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!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa Lucia! Tomorrow! December 13!

Our little Lucy is growing up.  And, in honor of her being older, we are celebrating her name day more traditionally this year.  For those of you who have a daughter, here is the more traditional way of celebrating Santa Lucia in Sweden:

Your oldest (or youngest) daughter arises in the darkness of the morning before the household and dresses in a white gown with a red sash and puts a crown of candles on her head.  She carries a plate of Lucia buns and walks around waking the household while we sing the Santa Lucia song as we wake (granted, Pa and I are going to help her wake up this year).

There are many recipes out there.  Traditionally the recipe uses to saffron.  I will confess I have deviated from that in the past and used this recipe a few times (substituting soy milk) and the kids enjoyed it very much.

All right!  Baby needs a nap!  Blessings to you all!

Tree Blessing Prayer

Every year on the Sunday of our Forefathers and in honor of my husband's patron saint, Jesse, we buy our Christmas tree and bless it.  For those of you who would like to bless your tree, here is the prayer for it*:

Father or Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who hath made heaven and earth.
All: All the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes. 
Read Psalm 95.
All: All the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes.
Leader: Lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel (Read Ezekiel 17:22-24)
All: Thanks be to God.
Leader: And there shall come forth a shoot.
All: Out of the root of Jesse.
Leader: In Him was life.
All:And the life was the light of men.
Leader: O Lord hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come unto Thee.
Leader: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.
Leader: Let us pray. Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, Who hast caused Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be planted like a tree of life in Thy Church, by being born of th emost HOly Virgin Mary, bless, we beseech thee, this tree that all who see it may be filled with a holy desire to be ingrafted as living branches into the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the HOly Spirit, One God, world without end. 
All. Amen

Sprinkle the tree with holy water and sing an Advent hymn.

*Many thanks to Nan, who in her research years ago discovered this prayer!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Orthodox Jesse Tree Activity

Jen (another contributor here) posted this link on facebook today.  I hope you don't mind me posting this link for you, Jen!!  We'll definitely be doing this activity here.  Especially since Jesse is my husband's patron saint!!!

Anyhow, you MUST check this out!!!!  Don't forget to check the links which provide all the printables.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kicking off the Advent Season!!!

Happy Advent, everyone!

If you haven't already constructed your paper chain, here are the color layouts for this year:
Week 1: 6 green strips
Week 2: 7 blue strips
Week 3: 7 yellow (gold) strips
Week 4: 7 white strips
Week 5: 7 purple strips
Week 6: 6 red strips

Do the Sunday reading* on the Sunday following each color week with the "red" reading being on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

This past week a World Vision catalog came in the mail and the kids were very excited about the idea of giving an animal to a suffering family.  They decided they wanted that to be their gift to Jesus this year.   However, instead of Pa and I just writing a check, the kids are working to earn money to pay for their gifts.  What birthday gift are your kids/family giving to Jesus this year??

* (see the Nativity Fast section for more information on the weekly color schemes)

Monday, November 14, 2011

the nativity fast begins tomorrow!!!

Just in case you needed a reminder.

We were a bit distracted from our preparations though.... this little guy was baptized yesterday.
And since I'm sure you all had your own reasons to be distracted this last week, let me remind you of the different ideas we have on this blog...right on the sidebar...under the nativity fast link.  Or, you could just click this.

As I said, we are a bit behind.  But I will get started on that advent chain today!  The wreath probably won't materialize till later.

And just so you know, making traditions in your home takes time.

Don't expect to perfect it all in one year.

Some things will work.  Some won't.

During these early years, feel free to experiment and find out what works for your family.  It might take a few years to figure that out.

We're still in the process. And this blog started four years ago.

Just sayin.'

Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick Soul Cakes

For those of you wishing to celebrate the western All Souls Day and the Vigil of All Saints (a.k.a. All Hallow's Eve/Halloween) in a way that brings out the Christian (and Orthodox) significance of the day, I highly recommend for your enjoyment the tradition of making "soul cakes" (a.k.a. "doughnuts") with your children.

Before you freak out at the idea of making doughnuts from scratch, check out this short-cut version which I've adapted from Catholic Traditions in Cooking, by Ann Ball (see p. 129). All you need is a can of refrigerated biscuits, some spices, sugar, and oil.

