"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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

12 Apostles Activity


For 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!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Saint Andrew - First Patriarch of Constantinople

With the feast of Saint Andrew approaching on November 30, I figured this would be as great of a time as any, to introduce our young people to our Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the once glorious city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. Especially considering that most people today only know it as Istanbul. Here you'll find a coloring icon of Saint Andrew, links to nice video footage, and a map of the Saints missionary travels.

As an Apostle of Christ, Saint Andrew was tasked to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor (Now Turkey), Macedonia, Romania and even as far as Russia. He is considered the founder of the Christian Church in Constantinople, as each and every ordination of a Patriarch, a Bishop, a Priest or Deacon can be traced back to the original Apostle Andrew. The liturgical act of laying on of hands in the Orthodox Church with the grace of the Holy Spirit is the transfer of the original Christ-given authority to the Apostles.We call this Apostolic Succession. Because of this lineage, we can truthfully say that the Orthodox Church is the Ancient Christian Church, over 2000+ years old.


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

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

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

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

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

Here is my personal photo of the relic of the "X" cross that St Andrew was martyred on, which can be venerated along with the Saint's skull at this giant cathedral in the port city of Patras, Greece on the Ionian Sea.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

PASCHA: 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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

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 KingRECITE: "Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord"


Palm Sunday Evening - ACTION: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. ACTION: Bow down to make 3 full prostrations in front of the Bridegroom icon of Christ.

Holy Tuesday- RECITE: 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" PRACTICE:  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. TASTE: vinegar with your own kids 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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

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


Monday, March 13, 2017

Orthodox Family Video for Pascha

Click below to watch this beautiful Orthodox video with English subtitles for your children and Church youth groups this year.

Without spoiling the end, it is remarkable how a young girl, named Seraphima spreads the message that "Christ is Risen" among other girls at an orphanage in Communist Russia.

It is sure to inspire every young person in their faith!

 Here is the link



Thursday, March 9, 2017

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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Audio Lives of Saints

I recently discovered this tremendous audio resource collection of detailed
"Lives of Saints" in English, many single stories available for immediate mp3 download! What a great blessing! As a family who drives a lot, we often use the opportunity to listen to homilies, therefore this addition will be greatly appreciated by all. Check it out here !

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lady Sarakosti Poem & Coloring for Great Lent



POEM
Lady Sarakosti, is a custom from long ago,
Our yiayias (grandmothers) used to make her, out of flour and H2O.

She wears a modest nun’s dress, with a cross upon her head, silently without a mouth she prays, to fast with fruits, nuts and bread.

Her feet teach us how to count, the weeks of Lent are seven, we cut one off each Saturday, until Pascha and the Resurrection to heaven.

**If you make a better translation of the original Greek poem, please share it! This is also my version of a more Monastic Lady Sarakosti drawing with a prayer rope in hand and head veil**

Lady Sarakosti Recipe
2-2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2-2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon                            
water (as much as needed)        
* Not to be eaten! *

Combine flour, salt and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl and gradually add enough water to form a stiff, but flexible dough. Roll dough out to 1/2" thickness. With a sharp knife cut out the figure as shown above. Cut out two long narrow strips for arms and join at shoulders (wet surface to which arms will be applied). Make slits in dough for fingers.  Mark closed eyelids and noise with pointed object. Wipe entire figure down with a lightly dampened cloth to make shiny. Bake in moderate oven until golden.

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