New Covenant; the Jews made unleavened bread, and we, the children of the new covenant, make leavened bread. Kulich is the traditional Russian bread, and Tsourekia is the traditional Greek braided bread. The braided form of this bread is a display of the Trinity  - 3 in 1. 
  • The bitter herb, often horseradish or garlic, serves as a reminder of the first Passover (horseradish is eaten as a traditional part of the original Passover meal) and of the bitter sufferings which Christ endured for our sake. Sometimes the herb is colored red with beets, symbolizing the Blood of Christ. The bitter herb is also to bring to mind the Jews’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, or our 40 days of the fast. 
  • Wine, cheese, and butter are figurative of all the good things of life, and remind us of the earthly gifts that come from God. Meat is included in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover, which has been replaced by Christ, the New Passover and Lamb of God. (slim jims, beef jerky, salami can be fun finger food) 
  • Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are “the salt of the earth.” 
  • The red egg, which we crack,  is likened to the tomb from which Christ arose. This is because of the miracle of new life which comes from the egg, just as Christ miraculously came forth from the tomb, shattering the bonds of sin. Of course, red for His blood shed for us, and the miracle from St Maria Magdalane when the egg in her hand miraculously turned red as she proclaimed "Christ is Risen" to the non-believing Emperor.

Many Orthodox Christians also cover their basket with a Pascha basket cover.

Here and here  are some more links on Pascha Baskets.

Read here for information concerning how the Orthodox Christian tradition of  Pascha baskets got started.http://www.iarelative.com/easter/bcover.htm


Friday, March 13, 2015

The Red Egg


Here's a look at the pious custom of red eggs in the Orthodox Church for you and your families to enjoy. Where did the tradition come from anyway? It seems there are a few possible answers to this question...of which I prefer to believe in the miracle that God worked through His handmaiden, Mary Magdalene (whom by the way is often wrongly attributed as the prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair - See Orthodox Wiki for a well cited clarification).

Other symbolism, not as dogma, but as tradition includes:

*The egg as the new life in Christ through His resurrection

*Red for the color of our Lord's blood shed on the cross but also for His divinity

*The outer shell to be cracked as the doors of Hades are shattered open

Since children enjoy decorating the eggs, why not encourage them to display their faith on them, as the picture shows! Be sure not to throw away any icons if you use them, but certainly include symbols like ~ icxc, fish, crosses, tree of life, the Trinity, 4 Greek Letters for Mother of God...etc
You can write on eggs with melted wax, then dip them in red dye, and afterward, burn off the wax to reveal the design underneath.

This worksheet is available in PDF format here

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Holy Week Orthodox Coloring Icons

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












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