These are called "soul cakes" because they are circular, signifying, in the unending arc of the circle, the immortality of the soul. Add a double whammy of catechetical instruction disguised as fun and yum, as you make the seven-spice mix with your children, teaching them the story and theology of creation (when human souls came to be).

Preheat oven to 375º.

Make 7-Spice Mix: Have your child(ren) help measure each spice and put it in the bowl as you talk with them about how the seven spices represent the seven days of creation and remember together what God made on each day. If you haven't read it recently, it may be a good idea to read the creation story in a children's bible before you begin your kitchen activities. (Note: You can substitute other sweet spices, if you wish, or organize them in another order. My ordering below is simply alphabetical and has no correlation to the respective day of creation being discussed.)
  • 1/8 t Allspice—1st Day: Light
  • 1/8 t Anise—2nd Day: Firmament (Sky)
  • 1/8 t Cardamon—3rd Day: Dry Land and Seas, Vegetation (Plants)
  • 1 t Cinnamon—4th Day: Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • 1/8 t Cloves—5th Day: Sea Creatures and Birds
  • 1/8 t Mace—6th Day: Animals, Adam and Eve
  • 1/2 t Nutmeg—7th Day: Rest (and Worship)
Now for the Orthodox theological kicker: Ask your children if they know about the 8th day of creation and then tell them all about it. The 8th day of creation is, of course, the Sunday of the Ressurection of our Lord, in which He re-creates, making all things new; it is the unending "Day of the Lord," which we enter mystically in every Divine Liturgy resting in the completed salvific work of the Creator. (For more on the Orthodox understanding of the Sabbath and the 8th Day, I highly recommend the one-page article on p. 219 of The Orthodox Study Bible.)

To signify the 8th day of creation and emphasize how it is the most amazing, blessed part of creation, pour into the spice mixture,
  • 3/4 C sugar—8th Day of (Re)Creation: New Life in Christ's Resurrection
Now you're ready to make the doughnuts!
  • 1 can refrigerated biscuits (Trader Joe's are the best).
Flatten and stretch biscuits, using your fingers to make a hole in the middle to form a doughnut shape.

Warm in a fry pan over medium heat
  • canola or other vegetable oil (enough to come up to midpoint on the biscuit cakes when placed in the fry pan).
When the oil is hot, place as many doughnut rings in the oil as will fit without touching, and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side.

Remove from oil with tongs, allow excess oil to drip back into pan, and coat in sugar-spice mix. Place coated cakes on cookie sheets (covered with parchment paper for easy clean-up, if you'd like). Repeat the previous steps until all the doughnuts are fried and coated. Then bake until fully cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to rack to cool.

Makes 6 to 8 soul cakes; easily doubled.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vegan Cornbread

Now on to a more mundane topic: FOOD!  Mmmmm.

This afternoon, I googled vegan cornbread on a whim to go with our chili tonight and came across this recipe.

Did you catch that link?  If not, here it is again.

Because, seriously, this is the best cornbread ever.  Yeah.  It even beats the recipes I've tried that had the delightful ingredients of eggs and butter.

It is truly that awesome.

Now I did have to substitute a 1/3 c of semolina flour because I was exactly 1/3 c short of cornmeal and thought that would be the best substitute.  Maybe that contributed to its moist, cake-y goodness?  I don't know.  But I do know that my family efficiently demolished that pan of cornbread.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Church year timeline 2011-2012

**UPDATED below**

I don't know about you, but our family was finding itself so distracted by changes in our lives (new baby, new school situation, dissertation writing, etc) that we were finding ourselves completely out of sync and unaware of the church year.  Not a very good thing.

So this weekend, I attacked a church year timeline for our home and here are the results:

I decided to place it in the hallway right upon entering our front door.  This is the hallway that one must use to go basically anywhere in our house, and so I thought it was an ideal spot.  Included in the timeline are the 12 major feasts, name days and St. Nicholas.
 A close up:
 On each square is the name of the feast day, date, icon image, readings for the day and an activity to do together as a family:
I feel so much more aware now that I've done this very simple project.

**Here's a link to my document I created for this project.  Feel free to use it for your home or just for inspiration!