Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Day

Read the Christmas story in Luke together. Sing Christmas carols now that Christ has come!!! Light your Christmas candle; now the Advent wreath can blaze in its full glory. We all have our own personal family traditions. Remember to talk to your children about why we do the things we do. Keep the meaning in tradition!


(and for a Christmas follow up, now is the time to start teaching your children to write thank you notes. Read to them the story of the ten lepers in Luke and talk about how important it is to say' thank you'. For ones who are too little to write a thank you note, have them color a picture instead (I'm sure you could even find one of the ten lepers on the internet).)

Week 6: Communion (color: red, December 23)

This is the very last candle lighting before Christmas. He who came and will come again is present with us in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

"And the Word became flesh , and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1: 14
"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6: 54
For the Little Ones: It is this sacrament that allowed Paul to say Christ lives in Him. And we can do the same through our own participation. To encourage talking about how Christ lives in us, build Gingerbread Houses with your children (so very Christmas-y). Talk about how our bodies our also houses that God can live in and discuss the Eucharist with your children.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Week 5: Repentance (color: purple, December 16th, 2007)

"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.'" Mark 1:14-15

As always, I suggest purchasing the book I mentioned in my previous post. It contains evening readings for the Sundays in Advent, suggested hymns to sing, special prayers and discussion topics pertinent to the readings.

For the Little Ones: The Candy Cane looks like the staff that the shepherd uses to bring his sheep back into the flock. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who brings us back to God. The white stripe reminds us of Jesus' innocence. The red stripe reminds us of the blood he shed for us. John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep."

Candy canes are a very appropriate craft theme for this week. They remind us of our Good Shepherd who calls us to repentance and grants us life through the blood he shed. Another plus: they are very 'Christmas-y' and there are tons of activities/crafts you can do with them. Here are a few ideas for starters:

1. Tell your kids the story of the candy cane and color this page.
2. Clay/Play dough candy canes (perfect for toddlers)--Moms: roll out red and white play dough into long strips. Show your child how to wrap the strips around to make a candy cane pattern. Continue wrapping until the play dough is used up. Have your child shape it into a candy cane shape and leave out to dry. When dry, tie a ribbon around it and hang it up, or hang it on your Christmas tree. (you can do a similar thing with cookie dough).
3. Get a white candle and have your kids glue candy canes around for a candy cane candle to light on Christmas day.
4. For toddlers, draw a candy cane shape unto a piece of white paper and have your child draw on the stripes. Then have your child count how many stripes he/she drew (red or white). That's simply for math practice. (:
5. Candy Cane Balance (for multiple children): Supply each child with a candy cane. Ask them to balance it on their head. Then have the children race (you'll pick the course). Whoever makes it to the finishing line first without dropping their cane wins (when cane falls, they return to the beginning!).

Sunday of our Forefathers

This Sunday is the nameday of my husband, Jesse and our godson, Davede (David). On this day, we get our Christmas tree (to symbolize the tree of Jesse). We read special Western Orthodox blessing of the tree prayers (which I can post later if people desire) and will place a star on the tree (for the star of David)...we won't decorate the tree till Christmas Eve, though (our own tradition).

We will have friends join us for the blessing of the tree and supper. We'll sing some Advent hymns together, read some Psalms in memory of King David and send friends away with their own little trees (courtesy of Trader Joe's) and some homemade star-shaped cookies (for the star of David).

*** The Sunday of our Forefathers is celebrated on Sunday, Dec 11 or the first Sunday after Dec. 11th).

December 13th: Lucy Light!!!

This thursday is the name day of my dear eldest daughter, Lucy Rose. We are having a party!!! Lucy has a lovely crown of candles (battery operated, thanks to her loving godparents), a beautiful white dress which she picked and a red sash (the latter of which I am in the process of sewing). In Swedish/Scandinavian tradition (of which my husband descends from), it is traditional for the eldest daughter to awake the family with a tray of Lucia bread in the above costume. Due to the age of our children (5 months, 2 years and 3 years), we have decided to instead have an early evening Santa Lucia Tea and have invited some church friends to join us. (For more Lucy customs, see here).

I have a lovely recording of Elvis Presley's version of the Italian Santa Lucia song to play while guests come. Then we will all learn the St. Lucy song together and sing it while Lucy brings out the Lucia bread in her lovely costume. We will feast on fast appropriate tea treats and read the devotion from Ohrid's Prologue for St. Lucy. Guests will be sent home with gifts (candles wrapped up with red ribbons).

***In families where there isn't a daughter named Lucy, it is still a tradition in many cultures to have the eldest (in some the youngest) daughter play the role of Santa Lucia.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Week 4: Peace (color: white, Dec. 9th)

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:14
Here's another reminder: I suggest purchasing the book I mentioned in my previous post. It contains evening readings for the Sundays in Advent, suggested hymns to sing, special prayers and discussion topics pertinent to the readings.

For the Little Ones: Do this fun paper dove craft together.

Paper plate
Two plastic spoons
Rubber band

Time needed: Under 1 Hour
1. Cut the plate in half, then cut one half into three equal wedges. Tape one wedge to the bottom of the intact half. 2. Draw the bird's face on one spoon with the markers. Then sandwich the pebble between the two spoon bowls and bind them with the rubber band. 3. Tape the spoons to the bottom of the paper plate half.

Tips: To fly, throw like a paper airplane. Adjust the pebble size to improve flight.

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (December 6th)

Stuff those stockings today!!!! So much of American Christmas tradition is wound around the figure of St. Nicholas. I fondly remember as a child leaving out home baked cookies for Santa Claus and eagerly awaiting opening my stocking in the morning. But, I digress. To learn about the real St. Nicholas on whom all of this fun tradition is based, you can look no further than here. This site has great ideas for celebrating this Saint, some of which I've included below.

For the Little Ones: On December 5th, read the story of St. Nicholas and have your children help you prepare some cookies to set out before bedtime (for vegan, fast friendly cookie recipes, see here.) Listen to fun Christmas music about Santa Claus while you bake (and enjoy when the kids are in bed!). In the morning, have stockings or shoes for your children set out filled with the tradition St. Nicholas treats (chocolate coins or pennies, apples, oranges and nuts). Then, take your children to pick out a gift to give to someone less fortunate (you might know someone, or donate it to a toy drive). Have your children color some St. Nicholas pages (see here) and pass them out to neighbors along with candy canes.*

*Candy Canes *These are really candy croziers, one of St. Nicholas' symbols. All bishops carry staffs, hooked at the top like a shepherd's crook, showing they are the shepherds who care for, or tend, their people.St. Nicholas Day Blessing of Candy Canes

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week 3: Love (color: gold, December 2nd)

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For the Little Ones: It is believed that St. Boniface was the first to establish the fir tree as a Christian symbol. He referred to the triangular shape as a symbol of the trinity, the evergreens as a symbol of eternity, with the branches pointing towards heaven. Hence its being seen as a symbol of the Christ child who brought us eternal life.

