"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 19, 2017

Dwelling Place for Christmas

The Nativity lenten season has begun...
will God find an available "dwelling place" to be born?
Will there be room at our inn?


When He comes, as He did then to the city of Bethlehem, to knock on our doors....will there be room in our homes, in our hearts, and in the sometimes darkness of our lives for Panagia to lay and give birth to the giver of ever-lasting peace? What state will He find our caves in? Ready, asleep, or full to capacity with other things?

You see, the cave is not only a physical place of historical importance, but a spiritual metaphor for each one of us. Isn't it also interesting that so many monks/nuns in our Orthodox tradition took up residence in an actual cave, where they decorated it with icons and burning vigil lamps living their lives in complete concentration and stillness. Hence, the "Light was born into darkness." Literally, and symbolically.

How, might we ask, could God who is grander in size than any other "fit into" the smallness of our bodies and hearts? If He wanted to, couldn't He force out the things in His way to make room? Sure, He could, but He wouldn't. Instead, He invites us to do this work because it encourages a cooperation with Him. In fact, He asks that we do so, to put forth some effort.

You see, the greatest of man's sins and the true opposite of love is not hate, but actually "indifference."  We simply ignore Him everyday, and pretend He's not there. Like when we pass someone poor, in need on the street, and pretend we don't see them, even though our hearts feel differently.

If you choose and are willing try the following:

  • Give Him the greatest of gifts - your time and your attention. We do this by isolating ourselves in prayer, with the door shut behind us, and the television off. Eliminate all distractions.
  • Physically clean out space in your souls through fasting and confession. Even at the last hour if you have not yet done so, it is well worth it.
  • Lastly, shut out the consumerism and over commercialization of these holy days and fight to remain focused and available to Him. This has to be a conscientious choice.
Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment!

Wishing you and your families a truly joyful preparation this year of Christmas ~ 2014.

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Teen Lesson for Christmas - Scavenger Hunt

In response to those of you who asked for more teen resources, here is a lesson that I believe our teens are capable of grasping. Often, we don't give them enough substance - so get ready to challenge them!


Using the text "On the Incarnation" by Saint Athanasios, you can lead your group to a deeper understanding of why God needed to come in what we celebrate as the feast of the Nativity. By drawing out important quotes and asking the right questions, we can essentially tackle the messages of creation, salvation, and theosis with them.

If you so choose,
make a scavenger hunt of these hidden quotes from the lesson plan alone to lead them through the lesson!  Cut in strips, and hide them around your Church - taking them from places like where we enter our spiritual journey (the door) to where we find refreshing drink (the water fountain) to a reflection in the mirror to better see mankind's position to God. Regroup at the end to compile and discuss the quotes by gluing them in order to a larger poster.


I've broken this down into three possible sections for the month of December.
This can be used at a retreat or over three consecutive Sundays.

  • Did God need to become man?  (CREATION)
  • How could God act to save us?  (SALVATION)
  • Why can man now become god or god-like? (THEOSIS)
To read and print this Lesson Plan "On the Incarnation" in a PDF format  click here: or visit http://www.scribd.com/doc/74236030.

If you have feedback, additions, corrections or comments, feel free to send them. As always, my work is in progress with room for improvement. As you teach this lesson, you may find other topics arise which will be helpful to share.

Also, don't forget about the previously posted "WHY CHRISTMAS" worksheet located at this link.

"May it be blessed"

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

10 Fun Facts About Angels


"Whom Christ loves, His angels love too." St. Nicholai of Zica (1880-+1956)

One often says the youngest of children can see the angels in the Orthodox Church, chasing them through the pews. You may have even read of holy priests encountering angels in the altar. Most of us however, have lost our innocence and the ability to see such visions, unless God so chooses. Angels are mostly referred to as the "invisible" of God's created beings! However, they are not "unknown" as their actions stand alone as proof of their existence and service to our Lord. Learn more below!

http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/11/synaxis-of-archangels-michael-and.html______________________________________________________________________________

1. Angels have two roles: the first is in Heaven to glorify God, and the second on earth to carry out God's orders concerning men.

