Tag Archives: Godliness

On Creating (and Using) a “Godfulness Jar”

Mindfulness is a buzzword in current culture. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions for mindfulness is this: “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Many mindfulness practices encourage focusing your mind on positive thoughts. Unfortunately, the thoughts being promoted are not necessarily compatible with our Orthodox Christian faith.

Some of our students are already experiencing mindfulness training in their school. Some teachers are finding it to be a helpful tool in their classroom. (In fact, it was one teacher’s suggestion of keeping a jar of quotes on hand to help students focus that inspired the idea for the “Godfulness Jar”.)

While affirming our own selves is not what we’re about as Orthodox Christians, the practice of focusing our minds should not be a foreign concept to us. We hear often in the Divine Liturgy a reminder to focus: “Let us attend!” It depends upon what we focus that causes that focus to be for our growth or our downfall. If we are focusing our mind on God and on words that point our mind to Him, that focus is helpful – even essential – to our spiritual growth. But focusing on ourselves and/or what we can do cuts us off from growing closer to God. So, instead of the self-focused affirmations encouraged by many mindfulness practices, we need to choose to fill our minds with Godly thoughts including those found in the scriptures, in prayers, and words spoken by the Church fathers. It is important that we teach our Sunday Church school students to do the same.

If anyone in your class struggles to focus, especially during class time, consider making this simple tool which may be helpful to that end. The “tool” is a “Godfulness” jar, a jar that contains arrow prayers, scriptures, and quotes from Church fathers all aimed at calming and soothing the reader’s thoughts by pointing them to God. Keep the jar in your Sunday Church school classroom, accessible to students who need to take a minute to regroup or focus. They can pull a quote (or picture: see idea for “not-yet-readers” below) to read and think about when they feel a need to calm their mind and focus back on God.

Godfulness Jar Illustration

To make your own “Godfulness” jar, fill a clean, empty jar with quotes that can be drawn out and pondered, whenever one’s mind needs to be calmed, soothed, focused, or quieted. However, instead of loading the jar with slips of paper containing personal affirmations (as is encouraged in some mindfulness circles), include arrow prayers, verses, and quotes from saints. Label the jar “Our Godfulness Jar”, since each item inside points its reader’s mind to focus on God.

 

Godfulness Jar pictoral version

Sunday Church school classes with “not-yet-readers” may wish to create a slightly different “Godfulness Jar”. Instead of slips of paper with a quote, prayer, or verse to be read, collect small icon cards, photos of peaceful places, and pictures from church – such as the candle table, smoke rising from the censor, photos of parts of the iconostasis, etc. These cards and pictures can be pulled out of the jar and “read” as needed by a young person needing to adjust their focus. Place these items in an age-appropriate (plastic or glass) “Godfulness Jar”.

Be sure to keep your “Godfulness Jar” in mind as you pray, read scriptures, and read the Church Fathers. As you do so, over time you will collect more and more quotes to add to it, to replace any that have gone missing. Your jar can help your students fill their thoughts with God and His peace. If you think it would help them, perhaps you will want to lead your students in each creating their own jar to take home!

 

Find a starter set of Godfulness Jar quotes here.

 

Here are a few “Godfulness jar” quotes from the starter set:

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On the Sacraments: the Sacrament of Marriage

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  marriage.

In His teachings while He was on earth, our Lord told us that marriage is the best way for us to experience what God’s love for humankind is like; as well as for us to see how Christ loves the Church. Fr. Thomas Hopko writes that the most perfect form of love between a man and woman is “unique, indestructible, unending, and divine. The Lord Himself has not only given this teaching, but he also gives the power to fulfill it in the sacrament of Christian marriage in the Church.” (1) Mere mutual love does not provide the depth of unity of spirit and body that the sacrament of marriage offers to a man and woman. The sacrament brings the Holy Spirit into the relationship in a way that binds them together most perfectly. And He continues His work in their marriage throughout their earthly life and on into the heavenly kingdom, as well.

In the early years of the Church, there was not an official ceremony for marriage. Christian couples wishing to be married expressed their love for each other in the church and then their union received a blessing from God which was sealed in their partaking of the Eucharist. When the Church recognized the unity of the couple and their union was incorporated into the Body of Christ through communion, their marriage became a Christian marriage.

