Saturday, December 24, 2011

Why God Became Man?

“You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form."

“Christ has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out
of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men” 

“It was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us.

“…the human race was in process of destruction… what then was God, being Good, to do?”

“It was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon
His word regarding death in order to ensure our continued existence.”

“…corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death” 

“For by the sacrifice of His own body He did two things: '
He put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and He made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection.”

"The word became flesh (that is, man), that the flesh might become God by grace; and He became like us in all things, that we might become like the Word in all of the virtues."
Quoted from 'On the Incarnation' by Saint Athanasios the Great. Read the whole treatise here at this link.  The above theology has been adapted for a curriculum located for free at this link. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Favorite Orthodox Encyclopedia

I have to say, I am so excited and enthused again by one of the very special and very fat books on my nightstand that it made me get out of bed to convey its value to the rest of you. At 8 months pregnant, trust me, I am not getting paid in any way to tell you these things! I truly enjoy reading theology books of all kinds, and books about the Saints as much as any of you...but one book that has NEVER FAILED ME is this one.

Every time I want to access more info on an upcoming Saint or about relics or history I reach for "Evloyeite." by Mother Nektaria McLees. I don't think there is quite any book or resource like it. No Synaxarion, or compilation of the Lives of the Saints, offers what this book does.

  • Detailed stories from the lives of the Saints
  • Maps and directions to venerate holy sites
  • Miracles from the Ecumenical Councils
  • An index of Saints with their corresponding feastdays and location
  • Rare pictures of monasteries, relics, special icons
  • Chapters dedicated to islands, including Mount Athos!
  • Saints from many Orthodox ethinc backgrounds - not just Greek
  • Factual historic information about battles, and Emperors
  • Modern day healings and miracles
  • Actual quotes from the Saints themselves
  • Several Apolytikion hymns to the Saints in English
  • Simple language that is an absolute joy to read

This is NOT a mere  travel book. This is an extremely valuable resource for our families.

Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on Corfu and Saint Spyridon. The author took the effort to include the actual words of Saint Spyridon at the First Ecumenical Council as he stood up to explain the Holy Trinity with a clay brick in his hand. This is the famous miracle of the brick exuding the three substances it was made of - fire, water and clay. A miracle that returned hundreds of Arian heretics back to the Church....all by a simple humble Bishop of the 3rd-4th century. Or, did you know that today they process the incorrupt relics of Saint Spyridon through the island four times a year UPRIGHT, seated on a Bishop's throne? Pretty cool stuff!

This book makes a fantastic gift. Send it to everyone - your Orthodox friends, a godparent, priest, etc. You'll find it for sale in many places.

From my nightstand to yours, I hope it brings you the same joy as it has brought to our family!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Orthodox Ornament Exchange

If you're not familiar with the idea of an "Orthodox Christmas Ornament Exchange" like the one hosted by Sylvia at, be sure to check it out and initiate an exchange in your circle of friends!

This fantastic idea has encouraged Orthodox pen pals amongst our children across the globe, and I can honestly say, our 3 year old seems to comprehend the idea, and is quite enthusiastic about it! Pictured here are our ornaments this year. We found things around the house, and used our own very hands to glue, glitter, string beads and weave ribbons! All of which were good practice in the realm of eye-hand coordination skills!

Who would have thought those plastic balls from the ball pit jungle gyms could suffice as Christmas bulbs? And the best part - they are light weight to ship and no risk of breaking!

So, off to the post office we go tomorrow, to send our small packages of love from Germany ~ We look forward to adding to our tree the new ornaments from your homes. Thanks to everyone who participated, and to Sylvia for organizing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Coloring & Symbolism

It seems the most common thing families are looking for are Orthodox coloring icons! So here are the ones I have for the Nativity Christmas season. (Potamitis Publishing has others for sale.)

  • Also a few talking points for the icons
  • St John Chrysostom reminds us of the odd behavior of such a star that led the Magi from the east. It appeared in daylight! It acted like no other by coming down from the heavens to practically eye level. It disappeared while in the presence of Herod, and reappeared afterward.

  • Also, the magi themselves were well trained in the behavior of stars - this was their daily work! Traveling far, their ethnicity symbolizes that the Gospel will reach the Gentiles and people of the East. Their gifts are full of meaning - gold for the King of all ages, frankincense for God of all, and myrrh for His three days in the tomb as fully man.

  • Sometimes we ask why is Joseph turned away? The theological answer is often because he shows us he is not the father of Christ, and others say he is deep in thought, contemplating the virgin birth. In various icons, a grim figure is depicted tempting Joseph with harmful doubts.

