Category Archives: Ideas

Lenten Sundays Series: The Sunday of Orthodoxy

This is the third in a series of posts that focuses on the Sundays of Great Lent (and Holy Week and Pascha). Each week we will share ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn more about that particular Sunday’s focus. We will share each blog early, so that you have time to read it before the forthcoming Sunday, in case you find any of those ideas helpful for your particular class.

Here’s a meditation on the Sunday of Orthodoxy for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

 

On this first Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrate the return of icons into the life of the Church. In 726, the Iconoclastic Controversy began. The iconoclasts were people who were convinced that icons did not belong in the church. They considered the icons to be heresy, because they believed that the Orthodox were worshipping the icons, and God commanded us not to worship graven images.

But Orthodoxy has always clearly taught that we worship God, and no one – and nothing – else. We venerate icons, because we respect and honor these people who have loved God so completely, and we also honor Christ as we see Him reflected in their life. And that is not the only reason that it is proper to have and venerate icons. More importantly, since Christ took on human flesh, He has become visible and tangible. As a result, we can make an icon of Him, because we know how He looks. (In fact, He Himself made the first icon, the “Icon-not-made-with-hands”!) Icons help to solidify for us the incarnation of Christ.

But unfortunately, the zealous iconoclasts did not (or refused to) understand all of this. Much blood was shed as they removed and ruined icons from the churches, then persecuted and killed their Orthodox neighbors. Many Orthodox Christians hid the icons in their homes in order to protect them.

The iconoclast struggle went on for more than a century. It began to come to an end when the seventh ecumenical council met and declared once and for all that icons should be allowed in churches, and given the same veneration as is given to the Cross and the Gospel book. It finally ended on the first Sunday of Great Lent in 843, when the Empress Theodora (acting as regent for her son Michael) proclaimed that icons should be returned to their proper place in the churches, and they were! Every year since then, on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Orthodox Church has celebrated the return of the icons to the Church. This Sunday has come to be called the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” or the “Sunday of Orthodoxy.”

It is no accident that, on this Sunday, our Epistle reading is from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews 11:24-26, 32-40, where we read of the faithfulness of the patriarchs, and the pain that which they endured, in order to maintain that faithfulness. The epistle encourages all of us to fight on for what is right, as did both the patriarchs and the iconophiles. The Gospel reading, John 1:43-51, is also not accidental. It tells of when Christ first called Philip, who called Nathaniel and told him to “come and see!”

The icons in our churches and our homes are a beautiful way for us to “come and see” God and what He has done in the life of others. They simultaneously tell us stories and point us to Christ, who is alive and at work through His saints. We venerate icons because we love Him and how He has worked in the lives of those who have fought the good fight and finished the race before us. Glory to God, who is great in His saints!

Thy pure image do we venerate, O good One, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God; for by Thine own will Thou didst ascend the Cross in Thy body, to save Thy creatures from the bondage of the enemy. Thou hast verily filled all with joy, since Thou didst come, O our Savior, to save the world.

Here are a variety of ideas that may be helpful to you, should you plan to teach your students about the Sunday of Orthodoxy:

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Check out the Orthodox Christian Network’s weekly children’s bulletin, “The Children’s Word,” found here: http://myocn.net/orthodox-christian-childrens-newsletter/. Each week’s bulletin features something related to the life of the church that week.

 

You may be able to use parts or all of last year’s Sunday of Orthodoxy bulletin in your church school class, in a lesson about the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Find it here: http://myocn.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Childrens-Word-263.pdf

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Find a printable line art version of the icon of the Restoration of Icons here: http://dce.oca.org/resources/tag/lent/

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This video episode of “Be the Bee” discusses icons, their importance, the difference between worship and veneration, and some of the background which led to the triumph over iconoclasm which we celebrate on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8iFOgppS6Y

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There are many different beautiful icon craft ideas that you may wish to add to a lesson on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Find some of them here:

https://orthodoxpebbles.com/orthodox-basics/holy-icon-crafts/

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Teachers of students in the middle grades or higher will want to take a look at the way the Sunday of Orthodoxy’s origin is explained in a way that can be read to (or by) your students, here: http://otftd.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-lesson-on-sunday-of-orthodoxy.html

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Middle school, high school, or even adult students will find this video about the Triumph of Orthodoxy to be a good launching pad for a discussion about this Sunday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2ZMK7XlhRU It ties in the Gospel and Epistle readings with the theme of the day!

Lenten Sundays Series: The Sunday of the Last Judgement/Meatfare

This is the first in a series that focuses on the Sundays of Great Lent (and Holy Week and Pascha). Each week we will share ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn more about that particular Sunday’s focus. We will share each blog early, so that you have time to read it before the forthcoming Sunday, in case you find any of those ideas helpful for your particular class. Although the Sunday of the Last Judgement is not part of Great Lent, it is significant because it is part of the process of preparing ourselves for Great Lent, so we are including it in the series.

Here’s a meditation on Judgement Sunday for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

It is not yet Great Lent, but very soon it will be! We have already started the Tridodion. The Triodion is the service book with the special texts for the services for the part of the Church year that begins in the pre-Lenten period and goes all the way through Holy Week. The canons for Matins during all of these weeks have three odes: hence the name Tri-odion.

