Friday, August 3, 2012

Transfiguration Journey

For this activity, you'll need a few blindfolds, a Bible, an icon of the Transfiguration, and a lot of trust! Our goal is to lead the children or teens on a journey to understanding God better. Remember, Peter, James, and John were still not able to identify Christ as God before the Transfiguration happened on Mt Tabor. We say that their eyes were yet to be illumined...

To begin, consider your surroundings: your home, a park, the Church? Where might you hide the icon of the Transfiguration, so that you can lead the children or teens to it? Can you climb up stairs, while holding hands blindfolded, to simulate ascending Mt Tabor? Can you convince them to trust you, while they are uncertain where you are going, and why? When you arrive at your destination, only then can the blindfolds be removed, hands let go, and the story revealed.

Explain that God had a very important message for the disciples before His crucifixion, just like Moses who climbed Mt Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments. Like them, you have ascended to a high place to learn about Christ. How did it feel trusting the leader? Are they ready to see why they've taken this journey?

Ask one of the children to read out loud Matthew 17:1-9.

Next review the icon together and identify why each person was there: Moses, represents the Jewish Law, Elijah, represents the Prophets, Peter, James and John, represent all those alive in Christ. The Holy Trinity is also present. Can they identify how? The Father speaks, Christ is present both fully divine and human, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Light surrounding Christ.

Complete the discussion by asking the children to draw out the important lessons they have learned about God. What did He want to teach us?

* That Jesus is fully God and fully Man

* That Jesus is the bridge of the past, present, and future:
by having present Moses, Elijah, and the new disciples

* That God is the Holy Trinity

* That we too can become like Christ, transfigured and
radiant with the Holy Spirit

Along your journey back, chat with the kids/teens about the timing of this event in Christ's life and explain that the Transfiguration happened right before Jesus was to be crucified. For us today, we can feel equipped with the Truth and prepared for the trials ahead of us, as the disciples did entering the Lord's Passion.

Please e-mail if you would like to receive the Word Scramble handout on this lesson or the icon larger which includes the journey up the mountain together and back down.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Teaching 10 Commandments

 We're in the process of teaching the 10 Commandments throughout our Orthodox summer religious education classes, and although we don't have an established curriculum, there have been many resources that I'd like to share in case others might need them. It could be a great Vacation Bible School program as well.

We teach one commandment every week, adding them to our two plaques cut out of cardboard. Along with the short lesson, we are watching small portions of this animated video  posted on youtube each week.  It really does seem that as the story of the Prophet Moses unfolds, so do the lessons of the 10 Commandments along with it. The kids are really enjoying the video. I find it well done, even if the Prophet Moses was not so muscular.

First 4 -              Mans’ relationship with God
Last 6   -            Man’s relationship with fellow man

1.      I am your God. There are no other gods except me.
2.      Do not believe in other fake idols. Worship only God.
3.      Do not use the Lord's name without serious purpose.
4.      Work 6 days and dedicate the seventh for God.
5.      Honor your father and mother.
6.      Do not kill anyone or anything - including even a bug!Life is from God.
7.      Honor and respect marriage between one man and one woman
8.      Do not steal.
9.      Do not tell lies
10.  Do not be jealous of others.

Intro: Begin a discussion on how we know what right and wrong is? Ask for examples to be given of good behavior and bad. Where did we learn this? Most often answered, from our parents. And "Who" is the greatest Father of us all? God, who wanted us to have a set of rules to follow, so that we may live in harmony with His desire for us, and the world. These guidelines are called the 10 Commandments.

