"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

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**

Monday, September 1, 2014

Orthodox Pop Quiz









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"Orthodox Pop Quizzes"

Who can tell us where the saying and superstition
"Knock on Wood" comes from?


good luck!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Our Greatest Weapon


This September, for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I share with you this image of the largest fragment of the True Cross of Christ in existence. It is a special treasure of the Xeropotamou Monastery on Mount Athos, in Greece.*

In honor of the feast, let's ask our kids, why the Cross is so very important to us as Christians?Why do the enemies of Christ, the demons, cringe at this sign?

After reading a bit from Elder Cleopa, I am reminded of an event in the Old Testament...Read out loud together Numbers chapter 21. "The LORD said to Moses, 'Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.' So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived." Numbers 21:8-9

The faithful of that generation were offered a sign of hope, and for us today as Christians, we too are given a means for our salvation. For the New Testament fulfillment of this event, read John 3:14-15 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Imagine a real, tangible sign, sanctified by God for us who are in the world amidst so many visuals that tempt our eyes. Ask your kids how they feel when they see the sign of the Cross in public somewhere?

If you are a Christian, you are strengthened,you rejoice, and think of God who offers us the ultimate gift of eternal life. But if you are against Christ, you cringe. To give you a few examples, in the country of Turkey, the Red Cross must be called the "Red Crescent" to avoid any relation to Christianity. Elder Paisios, if I'm not mistaken, said that other countries have banned planes from flying over their lands because of the shadow they cast on the earth below: a cross.

Why? Because this sign is the symbol of the power and the victory of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:18

For Orthodox Christians, the Cross brings forth joyfulness and regeneration to all who carry it, wear it, or exalt it. May you and your families be filled with encouragement this September as the Cross is processed and we chant, "O Lord Save Your People through the Power of Your Cross."

*A smaller fragment of the True Cross of Christ can also be found at the Greek Orthodox Seminary Holy Cross in Boston, MA.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Way We Worship

Introduce to your children an activity illustrating  the way we worship and more importantly, why we worship the way we do in the Orthodox Church. Below are some talking points for the lesson, as well as a coordinating activity or craft.

1. When we enter the Church, we try to leave behind the cares of the world. School, Homework, Chores, Tomorrow, What's for dinner....etc. Beginning in the Nave (like a boat in the "Navy") we travel closer and closer to God during the service, moving towards Paradise, which is represented by the Holy Altar, ultimately receiving the Eucharist just at its doors.

2. Each week, we worship the same way and celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom from the 5th century. The word "liturgia" literally means "work of the people." By attending the Divine Liturgy, we are choosing to give back this time to God.  This is our "work." We offer our gifts to Him - our time, our attention, our prayers, our voices. and more tangibly the wine and bread, made with our own hands from the very gifts that God has given us - grapes and wheat. We become co-workers in God's activity.

3. Everyone in the "Ekklesia" is united by a common Orthdoox baptism and confession of faith. We are one created family, surrounded with the Angels and Saints in heaven. Those in the world, the Church militant or army in spiritual battle, mirror the same actions in heaven by the Church Triumphant, the Saints who have already passed the test of life on Earth! We worship God in the Orthodox Church with all of our senses in order to fully participate with our mind, body and soul.


Activity - Ask the children to correctly match the ways we worship God with our senses- if possible, they can make the drawings themselves on colored paper, or you can cut and paste from pictures
  • Ears - We hear the word of God in the Gospel and Epistles readings 
  • Voices - We chant the praises of the angels 
  • Hands- We form the sign of the life-giving Cross 
  • Nose - We smell the incense as an offering of our prayer rising to heaven 
  • Body - We bow our heads, bend to the ground and kneel to worship God 
  • Eyes - We see the light of Christ in every candle and focus our prayers to the windows of heaven, the icons.
  • Mouth - We taste the very Body and Blood of Christ, the blessed five loaves of artoclasia, wine & oil, the blessed boiled wheat kollyva, and/or the blessed antidoro or dismissal bread, and blessed grapes at the feast of the Transfiguration.
4. Lastly, let us not forget that the Divine Liturgy is for the whole world, and through this special service, God helps and saves His creation. We not only say prayers for the weather, for our food and crops, for our protection from danger and for a faithful life, but we pray for the "peace of the whole world." Although our local Church may not offer a Divine Liturgy everyday, don't forget that in monasteries around the world, the Divine Liturgy is being offered daily, without stop, as a constant prayer to God.

