"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 7, 2015

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!


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."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Pre-Christmas Parties

As Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Pre-Christmas parties are approaching with great popularity, for us, it is a frequent reminder to "stay the course" and focus on the calendar of the Church. We are Orthodox Christians living in secular societies, and although these conversations can be challenging with other PTA moms and co-workers, I thought I'd share how we at least try to respond. It's not worth it to get into debates about whether or not such activities have pagan roots, or if they are simply harmless celebrations of costumes and candy, of turkey, family and football. 

The only question to ask is:
Are we giving our children the best chance for a holy life?

We often go digging through trash to find a spark of something good to hang on to, especially, in order to justify our participation in events that our consciences speak otherwise about. This struggle can leave us troubled in our thoughts and souls, wondering if we did the right thing. I like to remove all doubt, and try to set up our kids for the best possible chance of success towards a holy life.

We can pay little attention to activities that we chose not to be part of. Giving more attention, subsequently, to the Church calendar and It's Saints. By doing this, we hope our children will grow to understand that as Orthodox Christians, we live out our faith without making exceptions here and there to fit in. We "fast" when others are "feasting", we look to the Saints as our super-hero's,  and celebrate the Divine Liturgy instead for the feasts below:
Oct 28 - Agia Skepi, Protection of the Theotokos
Nov 1st - Cosmas, Damianos, their Mother, also St. David of Euboia
Nov 8 - St Nektarios
Nov 15 - Fast begins - Big day in our home!
We begin decorating and start our 40 Day Calendar
Nov 21 - Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple
Nov 25 - St Katherine the Great
Nov 26 - St Stylianos, Patron of Children
Nov 30 - St Andrew the Apostle
December is full of great Saints up until Christmas and beyond...

I ask myself...who has time for everything else with so many truly "holy days" approaching!

Saint Katherine / Agia Aikaterini

The life and example of Saint Katherine (Agia Aikaterini /Katerina) is truly a unique witness for all youth, and especially handmaidens of Christ. If you do not know her story, take a moment to be inspired for her feastday on Tuesday, Nov 25 and color the icon. Especially for all girls involved in speech & debate!

Watch the life of St Katherine here for children on You Tube

Watch video footage of Sinai and the Icon collection at he Getty Museum here

Another video for children on her

As a young woman of great beauty and intelligence, she came of age to be married, but her focus was elsewhere. She only agreed if a suitor was found that surpassed her own knowledge, wisdom and talent. What earthly man could compare? Her mother took her to meet a holy ascetic, outside the city, dwelling in a cave. He gave her an icon of Panagia and her son, to begin praying to meet such a worthy "man;" who else, but Christ Himself. But when the Mother of God appeared to her in a dream, Christ would not look at Saint Katherine, as she had not yet renounced her life to accept the Christian faith. She returned to the elder for catechesis, and baptism, then received a ring of betrothal to Christ as His handmaiden, for only He was worthy of her devotion. She preserved her body in virginity and soul until martyrdom.

You see, she gave up a perfectly easy life.

Later, she refuted the rhetoric from 150 of the King's wisest scholars and proclaimed the one true God, as Jesus Christ. For this, many miracles came to be. The wheel she was to be tortured on, was broken. The Queen and soldiers visited her in prison, and accepted Christianity. Lastly, when beheaded, her body flowed with milk rather than blood and was escorted by angels to the mountain of the great Prophet Moses of the 10 Commandments in the Sinai desert, where a remarkable Orthodox monastery lies today.

If you are fortunate enough, to be named after her, may you be blessed with such wisdom & courage! Xronia Polla~

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

40 Days of Christmas Craft

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!

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:

On Cappadocia

Question and Answer page on the Patriarchate

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.

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



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:

Try ST GEORGE'S SKIT located here:

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
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