We have been mentally preparing for Great Lent with the Sunday of the Prodigal Son and the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. Now here we are, one week from Great Lent, and the Triodion directs us to read from the Gospel of St. Matthew. In Matthew 25:31-46, we read (New King James Version):

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did itto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This Gospel reading is about the Last Judgement and what will happen then. But if we look at it closely, it gives us a good idea of what SHOULD be happening in our lives now so that we know that we have done our best, and we are ready when the Final Judgement day is here.

The passage talks about Jesus dividing the sheep from the goats. If you’re not familiar with the ways of these animals, here’s the general idea of how they function: sheep are more likely to do what they’re told and, together, they follow the shepherd. Goats are much more independent: they’d rather eat whatever they want and go wherever they want, on their own, without paying attention to the person in charge of their care. One glimpse at the sheep and goats in this way leads us to thinking “well, that’s easily taken care of! I want to be a sheep, so I’ll just follow God and do what I’m supposed to do. Simple!”

But is it really simple? The rest of the passage goes on to describe what each group did during their lifetime. They didn’t just show up at the Judgement and arbitrarily get assigned as a sheep or goat. Their entire lifetime of choices judges them, showing whether or not they were following Christ. At the judgement, no excuses in the world were able to change their designation. But at every moment of their life, they had the chance to do so.

So what choices did the “sheep” make that caused them to be judged as “sheep”? What did they do to show that they are followers? St. Matthew records our Lord saying that these people were the ones who gave food and drink to Christ. They took Him in. They clothed Him. They visited Him when He was sick and in prison.

And when the “sheep” are surprised (they don’t remember doing these things to Christ), He reminds them that whatever they did to the least of these, they’ve done to Him. Anytime they have reached out to someone who needed help, they reached out to Christ. Any good gifts they have given, they’ve given to Him.

The “goats” on the other hand, have done none of this. When they are surprised at their judgement, Christ reminds them of the opportunities they’ve had and what they chose. He reminds them that each person they’ve met is His icon, made in His image, and they’ve chosen to turn away or ignore Him by ignoring and not helping them.

So, how are we measuring up with this? If today ends up actually being the Judgement Day, what will our life’s choices show about how we care – or don’t care – for Christ? As we approach Judgement Sunday, let’s each take some time to evaluate how we’re doing. Who has God placed in our life who needs help? How are we doing with helping them? Are we seeing Christ in them, or do we see them as a nuisance? If we truly love Christ, we will also love those around us, and we will treat them as the icon of Christ that they are.

Oh Lord, have mercy on us, and show us how to better love others. Not so that we receive earthly rewards or “check it off of our list” or even so we are counted as one of your sheep: but rather so that these precious ones which you have placed in our life receive the love, care, and support that You deserve.

As you prepare to teach your students about Judgement Sunday, pray that they will be ready to love those around them, especially as we prepare to begin Great Lent. Here are a few resources that you may find helpful to use as you prepare to teach your students about Judgement Sunday:

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Listen to this Sunday’s Gospel reading told in simple terms for younger children, and read from the Gospel for older children, at https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend. Find 5 levels of printable pages with questions for related discussions at http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/letusattend.

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Teachers of a variety of ages may want to take a look at this (non-Orthodox) lesson, or at least at the suggested group games and the many learning printables at the end of the lesson. Perhaps something here will help you plan a lesson on the parable of the sheep and the goats as you teach about Judgement Sunday. https://www.sermons4kids.com/sheep_or_goats.htm

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Students of all ages may enjoy watching this simply-illustrated telling of the parable of the sheep and the goats as part of a lesson about Judgement Sunday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWSkdx-XwWY
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For young students, or a class that loves to move:
After a lesson on Judgement Sunday and the parable of the sheep and the goats, help to make the lesson practical for young students. Bring a stuffed sheep to class and stuffed goat. Place them on different sides of the room. Offer suggestions of ways that kids can love (or not) and respond to (or ignore) others around them. (You may want to create these little story scenarios before class, unless you can think of them on your feet. Something like this: “Izzy sees that Jo has a nice stuffed dog, so he grabs the dog so that he can play with it.” or “Carmen is about to open her lollipop when she notices Frankie crying. She takes the lollipop to him and gives it to him.”) After you make each suggestion, encourage the kids to vote for whether that was a “sheep” way to react or a “goat” way. They vote by physically moving to one side or the other, to stand with the sheep or the goat. After everyone has voted, talk about their judgement. How do they think God would judge that person? Ask the students to consider which one they want to be at the Last Judgement. Give them an outline of a sheep, and let them draw or write some ideas of how they will work on being a better sheep, in the sheep’s “wool.” (Here’s a sheep printable that you could use.)

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For older students, or a class that loves to create:
To prepare your students for Judgement Sunday, tell them the parable of the sheep and the goats. Discuss the parable and what it means. Then help your students each make their own cardstock sheep and a goat. As you share ideas of ways that kids can love and respond to (or not) others, students hold up the animal that they see reflected in that action (or lack thereof). Talk about their choices, and how they think God would view each situation.
Suggested printable for the sheep: http://kidzactivities.net/cotton-ball-sheep-craft/

And for the goats, check out this one.

