"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, November 20, 2016

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

Christmas Crossword



********REVISED**********

Click on the crossword puzzle
to the right for a little
Christmas trivia!
Located for free download here.

Hopefully, it will be challenging
for parents and kids of all ages.


"Make ready, O Bethlehem:
let the manger be prepared,
let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away..."


Sticheron at the Royal Hours
by St Sophronius of Jerusalem

Friday, November 18, 2016

Christmas Bible Verse Craft


  1. God is with us (Matthew 1:23)
  2. All the Earth worships Thee (Psalm 66:4)
  3.  His name shall endure forever (Psalm 72: 17)
  4. He is our God, the God of salvation (Psalm 68:20)
  5. There shall come a Star out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17)
  6. He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21)
  7. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given (Isaiah 9:6)
  8. He said, “Thou art My Son; on this day have I begotten Thee” (Psalm 2:7)
  9. We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him (Matthew 2:2)
  10. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12)
  11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11)
  12. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
  13. The Angels cried out, Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14) 
  14. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
  15.  Amen.

Print these 15 versus from the Bible out on different colors of paper, or at a minimal on green construction paper. Cut them into strips with a paper cutter, trim the lengths, and ask your children or teens to glue them into the Christmas story tree to white or blue paper. If you have younger ones, you could always number the phrases, but even if the order gets rearranged, it still works. Have fun learning holy scripture! To download the PDF file, click here:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Christmas Worksheet

Here is an Orthodox Christian Worksheet and Lesson on the Nativity that includes a bit of theology we often overlook. Although it might be for older ones, I hope it offers details that the younger ones can comprehend as well.

Click here for the PDF Lesson available at the Orthodox Christian Scribd Group.


Wishing you and your families a blessed Nativity and Twelve Days of Christmas beginning with the birth of our Lord. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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!



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Orthodox Games On-the-Go

Lately, we have needed quick, on-the-go Orthodox fun. Below is what we've come up with that has brought much joy to us all with very limited supplies! Give these ideas a try:

"I'm thinking of an Orthodox Saint...." - One person starts by offering a few clues about a certain Saint in mind. Possibly if they are a soldier, or queen along with a detail of two from their life or martyrdom, relics or miracle stories. The person who guesses correctly, young or old, gets to go next!
This is a fun game for car rides or while waiting in line!


"Name that Saint" - This game is also great for a group. Call two children/adults up front, to stand side by side. The moderator begins by flashing these Orthodox cards to both at the same time and slightly cover the name.  The person wins the card by shouting out the correct Saint first. Keep count of which two people in the group have won the most correctly, for a final showdown. Winning is not as important as of course, brotherly sportsmanship!
An alternative is to have kids challenge the adults for two teams!

**Consider giving a prize, like an Orthodox chant CD or Book, Prayer rope, etc**
 
"Orthodox Charades "- Begin by writing down a single word that comes to mind about Orthodoxy on small strips of paper, to be folded and added to a basket. For example, "Jesus Prayer, Incense, Metanoia/Prostration, Martyr, Unction, Bishop, Icon, Altar, Monk, Prayer Rope, Mandili/Headscarf, etc"  Keep in mind you can use any language your group speaks! Sitting in a circle, or semi-circle begin with the first person who draws a word and must act it out in gestures for all to guess it without speaking! The person to guess correctly goes next, or play in teams and keep score of correct answers in a minute!

Missing Documents

Greetings fellow friends, It is very disappointing that the free materials have been removed from our Orthodox Education link on Scribd.com. This was indeed the easiest way to share files for immediate download. Please know that I am aware, and will try to resolve as soon as possible. If you have any suggestions, I am all ears!!! In the meantime, feel free to email me with specific requests. You have my deepest apologies.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Exaltation of Cross Skit

 
For the feast of the Cross on September 14, our classes have enjoyed putting on a skit re-enacting how St Helen found the Cross of Christ. It does not need much planning ahead of time, and most items you have at home!