Now we like to wait until the feast of our forefathers to buy a Christmas tree for indoors in honor of my husband's name day, Jesse and the Jesse tree (it also is better to wait if you want your tree to survive the 12 days of Christmas celebration!). So this week help your children to decorate a Christmas tree outside for the animals instead! Invite neighbors to help. Talk about how the tree is a symbol of eternal life and the love that God has for us (John 3:16). Buy a living Christmas tree or decorate a tree you already have outside (it doesn't necessarily have to be a fir tree). String berries or other fruit and popcorn. Place pieces of bread on the branches. Hang birdseed in small paper cups. Smear peanut butter on crackers and place on branches. Then watch the animals feast away!

Week 2: Hope (color: Blue, November 25th)

This is also my goddaughters nameday (St. Catherine)! I will hopefully post more on that later. But will now restrict my post to the second Sunday in the Nativity Fast. That which begins the week of Hope.

Luke 1:29-33
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

For the little ones: A traditional Christian symbol of hope is the anchor (as St. Paul writes, "We have this [our faith in God] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul..." Hebrews 6:19). It ranks among one of the most common symbols in the catacombs. Moms, get thin pieces of cardboard and trace/draw an anchor onto it. Cut out the anchor shape so that a stencil remains. Buy/make some washable window paint in various colors and get some sponges. First, have your children help clean the window(s) they'll get to paint on. Then give each of your children a stencil and a sponge and help them to paint anchors onto your windows for decoration during Hope week (or the entire Nativity fast, if you wish!).

Another project is to do a science-like demonstration. Have your children help you make a toy boat. You can make one out of a clean Styrofoam meat tray (or a cut up take out container). Insert a straw into the tray for a mast and tape triangular sails (cut from construction paper) to the straw. Tie a string to the bottom of the straw and let hang. Fill your bathtub with water and place the boat in. Have your children help you make waves in the water through splashing with your hands (or do this demonstration during bath time!). Talk about how the boat moves all over the place and can't hold steady. Then tie a rock to the end of the string and show your children how it anchors the boat in place. Direct the conversation to talking about how our faith in God is an anchor that holds us in place as we struggle in this world.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21)

According to the book of St. James, Mary entered the temple at age 3 and remained there for nine years. The priest Zacharias placed her in the Holy of Holies and the grace of God descended upon her. On this feast we celebrate that, like Mary, we too are the house and tabernacle of the Lord.

Readings: Hebrews 9:1-7; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28.

For the little ones: Get rolls of construction paper. Unroll and cut slightly longer than child's height. Have child lay down on paper and trace his/her body. Explain how our body's our temples for the holy spirit who dwells inside us. Draw/trace a dove in the middle of the body. Have your child color his body. Help the child to memorize

1 Corinthians 6:19, "...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you"

Week one: Faith (color: green, Sunday, Nov 18th)

Readings: Again, I suggest purchasing the book I mentioned in my previous post. It contains evening readings for the Sundays in Advent, suggested hymns to sing, special prayers and discussion topics pertinent to the readings.

For the Little Ones: Begin the season right and have your family make a Christmas gift for Jesus. Ask your children what they'd like to give Christ for Christmas. Make a list and spend the season preparing these gifts. Remember that all items, however silly they may seem (like a doll) would be appreciated by someone in need.

In the Orthodox Church, the Nicene Creed is often referred to as the symbol of our Faith. Help your children to learn the Nicene Creed (if they don't already know it). Talk about it with them. Help them to make a picture book with the words of different portions of the creed written on each page. I love the description of God as being 'Light of Light' in the creed. So, use this week to decorate candles and give a gift of 'light' to friends and family members. Include with the gift a copy of the creed. See here for a kid-friendly candle craft. And, remember, the point is to have let your kids go crazy and bring out those aprons to help manage the mess!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Advent Preparation List

I know it's crazy, but Advent is almost here! November 15th is a short two weeks away. Assuming your life is a least half as crazy as mine (3 kids 3 and under), then you will need at least two weeks to start getting ready.

First things first, I recommend that everyone buys Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home by Anthony Coniaris. I've found this to be a great resource. It gives good ideas for discussion topics for families regarding feasting, fasting and other various Christian topics (death, sex ed, etc.). It also has a great Advent section telling how to make an Orthodox Advent wreath and my favorite part (which I will not be printing on this blog...hence your need to buy the book) is that for every Sunday of Advent, this book lists readings, prayers, hymns to sing and discussion topics pertinent to the day.

The first big project for us all is to purchase the necessary craft material for Advent. I will spend the next couple of weeks listing the various projects I've planned out for Advent and the materials needed. I will also include directions for making an Advent Wreath adapted for the Orthodox Christian family. Please feel free to leave any suggestions you have to help present Advent to little children!

Advent Wreath materials:
A large styrofoam wreath (space will be needed for seven candles)
Evergreen branches (fake or real)
Colored candles (at least one each dependent on whether you think you'll be lighting candles every night): green, blue, gold, white, purple and red. Michael's carries candles in these colors. If you can't find colored candles, you may purchase white candles and the appropriatedly colored ribbons to tie around.
A paschal candle (one remaining from Pascha or another one similar too. Or just a plain white one.)

Directions: Place candles in the styrofoam wreath in the order listed above. Now, my preference is to place a large, white 'paschal' candle in the middle, but you may also include it in the ring. Lay evergreen branches around candles to cover styrofoam. Another option would be to by a large evergreen wreath and 6-7 candle holders. Place the candles in the holders and arrange in the wreath.

Advent paper chain:
Construction paper in the various colors corresponding to the candles (for gold paper, you might need to use wrapping paper. That or you can substitute yellow or orange.) Cut the paper into strips. Tape strips into a ring, interlocking them as you go. Due to the timing of Advent this year, you'll need the following number of strips for each color and place them in the following order, taking them off one by one on each evening in Advent. Now, I like the idea of hanging the chain from a star that will remain for Christmas Day but you may do as you please. (:

Green--10 strips (because Nov 15th isn't a Sunday, you will have extra strips of this color)
Blue--7 strips
Gold--7 strips
White--7 strips
Purple--7 strips
Red--2 strips

**If you have readers, you can use your computer and print out a bible verse on each strip to be read each night when taken off.