"A Russian priest was speaking with a minister of another denomination one day. The later spoke at great length about all the wonderful things that his church did for the poor and the environment through service projects, soup kitchens, volunteering, and the likes. Then he asked the Russian priest what the Orthodox people do? And the Russian priest paused quietly for a moment, and simply responded, we offer the Divine Liturgy on behalf of the whole world."    

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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 5, 2014

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 4, 2014

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.






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 3, 2014

Transfiguration Journey


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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

12 Apostles Fast


To mark the beginning of today's fast for the 12 Apostles, we will be assembling this icon as a work in progress until the feast on June 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. Tomorrow and each day to follow, we will focus on one Apostle at a time, placing them on the icon as we learn each Saint's troparion.

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 in no particluar order. 

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
 

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!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Teaching Ten - 10 Commandments


 We're in the process of teaching the 10 Commandments throughout our Orthodox summer religious education classes, and although we don't have an established curriculum, there have been many resources that I'd like to share in case others might need them. It could be a great Vacation Bible School program as well.

We teach one commandment every week, adding them to our two plaques cut out of cardboard. Along with the short lesson, we are watching small portions of this animated video  posted on youtube each week.  It really does seem that as the story of the Prophet Moses unfolds, so do the lessons of the 10 Commandments along with it. The kids are really enjoying the video. I find it well done, even if the Prophet Moses was not so muscular.

First 4 -              Mans’ relationship with God
Last 6   -            Man’s relationship with fellow man

1.      I am your God. There are no other gods except me.
2.      Do not believe in other fake idols. Worship only God.
3.      Do not use the Lord's name without serious purpose.
4.      Work 6 days and dedicate the seventh for God.
5.      Honor your father and mother.
6.      Do not kill anyone or anything - including even a bug!Life is from God.
7.      Honor and respect marriage between one man and one woman
8.      Do not steal.
9.      Do not tell lies
10.  Do not be jealous of others.

Intro: Begin a discussion on how we know what right and wrong is? Ask for examples to be given of good behavior and bad. Where did we learn this? Most often answered, from our parents. And "Who" is the greatest Father of us all? God, who wanted us to have a set of rules to follow, so that we may live in harmony with His desire for us, and the world. These guidelines are called the 10 Commandments.

1st Commandment - God reveals "who" He is so that we may worship Him correctly. He tells us His Name (YAHWEH) We know our God created the World and everything in it. He says He is the Alpha and the Omega or the beginning and the end. And as Orthodox Christians, we know God to be 1 in 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as we have mind, word and breath within the same person, Christ is the Word, the Holy Spirit the Breath all within the same one God. Video footage: The birth of Moses and his early childhood facing the cruel behavior of Pharoah, Moses attempting to do good

2nd Commandment - God cautions us to take care not to fill our lives with so many other things that there is no room for Him. Nothing can or should replace God in our lives, nor the time we devote to Him each day. Just as it is important to worship Him in Truth, as we learned from the 1st Commandment, now we must take care only to worship and honor Him as the only God. Identify together examples of false idols (see handout) or ask your teens to cut out "idols' from popular magazines. Especially super-heros and videogame figures today! Discuss trendy statues and how acceptable it is to display these in store windows and homes today, along with putting our faith or hope in superstitions, astrology horoscopes, fortune telling, and magic. (All of which if we have participated in, we need to confess!) Video footage: Moses before Pharoah, who calls upon power of magicians and says Pharoah is "god" Eventually led to desert, the Jews make a gold calf

3rd Commandment - How many times do we here people yell out "O My God!" Can you imagine if God turned His attention each time, only to be told..."oh nevermind...I didn't really mean to call for you?" This is a common slip up but it can show our lack of respect for God's name. Let us teach instead to use our Lord's name only in prayer and doxology!

