Tag Archives: Holy Week

Things to See and Do in Holy Week: a Printable Booklet

Each day of Holy Week, there’s a special service (or more) that we Orthodox Christians celebrate together. Print out the following pages and send them home with your students, encouraging them to spy out the following items/events. After you print these pages, cut them in half, then re-organize/stack/assemble them into a little booklet, and staple it together. You may wish to add blank pages between these for doodling or for services your students will attend that are not listed here. Encourage your students to follow along, marking the icon following each item after it happens. (They could use colored pencils, markers, pens, small dot stickers, or whatever works best for them.)

Thanks to missionaries Alexandria Ritsi and Nathan and Gabriela Hoppe, this booklet has been translated into Albanian, and formatted to be printed back-to-back. They have given us permission to share it with this community. Here is where you will find the Albanian version to download and print.

Thanks to Ruxandra  Kyriazopoulos-Berinde for translating it into the Romanian language. Here is the Romanian version.

Thanks to Dennise Krause/Holy Trinity Orthodox Church East Meadow, Long Island (OCA) for creating this English version that includes Thursday Matins on Wed. evening instead of the Holy Unction service. Download and print this version.

Lenten Sundays Series: Palm Sunday

This is the eighth 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 Palm Sunday  for you to ponder before you create a lesson for your students:

On this sixth Sunday of Great Lent, we will be celebrating Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem as we prepare to enter into Holy Week. We usually refer to this feast as the Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem, but we also call it Palm Sunday.

From the beginning of time, victorious kings have ridden joyously into their home cities after battle, surrounded by cheering crowds celebrating their success. The celebrations have changed over the years, but at the time of Christ, such a parade would have included palm branches being waved and laid on the road.

As we look at St. Matthew’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry, we see that this is exactly the kind of welcome our Lord received as He entered Jerusalem. We know that Jesus is not just a King, but the King of Kings, but at the time, not everyone knew or accepted Him as such. However, when He raised Lazarus from the dead, word got around about that great miracle, and He was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches being waved and set on the ground; and some people even lay their cloaks on the ground to welcome Him.

Not only did they act in these king-welcoming ways, but the people also loudly proclaimed who He is. They said, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9) All this commotion caught the eye of the entire city, and other people started asking, “Who is this guy?” and they heard that it was Jesus, the prophet who came from Nazareth in Galilee.

On Palm Sunday, we enter into His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, joining the crowds in welcoming Christ. We wave palms (or pussy willows) and also cry, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

We know why He is coming; what He is coming to do. How much more should we welcome Him? After all, we know that He is not only a great Healer/Wonderworker, but that He is the very God Himself, incarnate! Let us therefore welcome Him with adoration and honor into our parish on this special day. It is right that we do this! However, we should be welcoming Him in the same way every day into our own life and heart. We can allow this Holy Week which lies ahead to help us begin to properly do so.

“O Christ God, when Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead,

before Thy Passion, didst confirm the universal resurrection.

Wherefore, we, like babes, carry the banner of triumph and victory,

and cry unto Thee, O Vanquisher of death:

Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord!”

 

Here are a few suggestions of places to find ideas for a lesson on Palm Sunday:

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Find a lesson for younger children based on Palm Sunday (and one for Lazarus Saturday, as well as one for Holy Week) here: https://orthodoxabc.com/church-and-feasts/#1527067826531-90e19604-f6b4

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Find lessons for Palm Sunday at many levels, here:

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

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

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

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

http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/palm-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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Find lessons about Palm Sunday at a variety of age levels, in lesson #3 here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/pascha/ (age levels include: 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-17, 18+)

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Find a variety of resources (including a 3-minute video re-telling of the story of what happened that day) related to Palm Sunday that could be used for lessons at various age levels here (not Orthodox, but many of the resources could still be helpful):  https://ministry-to-children.com/palm-sunday-for-kids/

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Issue #79 of “Little Falcons” is dedicated to Palm Sunday. It contains articles and activities related to Palm Sunday, written on a variety of levels for children of many ages. Order a copy here.

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In case you missed it, here’s another blog post we wrote about Palm Sunday: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/on-the-feast-of-the-triumphal-entry-into-jerusalem-palm-sunday/

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Here’s a small collection of Holy Week resources, gathered a few years ago, that may be helpful as you approach Holy Week: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/holy-week-resources-for-sunday-church-school-teachers/

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On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: The Passion (part 5 of 7)

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book “The Year of Grace of the Lord: a Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church” by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!

Holy Week is often called such because of the great and holy events in the week (1), but “in the Orthodox Church the last week of Christ’s life is officially called ‘Passion Week.’”(2, p. 88) Passion Week is immediately preceded by Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. We are including those days in this discussion of the week, since they are an integral part of the last week of our Lord’s life on earth before His death and resurrection.

Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday are the perfect beginning to this important week in the life of the Church. “The resurrection of Lazarus and the triumphant Entry of Christ into Jerusalem encapsulate the events and mystery of Holy Week: Christ is revealed as the source of all life and proclaimed and acknowledged King.”(1) Lazarus Saturday gives us a glimpse of Christ as “the Resurrection and the Life” as He raises Lazarus and demonstrates His power over death. (2, p. 84) Lazarus’ resurrection convinced many that Christ was the long-awaited Messiah-King, hence the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on (Palm) Sunday. Palm Sunday is one of the 12 major feasts of the Church Year. Every Lazarus Saturday and Feast of the Triumphal Entry of Christ, may we ponder and be willing to say: “the master calls me. He wants me to stay with him, not to leave him throughout the days of his Passion. During these days he wants to reveal himself to me – who perhaps ‘already stink’ – newly and overwhelmingly. Master, I come.” (3, pp. 137-138)

Passion Week itself is the most sacred week of the year, beginning with the feast celebrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, all the way through the anticipation of the resurrection which we feel on Holy Saturday. Monday through Wednesday we celebrate “Bridegroom” services at Matins, remembering the coming judgement; and striving to prepare our hearts for the coming bridegroom. On Holy Thursday, we remember the Lord’s Supper and celebrate with a Divine Liturgy. “The very event of the Passover Meal itself was not merely the last-minute action by the Lord to ‘institute’ the central sacrament of the Christian Faith before his passion and death. On the contrary, the entire mission of Christ… is so that God’s beloved creature, made in his own divine image and likeness, could be in the most intimate communion with him for eternity, sitting at table with him, eating and drinking in his unending kingdom.” (2, p. 91)

On Holy Friday and Saturday, as we encounter the trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of our Lord, “we are confronted with the extreme humility of our suffering God. His death becomes our true birthday. And so these days are at once days of deep gloom and watchful expectation. The Author of life is at work transforming death into life…”(1) The reading of the twelve selections from the Gospels which tell about the passion of Christ takes place at the Matins service of Holy Friday, usually celebrated on Thursday night. Those readings, combined with the Hours of Holy Friday, offer us the opportunity to hear and relive the passion of our Lord, interspersed with prophetic scriptures, Psalms, and even the beatitudes. The Vespers of Good Friday commemorates our Lord’s burial; the Matins of Holy Saturday is full of “spoiler alerts” and finally proclaims the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Holy Saturday’s Divine Liturgy is both somber and celebratory, for, “The Church does not pretend…that it does not know what will happen with the crucified Jesus… All through the services the victory of Christ is contemplated and the resurrection is proclaimed. For it is… only in the light of the victorious resurrection that the deepest divine and eternal meaning of the events of Christ’s passion and death can be genuinely grasped, adequately appreciated, and properly glorified and praised.” (2, p. 98) It is at this service, historically, that baptisms occurred. To this day, it is an annual opportunity for Orthodox Christians to die and rise with Our Lord. But all the events at the end of Holy Week point to Pascha: “The peace of Holy Saturday is entirely oriented towards the great event of Sunday morning, towards the power and the joy of the Resurrection.” (3, p.161)

When Thou didst submit Thyself unto death,

O Thou deathless and immortal One,

then Thou didst destroy hell with Thy Godly power.

And when Thou didst raise the dead from beneath the earth,
all the powers of Heaven did cry aloud unto Thee:

O Christ, Thou giver of life, glory to Thee!
Purchase your own copy of “The Year of Grace of the Lord,” by a monk of the Eastern Church, here: https://www.svspress.com/year-of-grace-of-the-lord-the/ This book, quoted above, will be an excellent resource for you to read and learn from, throughout the Church year.

Footnotes:

  1. Calivas, Rev. Alciviadis C., Th.D., (1985, 8/13). “Orthodox Worship”. Retrieved from https://www.goarch.org/-/orthodox-worship
  2. Fr. Thomas Hopko. The Orthodox Faith volume ii: Worship. Syosset, NY: OCA, 1972. Fifth printing, 1997.
  3. A monk of the Eastern Church. The Year of Grace of the Lord. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press; 2001.

 

Here are some related links, including ideas for teaching students about the Passion:

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Find background information about Holy Week that you may find helpful prior to teaching about it here: http://www.antiochian.org/lent/holy-week

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Find additional background information about Holy Week here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/orthodixie/2010/03/orthodox-holy-week-2.html

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If you have electronic communication with your students’ parents, consider sharing this Holy Week resource with them: http://www.orthodoxmotherhood.com/children-during-holy-week-tips-for-parents/

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Find activity ideas to help your students focus on/learn about each day of Holy Week, beginning with Lazarus Saturday, here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/holy-week-activities/

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Teach your students about Palm Sunday, the Feast of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Before you do so, check out some of the ideas in this post: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/on-the-feast-of-the-triumphal-entry-into-jerusalem-palm-sunday/

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Find links to crafts and activity ideas to help your students learn about Holy Week here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/holy-week-resources-for-sunday-church-school-teachers/

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This blog post offers links to a variety of activities that you can share with your students as you approach Holy Week: http://www.orthodoxmotherhood.com/orthodox-holy-week-activities-children/

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This blog post offers ideas of things to put in learning boxes for the days of Holy Week. These learning boxes would be a very hands-on way to teach or review the week with your students. http://www.sttheophanacademy.com/2010/03/pascha-boxes.html (updated here: http://www.sttheophanacademy.com/2011/04/revisiting-pascha-learning-boxes.html)

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Before you approach the subject of the Cross and Christ’s crucifixion with your students, you may want to read the ideas and insights presented by these brothers and sisters in Christ (including a priest, a child psychologist, parents, Church School director, etc.): https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/on-the-cross-of-christ-and-leading-children-through-holy-week/

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If you have a Holy Friday retreat or simply want to focus on activities for Holy Friday, check out these two ideas: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2011/04/holy-friday-for-teens-and-children.html

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Teachers of teens may want to consider sharing some of the stories in “The Road to Golgotha” with your class, for discussion starters. Read a review of the book here: http://www.orthodoxmotherhood.com/review-road-golgotha/

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Holy Week Activities

Following are suggested activities to help make journeying through Holy Week with children more focused and holy. Use these ideas with your class this year, save them to use next year, or pass the ideas on to your students’ parents.