Encourage your students to write their own list of sheep-like and goat-like behavior inside each animal, then to take the animals home and put them somewhere where they’ll see them all week, and be reminded to work on being a good sheep instead of a goat.

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For tweens and/ or teens:

In preparation for Judgement Sunday, read Matthew 25:31-46. What does that scripture mean to each member of your class? Do they find it soothing or frightening? Why? Present the class with a pile of articles you’ve clipped from the newspaper or printed from online sources. (Be sure to include some “good news/sheep”-type stories and some “bad news/bad choices/goat”-type stories.) Have each student select one article, read it, and judge for themselves whether the story is about sheep or goats. They can share with one other student, and be ready to defend their answer; or you can invite each student to share with the whole class. Offer some quiet time for students to react to this parable in a creative way. How do they feel about the parable? Where would they like to find themselves at the last judgement? What can they do now, each day, to be found there? Perhaps they’d like to write about it, or draw, or create something related to it. Include a few minutes at the end of class for any student to share what they’ve created, then pray and ask God to help each of you to remember to love and see Christ in everyone around them, and to make sheep-like choices.

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Bonus post: as we approach Great Lent, you may want to see if Pascha Passports would be something you’d like to use in your Sunday Church School class. Pascha Passports take their readers on the journey to Pascha, with descriptions of the “destinations” along the way. At each “destination” (Lenten services, confession, the Jesus Prayer, Lenten retreat, and other important parts of the Lenten journey), travelers are given a stamp (beautiful icon sticker) to place in their passport with the destination information. What a beautiful, pocket-sized way for children to mark the passage of the Lenten season, and embrace the journey! These passports would beautifully support lessons related to the Lenten season and could be easily incorporated into your Sunday Church School classroom. Find the passports, stamps, and other materials in quantities for parishes or church schools here:

https://lenten-embassy.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage

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Added bonus post:

Church School Teachers with young students may be interested to know about these brand new resources for lessons about Lent and Holy Week.
“Color Your Way Into Pascha” offers pages for little ones to color, from the Triumph of Orthodoxy through Pentecost. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1796731684
“Color Your Way Through Holy Week” offers coloring pages for each day of Holy Week. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1796742805/

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And, for your own growth during Great Lent, there is this possibility: Y2AM has created the “Live the Word Bible Study Guide,” a daily study based on the Sundays of the Triodion period. This free guide offers 100+ pages of explanations, quotes from the Fathers, and study questions to help you learn from the readings for the next 10 Sundays. Y2AM created this resource to help you to make the most of Great Lent. Find more information (and the link to download your free copy) here: https://blogs.goarch.org/blog/-/blogs/free-live-the-word-bible-study-guide-for-the-triodion

 

On Helping Our Sunday Church School Students to be Generous

We are rapidly approaching the Nativity of our Lord, a time when many of us desire to give gifts to others in our life. We talk in many of our Sunday Church School lessons about generosity and kindness. Our students may wish to give gifts to others, but not have the means to make that happen.

Perhaps we can help them to do so, simultaneously helping them be able to act on the lessons we’ve shared about generosity and kindness! Here are a handful of ideas of gifts that we can help our students to make and then give away. All it takes is a little planning on our part (and a little expenditure as well, but not too much). We have compiled a list of homemade gift ideas, gift wrap ideas, and Christmas card ideas for you to peruse as you look for ways to help your students be able to give.

If you decide to do this, plan to spend a whole class period creating gifts. Gather all of the needed materials ahead of time, and make a sample of each item so that you can troubleshoot and be assured that you have all of the items necessary to create that item. You may also want to recruit assistants for the day. (Maybe SOYO members could help, or some other adult volunteers.)

Set up a few “stations” around the room, each with a different craft (or one with a craft, one with wrapping paper, and one with a card) so students can select which item(s) to create and give. They should pick the one thing they’d like to make the most, and start there, rotating around to other stations as there is time. Or perhaps it would work best for your class if you lead the group in making the same project all together, at once. You know your space, as well as your class, and what will work for them, so plan accordingly.

What a beautiful thing it can be if we are able to make it possible for our students to be able to give their very own gift(s) to others in their life!
Here we have collected some gift-creating links. What ideas do you have to share with the community? Please comment below!