1st Commandment - God reveals "who" He is so that we may worship Him correctly. He tells us His Name (YAHWEH) We know our God created the World and everything in it. He says He is the Alpha and the Omega or the beginning and the end. And as Orthodox Christians, we know God to be 1 in 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as we have mind, word and breath within the same person, Christ is the Word, the Holy Spirit the Breath all within the same one God. Video footage: The birth of Moses and his early childhood facing the cruel behavior of Pharoah, Moses attempting to do good

2nd Commandment - God cautions us to take care not to fill our lives with so many other things that there is no room for Him. Nothing can or should replace God in our lives, nor the time we devote to Him each day. Just as it is important to worship Him in Truth, as we learned from the 1st Commandment, now we must take care only to worship and honor Him as the only God. Identify together examples of false idols (see handout) or ask your teens to cut out "idols' from popular magazines.Discuss trendy statues and how acceptable it is to display these in store windows and homes today, along with putting our faith or hope in superstitions, astrology horoscopes, fortune telling, and magic. (All of which if we have participated in, we need to confess!) Video footage: Moses before Pharoah, who calls upon power of magicians and says Pharoah is "god" Eventually led to desert, the Jews make a gold calf

3rd Commandment - How many times do we here people yell out "O My God!" Can you imagine if God turned His attention each time, only to be told..."oh nevermind...I didn't really mean to call for you?" This is a common slip up but it can show our lack of respect for God's name. Let us teach instead to use our Lord's name only in prayer and doxology!

4th Commandment: This is a good chance to ask our children how often and when they remember God? Do they think of Him first thing in the morning? How about during a lesson at school, or in an afternoon sport? When we are busy, do we remember God is with us or do we treat Him like He is invisible? God knows that our day is filled with many tasks...and for this reason, He asks us not to forget Him by making sure we purposely stop everything else.

Our craft was to decorate these boxes as our "Kivoto" or Tabernacle that Aaron was tasked to build to house the plaques and for Moses to enter in to speak with God. We glued a square laminated card inside listing the 10 Commandments which were visible through the window, and decorated the outside colorfully with paints and decals. We also encouraged the students to only put religious items inside (a small cross, or icon card they may receive as a gift, a prayer rope, etc.) and to keep the box near their icons at home... The boxes were purchased here 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Preparing for Pentecost

Christ is Risen! But then what?

The story continues of course.... with more exciting details and events to engage our young listeners. Christ shows what we would call "superhuman" qualities! He appears in the upper room to the Apostles twice when the doors are sealed shut. He is seen along the road to Emmaus, but in some sort of disguise to Luke and Cleopa, until He breaks bread with them and is recognized essentially in the Eucharist (see the lesson plan here). Then forty days later the disciples stand in awe as Christ is taken up before their own very eyes into the sky on His return to the Father. What could possibly come next for the followers of Christ?

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”

Click this link for the printable lesson: Pentecost Worksheet & Kneeling Prayers

*** This year, I'm finally committed to bringing the prayers with me on Pentecost Sunday, because they are always in a language I cannot fully understand! ***

Monday, April 23, 2012

Christians in the Holy Land

Even though you and I may live far away from the Holy Land, as Christians and as Orthodox Christians we must stay educated about the situation there. Everyday life is VERY hard for the faithful people who remain there. We can keep them in our prayers and also do more for them by educating others about the injustices that occur. The images of the wall that Israel has erected are just horrifying. Bethlehem is completely trapped. Try getting across to see a doctor, or go to school...practically impossible and life-changing overnight. It reminds me of other ancient walls, like that in Berlin which I visited and saw how people who tried crossing were killed. Not exactly peaceful co-habitation.

View this 60 Minutes special that aired on Sunday, April 22, 2012. Click here.

The producers are correct - this is sacred space for us. Christians should not be squeezed out. We must peacefully proclaim the land where Christ was born, crucified, and resurrected as Holy Ground.

Please view this video and pass it along to others you know. There is a second video on Taybeh, the last village that Christ visited before His crucifixion. I remember fondly Dr. Maria Khoury and her children. We must do all that we can to support them and encourage them not to leave Palestine! They are the hope of future generations!

