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.