Monday, July 1, 2013

Pentecost (after the fact)

There are already several great posts on this blog with ideas for celebrating Pentecost with your little ones. Ma Torg has already done a thorough job covering the liturgical bases—prayers, troparions, and scripture readings, etc.

I thought I'd share a few photos to illustrate a few of her ideas that we've put into practice as well as share some additional ideas I happened upon. (I don't think any of them are my own.)

In the opinion of my six-year-old, these family-liturgical traditions make Pentecost feel almost as wonderful and celebratory as Pascha.

We love Ma Torg's suggestion of a dove mobile.

This year I downloaded a dove mobile template from, but made it with white paper instead of felt and left off the "olive branch." We suspended it from the light fixture over our dining table and placed a bouquet of red roses underneath. Wah-la! The Holy Spirit descending over tongues of flame.

In the past I've made the gorgeous Pentecost cake presented on Shower of Roses, but, alas! This year I couldn't find one of my cake pans. So instead of a cake, we followed a lead from Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight and made cupcakes with twelve white candles representing the disciples. Alas, we did not have anything blue to make a Lady Mary cupcake. Maybe next year. But we did have an extra-large white candle in the middle representing Christ our Light.

Seven strawberry hearts represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which are traditionally drawn from the description of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:1-3a, as translated from the Septuagint. In The Orthodox Study Bible it reads as follows: (The seven gifts are highlighted.)
There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall grow out of his root. The Spirit of God shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and godliness. The Spirit of the fear of God shall fill Him.
We can remind our children that these are the gifts the priest prays over each new member of the Church family during the chrismation service.

After dinner we lit the candles-representing-disciples aflame and "like a might wind" blew them out.

We also enjoyed a nine-fruit fruit salad to remember the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galations 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Apparently, some traditions recognize twelve fruits adding in modesty, chastity, and splitting "longsuffering" into "patience" and "longanimity."

In the past we've also enjoyed making a version of the windsock described here.  And, of course, there are Orthodox icon coloring pages for all the major feasts to print and bring to church for the kids to focus on during liturgy (at least for a couple minutes anyway!). You can download and print the whole coloring book.

For even more ideas (games, gifts for the children, and so forth), I again refer you to the wealth of content generously assembled by Ma Torg here.

May the Holy Spirit continue to bless and illuminate your family.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"The Deer's Cry"

(also posted on Raising Pure Praise)

 Fearing attack by hostile Druids, Saint Patrick's companions journeyed uneasily with him to the hall of the Irish king, Laoghaire, to preach the Gospel of Christ's love and peace. None of the companions carried weapons.

Saint Patrick soothed their anxiety. Exhorting them to trust in the power of Christ, he led them in song.

While they approached the crossroad singing of Christ's enveloping presence, unbeknownst to them, a band of Druids lay hidden in ambush. But hours passed, and the Druid's saw nothing save "a stag leading his band of deer." Lochru, the Druid leader was sure he had heard the deer singing.
To this day, the song that Patrick and his friend sang as they passed by Lochru and his band is known as "The Deer's Cry."

For Saint Patrick's feast day this year, you can read the whole exciting story to your children from James A. Janda's book : (best for elementary-school kids; might be too wordy for preschoolers)

Invigorate your own trust in Christ with Saint Patrick's story but also with this beautiful setting of "The Deer's Cry" by Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt: (Read about the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary here.)

"The Deer's Cry"
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in me, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me,
Christ with me. 

I'm looking forward to sharing this musical-theological feast with my kids on March 17. 

As this is one of the rare years when St. Patrick's day falls before Lent proper, we'll also be enjoying an Irish fish and colcannon dinner. (You could inform your children that St. Patrick most assuredly never ate potatoes himself as those were imported to Europe from the Americas in the late sixteenth century. Liturgical traditions evolve, however. So it's spuds for us!)