Lazarus Saturday activities:

Divide your class into two teams and have a Lazarus Race as described on p. 9 of http://www.phyllisonest.com/.

Practice folding palm crosses like this: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/Palm-Crosses.pdf.

Palm Sunday activities:

Palm Sunday word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/phj05-triumphal-entry-hidden-message-word-search.pdf.

Lesson 4 (of this first grade level printable book) is on Palm Sunday: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/folder.2012-03-22.9458973042/unit-7.pdf.

Read the Palm Sunday story, written in easy-to-understand language, here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/131.pdf.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week printable guide for kids: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/125.pdf.

(Also, find Bridegroom Services info for parents here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/42.pdf.)

Holy Week activities:

Listen to these helpful webinars on ideas of ways to help children participate in Holy Week: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/files/lent/holyweek and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX3UyHAKMac&feature=youtu.be.

Find brief descriptions of the Holy Week services, written in a way that children can understand, here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/25635.

Find links to articles on the Holy Week services (and more) that can help you better understand and experience the week here: http://www.antiochian.org/lent/holy-week.

Find practical, hands-on tips for helping children to better experience Holy Week here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html?m=1 and here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2011/04/18/holy-week-activities-for-kids/.

Find a fantastic selection of lesson plans, discussion ideas, and activity suggestions for helping children “Journey to Pascha” here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/pascha/. The lessons are leveled by age group, so be sure to check out each lesson for the ages of your children! (There are also many printable pdfs including a “Guide to Holy Week” that children can take with them or read, prior to each service.)

Together answer questions related to the Holy Week icons that are found at: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-week-scrapbook.html.

Make a mural for the events of Holy Week as suggested here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/1832.pdf.

Find the Bridegroom Matins “Teaching Picture,” along with its description for use with children, at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.
Read about the Bridegroom Matins services here: file:///home/chronos/u-a7946be60baa093c55717211fa16f6ff84c0651b/Downloads/42.pdf.

Watch a 5-minute story, animated with Legos, from the Last Supper through the resurrection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M8Yesnt1V8&feature=youtu.be.

See the 25-minute animated story of Holy Week through the resurrection from The Beginner’s Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PSgoPdKQFQ.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Week here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/colorear-pascua.html.

Play this board game together: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/Great%20Lent%20Board%20Game%202011%202-19.pdf.

Holy Thursday activities:

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/jesus-washed-the-disciples-feet-word-search.pdf.

Find a printable Holy Thursday notebooking page here: http://www.catholicicing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Holy-Thursday-Notebooking-Page.pdf.

Find printable “Last Supper” coloring pictures here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2013/10/ultima-cena-colorear.html.

Read the Last Supper story written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/107.pdf.

Find the Last Supper icon to color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/LastSupper1.pdf.

There is a footwashing icon to print and color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/175.pdf.

Holy Friday activities:

Find quiet activities for Holy Friday and Saturday here: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2014/04/quiet-activities-for-holy-friday-and.html.

Find the Holy Friday Vespers “Teaching Pictures” photo and description for use with children at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Friday here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/historia-ilustrada-para-colorear-muerte.html.

Read the story of the crucifixion written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/100.pdf.

Print the crown of thorns icon to color, from: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/54.pdf.

Print a colorable icon of the crucifixion at  http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/53.pdf.

Find a printable, colorable icon of the burial of Christ at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/43.pdf.

On the Cross of Christ and Leading Children Through Holy Week

We are rapidly approaching Holy Week, the most wonderful week of the Orthodox Christian Church year! It is a truly holy and deeply meaningful week. Experiencing the events of Holy Week is the best possible preparation for celebrating the deep joy of Pascha.

The reality of Christ’s death on the cross is a very real part of our journey on this particular week of the year. It is difficult enough for an adult to wrestle with the idea of God Himself enduring such pain and death. With children and their many questions added into the mix, Holy Week can be a real challenge for parents to face.

As we thought about Holy Week, the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education thought it would be helpful to offer ideas and suggestions for parents preparing to enter into the week with their children. We asked a variety of people to offer their wisdom and insights. This blog will offer a compilation of their answers.

Many thanks to Father Peter Pier (parish priest at St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA), Annalisa Boyd (parent and author), Carol Federoff (homeschooling parent, blogger, and writer), Dr. Chrissi Hart (parent, child psychologist, podcaster, and author), Molly Sabourin (parent, blogger, podcaster, and photographer), and Rebekah Yergo (homeschooling parent and Sunday Church School Director) for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Their insights will help us to better prepare ourselves and our children for what we are about to experience. (And their roles are far more numerous than those listed here!)

