"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

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!

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.

Theotokos: Her Life in Mosaics


(Re-posted for the Entrance of the Theotokos feast approaching Nov 21)

Did you know that in the history and tradition of the Orthodox Church we have more scenes depicted from the life of the Theotokos than anyone else? You might be surprised to learn that there are over 16 different mosaics to teach us about Panagia's life at the Church of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) in Constantinople, Turkey.

This Church was once part of a monastery, but is now Museum, and has one of the best-preserved collections of Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Here are just a few of the scenes depicted:

**A PDF of most of the Mosaics with short descriptions has been posted here on our Scribd Orthodox Group. Please take a look - it is a valuable teaching tool**

1. Joachim's offerings at the Temple
2. Annunciation of Saint Anne (the angel of the Lord announcing to Anne that her prayer for a child has been heard)
3. Meeting of Joachim and Anne
4. Birth of the Virgin Mary
5. First seven steps of the Virgin
6. The Virgin given affection by her parents
7. The Virgin blessed by the priests
8. Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
9. The Virgin receiving bread from an Angel
10. The Virgin receiving purple wool to weave the curtain for the Temple
11. the High Priest Zechariah praying
12. Zechariah calling widowers together to place their staffs on the altar, praying for a sign showing who the Virgin should be entrusted to
13. The Virgin entrusted to Joseph
14. Joseph taking the Virgin to his house
15. Annunciation of the Virgin
16. Joseph departing the Virgin for a trip; when he returns, she is pregnant

Click Here to read more about the Church in Chora and to view several of the mosaics.

For several online virtual tours of the Church of Chora click here

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Greek Prayer Worksheets



Download and print these very simple worksheets to practice special phrases of our Orthodox prayer life! They are intended to assist our children and teens with reading and writing the Greek alphabet. Some handouts have the text in place to practice tracing, and others are blank for a tougher challenge. The "Our Father" prayer would be the most difficult of course. 

One need not be of Greek nationality to try these! 


This first page includes "Christ is Born, Glorify Him!"  and "Most Holy Theotokos, Intercede to Save us!" The second page has "Holy Saint Nektarios pray for us!" and "Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy on Me." Lastly, the third page lists the full "Our Father" prayer.




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Transfiguration Journey


UPDATE: WORKSHEETS & ICON available here for free download 

For this activity, you'll need a few blindfolds, a Bible, an icon of the Transfiguration, and a lot of trust! Our goal is to lead the children or teens on a journey to understanding God better. Remember, Peter, James, and John were still not able to identify Christ as God before the Transfiguration happened on Mt Tabor. We say that their eyes were yet to be illumined...

To begin, consider your surroundings: your home, a park, the Church? Where might you hide the icon of the Transfiguration, so that you can lead the children or teens to it? Can you climb up stairs, while holding hands blindfolded, to simulate ascending Mt Tabor? Can you convince them to trust you, while they are uncertain where you are going, and why? When you arrive at your destination, only then can the blindfolds be removed, hands let go, and the story revealed.

ASK: Who do you say I am?
ANSWER: Come with me, and you will see

Explain that God had a very important message for the disciples before His crucifixion, just like Moses who climbed Mt Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments. Like them, you have ascended to a high place to learn about who Christ is. How did it feel trusting the leader? Are they ready to see why they've taken this journey?



Ask one of the children to read out loud Matthew 17:1-9.

Next review the icon together and identify why each person was there: Moses, represents the Jewish Law, Elijah, represents the Prophets, Peter, James and John, represent all those alive in Christ. The Holy Trinity is also present. Can they identify how? The Father speaks, Christ is present both fully divine and human, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Light surrounding Christ.

Complete the discussion by asking the children to draw out the important lessons they have learned about God. What did He want to teach us?


* That Jesus is fully God and fully Man

* That Jesus is the bridge of the past, present, and future:
by having present Moses, Elijah, and the new disciples

* That God is the Holy Trinity

* That we too can become like Christ, transfigured and
radiant with the Holy Spirit


Along your journey back, chat with the kids/teens about the timing of this event in Christ's life and explain that the Transfiguration happened right before Jesus was to be crucified. For us today, we can feel equipped with the Truth and prepared for the trials ahead of us, as the disciples did entering the Lord's Passion.

Please e-mail eleniemarie@gmail.com if you would like to receive the Word Scramble handout on this lesson or the icon larger which includes the journey up the mountain together and back down.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

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.

This "ascesis" or spiritual way of life is our path to sanctification (becoming holy through His holiness)


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, June 1, 2017

12 Apostles Activity


For the 'Apostles fast' in the Orthodox Church, and here's an activity to assemble the icon day by day until the feast on June 29/30. On the first day, the children will cut out and glue the icon of Christ in the center of the Tree, learning the memory verse, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." from John 15:5. Each day(s) to follow, focus on one Apostle at a time, reading their life, learning their experiences and placing them on the icon. Each has a troparion as well to chant!