Gifts your students can give:

These tiny illuminated “snowy” scenes make pretty decorations that will be enjoyed for years to come by their recipient: https://bitzngiggles.com/illuminated-snow-scene-in-a-jar/

We especially liked the painted trivets, the glass magnet set, and the model magic snowflake ornament ideas from this list: https://innerchildfun.com/2014/12/handmade-holiday-gift-ideas.html

Quite a few of these could be prepared in a classroom, and will make nice gifts:

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/recipes-for-gifts-in-a-jar/view-all/https://newdream.org/re If your students are all able to do all of their own writing, consider this gift: sources/printable-coupon-book

The handprint snowmen ornament, the pine cone “tree” decoration, and the matchbox ornaments (made with Nativity icons instead of other Christmas images) are all great gift ideas found here: http://www.woohome.com/diy-2/top-38-easy-and-cheap-diy-christmas-crafts-kids-can-make

The snowball soap could make a great gift for your students to give to a sibling or friend; the decorated candle would work well for a mom or godmom. But there are many other gift ideas here: https://gluesticksblog.com/2015/12/25-holiday-gifts-kids-can-make.html

The cooks in your students’ life would appreciate one of these: https://www.homedit.com/have-fun-kitchen-painted-wooden-spoons/

Find a variety of gifts that kids can make here: https://www.projectswithkids.com/kid-made-gifts/

Gift wrap ideas that you can make in class:

Help your students to make gift wrap for the presents they give. Perhaps the rubber-stamped or paint splattered craft paper ideas found here would work: https://www.shelterness.com/diy-christmas-wrapping-paper/

Make tiny gift bags from folded envelopes:

https://www.craftmehappy.com/2014/06/how-to-turn-envelope-into-gift-bag.html

Make larger gift bags with scrapbook paper and ribbon handles: https://klompenstampers.com/2018/11/how-to-make-a-gift-bag-with-scrapbook-paper.html

Cards your students can make to give:

This nativity “stained glass” is a gift that could be given on the front of a Christmas card: http://www.housingaforest.com/stained-glass-nativity/

Each child’s handprint can become the manger on a card like this: https://www.craftymorning.com/diy-baby-jesus-in-manger-handprint/

Use coffee filters, paint, a printable template, and colored paper to make these colorful cards:https://www.projectswithkids.com/kid-made-christmas-cards/

A sharpie, some finger paints, and a little imagination can bring one of these cards to life: https://www.craftymorning.com/fingerprint-christmas-light-craft-for/

 

On the Sacraments: the Sacrament of Baptism

This post is part of a series about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church. In this post, we will look at the Orthodox Christian Sacrament of Baptism.

Baptism is the first sacrament or mystery that we encounter in our Orthodox Christian life. It is the door through which Orthodox Christians enter into the Church. Stepping into the life of the Church through baptism enables us to experience all of the other sacraments. Our baptism marks the beginning of our death to ourselves, and the glorious unification of our soul with Christ.

The “Orthodox Study Bible” defines baptism as “The sacrament whereby one is born again, buried with Christ, resurrected with Him and united to Him. In baptism, one becomes a Christian and is joined to the Church.” (p. 1776) It continues by discussing Christ’s baptism. His baptism was significant because of its effect on the physical world. Our Lord’s baptism made water become holy, and now water can be used as the means for the Holy Spirit to grant us new life!

We begin the sacrament of baptism with the exorcism, wherein the person to be baptized (or their godparents, on their behalf) rejects Satan and unites themself instead to Christ. Prayers for the consecration of the water happen next, then the anointing by oil of the person to be baptized. After that comes the triple immersion, where the person is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The newly-baptized person is then chrismated, given the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Chrism which is used to anoint them. After the newly-baptized person has been chrismated, they are tonsured. Tonsuring (cutting bits of hair and burning them as an offering to the Lord) shows that the newly baptized person is willing to be obedient to Christ and sacrifice to Him. Following the tonsuring, there is a procession wherein the newly baptized person and his/her Godparents process around the font and/or table. This procession is a sign of spiritual rejoicing, and it’s done in a circle because God is never ending, as is a circle. The baptismal service culminates in communion. The Eucharist is a physical way in which Christians can mystically be united with Christ, and the freshly-baptized person is now so thoroughly transformed that they are able to meet and receive Him through the Eucharist.

St. Gregory of Nyssa called the baptismal font “both tomb and mother,” a picture that helps us grasp the importance of the sacrament of baptism. At the moment of our baptism, we die to ourselves, and in the same instant we are born into life in Christ and His Church.

Glory to God for His gift of the sacrament of baptism!

Here are some scriptures and quotes from Church Fathers on baptism, as well as a few resources that you may find interesting and helpful as you study this important sacrament. What baptism resources have you found helpful? Comment below and share them with the community!

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Teachers of young children may want to use this lesson plan and printables to help their students learn more about baptism: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/013-EN-ed02_Holy-Baptism.pdf

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The Teaching Pics ( http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics) offer a series of pictures on baptism that can be very helpful as you teach a lesson on the subject to any age group. Pictures S1 – S8 show the significant events of a baptism. The text that goes with each picture explains the process well. If you do not already have them, you can order the teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf

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This book can help younger students learn about their baptism: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Baptism-Chrismation/View-all-products.html

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Dr. Pat’s Orthodox Super Sunday School Curriculum offers free online lessons. Here are links to lessons on baptism for each age group:

For ages 3-5: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/baptism-0

For ages 6-9: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/6-9-years-old/baptism

For ages 10-12: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/10-12-years-old/baptism

For middle school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/middle-school/baptism

For high school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/baptism

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Other Christians with whom our students interact have vastly different beliefs about baptism and its importance, so it is imperative that we help our students to know what baptism is, how it works, why we practice it even with infants, and how vital it is to our life in Christ! Invite older students to read this article during a class on the sacrament of baptism: http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/infant-baptism-what-church-believes. After reading it, challenge the students to read at least one of the biblical accounts of baptism listed in the article, and to make a list of 3 things they didn’t know about baptism or found interesting.