2. The word "angel" itself means herald or messenger.

3. How many are there? The great Daniel saw God on His throne-and a thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and 10,000 x 10,000 stood before Him (Chapters 9 & 10).

4. Their types? There are nine ranks of angels. Thrones, dominions, principalities, seraphim's, cherubim's, powers, sovereignties, archangels, and angels.

5. The names of Archangels? Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Barachiel, Jeremiel, Jegudiel.

6. Angels are different than us because they are bodiless and invisible. They don't need to eat or drink, nor do they need clothes or shelter. They don't get married and they have no worries about the future, or fear of death. God created them good and holy.

7. Angels are like us because they have names and personalities. They are individuals with intelligence, emotions, free will and the capacity to act.

8. In the Bible and Holy Tradition, angels have done many marvelous things! Archangel Michael guarded Paradise, an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, Three Angels appeared to Abraham giving us an image of the Holy Trinity, an Angel saved the three youths in Babylon from death in the midst of the burning fiery furnace, Archangel Gabriel nourished Panagia as a child living in the Holy of Holies and later brought to her the news of Christ's incarnation, Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias (the father of St. John the Baptist) to announce the coming of his son, an angel appeared at Christ's tomb to announce His Resurrection, an angel of the Lord opened the jail cells of the Apostles, the angels will create a throne for our Lord Jesus Christ at His second coming.

9. Our Orthodox Church has dedicated Monday to the holy angels. Therefore, every Monday in the church services we are reminded of the holy angels with praise and prayer: We say "Holy Archangels and Angels, pray to God for us."

10. Everyone Orthodox Christian receives a guardian angel at the time of Baptism and asks for its intercession before God with the following prayer,

"O Holy Angel of God, guardian and protector of my soul and body, forgive me every transgression which I have committed this day. Deliver me from all evil influences and temptations, so that I may not anger my God by any sin. Pray for me that the Lord may make me worthy of His grace and to become partaker of His eternal Kingdom with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the Saints. Amen."

St. Basil the Great says: "The angel will not retreat from us, unless we drive him away by our evil deeds."

________________________________________________________________________________

For more in-depth info on angels, see the article compiled by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes at http://fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/angels.htm

St Theophan the Recluse Homily on Prayer

"...what the Angels and saints do in the heavens, we should learn to do on earth: get used to the angelic, unceasing standing before God in our hearts. Only he who reaches this state is a true man of prayer."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nativity Animation

Here is an excellent way to teach the Nativity and meaning of Christmas in an Orthodox Christian animation for your children and teens. It is brief, but rich with iconography and hymnology in three languages!

Visit the link below and even send it as a greeting card.

http://www.hamatoura.com/GreetingCard/Greetings.php?subject=Nativity%20of%20Jesus%20Christ&link=06JesusNativity-En

The hymn proclaims the Kontakion:

Today the virgin giveths birth to Him
Who is the Servent in Essence

and the earth offereth a cave to Him
who is unapproachable

Angels with shepherds give glory,
with a Star the Magi do journey,
for our sake a young Child is born,
who is pre- eternal God.
 

Friday, November 3, 2017

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Christmas Coloring & Symbolism

 
It seems the most common thing families are looking for are Orthodox coloring icons! So here are the ones I have for the Nativity Christmas season. (Potamitis Publishing has others for sale.)




  • Also a few talking points for the icons
  • St John Chrysostom reminds us of the odd behavior of such a star that led the Magi from the east. It appeared in daylight! It acted like no other by coming down from the heavens to practically eye level. It disappeared while in the presence of Herod, and reappeared afterward.

  • Also, the magi themselves were well trained in the behavior of stars - this was their daily work! Traveling far, their ethnicity symbolizes that the Gospel will reach the Gentiles and people of the East. Their gifts are full of meaning - gold for the King of all ages, frankincense for God of all, and myrrh for His three days in the tomb as fully man.

