"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

Sunday, June 3, 2018

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!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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  ***

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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 Sts 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!

The miracle of the feast of Pentecost was for a designated purpose. The Orthodox Christian Church does not believe in the belief of "speaking of tongues" in an unintelligible babbling that is practiced today in some communities, and sees this as possible demonic activity with another spirit, but not the Holy Spirit.

Monday, April 23, 2018

St George Skit & Coloring Page

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

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

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

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Pascha Handwriting

Give a try at writing a new language! Ask your students to write "Christ is Risen" with the appropriate responses. Print the letters inside the white spaces of the following foreign languages inside this beautiful illustration: Greek at the top, then Arabic, English and Slavonic. It's also a fantastic design for your Pascha basket covers if you know how to cross stitch or screenprint.



Kalo Pascha to your families!

Monday, April 2, 2018

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.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

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 encompasses our spiritual journey
to the Resurrection of Christ, and is our "passage" from the Hebrew "pesche, or passover from death to life." 

 Each year, the Church follows the same sequence of events - and one can't happen without the next. I encourage you not to skip right to the Resurrection without going thru the Cross. Living each component in correct Orthodox theology is truly "Orthobiosi"  

...Christ raising Lazarus, Christ's Entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), Christ's arrival to those anticipating Him (Bridegroom) the Passover (Christ's Mystical Last Supper on Holy Weds and His washing of the disciples feet) 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


Saturday, March 31, 2018

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, Saint Mary Magdalene (whom by the way is often wrongly attributed as the prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair - Here is an 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

Try creating a design on your eggs with with melted wax,
then dip them to dye them red, and afterward, burn off the wax to reveal the design underneath.  This is a wonderful craft for older kids to try. Ukranian Egg Kits are available online. The simple wooden tools for the wax are called "kistkas"

LASTLY - remember, eggs and eggshells from the Church that have been blessed should not be thrown away!  Please gather them to be burned with your holy items and ashes buried.

This worksheet is available in PDF format here

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Orthodox Flash Cards

If you and your kids enjoyed the
"Orthodox Alphabet Game"

here is a set of flash cards to
build your vocab.

Some letters proved a bit challenging so I'll graciously
accept other suggestions for "X, Y, and Z!"

For older kids, maybe it's best to
leave off the word on the front

and have them find the correct
word on the back.



Both PDF files have been added
to the Orthodox Education Group
on Scrib.com. They were set up for
standard 3x5 notecards, or you
can print 4 to a letter size page.

For younger kids, I've placed these cards within an
inexpensive photo album to help them turn the pages like a book.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Akathist from Alpha to Omega


This Akathyst "poem" to Panagia has been lost in translation! In many English uses, the first letter of each stanza no longer coordinates with the Greek alphabet, sadly.

Refresh your alphabet skills

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

Go back, and re-look at your Greek versions for you will find the author (could be St Romanos) wrote this hymn with each stanza corresponding to a letter in the Greek alphabet. The first ode begins with Alpha, and the remaining continue in order, until the last ode which beings with Omega. Purposefully done, I'm sure, as our Lord used these letters Himself to show us He is the Beginning and the End.

At various Orthodox monasteries abroad, you may even find this famous and beloved hymn illustrated in Byzantine iconography. I've gathered and compiled a document to use with your parishes and youth showing just that. Click here to download the PDF for FREE. (Not to be sold or used for profit)

* Update: the Sisters of the Lifegiving spring Monastery in Dunlap, CA have published a breathtaking children's book on this very topic! Support them below:*

http://www.zoepress.us/life-giving-spring-monastery-products.html

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Lenten Crafts: Pascha Candles

Have you prepared a "Lambatha, or Pascha Candle" with your children yet for 2018? It is customary among the Greek Orthodox that the Godparents do so, and they give it as a surprise for their godchildren as the night of the Resurrection approaches. This candle has to be NEW, and will only be used for Pascha and 40 days afterward!

Often these can be purchased with stuffed animals and ribbons, but we aim to use small icon stickers, wax decals, and symbols from our faith instead. Beeswax is an ideal offering, however white is also fitting for the Resurrection if this is what your parish offers.

Here are a few symbols to incorporate:
A small icon of the Resurrection
A Cross
Three Crosses
Alpha and Omega
Flowers
IC XC NIKA (Jesus Christ Conquers)
The "X" and P"
Christ is Risen


Here is a sample graphic to print on labels. If anyone else has done this craft before, please share your advice. I found the following links that were helpful:

http://festalcelebrations.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/baptismal-and-paschal-candles/

Secondly, a thought was offered to decorate the small plastic cup that is often used to catch the wax from burning little hands.

Or thirdly, you could decorate a small white lantern to take the "Holy Fire" home. This is helpful protection from the wind as well during processions. We even had our "myrrhbearing girls" carry these.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Pascha Poem & Orthodox Craft Idea

How does one sum up the great feast of Pascha easily for kids?

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.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pascha Greetings in 59 Languages


Practice your Paschal greetings in 59 languages!


Pascha Languages
Be sure to print and save this one!

I share with you also this resource page to
reflect on the numerous uses of the word PASCHA
in Holy Scripture, which helps to support why as Orthodox Christians we should avoid the use of the word "Easter" 

Let us be set apart from the world in this way,
and bear witness to the Gospel which is our risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb!


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.

I suggest ending your lesson by reading together or silently this:



St Ephrem the Syrian, Spiritual Psalter, 120:

'How many times have I promised...'
I am unworthy to ask forgiveness for myself, O Lord, for many times have I promised to repent and proved myself a liar by not fulfilling my promise. Thou hast picked me up many times already, but every time I freely chose to fall again...If a righteous man can barely be saved, then where will I end up, I who am lawless and sinful? If the path that leads to life is strait and narrow, then how can I be vouchsafed such good things, I who live a life of luxury, indulging in my own pleasures and dissipation? But Thou, O Lord, my Saviour, Son of the true God, as Thou knowest and desirest it, by Thy grace alone, freely turn me away from the sin that abides in me and save me from ruin.

St Ephraim the Syrian resources
Quote from 120th 'Psalm' in St Ephraim's Spiritual Psalter by our Holy Father St Ephraim of Edessa, the Syrian; excerpted and arranged by Bishop Theophan the Recluse according to the manner of the psalter of the Old Testament.
 


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