  • Important also for our children to understand -Christ was born more likely in a cave than a barn (I cringe at such incorrect images) The cave and the Mother of God are the offerings from the world, as the hymns proclaim. Light has been born into the darkness!

  • As the Magi, we too offer something to the new-born Christ. Mankind offers Panagia, the Mother of God to be used for His purpose and His work of salvation. The Earth, well, it offers the cave as a dwelling place for Christ. Even the animals....the gather around Christ to offer their very own warmth of breath, as heat in the coldness of the cave!
  • The swaddled clothes around Christ signify His burial cloths as well, if you remember, when St Joseph of Arimathea and St Nicodemus wrapped the body of Christ is a white linen cloth for the tomb.

  • The shepherds, lastly, are all of us. The simple, the unlearned, the lost sheep - called from our daily tasks to come and worship the Lord. After such an encounter, one's life can never quite be the same!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Saint Nicholas of Myra

(Initially posted in 2009)

Here is a small book compiled on the life and miracles of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra. It is my first attempt to extract scenes from "vita" icons of the Church's beloved Saints in order to bring them to life with simple stories for children and teens. I hope this idea can extend into a series, maybe one day even a published collection, to build our libraries with illustrated books for years to come ~ May it be of some small use to you and your families.

A PDF file can be downloaded
from the Orthodox Education Collection here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teen Lesson for Christmas - Scavenger Hunt

In response to those of you who asked for more teen resources, here is a lesson that I believe our teens are capable of grasping. Often, we don't give them enough substance - so get ready to challenge them!

Using the text "On the Incarnation" by Saint Athansius, you can lead your group to a deeper understanding of why God needed to come in what we celebrate as the feast of the Nativity. By drawing out important quotes and asking the right questions, we can essentially tackle the messages of creation, salvation, and theosis with them.

If you so choose,
make a scavenger hunt of these hidden quotes from the lesson plan alone to lead them through the lesson!  Cut in strips, and hide them around your Church - taking them from places like where we enter our spiritual journey (the door) to where we find refreshing drink (the water fountain) to a reflection in the mirror to better see mankind's position to God. Regroup at the end to compile and discuss the quotes by gluing them in order to a larger poster.

I've broken this down into three possible sections for the month of December.
This can be used at a retreat or over three consecutive Sundays.

  • Did God need to become man?  (CREATION)
  • How could God act to save us?  (SALVATION)
  • Why can man now become god or god-like? (THEOSIS)
To read and print this Lesson Plan "On the Incarnation" in a PDF format  click here: or visit

If you have feedback, additions, corrections or comments, feel free to send them. As always, my work is in progress with room for improvement. As you teach this lesson, you may find other topics arise which will be helpful to share.

Also, don't forget about the previously posted "WHY CHRISTMAS" worksheet located at this link.

"May it be blessed"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Book for Orthodox Children

Introducing the first book, "Our Hymn to the Mother of God" as part of a full-color hard bound Orthodox children's series now available for purchase by the Sisters of All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery in Calverton, Long Island, New York. It has been a joy to work with them to publish this special project, as their idea of using the hymnology of the Church to retell the story to children just couldn't be more appropriate!

The spiritual poetry on each page is matched with wonderful original illustrations by Sister Theonymphi in the style of Byzantine iconography, which means you won't find anything theologically wrong like a cartoon image of Christ! The heavenly scenes will inspire all children to contemplate our Almighty God.

Here are a few sneak peaks, and the information for ordering: The sisters hope to soon make their copies available through Amazon online, as well as parish bookstores, etc.
ISBN Number: 978-0-9835602-0-3

All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery
1676 Middle Road
Calverton, NY 11933

Order by Phone: (631) 439-5603
Order by E-mail:

The next books already in process are titled, 

"Our Hymn for the Nativity" and  

"Our Hymn for Holy Pascha"

Pre-orders are already being accepted.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Theotokos: Her Life in Mosaics

(Re-posted for the Entrance of the Theotokos feast approaching Nov 21)

Did you know that in the history and tradition of the Orthodox Church we have more scenes depicted from the life of the Theotokos than anyone else? You might be surprised to learn that there are over 16 different mosaics to teach us about Panagia's life at the Church of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii) in Constantinople, Turkey.