More to follow soon!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Exaltation or Elevation of the Cross (September 14th)

On this day we celebrate St. Helen's finding of the Cross that Christ died upon. One fun fact is that the term "knock on wood" derived from ancient Christians touching relics of the cross (often worn around the neck) during times of trouble.

Readings: I Corinthians 1:18-24; John 19:6-11, 13-20, 25-28, 30-35

For the Little Ones: After talking with your children about the meaning of the feast, spend time practicing making the sign of the cross if your children don't already know how to make it properly. Explain to them why Orthodox Christians make the sign of the cross. You can check this page for help in explaining it.

Tradition holds that sweet basil was found growing where the cross was found. Make a dinner using basil (like spaghetti) and explain to your children why the plant is special. Bring in a basil plant (you can buy them anywhere real cheap) and keep it in your icon corner for the day. Or if you grow basil, cut some stems and make a basil bouquet by holding them together and tying a ribbon around. Follow dinner with a cake made into the shape of a cross or make hot cross buns for breakfast.

For an art project, buy small wooden crosses at a local arts and crafts store (like Michael's). Preferably buy ones that can be used to make necklaces. Have your children decorate their crosses with paint or paint markers. Then they can have their own little crosses to 'knock on wood' with!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept 8)

The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos is one of the first feasts in the church year (Orthodox Church Year begins September 1st). On this feast day, we celebrate the birth of the most holy Mother of God who was born to Joachim and Anna in their old age. I like how words the significance of this feast:

"The icon and the feast also acknowledge a transition from barrenness to life. This was but another foreshadowing of what would be offered through Christ, the transformation from death to eternal life."

Readings: Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28.

For the Little Ones: Let us use this feast to reinforce to our children the need to offer thanks to God. Help your children to make a little prayer book. Make a little book by stapling together folded pages of blank paper. Moms: choose two to three prayers that you say regularly with your children. Open the prayer book. On the left, write down one of these prayers. On the right, help your children to draw and color an image that will help them to remember/recognize the prayer. You can free hand draw an image or have them color in a black and white icon that you have printed and paste it into the book. Then, each day say these prayers with your children letting them use their very own prayer book. I suggest choosing a cover for their books that matches the cover of your very own prayer book. With my own daughters, I have started a routine of laying them in their beds for quiet time/naps and saying prayers with them to help calm them down. If you have a similar routine in your household, then would be a very good time to utilize the use of their prayer books. Also, remember to tag onto your prayer times a time of thankfulness. Ask your children what they are thankful for and who they would like to prayer for. It is important at an early age to involve your children in prayers and help them to participate.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dormition of the Theotokos

Sorry for my tardiness...a newborn and a brief vacation have made blogging rarely accessible.

In brief, the Feast of the Dormition commemorates the death and assumption into heaven of the Theotokos.

Readings: Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28

For the Little Ones: Look at an icon of the dormition with your children and discuss the figures depicted and tell them the story that the church teaches regarding her death and assumption. It is the custom in some parishes to bring flowers to be blessed at this feast. Take your children to a florist and let them pick some fresh cut flowers. Bring them home and help your kids to make bouquets to take to the church and be blessed. Make at least to leave at church and another to bring home to your icon corner (where you should have an icon depicting the virgin with her child). Have your children give any extra blessed bouquets to your neighbors and tell them that it is in honor of this feast.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Transfiguration of our Lord

On August 6th, we celebrate when Christ revealed his divinity to the disciples Peter, James and John. This feast is called the Transfiguration. This event has manifold significance in Orthodox theology being seen as a foreshadowing of Christ's second coming and also as representing the transformed state in which Christians will some day appear.

Readings: II Peter 1:10-19; Matthew 17:1-9.

For the Little Ones: Fruits are traditionally blessed on this day, particularly grapes and other soft fruits. Why grapes? They show physical transformation and represent a religious transformation (i.e. wine). So, take plenty of grapes with you and your children to liturgy to be blessed. Prior to attending the liturgy, read a toddlers/children's version of the story of the transfiguration to your children and color a picture together, talking about it in light of the story you read together. Upon returning from the liturgy, light some candles and place them on the table to symbolize the light of Christ and enjoy the blessed fruits with your family while having a discussion of the significance of the fruit in light of the feast of the Transfiguration.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Saint Peter and Saint Paul

June 29th marks yet another important feast in the Orthodox liturgical year. The feast marks the end of a fast period that begins after All Saints Day and commemorates the lives of these great saints, the Apostles Peter and Paul, who contributed so much to the early church.

Readings: 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9, Matthew 16:13-19.

For the Little Ones: First off, my apologies. I am at the very end of my pregnancy and my brain is not functioning normally (though what is normal when you chase around two toddlers everyday!). Anyhow, maybe next year I'll have better ideas for this feast! Please feel free to contribute any ideas you have.

The liturgy for the feast is usually conducted in the morning after matins. After the liturgy, come home and read bible stories about Peter and Paul from a children's bible (where the stories are paraphrased). Or, tell them on your one and act them out for your kids' amusement. One kid favorite is when Peter walks on water. And for story time...have a snack:

Now, it is a Ukrainian custom to eat Mandryky (meaning 'to wander')on this feast day due to a legend that Peter and Paul were sustained by these rolls while traveling for missions. If you are energetic, you can make them. If you're lazy (like me!), go ahead and buy some yummy rolls that resemble Mandryky (as much as is possible) to eat while telling the stories.

Lastly, for a fun summer activity, make some sidewalk paint and after story time, go out with your children and paint the sidewalks with stories of Peter and Paul serving as the basis.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

All Saints Day

John 12:24 "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

In the Orthodox Tradition, All Saints Day is not celebrated the day after Halloween, but the Sunday after Pentecost. I'm honestly not sure exactly why this particular date was chosen, but it does preempt the Western Christian date of Nov. 1st. It brings a beautiful close to the Easter season, a reminder of the purpose of Christ's life.

Readings: Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30,Hebrews 11:33-12:2

For the Little Ones: Traditionally, the Orthodox bring Kaliva (a boiled wheat dish) to commemoration services for the dead. Have your little ones help you make it at home and have a special memorial service for the dead that evening. Pray particularly for family members and friends you know who have passed away. You can find a recipe for Kaliva here.