Several hundred years into her existence, when the Church developed a ritual for the sacrament of marriage, that sacrament was modeled after baptism and chrismation. Fr. Thomas explains the parallels as follows: “the couple is addressed in a way similar to that of the individual in baptism. They confess their faith and their love of God. They are led into the Church in procession. They are prayed over and blessed. They listen to God’s Word. They are crowned with the crowns of God’s glory to be his children and witnesses (martyrs) in this world, and heirs of the everlasting life of his Kingdom. They fulfill their marriage, as all sacraments are fulfilled, by their reception together of holy communion in the Church.” (1)

Unlike other wedding ceremonies in current culture, the Orthodox sacrament of marriage is not a legal transaction: there aren’t even vows. Instead, Orthodox marriage is a “‘baptizing and confirming’ of human love in God by Christ in the Holy Spirit. It is the deification of human love in the divine perfection and unity of the eternal Kingdom of God.” (1) Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald offers more insight into the sacrament in his article on all of the sacraments: “According to Orthodox teachings, marriage is not simply a social institution, it is an eternal vocation of the kingdom. A husband and a wife are called by the Holy Spirit not only to live together but also to share their Christian life together so that each, with the aid of the other, may grow closer to God and become the persons they are meant to be.” (2)

That type of shared Christian life extends beyond “death do us part.” The Church encourages married Christians whose partner departs this life before them to remain faithful to that partner even after their death, because “only one marriage can contain the perfect meaning and significance which Christ has given to this reality.” (1) (However, there is a service of second marriage for people who are not able to fulfill this ideal.)

A Christian couple who wants to be in complete union of spirit, body, and intellect, as well as social and economic union, will only find that depth of union in the sacrament of marriage. This sacrament places their union in the Kingdom of God, which is perfectly unified, right from the start. When centered  in God’s Kingdom, a couple’s human love can echo Divine love, and will spill out into the world around them through their interactions with each other, with their children, with their neighbors, and even with nature itself. This is how the sacrament of marriage can be the best blessing to the world: when it is lived out as it is intended to be lived.

However, this level of complete union is not guaranteed. “This does not mean that all those who are ‘married in church’ have an ideal marriage. The sacrament is not mechanical or magical. Its reality and gifts may be rejected and defiled, received unto condemnation and judgment, like Holy Communion and all of the sacramental mysteries of the faith. It does mean, however, that when a couple is married in the Church of Christ, the possibility for the perfection of their marriage is most fully given by God.” (3)

Marriage is a gift from God that offers blessings to those who partake. But the couple must enter into this sacrament completely, choosing daily to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, in order for those blessings to be fulfilled. God does not force Himself on a marriage, just as He does not force Himself into any other part of a Christian’s life. However, with humility and self-sacrifice, Christian couples have the opportunity to grow together towards godliness through the sacrament of marriage.

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

 

Sources:
1. Hopko, Fr. Thomas (2011, October 5). The Sacraments: Marriage. Retrieved from https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/marriage

2. Fitzgerald, Rev. Fr. Thomas (1985, June 11). Understanding the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. Retrieved from https://www.goarch.org/-/the-sacraments

3. Hopko, Fr. Thomas (2016, March 18). Sexuality, Marriage, and Family: Marriage. Retrieved from https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/sexuality-marriage-and-family/marriage1

Here are some ideas of ways to teach your students about the sacrament of marriage. What resources have you found helpful? Comment below and share them with the community!

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The Teaching Pics ( http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics) offer a series of pictures on the sacrament of marriage that can be very helpful as you teach a lesson on the subject to any age group. Pictures S12 – S16 show images that denote the significant parts of the marriage service. The text that goes with each picture explains the process well at a level that even young children can understand. Order the teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf

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Find printable activities at a variety of levels that could accompany a lesson on the sacrament of marriage, or could be sent along with students as a potential lesson follow-up at home, here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/marriage-0

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This brief lesson plan can help students in early elementary learn about the sacrament of marriage: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/015-EN-ed02_Holy-Matrimony.pdf

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Here are lesson plans about the sacrament of marriage, at a variety of levels:

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/marriage

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/6-9-years-old/marriage

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/10-12-years-old/marriage

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/middle-school/marriage

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/marriage

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Students will benefit from studying our Lord’s first miracle at the Wedding at Cana. If you are able, include this lesson in conjunction with one on the sacrament of marriage. Then, when your students attend a wedding and hear this Gospel reading, they’ll already know what it is about!