  • Sometimes we ask why is Joseph turned away? The theological answer is often because he shows us he is not the father of Christ, and others say he is deep in thought, contemplating the virgin birth. In various icons, a grim figure is depicted tempting Joseph with harmful doubts, or another younger man walks with them as they travel to Egypt. Just remember to identify Joseph correctly. He was the much older widow with children from his previous wife. His care for Panagia was closer related to that of  fatherly protection than ever as a husband, seeing as a marriage was never consummated between them.

  • Important also for our children to understand -Christ was born more likely in a cave than a barn (I cringe at such incorrect images) The cave and the Mother of God are the offerings from the world, as the hymns proclaim. Light has been born into the darkness!   

  • Everyone offers the newborn Christ a gift! Mankind offers Panagia, or Mary, to be used for God's purpose and His work of salvation. Notice her posture. In some icons she is kneeling with arms crossed to worship her very own son as her God. Yet she is one of us, perfectly human and representative of us all created to offer ourselves fully to God as she did. The wilderness offers the cave as a dwelling place for the Savior. The heavens offer the star. The angels offer their voices of praises and song. Even the animals gather around Christ to offer their own warmth of breath, as heat in the coldness of the cave!
  • The swaddled clothes around Christ signify His burial cloths as well, if you remember, when St Joseph of Arimathea and St Nicodemus wrapped the body of Christ is a white linen cloth for the tomb.

  • The shepherds, lastly, are all of us. The simple, the unlearned, the lost sheep - called from our daily tasks to come and worship the Lord. After such an encounter, one's life can never quite be the same!


Friday, October 27, 2017

Sts Demetrios & Nestor - Soliders for Christ


If your kids enjoy the biblical story of David takes on Goliath, then they will be sure to find courage in the true modern day story of Saint Nestor and St Demetrios from Constantinople, Greece. With a few helpful talking points, these Saints who lived during the reign of Emperor Maximian, will come alive for your students!

**Discuss what true Christian bravery is, why we take the blessing of our spiritual fathers when we kiss their hands, and what a bold confession for Christ can mean for others who are watching nearby!

Click here to download the lesson for free.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saint Katherine / Agia Aikaterini

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

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

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

Another video for children on her


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

You see, she gave up a perfectly easy life.

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Prosforo Workshop & Puzzle Activity

As we draw near to celebrating the Nativity of Christ, we often ask what gift can we offer to Christ, 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."

Friday, September 1, 2017

NEW Resources

What a joy to discover a few new Orthodox resources, beautiful in illustrations and simplicity of faith for our young ones! Glory to God!

The first, this small prayer book, has been VERY popular in our family for school-age kids starting to read. Little hands reach for it immediately...(one possible mistake is I think  it should say "Let everything that breathes, praise the Lord" rather than "prays the Lord"  ???)  But nevertheless, a nice prayer book to involve children under 7.


http://www.orthodoxlighthouse.com/products/books/B-210

The second exciting resource that I am ordering today is this for Nativity fast - great timing.  I have not seen it in person yet, but it looks beautiful!

http://www.sebastianpress.org/product-p/sp-bk-ch-2017-001.htm

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**

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Faith Journals

A powerful way to get your tween/teens to start writing, thinking, and spending time with God is through a "Faith Journal!" As a parent or youth worker, you can use these for down time, and inspire them to discover the power of solitude in a location that's special to them. The only goal is that it's private and quiet. However, you might choose to lead them into understanding exactly what to do with this "time."

Certain days, they'll write, other days draw, reflect, answer tough questions, read prayers or complete activities. Grab a smaller lined notebook or even sketchbook, and consider adding some of these components from the list below to get them started.

