"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

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Craft Blankets for Charity

If you and your kids/teens are looking for a great hands-on project to occupy a weekend, consider making these very easy fleece blankets. They're a fantastic service project to pass out to homeless folks along the streets as the temperature drops, or donate to another charity of your choice, and the best part is that we get to be creative doing it!

Here are a few easy steps to follow with no sewing required!

• Visit the fabric store with your kids/teens to pick out and purchase fleece. You can vary the design by picking two different colors or patterns. The size of your blanket is up to you.

• To begin, cut two pieces of fleece material, exactly the same size.

• Lay your two pieces of fleece out on a table, back to back.

• At each corner, cut out a four inch square from the edge.

• Next, cut fringes around the entire outer edge of the fabric that are four inches long, one inch wide. You can 'eye-ball' this or use a yardstick for help.

• When you are finished, start at one corner and begin to tie the fringe of the two layers together in a double knot until completing the entire blanket.

* TIP: For a two-colored blanket alternate your knots by passing one fringe under and over, then reverse it for the next knot.

This project can be paired up with an Orthodox lesson as well. We made red & orange blankets to accompany the story of the 3 Holy Youths in the fire; Shadrach, Mishach, and Abendago. When it came time to donate them, our group decided to send them to the Orthodox fire victims in Greece.

To tailor your blankets for a worldwide cause, visit www.iocc.org http://www.orthodoxyouthoutreach.net/ or www.ocmc.org for ideas.

Can anyone crafty out there suggest a way to add-on a Cross, Icon, or Orthodox decal?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Prosforo Workshop & Puzzle Activity

As we draw near to Christ, we often ask what gift can we offer to Him, especially a tangible one for our children to make. It is easy to overlook and under value the simple things that we can do with our own hands. If we are attending Church, one of the greatest offerings we can bring to Christ is the bread used to become His Holy Body. "Prosforo" literally means offering, as in offering a gift....perfect for Christmas! See the lesson below for Scripture quotes and ingredient significance.

Many of you may have held Prosforo workshops before at your parishes. Great! Do it again and again - the kids love it! Next time, arrange a few of the following activities to enhance the experience:
  • NEW Lesson Plan & Puzzle activity of the Proskomidi: located here where each child cuts and glues the pieces of the Seal to understand their significance.
  • NEW book from Potamitis Publishing "Yiayia and the Prosphoron" located here in many languages
  • Book "The Woman and the Wheat" located here
  • As each child presses the seal onto the loaf, ask them to repeat out loud the Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner."
  • We always begin with a prayer and the children incense the whole kitchen! Some have never held charcoal in a tweezers before - it's great hands on fun!
  • Before finishing, write the first names of those Orthodox Christians that the children would like to pray for to be given to the priest along with the Prosforo for commemoration.
  • Lastly, don't forget that the Prosforo bread needs to arrive at the beginning of Orthros/Matins so get it there even Saturday night for the Vespers service.
Christ said "I am the Bread of Life and whomever eats of it shall never hunger."

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Lady Sarakosti Poem & Coloring for Great Lent

This year, we painted on food coloring before baking. Give it a try! 
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.

Monday, February 8, 2021

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:

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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Canon of St Andrew for Kids

If you are feeling that the Great Fast snuck up on you this year, and you are hoping to get into the "zone" rather quickly give the Canon of St Andrew of Crete a try this week! Over the course of the first four days of the Great Fast, Great Compline is read in the evenings with a portion of the Great Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.  

The Canon is also read in its entirety on Wednesday evening of the 5th week so that we may approach the conclusion of the Great Fast again with a proper spirit.

You can access and download an overview handout on The Canon of St Andrew of Crete here  or for each days portion visit this link.

St. Andrew of Crete (c. 660-740) was born in Damascus. He became a monk at Mar Saba and served later at the Holy Sepulchre. Around 685, he was ordained a deacon at Hagia Sophia. He also ran a refuge that took in orphans and cared for the elderly. He ended his days as Archbishop of Gortyna, a position to which he was elevated in 692, on the island of Crete. He wrote homilies that display great oratorical skill, as well as formal public speeches later used in written form of the saints.

Wishing you and your loved ones the true spirit of repentance and forgiveness. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Holy Saint Photini

Here are several handouts for a lesson on St Photini, who earned the title "Equal to the Apostles." The Church celebrates her life this Thursday and on the Sunday of the Samaritan Women during the Paschal season. Her encounter with Christ is so very important to us because we find Christ clearly declaring Himself to be the awaited Messiah. ~ There is no longer any question about His identity ~

Therefore, begin by reading this encounter in the Gospel of John 4: 1-30 or page 12 in the recommended book by Dr Maria Khoury "Christina's True Hero's" (see previous post on resources for the Saints)

Pay special attention to the way Christ transforms the understanding of St Photini. He truly reveals Himself to her, in a very gentle way, and afterward, her life is never the same. This is our calling. Once we experience Christ, we can no longer live in darkness for we have seen the light. This is true metanoia: to turn and go in the other direction. Like St Photini, we can openly share with others the many wonders God has shown us through His gracious mercy.