This Church was once part of a monastery, but is now Museum, and has one of the best-preserved collections of Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Here are just a few of the scenes depicted:

**A PDF of most of the Mosaics with short descriptions has been posted here on our Scribd Orthodox Group. Please take a look - it is a valuable teaching tool**

1. Joachim's offerings at the Temple
2. Annunciation of Saint Anne (the angel of the Lord announcing to Anne that her prayer for a child has been heard)
3. Meeting of Joachim and Anne
4. Birth of the Virgin Mary
5. First seven steps of the Virgin
6. The Virgin given affection by her parents
7. The Virgin blessed by the priests
8. Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
9. The Virgin receiving bread from an Angel
10. The Virgin receiving purple wool to weave the curtain for the Temple
11. the High Priest Zechariah praying
12. Zechariah calling widowers together to place their staffs on the altar, praying for a sign showing who the Virgin should be entrusted to
13. The Virgin entrusted to Joseph
14. Joseph taking the Virgin to his house
15. Annunciation of the Virgin
16. Joseph departing the Virgin for a trip; when he returns, she is pregnant

Click Here to read more about the Church in Chora and to view several of the mosaics.

For several online virtual tours of the Church of Chora click here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saint Andrew - First Patriarch of Constantinople

With the feast of Saint Andrew approaching on November 30, I figured this would be as great of a time as any, to introduce our young people to our Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the once glorious city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. Especially considering that most people today only know it as Istanbul. Here you'll find a coloring icon of Saint Andrew, links to nice video footage, and a map of the Saints missionary travels.

As an Apostle of Christ, Saint Andrew was tasked to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor (Now Turkey), Macedonia, Romania and even as far as Russia. He is considered the founder of the Christian Church in Constantinople, as each and every ordination of a Patriarch, a Bishop, a Priest or Deacon can be traced back to the original Apostle Andrew. The liturgical act of laying on of hands in the Orthodox Church with the grace of the Holy Spirit is the transfer of the original Christ-given authority to the Apostles.We call this Apostolic Succession. Because of this lineage, we can truthfully say that the Orthodox Church is the Ancient Christian Church, over 2000+ years old.

Please visit to learn more and view photos.

Here is a nice interactive timeline

The program "60 Minutes" on CBS broadcast a series on the Pariarchate:
Visit these links to watch:

On Cappadocia;housing

Question and Answer page on the Patriarchate

Here is my personal photo of the relic of the "X" cross that St Andrew was martyred on, which can be venerated along with the Saint's skull at this giant cathedral in the port of Patras, Greece on the Ionian Sea.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Way We Worship

On the feastday of St John Chrysostom tomorrow, we'll not only discuss his life and contributions but we're planning to introduce our children to the way we worship and more importantly, why we worship the way we do in the Orthodox Church. Below are some talking points for the lesson, as well as a coordinating activity or craft.

1. When we enter the Church, we try to leave behind the cares of the world. School, Homework, Chores, Tomorrow, What's for dinner....etc. Beginning in the Nave (like a boat in the "Navy") we travel closer and closer to God during the service.

2. Each week, we worship the same way and celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom from the 5th century. The word "liturgia" literally means "work of the people." By attending the Divine Liturgy, we are choosing to give back this time to God.  This is our "work." We offer our gifts to Him - our time, our attention, our prayers, our voices. and more tangibly the wine and bread, made with our own hands from the very gifts that God has given us - grapes and wheat.

3. Everyone in the Church is united by a common Baptism and confession of faith. We are a family, surrounded with the Angels and Saints in heaven. We worship God in the Orthodox Church with all of our senses in order to fully participate with our mind, body and soul.

Activity - Ask the children to correctly match the ways we worship God with our senses- if possible, they can make the drawings themselves on colored paper, or you can cut and paste from pictures
  • Ears - We hear the word of God in the Gospel and Epistles readings 
  • Voices - We chant the praises of the angels 
  • Hands- We form the sign of the life-giving Cross 
  • Nose - We smell the incense as an offering of our prayer rising to heaven 
  • Body - We bow our heads, bend to the ground and kneel to worship God 
  • Eyes - We see the light of Christ in every candle and focus our prayers to the windows of heaven, the icons.
  • Mouth - We taste the very Body and Blood of Christ

4. Lastly, let us not forget that the Divine Liturgy is for the whole world, and through this special service, God helps and saves His creation. We not only say prayers for the weather, for our food and crops, for our protection from danger and for a faithful life, but we pray for the "peace of the whole world." Although our local Church may not offer a Divine Liturgy everyday, don't forget that in monasteries around the world, the Divine Liturgy is being offered daily, without stop, as a constant prayer to God.

"A Russian priest was speaking with a minister of another denomination one day. The later spoke at great length about all the wonderful things that his church did for the poor and the environment through service projects, soup kitchens, volunteering, and the likes. Then he asked the Russian priest what the Orthodox people do? And the Russian priest paused quietly for a moment, and simply responded, we do the Divine Liturgy."