Decorate the front/back as they wish, with guidelines that it is "spiritual" and inspiring. Provide papers, markers, icons, glue, glitter, etc

Add Quotes: Ask them to write and decorate those pages:

  • "What will you do with the time that is given to you?" Gandolf, Lord of the Rings
  • "Be still and know that I am God."
  • "Teach your mouth to say what is in your heart." Abba Poemen
  • RE“The Christian is one who imitates Christ in thought, word and deed, as far as is possible for human beings, believing rightly and blamelessly in the Holy Trinity.” - See more at: http://www.hchc.edu/studentlife/vocation/octev_resources/quotes/johnclimacus#sthash.48fAHQ
    "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice"

Glue Icons: Ask them to write about what they see and ask:
  • 10 virgins icon - 5 inside Kingdom with Christ, 5 left out (loyalty to Christ, importance of Orthodox friends, Courage to confess Him in today's world. Do we know Him?)
  • Racheal weeping for her children icon
    (Life if precious, children are blessings, sadness over abortions today, Does the world repent?)
  • Christ being betrayed by Judas in garden (Evilness of jealousy, hatred, greed vs. the humility and love of Christ)
Add Questions:
  • "What was your cross today that you carried?"
  • "How did you put someone else first over yourself today?"
  • "Consider your sins from today and write how they happened"
Read Prayers:
"From the years of my youth, many passions combat me, but You who are my Savior, assist me and save me."
Encourage creativity! Consider including:

  • Memory Scripture Verses
  • Hymn lyrics
  • Orthodox Photos 
  • Poems
  • Miracle Stories
  • Saints lives

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Pre-Christmas Parties

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

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


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

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

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Orthodox Alphabet


In need of a good road trip game or ice breaker for your youth? Try playing the "Orthodox Alphabet Game." This works with all ages and is a creative spin on the traditional game, "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing with me...apples, bananas, chips, donuts...etc "

Take turns adding to the alphabet something related to our Orthodox faith. Ask each person to repeat the previous letters until the whole alphabet is memorized. Get creative and have fun, without worrying about having the right supplies!

A is for ...? (Altar Boys)
B is for ...? (Beeswax)
C is for...? (Chanter)
D is for ... ?
E is for....Ecumenical Council (yes, one boy really said this!)
F is for... ?
G is for... ? (Great Schism)
H is for... ?
I is for... ? (Icons)
J is for... ?
K is for... ? (St. Katherine)
L is for... ?

Push the envelope by not repeating any answers, and only accept Church related words. Consider the books of the Bible, Orthodox Saints, our history, the Sacraments, liturgical words and even items. Feel free to post your list when you've completed the game, or share your most original answers. If you get stuck, check the comments for a few suggestions!

(Reposted from Aug 20, 2013)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Teenage Confessions


A dear friend spent all of July again this year hearing the confessions of maybe 300 or so teenagers in America. A tough job? Sure, it must be exhausting, but for him and every other clergy, our good Lord sends strength, accountability, and compassion to offer just the right medicine to these wounded souls. And this is just what he discovered: wounded souls.

My clergy-friend and I both agreed, the devil is working overtime on our kids. What they are facing today is worse than we faced. It's more intense, more damaging, and
more in their faces than ever. I share with you a few of these findings.

For boys aged 11-18, they are simply bombarded with pornography. Our media has made this extremely accessible. But I liked my friends response- he explained that every time a young guy looks and deletes an image he is training himself to do this when the right one comes along, so therefore after a few short years of marriage, he will want to click "delete" and search for the next image of his satisfaction.

For girls, the same sad story was heard. A high percentage of girls confessed the desire to maintain their virginity, but when they thought the guy actually cared for them, she did it, for him, and then was "deleted." Also, most girls didn't consider oral activity as one in the same.... but no one can confess the name of Christ, and receive the Body and Blood with the same tongue that has been tarnished by such an unnatural act (without of course repentance).

In the end, our young people must be empowered to follow the examples of the Saints! They can learn that chastity is a tremendous virtue and we can model appropriate behaviors and healthy relationships for them. In those toughest moments, no friend or parent can come to their rescue. They must take it upon themselves to guard their bodies with great courage and determination knowing that we are behind them 100%!

