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!