Search beyond holy Scripture, and discover her name, her life and witness, and her martyrdom also at a well. What special details that our Church preserves!

Play the game of Telephone to see if your children and young adults can pass along the message of Christ accurately, as did St Photini. Or print out her icon to color or decorate a small clay water jug with. Here is a nice online account of her life.


When through your inexpressible dispensation, Christ God, you appeared on earth, the woman of Samaria, having heard your word, full of love for mankind, left her bucket at the well and ran saying to those in the city: Come, see the one who knows the heart: is not this the expected Christ, who has great mercy?

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.-from the Vespers of Samaritan Woman

Monday, February 1, 2021

The "Orthodox Kids Journal Project"

NEW: Introducing a free weekly curriculum to create Orthodox Christian Kids Journals about our  faith! Each week, come back to this website and download the handout to print yourselves.

The handouts cover a topic from the Church year including quotes, miracle stories, maps, troparions, icons and Orthodox art.

As we discuss the components of the lesson, students are actively listening while they color, cut, and glue a memorable resource to keep for the rest of their lives! Often, students contribute stories they have heard, or if they have that particular Saints' icon at home, or if they have ever venerated a relic, traveled to that country etc. This method proves to be a wonderful tool to create lasting beauty as students develop a greater understanding for the Orthodox Church year in the midst of open dialogue.

Join with us and share! CLICK HERE

Here are the files currently available to follow the Church year from September to May:

Monks & Nuns

This Sunday the Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Gregory Palamas during Great Lent, and it might seem like a difficult example to draw a lesson from. If you are wondering how to make this Sunday relevant, consider teaching about the subject of monasticism since the Saint spent several years living and praying within a small cave outside of Thessaloniki, Greece. It can be a great opportunity to introduce to our youth the actual daily routine of an Orthodox monk or nun. Even the fact that in our tradition, we have monks and nuns!

In Greek "monos" literally means alone. Hence the word "monastic" - one who lives alone

Brief vocab for the lesson with a printable worksheet:
The Talanto - a long narrow piece of wood struck with a pallet by designated monks/nuns in the monastery as a call to prayer for the others to attend Church. This tradition comes from the great Prophet Noah, who hit the ark to call the animals to enter inside.

The Hours - or otherwise known as the daily rule of prayer - praying the hours happens six times a day, at symbolic hours. 7 am (first hour, sunrise), 9 am (third hour, time of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost), 12 noon (sixth hour, our Lord's sacrifice began at Golgotha), 3 pm (ninth hour, our Lord's sacrifice on the Cross ended as He gave up His spirit to the Heavenly Father), 6 pm (Vespers - setting of the sun), 9 pm (Compline - before sleep), 12 midnight ( in the silent darkness the soul rises for prayer)

Komboskini - or prayer rope, in several sizes. The most common is 33 knots for 33 years of Christ's life. It is made by the hands of the monks/nuns who recite the Jesus prayer while making each knot, sealing within it the name of Christ. After it is complete, the prayer ropes are used as tools to continue praying for others and the world, often never leaving the fingers of praying monastics!

Tonsure -  this is the rite of initiation into the monastic state or the official blessing and becoming of a monk or nun in the Orthodox Church by a Bishop or Archimandrite. There are three levels: Rassophore, Stavrophore, and the Great Schema. The hair is cut as an offering of the person to God along with their whole life and their self will. Afterward the hair, even a beard, is never cut again. Vows of chastity, obedience and poverty are made with a commitment to strive within the monastery community of fellow brothers and sisters.

Ascetic - one who lives apart from the world to dedicate their life fully to God, sometimes in a cave or the desert. It is a very difficult life, with very little food, maybe dried bread or plants. Usually little clothing, a rock for a pillow and no dvd's, iphones or McDonalds!

Gerontissa, Geronda, Abbess, or Abbot - This is the spiritual mother or father assigned with the task of guiding and confessing the others monks and nuns to their salvation in Christ. Visitors to the monastery often bow and offer a kiss to their hand to take their blessing.
Novice - This is the title used for a beginner or interested person in becoming a monk or nun. Often this candidate will live within the monastery for several years as a trial to be certain before being tonsured. 

Trapeza - This is the dining hall where meals are shared all together. Fasting from meat is year round, and often spiritual food is offered simultaneously through reading or a small sermon. Sometimes, water is drunk only second to food when a small bell is rung, reinforcing the discipline of taming self will through obedience and gratefulness to God.

Diakonima – each monk or nun has specific work to complete that is assigned to them. Everyone works for the love of Christ and contributes to the community. Some cook, others garden, while another sews, and chants etc.

A monk or nun leaves the world to prayer for the world!

Explain that there are Orthodox monasteries around the world, and include a short description or slide show of photos from Mount Athos if you would like. Also share the location of an Orthodox Monastery near you. From personal experience, there is no greater impact on our youth than an actual visit to an Orthodox monastery first hand! Please consider arranging for a group trip from your parish, and expose this way of life to our young people.

A few children's books on the subject:



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