You'll need:

  • An icon of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  • Dark blanket for the earth/dirt
  • Three large crosses cut from cardboard
  • One shovel or more, plastic from sandbox will do
  • A crown for St Helen, colored paper taped round
  • If you choose, second crown for St Konstantine
  • A Bishops' garment -drape a cloth around the neck and pin
  • Fresh basil, found at site of buried crosses
  • Extra: a cardboard coffin / tomb

Assign the parts:


  • St Helen and her entourage on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem...those who will dig!
    St Konstantine, her son the King, who was not present actually, but part of history
  • Jude, the secret Jewish man, who helped find the way to Golgotha
  • A child for the corpse in funeral passing by
  • Bishop Makarios, Archbishop of Jerusalem, who will exalt the Cross and lead the procession
  • The rest of the class are the faithful believers following the procession!
I narrate and pause for the kids to enact what I state from the story which can be found in many places online (here) or (here)  or (here).


Main points:

  • St Helen begins pilgrimage
  • Stops to ask Jude for directions
  • Finds Golgotha, where crosses are hidden under basil & blanket
  • Begin digging
  • Finds first cross
  • Finds second cross
  • Finds third cross
  • Places Crosses over corpse of passing funeral. Nothing happens at first two.
  • Third cross raises the corpse back to life!
  • Bishop exalts the Cross, begins procession to Jerusalem, get everyone walking! Journey to another part of your parish into the Sanctuary if you can!
  • All involved chant and venerate the Cross.
 The story varies a bit on who actually was healed on the third cross, we enact the corpse passing by in a funeral. At the end, we all chant together "Son son Kurie" or the Troparian for the feasts. We also, naturally, venerate the Cross, and discuss/identify the icon.


**Note: this feast is always a strict fast day**

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Way We Worship

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Orthodox Jeopardy

Gather Orthodox Christians of all ages for a fun and interactive game of Orthodox Jeopardy. Created in Microsoft Powerpoint, you'll sing along to the familiar theme songs of the television gameshow while testing your knowledge of the faith. Create teams or play individually. Even set up a laptop and projector screen to host this game at Youth Night or Retreats with popcorn and sleeping bags!
The questions range in difficulty and topics include: The Saints, Art & Architecture, Music & Hymnology, The Bible, Faith & Traditions, Miracles...plus more!

    Click here to download this file from our Orthodox Scribd Group or better yet please e-mail eleniemarie@gmail.com for the most accurate Powerpoint Layout since it's distorting quite a bit thru the web. Best results have been had by downloading and opening it in Powerpoint itself.

    This activity is also very adaptable for local traditions, languages, levels of difficulty, etc. Hope you enjoy it~

    Friday, August 12, 2016

    Sunday Lessons for Ages 8-18

    From ages 8-18, many questions arise in our youth...especially what are the differences between your students and their friends at school, etc. Catholic vs Jewish vs Protestants, etc... This can be a very influential period in their growth. Absolutely try an anonymous question box in your classroom! Encourage students to submit short strips of questions and pull from the box often for discussion!
    Here are two curriculum paths to consider:

    FOLLOW THE YEAR  with
    Two volumes from SVS Press with beautiful pencil drawings to match each chapter. Would photocopy nicely for the classroom, not watered-down theology!

    Discover a deeper Orthodoxy with:
    Short lessons with opening prayer, Scripture references, and quotes for discussion on topics like fasting, war & peace, the veneration of icons, the gift of sex, being born again, anger/gossip, what makes a Christian, etc

    I'd love to hear from others as well. Please comment with your resources for the pre-teen and teen years! I have even used the above for college OCF gatherings.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2016

    Discovering Virtue


    Here is a new workbook on "Discovering Virtue" for our Orthodox youth, probably at a pre-teen or teenage level. I offer it with hopes that it will provide a basic framework to discuss the spiritual life and difficult topics like chastity, humility and obedience,along with activities, a craft, and quotes from the desert fathers.

