Friday, January 29, 2010

St. Brigid of Kildare

This coming Monday, February 1, marks the feast day of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland, a pre-schism Western saint, a contemporary of St. Patrick, and also my patron.

St. Brigid "did not take her mind or her attention from the Lord for the space of one hour at any time, but was constantly mentioning Him, and ever constantly thinking of Him, as evident in her own life [. . .] She was very hospitable and very charitable to guests and to needy people. She was humble, and attended to the herding of sheep and early rising, as her life proves [. . .] She spent indeed 74 years diligently serving the Lord, performing signs and miracles, curing every disease, and sickness in general as evident in her own life, until she yielded her spirit, [. . .] A.D. 525 [or] 522, [. . .] and she was buried at D/un in one tomb with Patrick, where Colum Cille was afterwards interred."

It's too late to order it for Monday, but there is a new children's book about St. Brigid with beautiful illustrations written by an Orthodox mom and published by Conciliar Press. (See thumbnail on the right.)

In lieu of the children's book, you can learn more about Saint Brigid online. There are many primary sources available here. (I also wrote a brief tribute to her on my own blog last year; click here to read it.)

Here are several ideas for celebrating her wondrous life of devotion and faith:
  • Make a St. Brigid Cross and hang it over the doorway; keep it there until next year and then replace it with a new one. If you don't have rushes or long grass near you, you can substitute with palm leaves, plastic straws, or something else creative. If you can, take the rushes to church on Sunday to have them blessed by the priest before you make the crosses.
  • In the spirit of St. Brigid's generosity, assemble emergency kits for IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) to send to people in places like Haiti.
  • Collect dandelions, which are sometimes spoken of as "Brigid's Flower."
  • Make wheat- or cross-shaped bread and serve with butter. (For example, see Pain d'Epi recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or use an oat bread recipe.) Before she became an abbess, Brigid was a dairy maid.
  • Visit a (dairy) farm and feed the animals.
  • Serve corn beef and cabbage or other hearty Irish dinner, and invite some friends or neighbors to share it with you (perhaps a poor family who cannot afford to eat nice dinners).
  • And don't forget the beer (for the adults, that is)! Brigid is known as the patron saint of beer because of her miraculous multiplying of beer to supply the county churches for Bright week after Pascha.
  • If someone in the family (or one of your guests) has St. Brigid as her patron or namesake, have her wear a white dress and pretend to be the saint knocking at the door saying "Go on your knees, open your eyes, and let Brigid in." The family should answer from within "Greeting, greeting to the noble woman."
  • Pray and sing hymns to St. Brigid, the "Mary of the Gael":
Troparion (Tone 1)
O holy Brigid, thou didst become sublime through thy humility, and didst fly on the wings of thy longing for God. When thou didst arrive in the Eternal City and appear before thy Divine Spouse, wearing the crown of virginity, thou didst keep thy promise to remember those who have recourse to thee. Thou dost shower grace upon the world, and dost multiply miracles. Intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

(Saint Bride painting by John Duncan)

Bonny Saint Brigid, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spring Cleaning Preparations

Lent is quickly approaching. Valentine's Day marks Forgiveness Sunday and Clean Monday follows directly!

In the past, I've used Clean Monday as a "Spring Cleaning" Day, but it really wasn't an adequate amount of time. Start NOW with the purging and be done before Lent. When getting rid of stuff, think of how you might bless others with things you don't need or want. Maybe some old clothes to give to a homeless person? Some toys for some children you know who might be less fortunate? Some books for students?

On Clean Monday, read Is 1:1-20. Talk to your children about how just like we need to clean our bodies and our houses regularly so that they don't get dirty and grimy, we also need to cleanse our hearts and minds. Clean something that is dirty to demonstrate visually the need for cleaning. Then talk about how we need to put away wicked thoughts, feelings, habits, etc. These are the things that dirty us. Talk about how we do this through repentance, prayer, fasting, almsgiving and mediation of the scriptures. It is only by putting on Christ that we can truly be holy.

Another activity we plan on doing on Clean Monday is to make a "Kyra Sarakosti" (a Lady Lent). Cut out a paper doll. The doll has no mouth (because she is fasting), her hands are joined in prayer, and she has a long skirt with 7 feet for the 7 weeks of Lent. Let the children decorate the paper doll. On each Saturday during Lent, cut off a foot. On the last Saturday, Holy Saturday, insert the foot into a dried fig and tradition has it that it brings luck to the finder.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quick Theophany/ Epiphany ideas

After two weeks of travel, it dawned on me this morning that Theophany was tomorrow and that our liturgy for it was tonight, so I quickly pulled myself together and this is what I came up with.