***A quick bit of history found here. Phyllis Onest explains that the origin of this tradition: "On the first Saturday of the Great Fast we remember the miracle of St. Theodore of Tyre in 362 AD with koliva. The Emperor, Julian the Apostate, had the food in the market sprinkled with the blood of animals sacrificed to pagan gods in order to defile the first week of the Great Fast. Patriarch Aphdoxios of Constantinople appeared to the saint in a dream warning him of the emperor's scheme. St. Theodore told the people to cook the wheat they had at home rather than grinding all of it into flour. Thus, they did not buy anything in the market and avoided the tainted food."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pentecost-Trinity Sunday

On Sunday, May 27th, we celebrate Pentecost, also called Trinity Sunday. It is the church's birthday, everyone! Pentecost is celebrated every year, 50 days after Pascha. On this day we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This event occurred on a Jewish feast called Pentecost and is seen as fulfilling the revelation of the Trinity.

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52, 8:12

For the Little Ones: Parents, it's time to throw a birthday party. The Eastern Rite Orthodox Liturgical colors for Pentecost are green, the symbolic color of the Holy Spirit, life and the wood of the cross(Western churches wear red on Pentecost). It is an old custom to decorate the churches (and homes) with lots and lots of greenery.

Now there are many rich symbols that can be utilized on this day and explained more and more in depth as your children grow. In some Catholic churches, a dove (real or a model) would literally be lowered down as trumpets sounded or choirs mimicked the sound of rustling wind, and as the dove descended, red rose petals would be strewn to symbolize the tongues of flame. In your party decorations, try to include some of these aspects. I like the idea of suspending a carved wooden dove over the dining table, but you can also cut out paper doves and hang those. Also, scatter some rose petals on the table and light some candles. And maybe, if you have such music, play some trumpet music in the background.

And what else? Bake a birthday cake!!! Use fruit filling or bake a fruit pie to represent the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Read the story of Pentecost in Acts prior to cutting the cake and sing "God grant you many years" to the church.

Finally, no birthday party is complete without presents. But these presents have a special twist. Give your children tiny gifts to symbolize the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I would suggest picking one fruit (or two) each year to focus on. For example, you might pick 'Generosity' and give your children little packets with things to give to a homeless person (like a hygiene kit). Or you might, for older children, choose self-control. Give them a favorite candy and if they can manage not to eat it for a week, then tell them they will get another candy. The gifts can be more light-hearted and fun too! You might give your child a gift and explain that it is for a kindness they performed earlier in the week, or for their patience during a certain event. Regardless, use this as an opportunity to explain some of the virtues/fruits of the Holy Spirit.

***Note: With all of these ideas I present for activities to commemorate feasts and fasts throughout the church year, the idea is for these activities to be used to teach your children about the feasts, the fasts, etc...about God!!! The activities are a tool to engage your child so that they might learn about the Truth in a fun and creative way.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Holy Ascension

The 40 day Paschal celebration will come to a close this next Thursday, May 17th, with the feast of the Holy Ascension. This feast marks Christ's ascent into heaven after the 40 days he spent with the disciples demonstrating his Resurrection.

Readings: Luke 24:36-53 and Acts of the Apostles 1:1-12

For the Little Ones: There are two fun Western customs associated with Ascension Thursday. The first is that it is common to eat some sort of bird on this day since Christ "flew" into heaven. I think I'll stick with chicken or a Cornish hen...but you may be more bold if you wish. Maybe some Peking Duck? Anyhow, I digress. It is also a popular custom to take a hike up hills or Mountains on Ascension Day to commemorate Christ and the Disciples climbing up Mt. Olives. The Swedes have a tradition of getting up very early in the morning and going to a forest glen to hear birds singing at sunrise. Dependent on when the sun rises in your city, you might want to try some variation of this. Maybe start a morning hike at sunrise and end on top of a hill with a picnic breakfast.

In the Catholic Church, there is recorded an English custom of a processional involving a banner bearing a lion at the head and a dragon at the rear to symbolize Christ's triumph in his ascension over the evil one. So, the project for Ascension Day is to make a Banner of Triumph. Here are two links for paper plate lion and dragon crafts. You can draw the faces and let your toddlers color them in before attaching them to a banner. Then, at the end of the day before extinguishing the Paschal candle, make a processional around the house during prayer time singing the hymn "Christ is Risen from the dead" one last time. Then, hang the banner on the wall until Pentecost (remove the Christ is Risen banner) and extinguish the Paschal candle together before bedtime.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Revisiting the Lenten Resolution

My attempt to simplify my life this Lent was to start using the slowcooker. I am still in search of finding slow cooker recipes that please my palate, but the expirement was a success. The girls appreciated being able to have my attention during the witching hour of need and I appreciated the fact that slow cooker meals are so huge that they generally could be spread over 2-3 nights. So, by using the slow cooker twice a week, I generally took care of 4-6 meals that I could change up nightly by various easy to prepare side dishes. It was great! I'm continuing this quest for simplification by adding to the week Cook & Freeze meals (you know, like bake two meatloafs at one time, eating one and freezing the other for later in the month). So, my goal is to only cook 3 nights a week using Slow Cooker and Cook & Freeze meals, building the other weekly dinners off leftovers.

Now, note that we generally only ate vegetarian meals and not vegan because of my pregnancy, so these may not work as Lenten meals for all of you, but the top family favorites during lent were:

1. Jen's chickpea curry
2. Betty Crocker's slowcooker lasagna (meat ommitted)
3. any chili recipe!
4. This egg casserole recipe my MIL sent me (broccoli can be subsituted and I used sauteed onion instead of green onions and cheddar cheese instead of American):

prysnac serbia (broccoli casserole)
1-10 ounce package frozen chopped broccoli
6 eggs, beaten
1 24-ounce carton cottage cheese (creamed, small curd)
6 tablespoons flour
8 ounces american cheese, diced
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 green onions, chopped
salt to taste

quickly thaw frozen broccoli by placing in a colander and holding under hot running water. separate the pieces with a fork, drain well. combine broccoli with all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well blended. pour into greased crockpot. cover and cook in high 1 hour, then on low 2 to 4 hours. stir after the first hour. serves 4 to 6

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bright Week

Well, now that Lent is over and Pascha has come, this blog will be taking a much slower pace, as the focus is only on the Great Feasts and Fasts of the Orthodox Church year. Besides, as a 6 month pregnant mother of two toddlers, I'm worn out! But I digress...