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/gospels/3-5-years-old/wedding-cana

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/gospels/6-9-years-old/wedding-cana

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/gospels/10-12-years-old/wedding-cana

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/gospels/middle-school/wedding-cana

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/gospels/high-school/wedding-cana

 

Printable activities which could be used in class or sent home to extend the learning about the Gospel story of the Wedding at Cana can be found here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/gospels/3-5-years-old/wedding-cana-0

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Teens will find this article (a timeless homily given in 1971 by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos) interesting. It addresses young people considering whether or not God has called them to the sacrament of marriage. If you choose to include this article in a lesson on marriage, you may wish to add a twist: encourage each student to make a list of all the different things that the article says that marriage is, and/or have them sketch their favorite, then share it with the class, explaining why they liked that metaphor for the sacrament of marriage. http://orthochristian.com/47495.html

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Gleanings from a Book: “Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas

Author’s note: To the person who posted about this book on social media, thereby alerting me to its existence: thank you! I have not yet met Fr. Chris; and I had no idea that he’d written a book that could be so helpful to both parents and teachers; or that he would be kind enough to send a copy so that I could share read it and share it with you. My own children are grown, but the ideas and information in this book are helpful to me as I relate to them. Hopefully having read this book will also make me a better “fellow parishioner” to the young members of our parish. For all of this, I am very grateful.

Fr. Chris Kerhulas’ book “Parent Points” is small but mighty. In its 107 pages, he blends his 40+ years of ministry experience with personal experience from parenting and grandparenting. Each chapter offers stories, wisdom, and insights into life as a young person, explained in a way which their significant adults can understand. Each chapter ends with “points,” takeaways for the reader to both meditate on and work on in their relationship with their children/youth.

“Parent Points” was an enjoyable, but meaty read. It made me both laugh and cry. It allowed me to reflect/reminisce while also planning ahead for future interactions. Best of all, the book made me THINK. How do I interact with the young people in my life? How can I improve those interactions? How can I help them to grow towards Christ, conveying His great love for them through the way that I treat them?

I found this book to be helpful to me as a parent, as an educator, and as one who is trying to better love all of the children in my life. What set the tone of the book for me – actually, one of my big “takeaways” on this first readthrough- is not even written by Fr. Chris. It is found on very the first pages, in a forward written by Fr. Chris’ friend Robert Krantz, where he talks about Fr. Chris’ interaction with children over the years. It speaks to the way in which Fr. Chris leads by example. “He talked to young men and women about the things they really wanted to talk about. He gave them an open forum to express themselves, never judging them and he gave them one huge gift back; love… Every time he saw a kid struggling… he saw himself. Because of what he’d gone through, he knew each of those kids was special, and had enormous potential, even if the world had not figured it out yet. He was the first one to let each and every one of those kids know they were special.” (p. 5-6) Hearing about Fr. Chris’ genuine love for and respect for each child from the beginning of the book challenged me to read on, to try to figure out how to improve my own relationships with the children in my life. I was delighted to discover that his genuine love for young people comes through loud and clear throughout the book, along with ideas of ways that we can better love the young folks around us.

“Parent Points” is addressed to any adult with children in their life. It contains 13 chapters, with titles such as “The Guilt Trip: Your Behavior is Killing Me!;” “Depression: You Will Be Found;” “Divorce is Death;” “Who Am I? Who Is God, and Where Is He?;” and ends with “I Am Free.” The chapters are not long, and can be read one at a time, or inhaled quickly. Chances are, this book will not be a one-off read: readers will revisit it over the years, in order to better soak in Fr. Chris’ wisdom and check their own improvement. I certainly intend to re-read it! The children and young people in my life need to be loved and esteemed in the ways exemplified in this book. The ideas here will continually help me to evaluate my interactions with them to that end.