Click here to download the smaller icons

Click here for the tree document. 

Once the tree is colored by the children, it can be laminated, along with the icons.  We have placed velcro on the backsides, and the children re-attach the icons each year during the fasting period. 

Saints Peter & Paul celebrated on June 29 (fast ends)

Synaxis of the Twelve Holy Apostles, celebrated June 30: Peter, Andrew, James & John the sons of Zebedee, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Jude(Thaddaeus) the brother of James, Simon & Matthias


Purchase the book "The Lives of the Holy Apostles" here from the Holy Apostles Convent in Colorado
 

Teaching Points:
1. The "Apostle" - The term "apostle" ("apostolos" in Greek; a derivative from "apostellein", meaning "to send") signifies a special mission or "one who is sent."
 
2. Why Christ chose 12? We read from Mark 3: 14,15
"He ordained twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach and to have power to heal sickness and to cast out devils." Twelve was the number of the twelve sons of Jacob who later became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.  After Pentecost, Christ’s 12 disciples became the leaders of the “new Israel.” The number 12 was considered so important that very shortly after the falling of Judas Iscariot, the remaining 11 voted in a new Apostle by the name Matthias, so that there would be 12 once again

3. Why are they men? A symbol of the ordained priesthood of men and of Christ's own gender, however, remembering that later on the Church honors other female Saints with the title "Equal-to-the Apostles," without showing any discrimination in gender, rather only designated roles.


4. What they each hold? Notice the scrolls from the icon of Pentecost, which the figure "Kosmas" holds representing the people of the world living in darkness and sin, and involved in pagan worship. The scrolls represent the teaching of the Apostles of the Holy Gospel which they carried as a message  to all parts of the world. Try to find the Evangelists, who hold an open Gospel book, or Saint Paul who holds a collection of letters.

5. How the Tree extends? The Apostles organized the converts and formed what we know today to be the One, Holy, Apostolic Orthodox Church, who has kept the Holy Tradition of Apostolic succession. In other words, each and every ordained priest of the Orthodox Church can trace his authority back to one of the Apostles, through each Bishop and Patriarch. This continuation is nothing short of a miracle of the Holy Spirit and of Christ's promise. 

Today, every baptized Orthodox Christian has been grafted into this Tree, as Saint Paul spoke of in
the book of Romans, chapter 11, " If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,..."
Gigi Baba Shadid | Fruits of the Spirit

SONG activity:  If you are able, try learning the Troparion for the feast. Another fun idea to help learn the names of the disciples by heart, is from the CD by Khouria Gigi   TRACK 9. It's a family favorite of ours!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Saint Andrew - First Patriarch of Constantinople

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Teaching Ten - 10 Commandments


 We're in the process of teaching the 10 Commandments throughout our Orthodox summer religious education classes, and although we don't have an established curriculum, there have been many resources that I'd like to share in case others might need them. It could be a great Vacation Bible School program as well.

We teach one commandment every week, adding them to our two plaques cut out of cardboard. Along with the short lesson, we are watching small portions of this animated video  posted on youtube each week.  It really does seem that as the story of the Prophet Moses unfolds, so do the lessons of the 10 Commandments along with it. The kids are really enjoying the video. I find it well done, even if the Prophet Moses was not so muscular.

First 4 -              Mans’ relationship with God
Last 6   -            Man’s relationship with fellow man

1.      I am your God. There are no other gods except me.
2.      Do not believe in other fake idols. Worship only God.
3.      Do not use the Lord's name without serious purpose.
4.      Work 6 days and dedicate the seventh for God.
5.      Honor your father and mother.
6.      Do not kill anyone or anything - including even a bug!Life is from God.
7.      Honor and respect marriage between one man and one woman
8.      Do not steal.
9.      Do not tell lies
10.  Do not be jealous of others.

Intro: Begin a discussion on how we know what right and wrong is? Ask for examples to be given of good behavior and bad. Where did we learn this? Most often answered, from our parents. And "Who" is the greatest Father of us all? God, who wanted us to have a set of rules to follow, so that we may live in harmony with His desire for us, and the world. These guidelines are called the 10 Commandments.