Pascha is not just a one day celebration! In the Antiochian tradition (at least the American) which we are a part of, we have a 40 day fast free period from Pascha to Ascension day. Some traditions only have a fast free period the week following Pascha until Thomas Sunday, at which time the regular Wed/Fri fast begins again. Regardless of the fasting tradition you celebrate under, the 40 days until Ascension are a time of celebrating the Resurrection of Christ with Bright Week jump starting it all.

For the little ones: Dress in bright colors all week long to celebrate Christ's Resurrection. Let them help you make some goodies to share with visitors and neighbors in celebration of the Resurrection. There are plenty of kid friendly recipes out there. Easy candies, cookies, etc. Have fun making a big mess and let them taste their creation (as much as they want to!!!!). Although the focus of this period is not on food, food is such a great way to experience joy with other people. Feasting is something everyone can participate in, young and old alike, and the joy is contagious. A favorite Bright Week tradition we have picked up from a parish we used to attend in S. CA is a Bright Friday Steak Run. Yep, folks, pull out that grill and some red meat and, well, feast when you normally would fast.

Reminders for the next 40 days:

1. Don't forget your white Paschal candle. Light it every night at the dinner table and sing the Resurrection hymn (see post below for details).
2. Keep your 'Christ is Risen' banner hung for the 40 days.
3. Read the story of the Resurrection from a children's bible before bedtime or tell it to them yourself.
4. Show and tell: Use icons of Christ on the cross and the Resurrection and talk to your children about Jesus' 'owies' and how he heals us. A fun little project to do with this is to get each of your toddlers/preschoolers and box of band aids and help them to re-decorate the box. They can be their 'Jesus' band aids; special band aids to help heal their owies like Jesus heals the owies of our bodies and souls.
5. Bring in flowers! Lots of flowers! Overflow your house with flowers! Little, beautiful signs of life and celebration. It's springtime everyone!

If you have any ideas you would like to add, please feel free to comment.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lazarus Saturday to Pascha: A compilation of activities to guide your little ones through Holy Week

This upcoming Saturday marks the official end of Lent and on the next day Palm Sunday ushers in Holy Week. So, we will be very busy very soon! I am posting all my ideas to carry you through Holy Week at once so that you can spend this week getting prepared.

Lazarus Saturday

This Saturday we will commemorate the miracle of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. We witness His power over death and see it as a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection. We celebrate this day and the following before entering into the most solemn week of the year.

Readings: Hebrews 12:28-13:8; John 11:1-45

For the little ones: Most churches have a clean-up day following the morning liturgy on Holy Saturday. Be sure to participate! Help other parents participate by volunteering to watch their children. Have the children assist in folding the Palm crosses for the Palm Sunday service.

Palm Sunday

This is a joyous feast! On this day we celebrate Christ as our King and our Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Readings: Philippians 4:4-9; John 12:1-18

For the little Ones: Everyone will receive palm crosses at church today. Bring those crosses home, place them on your family altar and say a prayer together as a family. Today is a feast day...celebrate as such! As part of the celebration, play pin the tail on the donkey with the little ones. For food, you may follow a few different cultural traditions: Greeks usually feast on fish on Palm Sunday; the English on figs (they also refer to it as Fig Sunday); and in Wales they call it Flowering Sunday in reference to the fig tree and serve Split Pea soup or 'Pease Porridge' to symbolize the humility of humanity.

The Bridegroom Services

These services held on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evening are actually the matins services for the following day. They are referred to as the Bridegroom services in reference to the parable of the 10 Virgins. We pray in expectation of He who is coming. We wait in watchfulness and readiness.

Readings: Holy Monday – Matthew 21:18-43; Holy Tuesday – Matthew 22:15-46, 23:1-39; and Holy Wednesday – John 12:17-50).

For the Little Ones: What better way to show the children that we're being 'watchful' than by making a special Holy Week clock? Instead of having the usual hours of the day, mark the clock with the different days of Holy Week. At the beginning of each day, have the children change the hand on the clock.

Holy Unction (Wednesday)

At this service, you are anointed with oil and the grace of God is called upon to heal the soul and the body.

Readings: There are seven sets of readings for this day.
James 5:10-16; Luke: 10:25-37
Romans 15:1-7; Luke 19:1-10
I Corinthians 12:27-31;13:1-8; Matthew 10:1,5-8
II Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1; Matthew 8:14-23
II Corinthians 1:8-11; Matthew 25:1-13
Galatians 5:22-6:2; Matthew 15:21-28
I Thessalonians 5:14-23; Matthew 9:9-13

For the little ones: In honor of my husband's part Swedish heritage, let us follow an old Swedish custom! It is not necessarily religious but we can twist it up a bit. (: It is traditional on Maundy/holy Thursday for kids to dress up like hags and pay visits to the neighbors leaving specially decorated Easter letters/cards, hoping for a coin or a sweet in return. I am not asking you to dress up your children as hags! However, why not write some kind notes to your neighbors (or, if your children are old enough, have them write some letters) and have the little ones decorate the cards. Then, tomorrow on Holy Thursday, the children can take the Easter letters to the neighbors (if you are feeling generous, you can always send a bottle of wine and/or a loaf of bread with the cards in remembrance of the Last Supper).

Holy Thursday

Tonight we remember the washing of the disciples feet, the Last Supper, Garden of Gethsemane and Judas' betrayal.

Exodus 19:10-18; Job 38:1-21, 42:1-5; Isaiah 50:4-11; I Corinthians 11:23-32; and Matthew 26:2-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-45; Matthew 26:40-27:2.

For the little ones: Remember to drop off your Easter cards! Then have your own 'last supper'. Have dad wash the feet of the family members before a supper of bread and wine/grape juice. During the supper, read the story of the Last Supper from a children's bible or tell it in your own special way.

Good Friday

Today we commemorate the death of Christ on the cross.

John 13:31–18:1, John 18:1-29, Matthew 26:57-75, John 18:28 - 19:16, Matthew 27:3-32, Mark 15:16-32, Matthew 27:33-54, Luke 23:32-49, John 19:38-42, Mark 15:43-47, John 19:38-42, Matthew 27:62-66

For the little ones: Moms: make Hot Cross buns for breakfast. You can make a dairy free dough and mix powdered sugar with lemon juice if you are following the vegan fast. Dress in black today. Prepare your Easter eggs as well. Have the children help you dye hard-boiled or hollowed eggs red. The egg symbolizes life and the red symbolizes the blood of Christ. Make plenty!!! Bring some to church for Holy Pascha and set aside the rest for an Easter egg hunt and to give to neighbors.