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What difference does our baptism make in our life? This article shares two accounts of the power of baptism. Teachers will be encouraged in their own faith by reading these accounts. Perhaps older students will enjoy reading these accounts, as well, if you decide to incorporate them into a lesson on baptism. http://orthochristian.com/80501.html

 

Learning About the Saints: St. Tikhon of Zadonsk (August 13 or 26)

In 1724, in the village of Korotsk, in the Novgorod diocese of Russia, Sabellius Kirillov and his wife had a baby boy, who they named Timothy. Timothy’s father was a cantor. Unfortunately, when Timothy was still young, his father died. The family was very poor after Sabellius’ death. Timothy’s mother planned to send Timothy to live in the home of their neighbor, who was a coachman, but Timothy’s brother Peter stopped her. Since the family was so poor, Timothy had to work outside of the home, even while he was still very young. He would work all day just to get a piece of bread to eat.

When Timothy was 13, he was sent to a school near the Novgorad archbishop’s home. He paid his way through school by working with the vegetable gardeners. Three years later, God provided a grant that allowed Timothy to attend the Novgorod Seminary. He did really well in school, and became a teacher at the seminary after graduation. He taught Greek, then rhetoric and philosophy. Four years later, Timothy was tonsured with the name Tikhon and he became the seminary prefect.
A year later, Tikhon was transferred to Tver, where he became the archimandrite of Zheltikov Monastery. He worked there until he was made rector of the Tver Seminary and placed in charge of the Otroch Monastery.

Fr. Tikhon was named as one of eight candidates for bishop of Novgorod. In the process of discerning who should be bishop, three times the lot fell in Tikhon’s favor. So, on May 13, 1761, Fr. Tikhon was consecrated as the bishop of Novgorod.

Two years later, Bishop Tikhon was transferred to Voronezh. While he worked in that diocese, the bishop encouraged his people by his life, his guidance, and the books that he wrote. He did what he could to make sure that every priest, deacon, and monk had a copy of the New Testament. He encouraged them to read it every day. He also encouraged them to be very reverent when they were performing their holy duties. He worked very hard to build up the churches in his diocese, to convert a school into a monastery, and to help pastors realize how important it was for people to be educated. He worked so hard that sometimes he did not have time to sleep! Because of all of this work, by 1767, Bishop Tikhon’s poor health forced him to stop being the bishop. He went to the Tolshevsk Monastery to rest and recover.

After almost two years of recovery, Bishop Tikhon went to the monastery of the Theotokos in Zadonsk. While he was there, he taught people about the Christian life. He was so wise. But Bishop Tikhon did not just tell people how to be a good monastic! Instead of telling them, he showed them with his own life how to do so! Almost every day, he went to the church and served or read or sang in the choir. Later, in humility he stopped doing those things that made him visible. Instead, he would just stand quietly in the altar during the divine services, reverently making the sign of the cross. Outside of church, Bishop Tikhon spent a lot of time reading about the saints and reading the writings of the Holy Fathers. He memorized the whole Psalter so that he could recite or sing the Psalms while he traveled from one place to another.

When he was healthy again, Bishop Tikhon considered going back to Novgorod. He missed his flock there and wanted to help them, and they invited him to return. But his elder, Elder Aaron, would not allow it. Bishop Tikhon did not argue with Elder Aaron even though he wanted to go. Instead, he tore up the invitation to return and continued quietly serving at the monastery. During these years, he kept writing. He wrote “A Spiritual Treasury, Gathered from the World” in 1770 and “On True Christianity” in 1776.
Throughout his life, Bishop Tikhon lived very simply. He slept on straw and used a sheepskin coat for his blanket. When workers laughed at him for his simple lifestyle, he would calmly accept their laughter and say, “It is pleasing to God that even the monastery workers mock me, and I deserve it, because of my sins.” One day a fool hit Bishop Tikhon on the cheek and told him not to be so haughty. Instead of being angry or dismissing the fool because he was a fool, the bishop was thankful for the reminder. For the rest of his life, he gave the fool 3 kopeks every day, out of gratitude. The bishop often said, “Forgiveness is better than revenge.”

Bishop Tikhon loved the common people and did whatever he could to help them. Sometimes that meant going to their landowners and helping them become more compassionate to the poor who lived on their land. Other times he gave his own money to the poor. He ended up giving away all of his retirement money! Gifts that his admirers sent to the bishop were also given to the poor.

Near the end of his life, Bishop Tikhon saw visions of the Theotokos and the Apostles Peter and Paul. He was given the ability to prophesy that Russia would win over France in 1812. His attendants reported other wonders performed by the bishop, as well, including seeing him transformed in prayer, with his face glowing. In his humility, he asked them not to talk about it.