1st Commandment - God reveals "who" He is so that we may worship Him correctly. He tells us His Name (YAHWEH) We know our God created the World and everything in it. He says He is the Alpha and the Omega or the beginning and the end. And as Orthodox Christians, we know God to be 1 in 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as we have mind, word and breath within the same person, Christ is the Word, the Holy Spirit the Breath all within the same one God. Video footage: The birth of Moses and his early childhood facing the cruel behavior of Pharoah, Moses attempting to do good

2nd Commandment - God cautions us to take care not to fill our lives with so many other things that there is no room for Him. Nothing can or should replace God in our lives, nor the time we devote to Him each day. Just as it is important to worship Him in Truth, as we learned from the 1st Commandment, now we must take care only to worship and honor Him as the only God. Identify together examples of false idols (see handout) or ask your teens to cut out "idols' from popular magazines. Especially super-heros and videogame figures today! Discuss trendy statues and how acceptable it is to display these in store windows and homes today, along with putting our faith or hope in superstitions, astrology horoscopes, fortune telling, and magic. (All of which if we have participated in, we need to confess!) Video footage: Moses before Pharoah, who calls upon power of magicians and says Pharoah is "god" Eventually led to desert, the Jews make a gold calf

3rd Commandment - How many times do we here people yell out "O My God!" Can you imagine if God turned His attention each time, only to be told..."oh nevermind...I didn't really mean to call for you?" This is a common slip up but it can show our lack of respect for God's name. Let us teach instead to use our Lord's name only in prayer and doxology!

4th Commandment: This is a good chance to ask our children how often and when they remember God? Do they think of Him first thing in the morning? How about during a lesson at school, or in an afternoon sport? When we are busy, do we remember God is with us or do we treat Him like He is invisible? God knows that our day is filled with many tasks...and for this reason, He asks us not to forget Him by making sure we purposely stop everything else.

Our craft was to decorate these boxes as our "Kivoto" or Tabernacle that Aaron was tasked to build to house the plaques and for Moses to enter in to speak with God. We glued a square laminated card inside listing the 10 Commandments which were visible through the window, and decorated the outside colorfully with paints and decals. We also encouraged the students to only put religious items inside (a small cross, or icon card they may receive as a gift, a prayer rope, etc.) and to keep the box near their icons at home... The boxes were purchased here 


5th Commandment - Honor your father and mother.

The relationship between Christ and His mother, the Panagia is an excellent example of this from the wedding at Cana. Although it wasn't time yet for Christ to begin His formal ministry, upon request of His mother, He did. Which is why we believe He still to this day hears the prayers/intercessions of the Mother of God on our behalf. Also, the obedience of Christ to the Father can be cited. For younger kids, the message is one of respect for the parents who have sacrificed and provided for you, even when we disagree with our parents. It is not blind obedience, but one from Holy Scripture, for which Father would give the child a stone if he asked for bread?
We learn to trust and love the parents who care for us, because parenthood is a God-given responsibility. Not like a pet we can go out and buy, or give away, etc.


6th Commandment -
Do not kill anyone or anything - including even a bug!
Life is from God. This is a great chance to emphasis where life comes from, how we were made in His image when God breathed life into the dirt of the Earth, and how if we stop breathing, a.k.a. without that "breathe" we die/return to dust...therefore being in this world, we are like God's respiratory system, breathing because of Him and with Him! Since we are not the authors of life, it is not our right to take life. For older ones, the chance to mention suicide, abortion if appropriate. Some Orthodox elders were sad to walk on grass for even it is living! Possibly mention the harmony amongst all living creatures as bearers of His image.

7th Commandment 
(You shall not commit adultery) Honor and respect marriage between one man and one woman. This command reversed the communal living of polygamy of the Jews and strengthened the bond of commitment, that through the mystery of marriage, like Christ with His Church, we co-journey to heaven with one partner. Our symbol of this unity is even manifested physically, like a key that fits only one lock!  God does not bless same-sex unions, two mommy's, or homosexual lifestyle choices, as difficult as it is for some to avoid the temptation. There was one Adam, and one woman created for Adam, Eve.


8th Commandment -
  Do not steal.

Remember, this begins with taking something as a child, without asking a parent.Anything that does not belong to the person, or was purchased by them. The virtue is one of obedience, and always seeking the blessing before doing something, rather than acting on our desires/wants or passions. It teaches us discipline and not to desire material items, which often is the motive behind the act of stealing. If something is needed, our heavenly Father provides, or we work hard to earn what we would like.


9th Commandment -  
Do not tell lies

Lying is the opposite of Christ, for He said He is the Truth. THE truth, not one of many truths. The evil one is the deceiver of all, and when we lie, we are working together, in conjunction with him rather than with Christ. There is nothing we should be ashamed of,  or worry about when telling the truth. When we tell the truth, we stand with Christ, and His power will strengthen us.

10th Commandment - Do not be jealous of others.
Again, another root of sin which is pride, and thinking only of one's self. Desiring something, whether it be an item or a characteristic of some one else is a lack of gratitude for what one does have, and all of God's blessings. It is a comparison of ones self to another, and it is selfish because jealousy desires for you to have it in the end. Sometimes this can lead to scheming and more negative thoughts, even before action is ever taken. Sin begins in the desire. Being satisfied and thankful are the ways to avoid this sin.
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