Holy Saturday

Today we remember the burial of Christ and his descent into hell. We celebrate the liturgy of St. Basil in the morning, focusing on Christ's grave.

"He (Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death" (Liturgy of St. Basil).

I Corinthians 5:6-8 and Matthew 27:62-66.

For the little ones: On a side note, make sure everyone gets good naps today because tonight is going to be a long night. This will be a busy day for mom. It is time to prepare all the foods you will be taking in your Easter basket to church tonight. Fill the basket with favorite foods your family has been fasting from. Let the children each pick one of their favorite foods they have been missing. Let them help you make these foods or (if you prefer to have them out of the way!) have dad help the kids make a banner to hang for Pascha. Have the banner say "Christ is risen!"


And now we come to what we have all been waiting for: we come to celebrate that CHRIST IS RISEN!!! For those of you unfamiliar with the Easter Rite Orthodox Pascha celebration, check this out. It is going be a long day, starting at 10 p.m. or so the night before!!! We celebrate into the wee hours of the morning and then return to church again around noon for Agape Vespers. At the Agape service, we read the gospel in as many languages as can be represented by parishioners.

Readings: Acts 1:1-8 and John 1:1-17

For the little ones: It is traditional to wear new clothing to the Holy Feast of Pascha. The new clothing represents the new life brought by the resurrection of Christ. After the service, break the fast and celebrate the resurrection of Christ with your brothers and sisters in Christ for as long as you can handle (and still drive home safely (:)!

On Easter Sunday, everyone has various family traditions. We will be having an Easter egg hunt for our girls and will be giving them Easter baskets with their first bibles, some candy and a small cross. We will also all play the silly egg roll game (think, the stone being rolled from the tomb!). We will then feast with some friends on grilled lamb, Easter bread and other various side-dishes and desserts. Before the meal, we will greet one another with our red eggs, cracking them while exchanging the Paschal greeting ("Christ is Risen!" "Truly he is risen!") and then enjoy them with our meal.

For the next 40 days, light a white candle at the dinner table and sing the Easter hymn: "Christ is risen from the dead and by his death has trampled death and to those in the tombs he has granted life."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Annunciation of the Theotokos

Too busy following the normal progression of Lent, I nearly missed the fact that this Sunday, the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt is trumped by the Annunciation of the Theotokos! Whoops!

Apolytikion (Fourth Tone):
Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you."

Readings: Hebrews 2:11-18; Luke 1:24-38

For the little ones: The dove serves as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and is used often in paintings of the Annunciation to represent Mary conceiving a child by the Holy Spirit. Combine this with some Russian tradition and we have a fun project!

In Russian tradition, believers would release birds from cages to signify freeing oneself from the power of sin in order to pave a way to heaven. So, here is our project for the Annunciation: pick up white, helium filled balloons for each member of the family. Help your kids to color bird faces on them and tape wings to the sides of the balloon. Then, take your family outside and release the 'doves' into the air while reading the gospel passage of the day. With your older children, follow up with a discussion on the significance of the Annunciation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt

It goes without saying that one of the main themes of Lent is repentance. We return to that theme again this upcoming Sunday with remembering St. Mary of Egypt. She serves as a model of repentance: there is no burden of sin too great for God to forgive.

Readings: Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 10:32-45

For the Little Ones: This is a little activity I remember doing back in grade school. The beauty of it is that it is an activity that toddlers and older children can equally enjoy (and it is really easy)! For toddlers, draw a heart and color the heart with crayons (use a variety of colors). Then color over the entire heart with a black crayon (color heavily). Give the blackened heart to your toddler and a coin or paperclip (straightened so they can use the point) and show them how they can scratch off the black crayon to reveal the beautiful colors beneath. Older children can do the entire activity by themselves. Talk to your children about how there is no sin too great for God to forgive. God can enlighten the most darkened heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sunday of Saint John Climacus

I must confess that when I looked at what this Sunday was, my first thought was, "Who is that?" Well, St. John Climacus is a 6th century saint and is best known for his work, the The Ladder of Divine Ascent (he is also called Saint John of the Ladder). He also is known as the originator of the hesychasm movement (you know, the "Jesus Prayer"). You can google his name and find a plethora of information on his life, and his life itself is the reason why we remember him during Lent. As Fr. Thomas Hopko puts it in :

"The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, "not against flesh and blood, but against...the rulers of the present darkness...the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places..." (Eph. 6:12) Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only "he who endures to the end will be saved." (Matt. 24:13)." [The Orthodox Faith: Volume ii, Worship. pg 82-83)

Readings: Hebrews 6:13-20; Mark 9:17-31

For the Little Ones: Pretzels were invented by a Christian monk as a Lenten bread. The shape of the pretzel mimics the crossing of arms in prayer. The bread was then given to children as rewards for memorizing their prayers. So, this week, work on teaching your children the Jesus Prayer. Then, on Saturday or Sunday make some pretzels(or buy if you must!). Have the family gather together and spend some time in prayer together, focusing on saying the Jesus Prayer. The amount of time will of course depend on the children. I suggest keeping it limited to a few minutes if you have toddlers! Then, enjoy some pretzels together as reward to the children for remembering the prayers.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sunday of the Holy Cross

This upcoming Sunday we remember our Lord's crucifixion in order that we might strengthen our resolve to fast, pray and repent this Lenten season. It is nearly halfway through lent, the struggle is hard and this Sunday's commemoration serves as an exhortation to all of us in our Lenten struggles. And what does the cross teach us? Christians look upon the cross always with the resurrection in mind. It is that victory that brings joy and hope to our sufferings. We rejoice in the victorious cross!

Readings: Hebrews 4:14-5:6; Mark 8:34-9:1

For the Little Ones: The Holy Cross is often referred to as the tree of life, bringing eternal life. In remembrance of this, go out and buy a small tree to plant in your yard (or, for you apartment replant in pots!). Try to pick a tree that blooms in the spring or bears fruit. If you plan on replanting the tree into a larger pot, have your children help you decorate the pot for the special occasion.

On Sunday, after the liturgy, gather your family together to plant the tree in your garden. After planting the tree, have the head of the household (or possibly an eldest child) read the following:

No longer does the flaming sword guard the gate of Eden, for a marvelous quenching is come upon it, even the Tree of the Cross. The sting has been taken from death, and the victory from Hades. And, You, my Savior, has appeared unto those in Hades saying: Enter again into Paradise.