    The document can be viewed as a PDF by clicking here at our Orthodox Education Scribd Group

    If you have ideas to develop this lesson further, please share them either through this website of by emailing me at eleniemarie@gmail.com

    The icon on the cover is one of many beautiful crafts offered at the Monastery of St John Chrysostomos

    "You have to struggle to increase your zeal for God. It should become for you a daily way of life. Struggle for perfection. If you can't gain a drachma, gain at least a tenth of a drachma. Virtues are not acquired easily. There is need of struggling. And know: if we acquire virtue quickly, we shall lose it quickly. Whereas if we acquire it with labor, it doesn't go away."

    -Blessed Elder, IERONYMOS of Aegina +1966

    Monday, August 8, 2016

    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.

    Saturday, August 6, 2016

    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 it 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 which is like 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, we could consider the course of its' 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 become intimate 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 lost its virginity outside of marriage (unfortunate vary large chunks taken away). Lastly, the apple under much stress, disrespected and abandoned the wisdom of 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 desires for someone to buy it to take it to its' new home. However, compared to other apples....ours was beginning to look pretty ugly. Its' skin had faults and bruises, large scars and wounds. Slowly, its' inner 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 of 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 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 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.






    Tuesday, August 2, 2016

    Calling All Witnesses



    “Therefore I will be brought to trial before you again, says the Lord; and I will be brought to trial before your children's children." (Jeremiah)

    An excellent activity to introduce our children and teenagers to the lives of the Orthodox Christian Martyrs is through a mock trial. This activity is one they'll never forget! Read together a few examples, like the story of the 40Martyrs of Sebaste, the stoning of St Stephen the first-martyr, or the fierce persecutions initiated by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, where eyewitnesses describe the trial of a group of Christians in a town in North Africa. Of particular interest in this final example are the testimonies of two Christian martyrs, Saturninus and his son Felix, who defend their participation in readings from Holy Scripture and the Eucharist. (A.D. 304)

    Assign Characters
    • Judge (parent or adult)
    • The Accused
    • Defense Lawyers
    • Prosecutors
    • Witnesses to be called to stand
    • Jurors (3-4)
    • Court Reporter to announce case
    • Audience

    Premise
    One of your friends/siblings is on trial and is accused of being a Christian during a time when Christianity was illegal. What evidence will prove that he/she is a believer, what evidence will be used against her/him? For example, has someone witnessed this person serve in the altar, make the sign of the cross, or light a candle? How can you help to defend your friend? What could be the consequences if your friend is convicted? Who makes the ultimate decision? Is there another chance?

    Outline of Trial
    1. Bring Session to order
    2. Opening argument from both sides
    3. Call first witness to stand
    4. First questioning, Cross Examination, Rebuttal
    5. Call next witness, repeat…
    6. Presentation of evidence
    7. Final witness & questioning
    8. Call “The Accused” to the stand
    9. Closing argument
    10. Jury is dismissed
    11. Judge’s deliberation
    12. Sentencing

    Conclusion
    Wrap up the activity by discussing the trial. How did the different characters feel?What was most difficult? Was the final ruling just? (As the judge, you can make explain that often clients ask for justice - but what they really want is mercy. However, mercy is something a court has no right to give them. The only One who has the right to give mercy is God.) Lastly, discuss the miracles that our Lord has worked through the faith of the Christian Martyrs and through their relics. Look together at various icons that contain smaller martyrdom scenes.

    Monday, August 1, 2016

    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...

    Tuesday, June 7, 2016

    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!

    Friday, April 1, 2016

    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.

    Thursday, March 10, 2016

    Spring Cleaning


    "Clean up - Clean up,
    everybody everywhere,
    Clean up - clean up,
    everybody do their share."


    The lyrics to this catchy Barney song might have more use to our Orthodox faith than we've considered before because if there's one concept kids understand, it's cleaning! Whether they are imitating our motion with a vacuum or grumbling about household chores, kids can distinguish dirt from sparkle! Let us use this opportunity then on "Clean Monday" to introduce our families to the idea that Lent is a period of cleansing, and everyone benefits from participating. Because Clean Monday is a strict fast day, it should be kept holy thru holy activities. I'd say, tidy up the house only in conjunction with a lesson about cleaning both the outside of the cup, as well as the inside.