In the introduction, Fr. Chris offers this to the reader: “I hope these words of wisdom will be of use and help to bring some comfort and reassurance in your time of need. Remember, you’re not alone—we all go through trials and tribulations, and we are all far from being perfect, but we can always learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of others. If we do it right, our children will also learn to be better, stronger, and more resilient in the face of adversity that awaits them out there in the world.” (p. 14)

This book is a “must-read” for parents, grandparents, godparents, and educators. It would also be a fantastic book study for parishes who truly value their young people. Find information about how to purchase your own copy of “Parent Points” here: https://frchriskerhulas.com/

Here are a few gleanings from the book:
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Point #5 after “The Headphone Generation”:

“When opportunities for a live, interpersonal exchange appear, make your child turn off her personal device. Even if her response is angry, you are giving your child the message that she is an important and necessary part of the family. When parents simply allow children to tune out and lock themselves in their rooms, the message, after a period of time, is that their presence doesn’t matter. (“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 19)

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From the chapter “Sibling Magic”:

“We may know that our siblings love us, but hearing it and saying it back is a much-needed experience, especially during those difficult teenage years… when older siblings tell their younger brothers or sisters how much they matter and that they are there for them, life—especially in moments of crisis—becomes much easier to manage… When younger siblings have the strength to tell their older siblings how much they mean to them, any arrogance and egotism in the older sibling gets wiped away.. I believe loving sibling relationships are parallel to having guardian angels.” (“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, pp. 23-24)

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From the chapter “The Guilt Trip: Your Behavior is Killing Me!”:

“Throughout the ages, parents have wielded guilt as one of their most effective weapons against willful and unruly children… Guilt is what I refer to as a triple negative; it is a negative emotion meant to negate negative behavior. As a disciplinary tactic, not only is it illogical, but it also just muddies the water, making matters worse in the long run. Parents all over the world are going to hate me for saying this, but guilt does no good whatsoever.” (“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, pp. 27-28)

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From the chapter “Express Yourself”:

“Learning to express oneself is crucial to stabilize a child’s emotional core and promote healthy growth. Children who are constantly shut out and told, ‘You are to be seen and not heard,’ or, ‘Do not speak unless spoken to,’ rarely grow up to become loving, caring, and thoughtful people. Why should they? If they are not given the chance to express an opinion and weigh in on life around them, why should any courtesy be extended to the individuals they come into contact with? …The abuse of drugs and alcohol causes one to wonder if these issues might be headed off by behavior modification: stopping and listening to what your child isn’t saying… It seems somewhat rudimentary to say this, but both children and parents have the right to express themselves. When that right gets taken away from either party you will eventually have a crisis on your hands.” (“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, pp. 33-34)

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From the chapter “Depression: You Will be Found”:

“‘Don’t chastise them or come down on them with a guilt trip,’ I tell these younger clergy. ‘Just be there for them.’ Sometimes a hug or just going to a sporting event or movie with them helps the healing. Unfortunately, many clergy or counselors will scold, frighten, or attempt to shame [a young person in their care]… but what’s more important—casting judgment or helping this young person to heal?”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 43; brackets replacing a case study in the book)

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From the chapter “God Can Help”:

“Respect for parents, authority figures, oneself, and God is something parents absolutely need to address with their children… The development of free thinkers and young people growing through their decisions—be they positive or negative—can only be achieved if your children know they are loved, cared for, and belong. What we are really talking about here is providing structure. Parents who are too busy or never around to spend time with their children are asking for problems. Define for yourself and your children what structure means and how it can be their friend not only at home, but also in school, at church, and throughout their lives as they grow.”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 50)

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Point #2 after the chapter “Mentoring: Finally, Somebody Gets Me!”:

“Make sure that activities stimulate the mind as well as the body. Sports should be coupled with enterprises like Scouting, board games, theatre, math, or literature groups. Balance is the key component in healthy experiences. When a group’s leader tells you your child’s involvement in a particular activity is deepening, a mentorship may be on the horizon.”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 59)

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From the chapter “Divorce is Death”:

“The losers in divorce are almost always the children. And the losses one has to cope with when coming out of a divorce can be even more difficult than losing a parent in death. The positive thing about death is that it allows everyone involved to remember happier times, the beautiful moments, the positive and loving experiences with the recently departed… when a loving (and well-loved) parent dies, pictures are put up all over the house to help us remember the good times and how much we were loved. Divorce tends to bring out the negative and the failures (real or perceived) of the other parent… Pictures are taken down and hidden as if the parent never existed. It’s an attempt to erase the past, a form of denial that can really mess with the children’s minds… That’s the reality of divorce: a death of the complete family unit.”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, pp. 65-66)

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From the chapter “I Love You… Now Get Out!”:

“Letting go of your children, but never letting them forget you are there for them, is very tough for every parent. You will let go, believe me, or your child will force the separation, which is something you simply don’t want… As a loving parent, you never want to look back and think, ‘If only I had the chance, I would do things differently.’ Whenever possible, you want to be able to look back and say to yourself, ‘I gave it all I had and loved every minute of it, mistakes and all.’”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 75)

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From the chapter “Gifting: Spend That Extra Cash While You Can (You May Never Have Another Chance)”:

“The sentiment that you should give what you are able, when you are able, and with the resources you have available, is as crucial as any lesson you can impart to your children…We never know what lies around the corner in our lives. So, share the love when you can, and in any way you can… but, you know, don’t go completely nuts.” (“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 80)

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From the chapter “Who am I? Who Is God, and Where Is He?”:

“A long time ago, a friend told me the following, which I’ve always used in my personal treatment of life in general, and I want you to hear it: ‘I looked for my self, and my self I could not find. I looked for my God, and my God I could not find. I looked for my brother, and I found all three.’”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 90)

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From the chapter “A Well-Intended Lie”:

“…Although his parents raised him on the well-intended lie, ‘You can be whatever you want to be,’ they are only interested in their oldest becoming a doctor or lawyer… I have seen this scenario replayed countless times during my forty-three years of ministry. Each time it has come up, I’ve witnessed the damage caused by a conflict between well-intentioned parents and youth who are just beginning to discover where their strengths and talents lie… it subverts the well intended lie by instead effectively saying, ‘You can be whatever we want you to be.’ It is an easy trap for a parent to fall into.

 

“Encouraging children and young adults is important. The world we live in so often focuses on the negative, so parents must be a force of positive encouragement in their children’s lives.” (“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 94)

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From the chapter “I Am Free”:

“.All young people run into rough patches. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to, someone to assure them that whatever they’re going through is going to get better.”

(“Parent Points” by Fr. Chris Kerhulas, p. 105)

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On the Sacraments: the Sacrament of Chrismation

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  Chrismation.

The word “Chrismation” is from the Greek “Chrismatis,” which means anointing. The Orthodox Study Bible defines Chrismation as “The sacrament completing Baptism, whereby one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with the Chrism, a specially prepared oil which must be consecrated by a bishop. In Acts, a baptized Christian received the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the hands of an apostle (See Acts 8:14-17; 19:6.) Chrismation is a continuation of this ancient practice in the Church. (1, p. 1777)

In the Orthodox Church, Chrismation takes place immediately after the sacrament of Baptism. The newly-baptized person is anointed with a specially-blessed oil called Chrism, on many different parts of their body. During the anointing, the priest says, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and congregants reply, “Seal!”

Fr. Michael Buben offers insights into the reasoning for anointing each part of the body during chrismation, in his article “What is Holy Communion?,” published in Word magazine in Feb. 1962. “The anointing of the forehead signifies the sanctification of the mind, or thoughts. The anointing of the chest signifies the sanctification of the heart, or desires. The anointing of the eyes, ears, lips signifies the sanctification of the senses. The anointing of the hands and feet signifies their sanctification to good works and the walk in the way of His commandments.” (2) In other words, every part of our life becomes sanctified and sealed through Chrismation! This mystery of the Church sets us apart while also strengthening us to live a holy Christian life.

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

Sources:
1. Various editors. (2008). The Orthodox Study Bible. USA: St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. (available here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover )

2. Buben, Fr. Michael J. (Feb. 1962 Word, p. 5) What Is Holy Chrismation?. Retrieved from http://ww1.antiochian.org/Orthodox_Church_Who_What_Where_Why/What_Is_Holy_Chrismation.htm.