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We will begin with the subject of death. Death is a significant part of Holy Week. It is unavoidable, and can be a very difficult topic for some people, especially children, to encounter. But Holy Week cannot happen without it! After we hear about what death, we will move through questions about why Christ had to die, what was significant about Him dying on a cross. We asked our contributors how they explained Christ’s death to their children and what ideas they have for others who are teaching children about Christ’s crucifixion. Finally, we asked them for ideas of how to prepare our children for Holy Week. Here are some of their responses to our questions:

AODCE: What ideas do you have for parents and teachers as they approach the difficult subject of death with their children?

Dr. Hart: “There are developmental considerations here – depending on the child’s age. Children under six do not have a sense of finality of death [and] so [they] do not fully understand death. Ask children what they think happens when we die. We believe that from death there is new everlasting life, with Christ. Death is not something to be feared.  Just as Christ was resurrected from the dead, so we will [rise] also, to join Him in Heaven.”

Fr. Peter: “It is my opinion that parents should not hide death from children; it is part of our human existence. Children should be aware of it. However, parents should emphasize God’s love and care for us and the fact that a person who dies in Christ will be with God and therefore we don’t mourn them as people with no hope. If you shelter your children from death and try to pretend there’s no such thing out there, how will they make any sense of Holy Week and Pascha?”

Carol: “Use picture books that deal with death. I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm and Always and Forever by Alan Durant are wonderful examples.  Don’t wait until someone significant in their life passes…pick these books now during Lent and other times during the year so that this subject can be a gentle introduction rather than dealing with it after such a crisis in their life.  Of course, read Bible stories with your child.  There are situations and hints of death all through the Bible and can spark many mini conversations that will introduce the idea of death.”

AODCE: Why did Christ have to die?

Molly: He died “to destroy the power of death… He loved this world so much [that] he became us, to shatter death’s dominion over us.”

Fr. Peter: “In my opinion the best way to explain why Christ had to die is to emphasize that God knew that the only way to destroy power of death was for Him to go to the cross Himself and give His life for us. Christ went willingly because He knew that through His death he could destroy the power of sin and death over us. I would emphasize a number of things: First and foremost, God’s love. Put the love of God the Father and the Son at the forefront. Secondly, emphasize obedience: We as humans are constantly disobedient to God. Jesus, however, was able to obey even unto death (the thing that we fear most) and in so doing shows Himself to be the Perfect Human and an example to all of us.”

Carol: “I’m assuming these questions are for very young children and with them I would focus on the resurrection more than the death.  Christ died because he loved us and he died and rose to Heaven taking the people that were in Hades (a dark place that wasn’t fun to be in) to make it possible for us to go to Heaven when we die and leave the earth.  By Christ rising from the dead and going to Heaven, it gave us the chance to be like Him and do that too.”

AODCE: What is the significance of His death on a cross?

Annalisa: “In the Old Testament the Israelites disobeyed God (Numbers 21).  After they were delivered from slavery in Egypt they complained to Moses.  They were tired, hungry and angry at God.  God sent snakes into the camp of the Israelites and these snakes bit the people causing many to die.  The people realized they had sinned against God and repented.  God made a way for the people to be healed.  He told Moses to make a fiery snake, put it on a pole and lift it up for the people to see.  Anyone who looked at the snake on the pole would be healed.  This was a picture of Christ and the Cross.  Jesus was put on a cross so we could be healed from sin and death. The Israelites received healing for this life but through His work on the Cross Christ offers us eternal life!

“We cross ourselves all the time.  We cross ourselves at church, when we pray and any time we hear the words ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’  Sometimes we can forget why we cross ourselves and what it means when we do.  Each year during Great Lent we walk with Jesus through the most painful time of His life on earth.  His good friend betrayed Him and the rest of the Apostles ran away at the first sign of danger.  He was lied about, made fun of, beaten and finally hung on the Holy and Life Giving Cross.  When we cross ourselves we are reminding ourselves and telling others that we follow Jesus whether we are betrayed, lied about, made fun of beaten or even killed.  But it doesn’t stop there.  When we cross ourselves we remember that we take up our own cross and follow Him wherever He leads.  We no longer live for ourselves.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was crucified, Jesus asked God the Father to take the burden of death from Him.  Then He said something very important, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Luke 22:42.  That is what we are saying when we cross ourselves, “Lord, if there is another way please show me.  But I will do what You say no matter what.” In the Bible we read, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20 NKJV  When we cross ourselves we remember that the Cross of Christ is powerful and just as we followed Him in His passion if we love and obey God we will follow Him to life eternal.”

Molly: “Why the cross? Because crucifixion was seen as such a humiliating way to die, for common criminals. Everyone expected God’s kingdom to be an earthly one but Christ’s death on the cross communicated loud and clear our calling to live humbly on this earth and in hope of His heavenly, eternal Kingdom.”
Rebekah: “God created man with a physical body. You cannot be born without a body. It is part of the very essence of humankind. God, who made us this way, knows how important physical things are to us. Touching, seeing, tasting, hearing, and smelling things around us is how we understand the world we live in, and how we understand and connect to bigger and more complicated things- including spiritual things. God, who is spirit from before all worlds and bigger than the universe, sent Jesus to put on flesh; to become a man, in order to save us from the curse of sin and death. We learn of this mystery when we celebrate the Nativity. This was Love come to us. Man could now see God. Man could hear His words, straight from His own mouth. They saw His miracles and His compassion for all those around Him. And now, Christ Jesus showed us exactly what essence God is made of. God is Love. And in His loving-kindness, not only did he sacrifice His flesh on the cross, but in doing so, he left a physical reminder of this most loving act. It is a reminder to us that perfect Love not only died for us, but he raised himself from the dead and is seated on the right hand of the Father in heaven, awaiting that great day when He shall come again to call all of us to be joined with Him.