    * A clean bedroom is inviting to the angels
    (tidy up your icons)

    * A clean body can be achieved through a clean belly
    (observe the fast)

    * A clean mind is able to think of God rather than other worries
    (spend quiet time with God)

    * A clean mouth is filled with sweet words
    (sing together)

    * A clean hand is one that has helped others
    (pitch in on a group project)

    * A clean conscience is achieved only through tears of repentance and forgiveness (learn to make a prostration)

    and ultimately

    * ONLY A clean soul can become a suitable place for our Lord to dwell (read Communion prayers before and after receiving)

    As we embark on the most important "spring cleaning" of our lives over the next 40-days, let us remember that with each small effort we make, God is wiping away the layers of crud to make us radiant with His glory.

    "Wash yourselves, and ye shall be clean; put away the wicked ways from your souls before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; diligently seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, consider the fatherless, and plead for the widow. Come then, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: and though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and though they red like crimson, I will make them white as wool. If then ye be willing, and obedient unto Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye desire not, nor will obey me, the sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." (Is 1:1-20, First Monday of Great Lent, the Sixth Hour)

    SONG ACTIVITY
    "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away, from Your presence O Lord, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me, restore unto me, the joy of Your salvation, O Lord, and renew a right Spirit within me."

    CRAFT ACTIVITY There is a tradition in Greece to fly kites from the tops of hills on Clean Monday. Kites have traditionally been a handmade hexagon. Narrow strips of wood are used and tied together in the middle by string. A large piece of paper is then stuck to the hexagonal shape and individually decorated. Fringes and tails of colored shiny paper are then added and an extremely long ball of string attached. Complete this activity by discussing how we are like the kite - taking a journey closer to God.

    Confession & Kite Day


    Clean Monday is the very first Monday which begins Great Lent.
    If your parish has never held a day to invite all the children, big and small, to experience the Sacrament of Confession....keep reading! This year, we're planning ahead and beginning our preparations. The tradition in Greece is to fly kites, which may to some appear secular, but when looked at more closely, can have a beautiful relation to the soul! You see, on the Sunday evening before we begin Great Lent, there is always held the Vespers of Forgiveness where each parishioner asks the priest and one another for forgiveness. It marks the beginning of a great journey in which we embark to clean our souls of the darkness built up from our sins. Consider gathering your youth (ages 2-18) and even their parents to a day set aside for Confession and Kite Flying!

    We've chosen the Saturday beforehand. The younger children can experience Confession as a group with the priest, who can speak with them openly about the topic of sin and all can kneel under the "epitrahelion" for the final absolution to conclude, whereas the older kids can prepare their confession ahead of time and meet with the priest one on one. As each group finishes, we plan to meet outside to hand out free kites and experience the "joy" of a soul released to soar, free and lightened from the burden of sin!

    Here is my simplified Top 10 Preparation List http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.de/2008/06/weight-of-our-sins.html 

    Additional Resources :
    http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/pr_confession.aspx

    Pamphlet with Questions for Preparation:
    http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/guide-to-confession.aspx

    Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    Lady Sarakosti Poem & Coloring for Great Lent



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

    She wears a simple nun’s dress, with a cross upon her head, her hands in prayer without a mouth, to keep the fast with mostly bread.

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

    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

    BINGO for Great Lent

    Introducing a fun way to get your youth involved in service projects. On this BINGO card are listed 20 ideas for Great Lent that will enhance your spiritual journey to Pascha. Mix up the squares and distribute, or have each child draw from a bag to play. There are various ways to adjust this game, but the main idea is to establish 5 goals with your children to accomplish over the period of 40 plus days.

    Here is the file posted on Scribd. If you would like the Word document to mix up the squares for different BINGO cards, just email me at eleniemarie@gmail.com.

    Ask the students to complete their BINGO boards through activities outside of church, in daily life, and return their completed sheet to you for a "spiritual prize" I like to give Orthodox CD's, books, magnets, etc

    Have fun, and please share other ideas for the squares by posting a comment.

    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.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2016

    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


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