Here are some ideas of ways that you can help your students learn about the sacrament of Chrismation. What resources have you found helpful? Comment below to share them with the community!

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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. Picture S5 shows and explains Chrismation exactly where it belongs, in the context of baptism. The text that accompanies the photo explains the process well at a level that even young children can understand. Find the entire set of teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf

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Find lessons on the sacrament of Christmation for every level, here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/chrismation

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/6-9-years-old/chrismation

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/10-12-years-old/chrismation

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/middle-school/chrismation

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/chrismation

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After a class on the sacrament of Chrismation, you may want to send your younger students home with printed copies of these activities that can be done with their family at home. The activities will help the students and their families to keep learning about their own chrismation: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/chrismation-0

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Middle years students will benefit from the information and activities related to the sacrament of Chrismation in lessons 8-10 of “Our Life in the Church,” a 5th grade curriculum of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission. Both student and teacher materials are available here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf

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Teachers of older students may want to share this article, written in Q&A style by His Grace Bishop Michael,  Bishop of New York & the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, with their class as you discuss the Sacrament of Chrismation: https://churchmotherofgod.org/articleschurch/videos/3176-mystery-of-holy-chrismation-7-questions-7-answers.html Consider printing a copy of the article and cutting it into individual questions. Ask the questions, one at a time, in order, without letting the students see the bishop’s answers. Allow students to give their own answers, and discuss those answers. Then hand the piece of the article to a student to share Bishop Michael’s answer to that particular question. Invite the class to share insights they gain from hearing both the bishop’s and each other’s answers.

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Give your older students a “behind the scenes tour” of how the chrism is prepared by reading this article together. Before reading, ask a few questions to pique their curiosity. You could ask questions like who prepares the chrism; how often; how many ingredients go into it (resist the temptation to bring in a bottle of Heinz sauce: that’ll give it away!); for what is holy myrrh used; and by what other names is the sacrament of chrismation known? Then read this article together (or round-robin). http://saintandrewgoc.org/home/2016/11/18/the-holy-mysteries-sacraments-the-mystery-sacrament-of-chrismation?rq=sacraments After the reading, ask the questions again and see how many more you can all now answer!
(You may also wish to peruse the photos taken during the preparation of the chrism and shared here: https://stots.edu/public/sv/gallery.php?ssid=753)

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chrismation

On Pursuing the Virtues: an Introduction

Author’s note: During Great Lent Orthodox Christians focus more intently on becoming more godly and less self-centered. Thus it seemed that Great Lent is the best possible time to feature a series of articles on pursuing virtue. We will spend a series of weeks learning about virtues and looking at ways to teach our Sunday Church School students about them, so that they can join us in our pursuit of them. May the Lord have mercy on us and grant us grace as we learn to better walk in His ways!

In this series of blogs, we will focus the virtues. There are many, but for this series we will focus on the seven capital virtues mentioned in the Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians: humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence. As the book mentions, each virtue is the positive counterpart of a grievous sin. In order for us to become more like God, to grow in theosis, we must not only resist and repent from those sins in our life, but we must also labor to attain the virtues. Each blog post will focus on one virtue and suggest ways to help our students learn about it and struggle to acquire it. If you are unable to use these ideas immediately, file them away in your thoughts for a time when you can use them with your students. It is important that our Sunday Church School students learn about the virtues so that they are better able to pursue them.

It is important that we teach our students to expect, prepare for, and carry out the struggle to obtain virtues! We must teach them that when they do so, they are not just running away from evil: they are struggling towards something, towards virtues. Carole Buleza, director of the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education recently explained it like this: “We are made in God’s image and likeness. The image is like God’s stamp on us as a human person. It cannot be changed. The likeness, on the other hand, can change and grow. It is the potential to grow evermore godlike… acquiring virtues [is] a way to grow evermore Godlike. The virtues are specific, [as are] the rungs on St. John Climacus’ ladder. We can choose one, and with prayer, proceed to discipline ourselves so as to acquire it. When our lives are not focused on a major struggle with evil, we need to struggle in the positive direction by seeking to attain the virtues. The saints tell us that suffering (or struggle) is a necessary component of theosis.”