Bishop Tikhon knew that he would repose on a Sunday, and he was given a three-year warning before his repose. This is how he learned about it: he had a vision of a beautiful meadow. He wanted to go into the meadow, but was told “In three years you may enter. For now, continue your labors.” After seeing the vision, the bishop stayed in his cell much of the time, and received communion frequently. Not long before he died, he had a dream of a tall, twisty ladder. He heard a command that he should climb the ladder. He was afraid at first, because he was ill and weak. But he told his friend Cosmas, “when I started to go climb, the people standing around the ladder lifted me higher and higher, up to the very clouds.” Cosmas told him that he thought perhaps the ladder was the way to the Heavenly Kingdom, and that the people helping him climb were all the souls that Bishop Tikhon had helped by his advice. Now they were helping him into heaven as they remembered him. The bishop, crying, agreed that he had had the same thought and that he would soon depart this life. And he did, on Sunday, August 13, 1783. He was only 59.
Almost 53 years later, on May 14, 1864, Bishop Tikhon’s relics were uncovered and found to be incorrupt. He was elevated to sainthood by the Holy Orthodox Church on Sunday August 13, 1861.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, please pray for our salvation!
Sources: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/73196.htm and https://oca.org/saints/lives/2011/08/13/102287-st-tikhon-the-bishop-of-voronezh-and-wonderworker-of-zadonsk-and

 

Here are some ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about (and from) St. Tikhon:

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Listen to this 2-minute “Saint of the Day” podcast about St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, to help your students learn about his life: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday/aug_13_-_st._tikhon_of_zadonsk

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This well-known quote by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk is a great focus for your class, after having heard the story of his life: “As a merchant from various lands gathers various goods, and brings them into his house and treasures them there, likewise a Christian can collect from the world soul-saving thoughts, and by collecting them in the treasury of his heart can form his soul.”

Share the quote with your students, then hand each of them a copy of this printable pdf of a treasure chest: http://coolest-free-printables.com/2013/02/03/printable-treasure-chest/ Talk together about the quote. What did St. Tikhon mean, “soul-saving thoughts?” And where in the world can we find these? Spend a period of time brainstorming and sharing thoughts that you all may wish to collect in the treasury of your heart. They can include Holy Scriptures, songs from the church, quotes from the church fathers, etc. Have your students write (or draw) their favorites into the treasure chest, to help them remember that they are collecting that treasure. (Alternate idea: instead of using the pdf treasure chest, purchase simple boxes or hinged treasure chests – available for about a dollar at craft stores – and have your students decorate them. Throughout the year, allow students to add a quote or scripture from each lesson to their “treasury.” At the end of the Sunday Church School year, they can review the SCS year by looking through their treasure chest and remembering the lesson associated with each insert. Send your students home with their treasury at the end of the Sunday Church School year, with a copy of this quote from St. Tikhon and the admonishment to continue to collect these kinds of thoughts in their hearts for the rest of their life!)

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Did you notice, in  the story of the of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, that he had the entire Psalter memorized? Well, guess what? He had also memorized the entire New Testament! May his life encourage us to continue our efforts to teach our students to memorize the scriptures, as well! After studying his life and telling the students about his broad memorization of scripture, select a passage to help the children to memorize. Need ideas for how to do so? Visit our blog post on that subject! https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/on-scripture-memorization-part-2/
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St. Tikhon has been called “The Chrysostom of the Russian Church” because of his many straightforward and beautiful writings and teachings. Here are a few of his teachings. Share some of them with middle-years (or older) students, and discuss them together!

“Prayer does not consist merely in standing and bowing your body or in reading written prayers….it is possible to pray at all times, in all places, with mind and spirit. You can lift up your mind and heart to God while walking, sitting, working, in a crowd and in solitude. His door is always open, unlike man’s. We can always say to Him in our hearts, ‘Lord have mercy.’” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“In going to church, think that thou art going to the house of the King of Heaven, where with fear and joy one ought to stand as in heaven before the King of Heaven. While standing in church, do not look around to the sides and do not look at how someone is standing and praying, lest thou be condemned with the Pharisee, since thou didst not come to judge others, but to ask for mercy for thyself from God the Judge and Knower of hearts. Gaze with compunction toward the altar alone, where the holy sacrifice is offered. More than anything else, beware of laughter and conversations, for whoever laughs or converses while standing in church does not render honor to the holy place and tempts others and prevents others from praying.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“If we want, Christian, to have our heart filled with divine love we must first empty them of the love of this world, its frivolous and sinful customs and then turn our hearts to the one God, our only good and happiness and eternal beatitude.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbours, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness or unforgiveness of your sins, then, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how serious it is.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not conquered by anger, but is made even more inflamed. But meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies, softens them and pacifies them.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
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“True Christians live in this world as travelers, pilgrims, and sojourners, and they look ever toward their heavenly homeland with faith and with the eyes of the soul, and they strive to reach it. You should also be a pilgrim and sojourner in this world and constantly look toward that homeland and strive to obtain it, and so the world with its enticements and lusts will become abhorrent to you. Whoever seeks eternal blessedness and desires it and strives to reach it will despise everything temporal, lest while seeking the temporal he be deprived of the eternal.” ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