Click here to view a friend's album of pilgrimage pictures of the Holy Land

Thursday, April 19, 2012

St George Skit & Coloring Page

While enjoying the light of  Pascha for 40 days, don't forget that there are still many great Saints on the calendar to learn about! Coming up this Monday, April 23rd is the great martyr Saint George, who bears the title trophy-bearer in English.
The Dragon
Traveling on a white horse (Saint Demetrios is on the red horse), the soldier Saint George met a young girl, a local princess chosen by lot, who was about to be offered as food for the hungry dragon who threatened a certain town in Libya. He encouraged the maiden to have faith in Christ whom she did not know yet, and dropped to his knees in prayer, asking God to use that opportunity for others to believe in Him as the One True God. Upon meeting the dragon face to face, he made the sign of the cross, and the dragon fell like a meek puppy at the feet of the Saint. He instructed the girl to take her belt off and use it as a leash for the dragon
His Suffering
The Saint openly confessed himself as a Christian, and for that faced many tortures. He bore the weight of a large stone on his chest, was stretched on a wheel of knives, was buried in a pit with only his head above ground for three days and three nights, and was given a poisonous potion to drink from a magician. From all this, God healed and preserved him. When the Saint raised a boy from the dead through his prayer to God, the Empress Alexandra, wife of Diocletian, converted to Christianity. The furious Emperor imprisoned the Saint and beheaded Him in 303 AD.
His Appearances
God continues to work miracles through the Saint, even until today. About fifteen years ago a generous man in Syria came to Germany to build a "home" as he was instructed for someone whom he saw in a vision. The Syrian man met our priest on the street corner who was exhausted and ready to give up building our Church because the money ran out. After an explanation and a large gift from the Syrian, the Church was completed, bearing the name and icon of Saint George. The man finally recognized who spoke to him in the vision when he came face to face with the icon!

Video located here:

Skit Script located here:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Red Egg

Here's a look at the pious custom of red eggs in the Orthodox Church for you and your families to enjoy. Where did the tradition come from anyway? It seems there are a few possible answers to this question...of which I prefer to believe in the miracle that God worked through His handmaiden, Mary Magdalene (whom by the way is often wrongly attributed as the prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair - See Orthodox Wiki for a well cited clarification).

Other symbolism, not as dogma, but as tradition includes:

*The egg as the new life in Christ through His resurrection

*Red for the color of our Lord's blood but also for His divinity

*The outer shell to be cracked as the doors of Hades are shattered

Since children enjoy decorating the eggs, why not encourage them to display their faith on them, as the picture shows! Be sure not to throw away any icons if you use them, but certainly include symbols like ~ icxc, fish, crosses, tree of life, the Trinity, 4 Greek Letters for Mother of God...etc

This worksheet is available in PDF format here

Holy Week Scrapbook Craft

For all you creative folks out there, consider putting your talents to use to create a Holy Week Scrapbook for your family or parish. Fill it with fun icons, Scripture verses, symbols, various languages, or photos as the week progresses. Use this as a learning tool, or a memory keepsake for 2009.

Here are a few suggested "call outs" to use with the icons:

Entry into Jerusalem:
Can you find Zaccheus? Why is Christ seated side-ways on the donkey? Did you know in colder countries the faithful use pussy willows instead of palm branches?

Washing the Disciples' Feet:
How many disciples were present? Who asks Jesus to wash his whole body? What is so special about feet?

Mystical Supper: Can you find St John resting on the bosom of Christ? How about Judas? He's usually the only one reaching for the food and is shown in profile, which signifies his two-faced betrayal.

Christ on the Cross:
What were the last words of our Lord? Can you find the blood and the water that spilled out from Christ's side? Who was crucified with Jesus? What was written above His head? In which three languages?

Christ being taken down from the Cross:
Can you find St. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea? They cared for Christ's body and received permission to take Him down from the cross. Who is holding Jesus' head? How will they bury Christ?

The Empty Tomb:
Which women were first to the tomb of Christ? What did they take with them? What is left behind where Jesus was laid?

The Resurrection:
Can you find Adam and Eve being raised from their tombs? How about those departed who are standing to the sides of Christ - Saint John the Baptist (right) and King David (left). Abel, the son of Adam (left) and the first man to die, is present and depicted wearing a shepherd's robe. Why are there keys and broken locks under the Cross?

Use google image search to save and print your own icons

For a FREE Journey to Pascha Handbook click here