During the rest of Lent, have your little ones water their 'special' tree and on Good Friday, cut off a branch or two to make a cross to adorn you prayer corner or to hang in your child's room.

Friday, March 2, 2007

A Lenten Resolution

During my catechism, Father Ian made a point to really ingrain in me that the point of fasting isn't simply to abstain for the purpose of abstaining, but to simplify life. We need to simplify life in order to save money and another precious commodity: time. Time to be used in prayer, fellowship and doing good deeds.

As parents, and I think moms especially struggle with this, there seems to be a constant urge to be 'doing' things. Exercise more, read to our kids more, organize more, work more, etc. The problem is, when we are trying to do so many different things, we can't do anything well! Hence why trying to 'perfect' oneself other than through prayer and fasting is such a futile endeavor.

So, every Lent, I make a Lenten resolution. Last year, I admit it was to start jogging to lose all my pregnancy fat...but the other motivating factor was to provide sanity time for myself and my girls. Time outside where the girls could enjoy nature and I could enjoy a quiet time to pray and think about nothing. Seriously, our jogs are one of my favorite activities now simply because my girls like to just sit and stare at everything and I can have guaranteed quiet time (usually, I have anything but that!).

This year, my resolution is to start using my slowcooker. My family tends to eat mostly vegetarian as it is and so I hardly ever use the crockpot because most recipes I find are either meat heavy (and expensive) or are vegetarian stews. (And one can have stew only so many times!) But, cooking every night is very stressful since it is during the hour where my toddlers are tired and cranky and in need of lots of attention. So, my goal is to start using the crockpot in order to give them the love and care they need during the witching hour of weakness for them, and to keep me from getting stressed and angry right before my husband comes home every evening (I'm sure he'll appreciate that!).

I encourage you to also make a Lenten resolution. Simplify your lives!

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Sunday of Saint Gregory Palamas

It is the second Sunday of Great Lent and we are commemerating a saint whose feast day is actually on November 14th. Can you say what?!?

St. Gregory serves as a witness that man can participate in the uncreated light of God's glory while here on earth through prayer and fasting. He is an example that our struggle with fasting and prayer is not futile. This is an especially pertinent lesson at this time as we currently struggle with maintaining the great fast. And the great fast does not, should not, consist merely of abstaining from foods, but we should be fasting unto prayer. For a more detailed explanation of reasons why St. Gregory is commemorated on this day, check out this.

Readings: Hebrews 1:10-2:3; Mark 2:1-12

For the little ones: Get a large jar or box (can be a shoebox, an old mayonaisse jar, etc.) Have the kids decorate the jar or box. This is your special Lent jar. In this jar, you will put money you are saving through fasting. To make sure you remember this aspect of fasting, pick an evening each week during Lent and have rice for dinner. Add some nutrition for the sake of the little ones and pregnant mommas (like lentils or tofu), but keep the meal cheap and simple. At the end of each meal, give each member of the family a dollar or so and have each person stick their dollar into your Lent jar. Decide as a family how you would like to use the money at the end of Lent.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Well, this was a profound post. That is, until my cute little 19 month old decided to pull out the power plug and destroy my post along with it. So rather than try to rehash what I said in the first post, I will operate under the assumption that the majority of my readers understand the role of icons in the Orthodox Church and the rest can google it.

The Sunday of Orthodoxy commemorates the triumph of icons over the iconoclasts, affirming the necessity of icons in the worship of the Orthodox Church. Why are they necessary? In brief, Christ is the greatest icon of all. When Christ became man and dwelt among us, he united heaven and earth. The icons we use today serve as windows into heaven and are, in a sense, shadows of the greatest icon of all. They bear witness of the kingdom of God to us and vice versa. At the end of Divine Liturgy this day, parishioners carry icons in a procession around the church while the clergy makes petitions. The icon procession is also done at the Pan-Orthodox evening vespers service.

Readings: Hebrews 11:24-26,32-40; John 1:43-51.

For families: Remember to bring your favorite icons to church for the procession. Bring one for each family member.

For the little ones: This is a real fun activity! My husband and I did this for one of our Sunday School classes and it was a big hit. Have the children make their own icons to be blessed at church. Buy an unfinished wood piece at an arts and crafts store (like this) and some gold and red paint. Help the kids paint the wood gold with red trim like you see on icons. While this dries, print out a black and white picture of your child's patron saint (or Christ) and have them color the picture (even toddlers can do this!). Cut out the figure and help your kids glue it onto the painted wood surface. If you can finish it beforehand, get it blessed on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wall Prayer Chain

As requested, here is a picture of our wall prayer chain. We're still working on pictures, but you get the idea. I actually found this rope with clips and wall attachments at a toy store for only $6.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Forgiveness Sunday and Clean Monday

Forgiveness (Cheesefare) Sunday

Readings: Romans 13:11-14:4 and Matthew 6:14-21

The last day before Great Lent, Forgiveness Sunday reiterates our need for forgiveness through focusing on Adam and Eve's expulsion from Paradise. The emphasis on forgiveness again reminds us that without repentance and reconciliation with God and each other, we cannot truly participate in the Great Fast. The words of our Lord's prayer are brought sharply into focus this day: "...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...". By asking for forgiveness, we can than repent, renew our minds, hearts and actions to be like Chirst. With forgiveness, we can joyfully enter into a season of purification as we prepare for the Great Feast and celebration of our Lord's resurrection.

For the family:
A traditional cheesefare meal is pancakes! So, moms, dump the healthy food for a day and use up all those milk and eggs for a scrumptious, sugary feast. Following the pancake feast, return to church for evening Vespers, where the parishioners will have an opportunity to ask one another for forgiveness and share the holy kiss. If you have not yet said confession prior to Lent, now is the time to do so.

For the little ones: For a craft this week, make a Lenten paper chain to help count down the days to the feast of the Resurrection. Use purple construction paper for the first 46 days (yes, Lent is 40 days plus Holy Week!), then a black ring for Good Friday, followed by another purple for Holy Saturday and finally a white ring for Pascha with the words written on it: "Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia!". Purple is traditionally used at sombre times symbolizing our sorrow for our sin. White is symbolic of the purity and joy of Christ and black is symbolic of death and mourning.