May his words bless and challenge us to follow Christ more fully!
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St. Tikhon of Zadonsk once said, “…love of God cannot exist without joy, and whenever a man feels the sweetness of the love of God within his heart, he rejoices in God.” Talk together with your Sunday Church School students about this quote. How did St. Tikhon show this to be true in his own life? How can we live in such a way as to “feel the sweetness of the love of God” in our hearts? Have each student illustrate or write ideas around their own copy of the quote, and then take it home so that they can put it somewhere that reminds them of it. Find a printable pdf of the quote here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/st_tikhon_of_zadonsk_love_of_god.pdf
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With your students, read what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about their duties to their parents! Talk together about each duty. Share from your own experience any stories related to these duties and how you did/did not uphold them in your own life. Invite students to share from their story, as well. Then talk about the duties: How do these duties compare to what the rest of the world is telling us right now? How would following St. Tikhon’s guidance help each student? What ideas do they have of how to fulfill these duties, especially the ones that seem different from what today’s world says that kids should do? http://serfes.org/orthodox/children.htm

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Here’s a 2-minute video featuring a quote from St. Tikhon about loving your neighbor and not judging them. Discuss this quote with older students: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Jw7oiZU9qzc

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With older students, review what St. Tikhon of Zadonsk had to say about love of God by visiting this blog: http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/signs-of-love-for-god.html Encourage each member of the class to select one point to work on in their own life, one way in which they desire to better love God. Invite them to create something (written, musical, or artistic) to help them meditate on that point.

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On Ideas for Games

We have gathered some ideas of games that can be played in Sunday Church School. Those of us who are on summer break can take advantage of this time to review these, select the ones that will work with our class, and then have them available for the upcoming year. Some of these games can be prepared ahead of time. Others we will just want to be familiar with so that we have them as an option for use with our lessons.

Let’s get ready to have some fun with our Sunday Church School classes! Here are some game ideas that we found:

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Find some Orthodox game ideas here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2016/10/orthodox-games-on-go.html

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This page offers 12 games that would each be a fun way to review or test learning at the end of a lesson. You may want to gather and prepare some of the required equipment so that you’re ready to go when you want to play one of these games with your class! https://paththroughthenarrowgate.com/sunday-school-games/

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These games are perfect for Bible memory, but could also be adapted for use with a quote from a saint or a summary of the Sunday Church School lesson: http://paththroughthenarrowgate.com/12-bible-memory-verse-bible-games/

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Despite the name, the activity ideas at this page are not nearly all games. However, some of them are, and all of the ideas could possibly come in handy for you. Check it out and see if any of the activities would work for your class this year! https://disciplr.com/49-best-sunday-school-games

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Keep these wiggle-busters (at different suggested age levels) in mind for when your students need a few minutes’ break from an intense lesson: https://buildfaith.org/8-quick-games/#gref

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This page offers ideas for using sticky notes for simple games to learn Bible verses or to inspire guessing what the lesson will be about: http://daniellesplace.com/html/fast-easy-bible-games.html

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Although they’re called “Bible review games,” many of these could be adjusted to review other lessons, as well. http://daniellesplace.com/html/BibleVerseReview.html

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“Praying Man” is a review game (like “Hangman,” with a more positive outcome for the loser)! http://www.booksbycorine.com/blog/how-to-play-praying-man

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If your preschool class’ curriculum includes some Bible stories, you may want to check out these story-specific, free printable file folder games: https://christianpreschoolprintables.com/bible-file-folder-games/

 

On Pursuing Virtue: Faithfulness

Author’s note: We have written about virtues before (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/), and now we are continuing the series. There are so very many virtues for us to acquire! Fr. Thomas Hopko’s book “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 4, Spirituality,” offers additional virtues, some of which we will now study. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

Fr. Thomas Hopko begins his discussion on faithfulness by reminding the reader that God is absolutely faithful. This virtue is one of His main characteristics! When the virtue of faithfulness is found in people, it is there because of the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit.

People who are faithful always keep their word. They are completely loyal. They stay true to their calling. No matter what happens, they steadfastly serve in truth and love. The faithful person will follow God’s will even if others do not notice or appreciate what they are doing. God sets for us the best example of faithfulness. He always makes promises and covenants and always keeps them, even when people have not kept their end of the “bargain.”

God incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ, showed us humans how to be faithful by being perfectly faithful throughout His life on earth. He carried out his mission dutifully, and thereby accomplished all that God sent Him here to do. Our Lord taught about faithfulness in the parable of the talents. In that parable, He teaches that the truly faithful servant is the one who takes what the Lord gives and fearlessly grows it into more. That servant is the one that is commended, who has truly carried out what his Lord set forth for him to do.

The discussion on faithfulness continues by stating that to be truly spiritual is to be completely faithful in everything: not only in all of our deeds and in all of our words, but even in all of our thoughts! We need to beware of pride, covetousness, cowardice, envy, and the temptation to not humbly serve where we are, with what God has provided: all of these are enemies of faithfulness. Anytime that we think highly of ourselves, are afraid to try what God has asked us to do, wish for our neighbors’ stuff or talents, or continually seek satisfaction from the world, we grow faithLESSness in our life.