“From our prayers, we pray: ‘Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the cross and say in gladness: Rejoice, most venerable and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified on thee, Who went down to hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His venerable Cross, for the driving away of every adversary.’

Carol: “For a young age group, I simply state that that is the way they killed bad people who were dangerous back in those days.  I try not to give too many details at this age (toddler through around 1st grade) as these kids, in my opinion, are not always ready for details and need more focus on the resurrection and that it’s very important for us. When they are getting older and actually ask for those details, I use the guidance of books!  We have many Orthodox picture books around and other sources.”

Dr. Hart: “The Cross is the symbol of our salvation, and of hope, love and redemption. The Holy wood of the Cross was predestined from the beginning of time, to be the instrument of Christ’s death and also of our salvation, as prophesied by the prophets of old. We worship and love the cross because Christ died on it to save us.” (An aside: read her book, The Legend of the Cross, for more on this!)

“Fr. Thomas Hopko in his CDs, The Word of the Cross, by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, described the Cross as the definitive act, word and manifestation of God: ‘Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more God can do. Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more God can say. Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more to be revealed.’”

AODCE: How would/did you explain His death to your children?

Carol: “I have explained the reason that He had to die and explained that the men who put Jesus on the cross did not know or understand that He was truly the Son of God.  It is sad that they did not know this but Jesus forgave them, so we need to forgive them and others who have wronged us.”

Annalisa: “When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they brought both sin and death into the world.  Because of their sin, and our sin, we could not be permitted into heaven to be with God, just as Adam and Eve could no longer be permitted to be in the Garden.  The “bridge” between God and us had been broken by mankind and only God could fix it.  Jesus didn’t just die, He took the sins of the world upon himself making a way for us to be saved.  In the resurrection icon we see the Apostles, Jesus and two people being lifted out of the tomb. Those two people are Adam and Eve.  Christ’s death and resurrection fixed what had been broken in the Garden of Eden.  At Pascha we sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Christ conquered death by His death so we can be forgiven for our sins and death no longer means separation from God.”

Dr. Hart: “Christ died for us to give us eternal life. Because of the fall, sin came into the world through the first man, Adam. Christ opened the door to Paradise to those who believe in Him, love Him and accept Him as our Savior.”

Fr. Peter: (We spoke once again about how he we should emphasize the love that God offered to us all through the Cross. And then we took this helpful detour:) “Sometimes we think our answers have to explain everything, that we must leave [our children] asking no questions. However, there are things about our Faith that we don’t understand. For example: How does the Eucharist happen? Why does Christ continue to offer Himself that way? We don’t know and we can’t explain it. If our adult answer doesn’t satisfy our children, that is not a bad thing: far more important is accepting the Gift that is being given to us! We don’t always have to have a pat answer for everything; we can allow for the fact that God really is beyond our understanding. If children demand more, it’s not bad to humbly say, ‘That’s the best explanation that I have, but God is far bigger than we are and we really shouldn’t expect to understand everything.’”

AODCE: What suggestions do you have for parents and teachers as they teach their children about Christ’s crucifixion?

Fr. Peter: “Above all, emphasize the love of God for us and how much He cares for us. We have to emphasize that God’s love is perfect and He loves us with a love that is even beyond what we can understand; the Cross is part of that mystery of God’s love. Christ offers Himself to death, to destroy death and power of sin over us because of that Love.”

Carol: “Start with the story of Lazarus!  Alexander (age 4) was thrilled when we recently read the story of Lazarus! He told many people about the man that Jesus told to ‘Come Out’ when he was dead and he came out!  So the following week, when we got to the story of [Christ’s] death on the cross in the Children’s Bible Reader (American Bible Society – 2006 Greek Bible Society) I immediately reminded him of the story of Lazarus when I saw that he was showing some upset over what was happening to Jesus.  ‘Do you remember what happened to Lazarus?’ I asked, smiling. ‘Let’s keep reading!  The same kind of thing is going to happen to Jesus too!’  Then he got excited!”

Annalisa: “When we teach about the death and resurrection of Christ it is important to keep the information age appropriate.  We don’t have to go into as much detail for the little ones while still communicating how awful and painful it was.  We also want to remind them that He did it because He loves us.  For older children we can talk more about the prophecies in Isaiah and how brutal His passion was to help them understand how great the sacrifice was by Jesus for us.  He was not just hung on a cross, which in and of itself is excruciatingly painful, clumps of his beard were pulled out, he was beaten to the point he did not look human anymore and all this because He loved us.”

Dr. Hart: “Contemplate the meaning of the cross and salvation.  Ask children what the Cross means to them. Why do we wear our cross?  We wear it because we are Christians and to remind us of what Christ did for us.”

AODCE: As we approach Holy Week, how can parents best prepare their children for what they will see and hear?