So, dear teachers, let us learn about the capital virtues and teach our students about them, as well. Along the way, may we all be encouraged to focus in on at least one virtue and struggle towards it with all of our heart. And as we struggle, let us remind both ourselves and our students that we are struggling against sin not just by fleeing/fighting from the passions, but also by actively struggling towards virtues.

This prayer of St. Ephrem will be a great aid to everyone in this struggle:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, meekness of mind, patience and love to Thy servant. Yea O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art thou unto ages of ages.  Amen.

Here are some links that will help us as we begin to think about teaching our students about the virtues:
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“If we are to enable our children to hold on to their Christian heritage and Orthodox tradition, and more importantly, if they are to grow up as devout Orthodox believers, first we must teach them the virtues, the Scriptures, the saints, and then our doctrines and beliefs and church practices and customs.” http://www.pravmir.com/orthodox-catechism-teaching-children/

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The Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians  is available here and would make an excellent Pascha gift for Sunday Church School students who are old enough to read: http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-pocket-prayer-book-for-orthodox-christians-vinyl-cover/. This little book is an excellent companion for any Orthodox Christian! It fits in a pocket or purse and contains prayers, thought-provoking information such as the capital virtues which we are working to attain, the entire Divine Liturgy, preparation for confession, and more. Some of the prayers in the book (but not the section on virtues, unfortunately) are also available online here: http://www.antiochian.org/orthodox-prayers

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“Generally speaking, all of the human virtues are attributes of God Himself. They are the characteristics of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God in human flesh. They are the divine properties which should be in all human persons by the gift of God in creation and salvation through Christ.” find this and more in an introductory article on the virtues, followed by a helpful resource: a series of articles addressing specific virtues, here: https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-virtues/the-virtues

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“When we teach children to be good, to be gentle, to be forgiving (all these are attributes of God), to be generous, to love their fellow men, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them.” ~ St John Chrysostom http://www.orthodoxchurchquotes.com/2013/07/12/st-john-chrysostom-when-we-teach-children-to-be-good/

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This book is an excellent resource for helping adults to nurture the virtues in children:

http://store.ancientfaith.com/walking-in-wonder-nurturing-christian-virtues-in-your-children/ Read a few excerpts here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/16620

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Talk about this quote with older students: “You are angry with your neighbor, you despise him, do not like to speak peaceably and lovingly to him, because there is something harsh, abrupt, careless, unpleasant to you in his character, in his speech, in his manners—because he is more conscious of his dignity than perhaps is necessary; or because he may be somewhat proud and disrespectful; but you yourself, your neighbor’s physician and teacher, are more guilty than him.
‘Physician, heal thyself.’ Teacher, teach yourself.
Your own malice is the bitterest of all evils. Is it then possible to correct malice by means of evil? Having a beam in your own eye, can you pull out the mote from the eye of another?
Evil and faults are corrected by good, by love, kindness, meekness, humility, and patience.”
+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ http://www.orthodoxchurchquotes.com/2014/05/30/st-john-of-kronstadt-you-are-angry-with-your-neighbor-you-despise-him-do-not-like-to-speak-peaceably/

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Find a lesson plan and free printables for an “overview” lesson on the virtues here: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/032-EN-ed03_Christian-Virtues.pdf

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Many of the pages in this free printable workbook could be used in conjunction with lessons on the virtues. Some are overarching, about the virtues in general, while others focus on a specific virtue. https://www.scribd.com/document/19435690/Orthodox-Christians-On-Virtue

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“Fairy tales say plainly that virtue and vice are opposites and not just a matter of degree. They show us that the virtues fit into character and complete our world in the same way that goodness naturally fills all things.” ~ Vigen Guroian, Orthodox Christian author of this book which could perhaps be a resource for this unit of lessons: https://www.amazon.com/Tending-Heart-Virtue-Classic-Imagination/dp/0195152646/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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Share some of these quotes from Scripture and the Church Fathers with older Sunday Church School students, then challenge them to each pick one with which they’ve connected, to share with the class and explain how/why it connects with them. https://ladderofdivineascent.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/hello-world/