4th Commandment: This is a good chance to ask our children how often and when they remember God? Do they think of Him first thing in the morning? How about during a lesson at school, or in an afternoon sport? When we are busy, do we remember God is with us or do we treat Him like He is invisible? God knows that our day is filled with many tasks...and for this reason, He asks us not to forget Him by making sure we purposely stop everything else.

Our craft was to decorate these boxes as our "Kivoto" or Tabernacle that Aaron was tasked to build to house the plaques and for Moses to enter in to speak with God. We glued a square laminated card inside listing the 10 Commandments which were visible through the window, and decorated the outside colorfully with paints and decals. We also encouraged the students to only put religious items inside (a small cross, or icon card they may receive as a gift, a prayer rope, etc.) and to keep the box near their icons at home... The boxes were purchased here 


5th Commandment - Honor your father and mother.

The relationship between Christ and His mother, the Panagia is an excellent example of this from the wedding at Cana. Although it wasn't time yet for Christ to begin His formal ministry, upon request of His mother, He did. Which is why we believe He still to this day hears the prayers/intercessions of the Mother of God on our behalf. Also, the obedience of Christ to the Father can be cited. For younger kids, the message is one of respect for the parents who have sacrificed and provided for you, even when we disagree with our parents. It is not blind obedience, but one from Holy Scripture, for which Father would give the child a stone if he asked for bread?
We learn to trust and love the parents who care for us, because parenthood is a God-given responsibility. Not like a pet we can go out and buy, or give away, etc.


6th Commandment -
Do not kill anyone or anything - including even a bug!
Life is from God. This is a great chance to emphasis where life comes from, how we were made in His image when God breathed life into the dirt of the Earth, and how if we stop breathing, a.k.a. without that "breathe" we die/return to dust...therefore being in this world, we are like God's respiratory system, breathing because of Him and with Him! Since we are not the authors of life, it is not our right to take life. For older ones, the chance to mention suicide, abortion if appropriate. Some Orthodox elders were sad to walk on grass for even it is living! Possibly mention the harmony amongst all living creatures as bearers of His image.

7th Commandment 
(You shall not commit adultery) Honor and respect marriage between one man and one woman. This command reversed the communal living of polygamy of the Jews and strengthened the bond of commitment, that through the mystery of marriage, like Christ with His Church, we co-journey to heaven with one partner. Our symbol of this unity is even manifested physically, like a key that fits only one lock!  God does not bless same-sex unions, two mommy's, or homosexual lifestyle choices, as difficult as it is for some to avoid the temptation. There was one Adam, and one woman created for Adam, Eve.


8th Commandment -
  Do not steal.
Remember, this begins with taking something as a child, without asking a parent.Anything that does not belong to the person, or was purchased by them. The virtue is one of obedience, and always seeking the blessing before doing something, rather than acting on our desires/wants or passions. It teaches us discipline and not to desire material items, which often is the motive behind the act of stealing. If something is needed, our heavenly Father provides, or we work hard to earn what we would like.


9th Commandment -  
Do not tell lies
Lying is the opposite of Christ, for He said He is the Truth. THE truth, not one of many truths. The evil one is the deceiver of all, and when we lie, we are working together, in conjunction with him rather than with Christ. There is nothing we should be ashamed of,  or worry about when telling the truth. When we tell the truth, we stand with Christ, and His power will strengthen us.

10th Commandment - Do not be jealous of others.
Again, another root of sin which is pride, and thinking only of one's self. Desiring something, whether it be an item or a characteristic of some one else is a lack of gratitude for what one does have, and all of God's blessings. It is a comparison of ones self to another, and it is selfish because jealousy desires for you to have it in the end. Sometimes this can lead to scheming and more negative thoughts, even before action is ever taken. Sin begins in the desire. Being satisfied and thankful are the ways to avoid this sin.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

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 shows what we would call "superhuman" qualities! He appears in the upper room to the Apostles twice when the doors are sealed shut. He is seen along the road to Emmaus, but in some sort of disguise to Luke and Cleopa, until He breaks bread with them and is recognized essentially in the Eucharist (see the lesson plan here). Then forty days later 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. What could possibly come next for the followers of Christ?