Fr. Peter: “It’s appropriate to talk about the services in advance to tell children what we’re going to experience and what it’s about to prep them so they can look forward to services. For example, ‘Tonight we’re going to the service of Holy Thursday evening. It’s all about the crucifixion of Christ. We’re going to see the priest carrying the icon of Christ out and put it on the cross. This is to remind us of how Jesus was nailed to the cross and died for us. We’re going to read from the Gospels. We’re gonna hear that story again about how Jesus offered His life for us, for the world…’ I think it’s good to do some prep like that. It helps children to anticipate and to look forward to each part, and to remember, ‘Oh, this was what mommy was talking about!’”

Annalisa: “In our home Holy Week is a time of quiet.  Keep in mind we are a household of 10 so we are certainly not silent, but we work on turning down the energy level of our home.  We only watch Christian movies, if we watch anything at all.  We stay away from video games, internet and anything that isn’t specifically focused on Christ.  We listen to church music and eat very humble meals. We participate in as many services as possible especially from Wednesday forward.  We are trying to set a particular mood in our home with the prayer that in the calming of our home we can hear the call of Christ in our hearts.  Here are some of the resources we use in our home:

Parent’s Guide to Holy Week http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/holyweekguide

The Jesus Film for Children http://www.amazon.com/Story-Jesus-Children-16-Language/dp/1894605411/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426773611&sr=8-1&keywords=the+jesus+film+for+children

We have enjoyed the visual Bible over the years.  It helps to set the tone for Holy Week as we focus on the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection.  It is a dramatization of the life of Jesus but the only words used are the whole of the book of Matthew.”

The Book of Matthew Vol. 1 http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Bible-Matthew-Richard-Kiley/dp/B00S5OBQAG/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1426789986&sr=1-3&keywords=Book+of+Matthew

The Book of Matthew Vol. 2 http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Bible-Matthew-Richard-Kiley/dp/B00S5ORM2C/ref=sr_1_4?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1426789986&sr=1-4&keywords=Book+of+Matthew

Carol: “Take your child to as many services as they are able to handle but do keep in mind the length and maturity of your child.  We want church to be a good experience and overtaxing them at a young age can take away from that.  If they are going to a service, tell them about your favorite parts or favorite hymns, etc.  Find a copy of the service book and read over a few parts with your child ahead of time so they can try to listen for those parts.  Potamitis Publishing has a coloring book on Holy Week that may be helpful!  Archangel Books also offers a book titled Glorious Pascha written by Debra Sancer that tells about the days of Holy Week.”

Rebekah: “Making a list of the services available at your local parish will help you prepare for and manage your week. Each service will teach valuable lessons. This description of the daily services from the Greek archdiocese is helpful: http://lent.goarch.org/bulletins/documents/8.5x11_JourneyToPascha_1.0.pdf There are so many services though, that it is not always possible to attend all of them.  Whether you introduce the stories to your children beforehand, or review what they heard during the services, keep in mind that each story points to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, come to redeem us from sin and death, and whom we look for to come again. There are so many witnesses to this fact, and the church has chosen wisely in showing us this. Holy Week is a time to prepare ourselves for the coming Christ. Often, on the practical side of bringing young children to evening services, it is helpful to know how long each service will last. Your local priest or choir director could best give you a time estimate.”

Dr. Hart: “Take your child to church. [Also] use Bible readings, read Orthodox children’s books, listen to the ‘Readings from Under the Grapevine’ podcast on Ancient Faith Radio and the ‘Let Us Attend’ podcast for Bible readings. Potamitis Publishing has excellent coloring books for young children.  Keep explanations simple and brief for younger children.”

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So, as we approach Holy Week, we will find that sorrow surrounds us, but resurrection pulls us forward. In the midst of this week there is great struggle, pain, and a myriad of questions from ourselves and from our children. But there is also hope. Smack in the middle of this horribly honest week where we face the reality of our own separation from God through our own choices, hope comes when we are met with Love Himself. He Who has loved us so much as to not spare His own Son; He Who loves us so much as to Himself take on our flesh and break the power that sin and death had over that flesh; He Who loves us so much as to breathe His Life back into our very core. This is the message of the Cross of Christ: Love.

May we all live this Holy Week cognizant of that Love. May we share it freely with our precious children. And together, let us approach the glorious resurrection of our Lord drenched in the love that He is pouring out on us along the way as we journey through this Holy Week.

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Thy Holy Resurrection, for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee: we call on Thy name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection, for by enduring the Cross for us, He has destroyed death by death.

Learning Lenten Vocabulary

There are so many terms that we Orthodox Christians use which are unfamiliar to the rest of the world. The Lenten season is certainly no exception to this rule, as we enter into the Triodion, celebrate Cheesefare/Meatfare, attend Presanctified Divine Liturgies, and more. It is appropriate for us to review what these Lenten terms mean, and it is especially important for us to make sure our children understand them! This blog will offer basic definitions of Lenten terminology, and point us to places where we can find more information about each term.

Triodion: “The Triodion [is a season of preparation for Pascha which] begins ten weeks before Easter and is divided into three main parts: three Pre-Lenten weeks of preparing our hearts, the six weeks of Lent, and Holy Week. The main theme of the Triodion is repentance—mankind’s return to God, our loving Father.” from http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent.