1. First, my pre-schooler and I read through the Old Testament stories of Creation, the Flood, the crossing of the Red Sea, the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan and Jonah and the Whale. We also read the NT stories about Jesus' baptism, calling the fishermen, and walking on the water. We read from a toddler Bible (stories are short) and I edited the stories as we went. We talked about how God blessed the water, motifs of cleansing, tried to make connections with the stories and focused specifically on how Jesus blessed the water by being baptized in it (as much as one can do with a three-year-old). As my boys get older and I don't have to rely on Children's Bibles (and/or I have more time) we'll read all of the stories which we will be hearing in the service tonight which include the washing of Naaman, Elijiah being taken up and Elisha crossing the Jordan just to name a few!

2. We also looked at the icon for Theophany and photos of my sons' baptisms and discussed them as well. My first son was actually baptized on Theophany 3 years ago, so it is also a special anniversary for us to remember.

3. We sang the troparion for Theophany over and over again (Byzantine-tone 1: When thou oh lord was baptized in the Jordan worship of the Trinity was made manifest/ for the voice of the Father bore witness to thee calling thee his beloved son/ and the Spirit in the likeness of a dove confirmed the truth of his word/ oh Christ our God who hath appeared and enlightened the world glory to thee) and also the baptismal hymn "As Many as have been baptized into Christ"

4. Finally we made a very quick version of a Kings Cake. I used a Trader Joe's Apple Bread mix I had lying around, letting my son help me by hiding a nut in it. I cooked it in a bunt cake pan to keep the appearance of a crown and decorated the top of the cake with blue icing (made from powdered sugar, butter, milk and food coloring) and Swedish Fish candy (we had it left over from Halloween). I want to learn more about the cake traditions for next year, but I wanted to start it now. I added the blue icing to look like water and the fish are pretty obvious. We're going to take the cake to church to enjoy with others after the service tonight. My son is so excited about finding the nut--what a fantastic idea!

Thankfully our church will also be blessing the Ocean water this coming Sunday so it will allow for more learning and fun to continue despite my lack of planning!

I wish all of you a Blessed Feast!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kings Bread

[Updated January 2011]

Ma Torg has graciously invited me to be a periodic contributor here at the Liturgical Year for Little Ones, and I am honored to accept.

I thought I'd dive in with a recipe for your Twelfth Night/Epiphany/Theophany celebration. I know Ma Torg has shared fun ideas for a Twelfth Night party on her other blog.

For now, I'll just offer a simplified recipe for Kings Bread, so called after the three "kings" or magi, the first gentiles to worship the child Jesus as King, God, and Savior of all the nations. Kings bread is formed in a ring or crown shape with jewel-colored candied fruit toppings.

I've adapted a more traditional recipe using the high-moisture method of the excellent Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Fran├žois. (And, oh my goodness, I am now drooling over their newer book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Whole grains, baby! Whole grains! But I digress.)

The wonderful features of the high-moisture method are (1) mix dough one day and bake another, (2) no kneeding needed!

I'm still experimenting with this recipe, so improvements may be posted later. Let me know if you have any tips.

Kings Bread
Mix in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) container:
  • 3/4 C lukewarm water
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1 T granulated yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1/2 C (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 t lemon extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t lemon zest
Mix in without kneading, using a spoon or stand mixer with dough hook:
  • 3 & 3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C chopped mixed candied fruit, and/or cranberries and golden raisins
  • 1/4 C chopped almonds and/or other nuts
Cover (not airtight) and rest at room temperature (or in a warmed oven) until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container to chill. Use when chilled and within five days.

When you're ready to bake, grease a baking sheet with a small amount of
  • butter.
Insert into the chilled dough
  • 1 whole almond, 1 raw bean, or 1 well-washed penny.
Dust dough with
  • flour
and quickly form into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Place the ball on the baking sheet, seam side down. Make a four-inch hole in the center and push dough into a ring. Butter the outside of a three or four-inch custard dish and set in the hole.

Loosely cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375┬║.

Remove plastic wrap and brush the loaf with
  • 1 egg beaten with
  • 1 t water.
Press dough lightly with more
  • whole candied fruit/cranberries/golden raisins and
  • whole nuts and/or sliced blanched almonds
Sprinkle top with
  • 1/4 C sugar.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden browned on the outside and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Whoever gets the whole almond/bean/penny in his or her slice of bread can either be king/queen of the Twelfth Night party, or be the one to bring a baby Jesus doll in christening gown on Candelmas (a western tradition--I'm the Western Rite dark horse that Ma Torg is trotting out--Hope you all don't mind my western ways), or be the one to host the Twelfth Night/Epiphany party next year.

Happy and blessed festivities to you all!