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.