“The Triodion” is also what we call the book which contains the variables for the divine services during this time of the Church year. It’s actually called ‘Triodion’ because there are only three odes in the canons during this season; rather than the usual nine.” ~ by Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/explanationoftriodion.htm. You can find each day’s section of the Triodion here: http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/prayers/triodion/triodion.html.

Meatfare: “Meatfare” is the day we say “farewell” to meat, before the fast begins. Read more about Meatfare from St. Theodore the Studite, at http://www.antiochian.org/catechesis-st-theodore-studite-meatfare-sunday.

Cheesefare:  “Cheesefare” is the day we say “farewell” to cheese, before the fast begins. Read more about Cheesefare Sunday and find links to even more about it at http://www.antiochian.org/cheesefaresunday.

Clean Monday: “Clean Monday” is the name given to the first day of the Lenten fast. Read more about this day, including how it is traditionally celebrated in Greece, and find some Greek Lenten recipes here: http://orthodoxtraditions.blogspot.com/2014/02/clean-monday-menu.html.

Fasting: “Fasting” means not eating specific (or, sometimes, all) food. We fast to remind ourselves that “man does not live by bread alone,” that spiritual things are so much more important than physical things. Adam and Eve first sinned by eating, so we choose to not eat, to help us to also remember not to sin. Read more about fasting here: http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent. Find quotes about fasting from church fathers and contemporary writers as well here: http://www.antiochian.org/taxonomy/term/1146.

Compline: “Compline” means “at the end of the work day” or “after supper” and is a service of Psalms and prayers appropriate for reflecting on the day and asking God’s guidance and blessing on the night ahead. You can find the lenten compline service here: http://www.antiochianladiocese.org/files/service_texts/great_lent/great_compline/Great-Compline-LENT.pdf.

Presanctified Divine Liturgy: “The Presanctified Divine Liturgy  is an evening service. It is the solemn lenten Vespers with the administration of Holy Communion added to it. There is no consecration of the eucharistic gifts at the presanctified liturgy. Holy Communion is given from the eucharistic gifts sanctified on the previous Sunday…” Read more about the Presanctified Liturgy at http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/liturgy-of-the-presanctified-gifts.

Akathist: The “Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God” is so named because “the word ‘akathistos’ literally means ‘not sitting,’ i.e., standing; normally all participants stand while it is being prayed. The hymn is comprised of 24 stanzas, alternating long and short… As the hymn progresses, various individuals and groups encounter Christ and His Mother. Each has his own need; each his own desire or expectation, and each finds his or her own particular spiritual need satisfied and fulfilled in Our Lord and in the Mother of God. So too, each generation of Orthodox, and each particular person who has prayed the Akathist, has found in this hymn an inspired means of expressing gratitude and praise to the Mother of God for what she has accomplished for their salvation.” You can find more information about the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, along with the hymn itself, at http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/m_akathist_e.htm.

Prostration: is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated essentially ‘fall’ forward to the ground  with their knees and hands touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the familiar gym class ‘burpee’.” ~ from http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/o-lord-and-master-of-my-life-prayer-of-st-ephrem-01.html.

Prayer of St. Ephraim: This prayer is also called the “Lenten Prayer,” and originated with St. Ephraim the Syrian, who lived in the fourth century. Fr. Alexander Schmemann calls it “a checklist for our spiritual lives” and emphasizes that this prayer, along with other spiritual disciplines of Great Lent, can help us to be freed from basic spiritual diseases that make it almost impossible for us to turn toward God. Here is a  blog that offers insights into the prayer of St. Ephrem, quoting Church Fathers and Orthodox authors: http://modeoflife.org/the-lenten-prayer-of-saint-ephraim-explained/.

Holy Week: “Holy Week” is a week that truly lives up to its name: it is the holiest week of the Church year; there are many holy services to attend during the week; and we should all be very holy by the time we arrive at Holy Week, having just been through the discipline of Great Lent. The Rev. George Mastrantonis says that “Holy Week… institutes the sanctity of the whole calendar year of the Church. Its center of commemorations and inspiration is Easter, wherein the glorified Resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated.” He goes on to compare Holy Week to a sanctuary, that (because of the preparation of Lent) we enter “not as spectators, but as participants in the commemoration and enactment of the divine Acts that changed the world.” Read more of his explanation here: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8432. Find details about each service that we celebrate during Holy Week here: http://www.antiochian.org/1175027131.

Lamentations: “…the Lamentations refers to the Funeral Service for our Lord. It is actually the Orthros (Martins) for Saturday morning. The Lamentations is the form of a poetic dirge sung antiphonally by two or more groups of people. It is made up of a large number of verses divided in three long stanzas. As one stanza ends, the other begins with a different music. It sees that they were introduced not earlier than the 13th century. The author of these Lamentations is said to be St. Romanos Melodos. The Lamentations are also called Encomia, hymns of praise…” ~ Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes, http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/explanationoftriodion.htm.

Pascha: “Pascha, the name by which Orthodox Christians know the yearly celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, comes from the Hebrew word for ‘Passover.’ In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people ‘passed over’ from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, with Moses at their head. But this event was only a foreshadowing of something bigger and better to come. In the New Testament, the whole human race ‘passed over’ from slavery under the devil in sin and death to freedom in grace and eternal life, with the risen Christ as its head!… That is why Pascha is our greatest joy and brightest hope as Orthodox Christians! It is the cornerstone of our faith and the main point of the good news we have for the rest of the world. But Pascha is not just the remembrance of something that happened long ago and far away. It has happened to us in our lifetime too. Baptism was our personal Pascha. It made Christ’s death and resurrection our own: our old sinful selves were put to death and buried in its holy waters, after which we were raised up out of them, washed clean of sin and born again to a new life in him.”