If you have a special way you challenge your young people to set apart their lives for Christ, please post a comment. I've tried to include some other resources below

Free download : my workbook on VIRTUE

Here are some quotes on chastity


The Church's stance on pre-marital relations

Orthodox Video on Purity

Maidens for Modesty Blog

"by practicing virginity they have been espoused to the Word..."


- Methodius of Olympus (3rd/4th cent.)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Homosexuality & Adam / Eve

Most Orthodox Christians are unaware that Adam & Eve were created and lived in virginity. Yes. That's right. "Be fruitful and multiply" was a command that was enacted upon after the fall. (Ch 4 of Genesis, St John Chrysostom teaches that Adam "knew" Eve after) There was no marriage in Paradise. There was no hetero-sex, nor homo-sex . They lived as angels.

It can be shocking, but this is the teaching of St Chrysostom, St Gregory of Nyssa even though he was married, Saint Maximos, and St Gregory the Theologian to list a few.

If we understood our own sexuality correctly, we could see the distortions today based on purely earthly indulgences. Saint Maximos teaches that God never intended for us to live as the animals, in passionate physical rage, uniting in a beastly way flesh to flesh. Flesh itself, was given after the Fall.

Granted, God foresaw the fall of Adam & Eve and hence blessed the marriage bed between one woman and one man, however, this too has perimeters for a healthy Christ-centered relationship that ultimately leads to its' goal, the salvation of both individuals. Remember, marriage in itself is no guarantee for a place in heaven, neither is celibacy.

Consider the numerous successful attacks of the evil one today to entice and enslave mankind into sin: There are marriages of vasectomies to have as much sex as wanted, condoms and birth control, exploration before marriage, outside marriage, divorce, homosexuality, bestiality, pornography, masturbation, sex with pregnant women whose seed man has already planted...no farmer returns to the field he has already seeded, he waits patiently for the fruit to come.

Think about the self control and watchfulness that the Church advises us to... married couples are expected to abstain during fasting days, often lengthy 40-day periods and before Holy Communion. Widows are encouraged to live in celibacy, chastity is one of the greatest virtues of self control. Bishops and monastics willingly take on this vow and struggle daily to approach Christ and leave behind pleasures of the flesh. A couple who cannot procreate are no less in value before God, because lying together is not a means to an end, in otherwise this is not their salvation!

Lastly, the ultimate example, Christ came into the world thru Virginity. He himself lived in virginity and honors His holy Mother as more glorious than the angels for her virginity, as our example.

Instead, this passion has consumed our society and distracted us away from our true calling: We are called to return to Paradise, to be sanctified and freed from all forms of slavery of sin. If you are struggling against anything above, keep at it, for in this work God will be pleased! 


(I'd be happy to post additional resources from Church fathers)

Check out this link for Teenager resources on the topic, or download my workbook on VIRTUES here:


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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...

Monday, July 3, 2017

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 immediately!

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.






Sunday, July 2, 2017

Dormition Word Search & Flashcards

Here's a word search and coloring activity for this year's feastday of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August, 15th. For a tougher challenge, complete the Dormition Crossword Puzzle.

"O gracious Lady, raise thy holy hands towards thy Son, the Maker and Lover of our souls, that He may take pity on thy servants."

 
Another idea is to make language flashcards of the titles for the Mother of God, often chanted in the Paraklesis or Canon. Or list these in two columns and have the older children connect the correct answer. Here are a few samples:

  • Pure One
  • More honorable than the angels
  • Only all blameless One
  • You without corruption
  • Bride of God
  • Spotless One
  • Ever Virgin
  • Mother of God (God-Bearer)
  • O Full of Grace
  • All-Venerable Abbess to Monasteries of the Entire World
  • Daughter of Zion 
  • the Door-keeper
  • the Enricher of the Harvest
  • the Inexhaustible Cup
  •  Nurturer of Children
  • Queen of All
  • Spring of Healing
  • Swift to Aid
  • Unexpected Joy

Saturday, July 1, 2017

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.
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