If we want to be faithful, we need to be steadfast. We must be fully committed to doing the tasks that God has set before us with whatever faith, grace, and strength He provides. Fr. Thomas says, “The only way to find joy, wisdom, and peace is to be faithful to one’s own uniqueness, knowing that each person has his own specific life and vocation from God which no one else has; his own specific mission which no one else can perform.” When we live and act in this way, we will develop faithfulness in our life, and accomplish those things which God has intended for us to accomplish with our life, for His glory!

May we all grow in the virtue of faithfulness, and help our students to do so as well!!

Read Fr. Thomas Hopko’s discussion of faithfulness here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/faithfulness

Here are some ideas of ways that we can help to teach our Sunday Church School students about the virtue of faithfulness:

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Though geared toward parents, this series of lessons on faithfulness offers many stories and verses from scripture that can be used to teach faithfulness to Sunday Church School students. It also offers discussion starters about faithfulness in a variety of areas of life, while also offering activity ideas. http://www.kidsofintegrity.com/lessons/faithfulness
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This guide to helping parents talk with their children about faithfulness may offer some ideas that could be used in the Church School classroom. There are ideas for all ages of children. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual-growth-for-kids/fruit-of-the-spirit/reflecting-gods-faithfulness
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This lesson on faithfulness is geared to preschool students. It includes printable illustrations for the stories (of Joseph’s faithfulness despite being sold by his brothers and of the Theotokos’ faithfulness to God’s request of her), along with craft and activity suggestions. http://storage.cloversites.com/pinedalechristianchurch/documents/28%20Preschool%20-%20May%2014.pdf
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Teachers of younger students may find a picture book from this list that can help to start a discussion on faithfulness: https://meaningfulmama.com/books-faithfulness-kids.html
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This teacher gives ideas of ways to use the story of Daniel with young students, to help them learn about faithfulness: http://handsonbibleteacher.blogspot.com/2011/03/fruit-of-spirit-faithfulness.html
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This lesson (actually, a children’s sermon) uses the book “Horton Hatches the Egg” and the story of St. Simeon to demonstrate faithfulness to children. It includes links to activity ideas and printable pages at the bottom of the page. https://www.sermons4kids.com/our_god_is_faithful.htm
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This lesson encourages participants to be faithful in all that they do. Based on the parable of the two sons, the lesson offers the story, suggested activities, and printable activity pages. https://www.sermons4kids.com/yes_or_no.htm
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Teachers of early elementary-aged students may find ideas they can adapt and use from this lesson on faithfulness: https://ministry-to-children.com/faithfulness-bible-lesson-fruit-of-the-spirit/
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https://www.jellytelly.com/blog/3-bible-stories-to-teach-kids-about-faithfulness suggests three stories from the scriptures that can help us to teach children about faithfulness: the story of Ruth, the story of David and Jonathan, and the Parable of the Talents. While this page operates on a subscription basis for its video storytelling, the ideas and passages are listed, so that a non-subscriber can find and share the scriptural stories with their students.
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This series of lessons on the fruit of the Spirit includes one on faithfulness, and would be appropriate for teachers with younger students. The ball-catch craft nicely illustrates how we need to be faithful in order to truly succeed! http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2014/09/fruit-of-spirit-curriculum-10-free.html
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A teen leads this (mostly audio) video meditation on God’s faithfulness. A relatable example of how we trust our favorite snack to faithfully taste the same every time, and not let us down, helps the listeners think about God’s faithfulness. There’s also a free printable page with the questions asked in the presentation, so that listeners can write out their answers. http://studentdevos.com/track-2-lesson-1-god-is-faithful/
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This blog post clearly reminds us that God is faithful to us, no matter what we are experiencing. The blog itself is not a Sunday Church School lesson, but either of the two craft ideas would work very well in conjunction with a middle or high school lesson on faithfulness. One suggests decorating a jar to collect stones on which the owner will list the ways that God has been faithful to them. The other involves decorating a box to be filled with scripture reminders of God’s faithfulness (printable verse cards are available at the post). https://www.notconsumed.com/promise-box-so-that-we-may-never-again-forget-his-faithfulness/ ***
“‘O Faithless generation. How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?’ (Mk 9:19) Think about these disturbingly harsh words from our Lord in the Gospel reading today. ‘O Faithless generation.’ Were they words only for His generation 2000 years ago, or do they describe the times we live in?” ~ http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/struggling-to-stay-on-the-faithful-path

Teachers of older students may want to share this homily on faithfulness with their class, as part of a discussion on this virtue.
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Consider concluding a class on faithfulness by acknowledging faithfulness together. Encourage each student to think of one person that they really rely on, one person who exemplifies faithfulness to them, and then have them create a card to give to that person to thank them for being so reliable. They may want to include a verse about faithfulness (ie: “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, That they may dwell with me; He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.” (Ps. 101:6 NKJV); “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’” (Matt. 25:21 NKJV); or “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10 NKJV)). Need inspiration for making the cards? What about something simple like this, but with the word “faithfulness” on the front instead of “thank you”? http://www.kwernerdesign.com/blog/easy-diy-thank-you-cards-ombre-watercolor/#_a5y_p=5834276