Read more about Pascha here http://www.htoc-fl.org/downloads/pascha.pdf, and refresh your memory of how the Pascha service goes with Fr. Thomas Hopko’s article about it here: http://www.feastoffeasts.org/node/55.

Bright Week: “Bright Week” begins on the Sunday of Pascha and ends on Thomas Sunday. It may be called that because the newly baptized people were now illumined, or bright. Also, they wore white all week, so sometimes it is called “White week.” Bright week is a happy time of celebrating Pascha, and the whole week, the doors to the altar are left open as a happy reminder of the torn veil that opened the Holy of Holies in the Temple after Christ’s death, as well as the open stone that led to the empty tomb! Read more about Bright Week here: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/04/what-is-bright-week.html.

Here are some ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School children learn their Lenten vocabulary words:

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Teach the Lenten vocabulary words one at a time. The best way to teach new words is as they come up in conversation (or, in this case, as you anticipate hearing them being used at church). Generally speaking, children learn new terminology better when it is used in context instead of just randomly taught. As you teach each word, ask the children what they already know about it. What do they remember from other years? Try to build as much of a framework around the word as possible for them to “hang the word on.” Then fill in whatever they’ve missed in the definition.

As you begin this learning experience, from time to time, ask your students what one of the words which you already talked about means. Or, give them a definition and see if they can provide the Lenten vocabulary word that fits that definition. Before too long, they will know all of these terms and be able to correctly apply them.

Find a printable pdf of the Lenten vocabulary words with simplified definitions at http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/lenten_vocabulary_words.pdf.

Find a printable pdf of the same words and definitions, arranged so that they can be printed as word cards, here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/printable_lenten_vocabulary_word_cards.pdf.

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Apply the vocabulary words by making posters about them. Write each Lenten vocabulary word on a sheet of paper or poster paper. Work together to compile magazine picture collages or to draw sketches that remind you of what each word means. (The illustration could be a silly thing like someone waving at a piece of cheese for “Cheesefare,” etc.) Be creative, and then post your work in a place where you will see it and be reminded of the meanings of these words throughout the Lenten season.

Find a printable pdf of the vocabulary word “posters” here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/lenten_vocabulary_word_posters.pdf.

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Personalize the vocabulary words by making small vocab books for each child. Make booklets for each child, writing one lenten vocabulary word on each page. As you discuss the words’ meanings, have each child draw or write in their own words to remind themselves of the definitions.

Find a printable pdf of the vocabulary word booklets here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/lenten_vocabulary_booklet.pdf.

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Practice the vocabulary with card games. Make a set of playing cards by printing one of the Lenten vocabulary terms on a set of blank cards. Make a second set with a basic definition printed on each one. Use the cards in one of these two ways:

  1. Play “memory” with them. Mix all of the playing cards well, and turn them upside down so that all that can be seen is the back of the card. Lay the cards out in even rows. Take turns turning two cards face-up. If you find a pair, you keep it and go again. If not, turn the cards back upside down again, and play moves on to the next player.

    2. Play a matching game with the cards: Mix both sets of cards together, and pass out a few to each player (number will vary by number of players), leaving at least one card per player upside down on a “draw” pile. When it is his turn, a player asks another for a word (if he has the definition in his hand) or the definition (if he is holding the word). If the asked player has the card being asked for, he must turn it over to the asker. If not, the asker should draw a card from the “draw” pile (until the draw pile runs out). As soon as a player makes a matching pair, she lays the pair down on the table in front of her. Play continues until all matches have been made. The player with the most matched pairs wins the game. (Actually, all players who have learned their Lenten vocabulary are winners!)

You can make the cards with the printable pdf vocab word cards found here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/printable_lenten_vocabulary_word_cards.pdf.

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Play an active game with the vocabulary words after everyone knows their meanings. Print one Lenten vocabulary word each, in large print, on sheets of paper until all of the words have their own sheet. Print the definitions on smaller cards. In a large open area (perhaps outside?), scatter the sheets of large-printed-vocabulary-word-papers around the playing area. One person is the “caller.” The caller holds the smaller cards and, one by one, reads one definition. As soon as a player recognizes the word whose meaning is being read by the caller, the player runs to that word. Points can be awarded in two ways (decide before beginning play): a) Every person who goes to the correct word gets a point. b) The first person who gets to the correct word gets a point. (Or, to combine the two, everyone who goes to the correct word gets one point, and the first person there gets two points!) The person with the most points at the end of the caller’s stack of definition cards is the winner.

You could use the printable pdf poster words for the “large word papers” in this activity. They can be found here:  http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/lenten_vocabulary_word_posters.pdf. Use the definitions from the word cards (printable pdf found here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/printable_lenten_vocabulary_word_cards.pdf) for the caller to read.

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Older children can review the vocabulary words with this crossword puzzle: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/orthodox_christian_lenten_vocabulary_crossword.pdf.