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

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

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.

*** This year, bring the kneeling prayers with you on Pentecost Sunday to follow along ***

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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 tomorrow 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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

Palm Sunday Evening - Kneel for the Procession of the icon of Christ as the Bridegroom

Holy Monday- Light a candle in the dark serenity of  this service

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"

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

Holy Wednesday Evening- Count 7 Readings or 7 Candles, Try fasting before receiving Holy Unction, (Some Priests also wash the children's feet)

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.

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)

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.

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"  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.

Holy Week for Teens and Children

If you are looking for ideas for Holy Week in your parish, here are two of my favorites.

1) HOLY FIRE IN JERUSALEM


Gather a collection of videos of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem.  That miracle is one many of our kids have never heard..and the miracle continues each year!


On the Eve of the Resurrection, inside the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, the Holy Fire descends on the Patriarch of Jerusalem from within the Holy Sepulcher and believers pass the light around to all the faithful, who usually hold 33 candles bound together, to signify the 33 years of Christ's ministry on the Earth. The fire is miraculously given but also miraculous in nature, because it does not burn, just as Moses and the Burning bush. Believers have proved this by passing their hands through the fire, beards and faces...as many photos show. It's color is different than normal too, with more of a white-blue hue. The Holy Fire also bounces around like no light show ever manipulated by machines! Pilgrims have seen the Fire ignite unlit oil lamps on It's own and despite the efforts by many Muslims to seal the tomb with wax beforehand, and thorough searches of the Patriarch before entering, the Holy Fire still comes!

There are many articles available as well, some better than others...

http://www.holyfire.org/eng/

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-04-07-holyfire_N.htm

Search YouTube for videos and compile the best clips for your own presentation.


2) CONFESSION ACTIVITY
http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2008/06/weight-of-our-sins.html

Pair everyone up (with same gender) for a "piggy-back" contest.
For younger ones, use backpacks instead and add heavy items like staplers, stones.

The idea is to get them to try carrying around a lot of weight, to see how long they can go...before needing to release the "burden of our sins" They are not moving around, but rather standing in one place in one large room.

During the time period, you could ask various teens to read aloud the Gospel accounts of Christ's judgment before Pilate, Crucifixion, and burial in the Tomb. After the final pair has surrendered to sitting down, you discuss how it felt, what their thoughts were, how heavy was the weight for them, and at what point did they want help? What delayed them surrendering? Often, it is our pride that keeps us away from God, because we want to go about life on our own, until we finally accept God's help because we have reached or limit.

Explain that Confessing our sins is exactly this same concept...of finding relief in the sacrifice that Christ made once and for all. When we experience the weight of sin in our lives,
there is nothing to help us remember God's love for us better than experiencing Confession.


When I did this activity, I showed them the Prayer of Absolution from the Sacrament of Confession, where our priests, through the grace bestowed on them from their ordination, with the stole over our head, and us kneeling, absolves our sins.

This activity lead into a personal reflection time to prepare to confess their own sins troubling them. See the 10 Tools for preparing, or print this reflection list located here...http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/selfexam.aspx. Ask if your priest is available during the afternoon to hear their confessions. I would encourage everyone to go to a personal Confession, however, even if only 5 teens go, it's absolutely worth it.

During down time, young people could help decorate the Tomb with flowerings and crawl under it
in the shape of a cross (which is an old custom)


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 but also for His divinity

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

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

Pascha Basket

Avoiding Easter bunnies? Try making an Orthodox Pascha Basket this year and include the following traditional foods, each with a symbolic significance
 
These are: 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. 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’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness. 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. Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are “the salt of the earth.”
The red egg 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.



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


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