Clean Monday

Lent actually means Holy Spring. It is a time when we should be 'fasting' from the flesh in order to delight in the spirit. So, start of this season with a day of spring cleaning. Literally. Pull out that vacuum and duster. Wash the windows. Air out the house. Sort out any junk that is lying around and make a pile of items to give away to those in need. Clean your house! And, then, when it is all said and done, pack up a Lenten picnic (falafels, anyone?), head out to a park and fly some kites! Glory in the springtime today.

For the little ones: Kids (at least toddlers do!) actually love to help mom clean. So, give them a rag or duster and let them lend a hand. Put on some fun music and whistle while you work!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Family Prayer Time

In my very first post (not so very long ago!), I posted what we do during family prayers. To expand on that a bit, our prayer time occurs in the same place each evening. We have a little 'icon corner' (it's really located on the middle of a wall next to our dining table). We have a shelf with our various prayer books, bibles and children's bibles, candles, incense and icons. On the wall above the shelf, are our family icons (icons of our patron saints) surroudning a large cross with 6 little icons on it depicting the life of Christ, the person around whom our lives should center. Every family, should have one of these! A place to gather together and prayer. A sacred place in every home.

This next week, we are making a new addition to our's. In an attempt to help teach our children to pray at an early age, we are making a special prayer line for our icon wall. We're going to hang vertically on the wall next to the icons a long piece of thick ribbon. Then, we are going to clip pictures of people and things we want to pray for. These can be regular photos or magazine and newspaper cutouts (say of hungry people, our President or the soldiers in Iraq, etc.). This visual reminder will be especially valuable to the children. My little girls are just 1 and 2, but they can identify people and pictures and we can teach them a very simple prayer to say for them at prayer time. Jesse and I can more specifically pray for individuals, and it will just be a good reminder to pray as we walk by the icon corner everyday and see familiar faces looking out on us.

I encourage you to do this and make it a special project with your children. Let your children choose the pictures of people they want to prayer for. You can even let them hold the pictures of the people they will get to pray for during prayer time.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Journey into Lent continued

Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare Sunday):

Readings: Matthew 25:31-46--The separation of the sheep from the goats

The previous two Sundays, the theme of repentance was tempered with compassion. Our Lord is merciful and ready to recieve any repentant sinner. However, this Sunday we are reminded that God is our Judge as well and he does not forgive those who do not repent.

This Sunday reminds us that as we prepare for Lent and Pascha, we are also preparing for the second coming of Christ. We do not know the hour of his coming and must always be ready.

But how do we prepare? Love. God is a God of love and in our great journey to be more Christlike, the Way is through love. Love for each and every person we encounter. Learning to see Christ, to see the image of God, in everyone we encounter. Let us love one another unto eternity.

For the Family: This Sunday is Meatfare Sunday. The last day to eat meat as we prepare for the Great Fast. So have a potluck! Invite your friends and family over. Make your children's favorite meat-filled foods (spaghetti, pepperoni pizza, etc.). Fellowshiping with friends and family is a great way to remember how beautiful it is to love one another.

For the Little Ones: Craft time! As a fun afternoon craft, make little sheep. Draw a sheep onto paper and let the kids glue on cottonballs to make the fuzzy woolskin. Or, moms, if you're feeling especially ambitious, have your kids help you decorate Lamb Cupcakes to serve at the potluck.

Also, being that this falls shortly before Valentine's Day this calendar year, have the kids make a few Valentines for their friends. A simple way for little children to show love to others.

Friday, February 2, 2007

My inspiration (:

Before continuing posting on this blog, I want to give credit to my inspiration. A blogging friend of mine, Jessica, recently started her own Anglican blog on homemaking through the church year. I have been enjoying it immensely and realized how annoyed I was by my own ignorance of the Church Year in the Orthodox Church. Hence, why this blog has begun. So, while enjoying mine, check out her's as well.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Journey into Lent

Preparation for Pascha does not actually begin with the first day of Lent. It begins 3 Sundays before Lent begins! This three week period is a time of preparation of the soul; a time to prepare for the great fast. Lenten preparation is a time of repentance. During this time all Orthodox Christians should partake of the sacrament of confession. The Sunday readings all focus on the theme of repentance and expand on the theme in various ways. This past Sunday, this period began with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The parable that teaches us to cry, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" And thus, we began our journey into Great Lent. We begin with humility.

This upcoming Sunday is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son with the readings from Luke 15:11-32. This Sunday we are reminded to repent and recieve forgiveness. Our repentance is not in vain! For our God is compassionate and will welcome us back with joy.

For the little ones: This is cheesy, but something for the kids to enjoy. Plan a little celebration party! During prayer time prior to the meal, have each family member ask for forgiveness. Then, just as the father of the Prodigal Son welcomes back his son with love and dresses him in splendor and gives him a feast; do likewise to your children to show how good it is to ask for forgiveness. Have some balloons to bounce around and some cupcakes to top it all off! Let your little children dress up for the occasion. Yes, little girls, bring out those princess party dresses!

Oh! And one last note: Remember, this is the last week of meat!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Establishing an Orthodox Christian Home

Every Orthodox home is a little church and as such needs to create an environment that fosters worship, spiritual education, outreach and fellowship; an environment that will meet the spiritual needs of a family, providing faith, love and wisdom. The Church is here to meet all those needs, and a family's well being is dependant on connecting with the Church. This connection isn't simply dependant on church attendance but on bringing the Church back home.

In this blog, I will be following the major feasts and fasts of the church year. With them, I will be offering simple ways of presenting the significance of them to children through the means of worship, spiritual education, outreach and fellowship as a family.

To begin with, though, it is important for each family to establish a consistent prayer routine. A time where we gather together to worship, husband and wife, sons and daughters. A time that reminds each and every one of us who is the center of our households: Christ. So, at this time, I would like to share our own Vespers service that Jesse and I have developed for our family.


The Lord's Prayer.

Most Merciful Father, I confess that I have sinned in thought, word, deed and omission by my own grievious fault. I am heartily sorry and firmly purpose amendment. Make me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Pardon and deliver me from all my sins and bring me to everlasting life. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ Son of God who recieved the children who came to you, recieve also from the lips of us your children this evening prayer. Shelter us under the shadow of your wings, that in peace we may lay down and sleep. And when you awaken us, may we glorify you. For you alone are righteous and merciful. Amen.

Scripture Readings: We use the St. James Devotional Guide. The length of the readings depends on the patience of the children during a given evening. Sometimes it is just a few verses; sometimes a whole chapter.

Sing a hymn.