Tag Archives: Resurrection

Gleanings From a Book: “Easter in Ramallah” by Wafa Shami, Illustrated by Shaima Farouki

As we prepare to approach the holy and glorious Paschal feast, we do well to remember that we are not the only ones preparing for and then commemorating the resurrection! Sometimes we may forget that people in other parts of the world are celebrating as well. But they are! Easter in Ramallah by Wafa Shami offers its readers a sweet glimpse into Paschal traditions in Ramallah, Palestine.

It is a delight to read the story of Noor and her best friend Laila, as they share the experience of Holy Week and Easter together. Western readers may be surprised to learn that the girls are of different faiths: one is Christian, one is Muslim, yet they are truly best friends, which is not always what westerners expect from relationships in that part of the world. These girls literally (and figuratively) live side by side, for they are next-door neighbors who play together and find themselves one moment frankly discussing the struggle the other must experience while fasting according to her faith tradition; and the next moment they are together attending the “Parade of Light” so that they can each light a candle with the Holy Fire.

Readers will come away from this story with the sense that they’ve visited Palestine over Easter. They will feel the warm sun on their heads; imagine sharing the fresh green almonds with their friend; and almost hear the bands marching in the Light Parade. They will wish to taste the ka’ek and ma’moul sweet treats which sound so delicious. They’ll wonder if all of those natural vegetable dyes actually work for coloring eggs. They will want to put on their own best Easter clothes, and try to crack Noor’s eggs with one of their own. Best of all, readers will step away from this story delighted by the peace and friendship that it exhibits between Palestinians of different faiths.

Shaima Farouki’s watercolor illustrations of the story are gently whimsical, visually enlivening spring in Ramallah. Each beautiful illustration contains just enough detail to offer an accurate glimpse into Palestinian life. They round out the story, adding details that delightfully enhance it.

We recommend Easter in Ramallah as a lovely addition to any home, school, or Church school library. It expands its readers’ world by allowing them to think beyond their own celebration of the resurrection. It also offers the opportunity for readers to notice what traditions are the same the world over; which ones are slightly different; and which ones are brand new (and perhaps ones which they, too, would like to embrace). This book offers a satisfying taste of what it is like to celebrate Pascha in Palestine.

 

Purchase your own copy of Easter in Ramallah here: https://www.amazon.com/Easter-Ramallah-story-childhood-memories/dp/0960014705/

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Readers who want to see photos of Easter in Palestine can scroll through these: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2014/04/pictures-palestinians-celebrate-201442185435930350.html

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What makes Palestinian Pascha unique? Read this to find out: http://www.anothervoice.info/blog/2016/5/1/5-ways-palestinian-eastern-orthodox-easter-is-unique

 

The Creed: I Look for the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Life of the World to Come. Amen.

The union that we experience with God, “theosis,” will continue after our death and resurrection. We believe that we will have a glorified body, as Jesus Christ did after His Resurrection. We believe that all people will be raised from the dead and that creation will be transformed. At the end of time God will reveal His presence and will fill all creation with Himself. For those who begin theosis now, this experience will be eternal joy and beauty. But for those who turn from God in this life, His presence will be eternal hell.

Orthodoxy does not teach that we can judge the destiny of OTHERS. We do not say that someone is damned because he or she is not Orthodox. We know the Truth and we have been shown the Way. It is for us to live the Life. So WE OURSELVES will be judged as to whether or not we were faithful Orthodox Christians!

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Try this: Use a soccer ball to introduce a discussion about goals.

  1. Show the ball, and ask, “What is this? What it it used for? In the game of soccer, what is it that soccer players really want? What is their ultimate goal? To win, right? To kick in more goals than the other team. And how do they do that? It doesn’t just happen on game day, they show up and can win… What has to happen for weeks, months, even years before a team is consistently successful?!?” (discipline, practice, teamwork, more practice, etc.)
  1. Turn the discussion to life goals: What do the children want to be when they grow up? What is their plan for how to do that? Will they go to school? Find work in the field? Learn from a master? Life goals, like soccer goals, will take discipline, practice, teamwork, and more practice!
  1. Direct the discussion to beyond-life goals: “What is our spiritual aim, our final goal that goes beyond this life? What do we want to have achieved to the best of our ability by the time we depart this life? Theosis!” Brainstorm ideas of how to achieve theosis.* Theosis, too, takes discipline, practice, and teamwork! Commit to working together to become more like God. Create specific, attainable goals (ie: “We will take a deep breath and say a prayer before responding to someone when we are angry;” “We will attend one service each month that we have not attended before;” “We will go together to the local soup kitchen and serve the poor of our community;” etc.). Revisit these goals from time to time, and, at each visit, “kick them up a notch” to help each of you become closer to God.

You may also want to incorporate these quotes from the Church fathers if you are having this discussion with older children:

  • “True, one may know man’s final goal: communion with God. And one may describe the path to it: faith, and walking in the commandments, with the aid of divine grace. One need only say in addition: here is the path-start walking!” ~ St. Theophan The Recluse
  • “The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.” ~ St. Simeon the New Theologian
  • “A man in this world must solve a problem: to be with Christ, or to be against Him. And every man decides this, whether he wants to or not. He will either be a lover of Christ or a fighter of Christ. There is no third option.” ~ St. Justin Popovich

The Creed: And on the Third Day, He Rose Again, According to the Scriptures

The Orthodox Church believes in Christ’s real death and His actual resurrection. Resurrection, however, does not simply mean bodily resuscitation. Neither the Gospel nor the Church teaches that Jesus was lying dead and then was biologically revived and walked around in the same way that He did before He was killed. In a word, the Gospel does not say that the angel moved the stone from the tomb in order to let Jesus out. The angel moved the stone to reveal that Jesus was not there.

Jesus’ Resurrection is the bedrock of our faith. Why is the Resurrection important? Life no longer must end in eternal death! The joy we feel at Pascha—when heaven and earth touch, and time seems to fall away—is the joy of the Kingdom of God. When Christ comes again to raise the dead, His Church will experience this joy eternal.

(An aside: “according to the scriptures” reminds us that Christ’s death and resurrection had been foretold in the Old Testament scriptures. Ps. 16:10 reads, “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.” This verse is quoted by both St. Peter and St. Paul in the book of Acts, to show that Christ’s resurrection was a fulfillment of the scriptures.)

“In His resurrection Jesus is in a new and glorious form. He appears in different places immediately. He is difficult to recognize. He eats and drinks to show that He is not a ghost. He allows Himself to be touched. And yet He appears in the midst of disciples, ‘the doors being shut.’ And He ‘vanishes out of their sight.’ Christ indeed is risen, but His resurrected humanity is full of life and divinity. It is humanity in the new form of the eternal life of the Kingdom of God.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 104)

Try this: Talk with your students about Pascha. What is it that we celebrate at Pascha? How do we prepare for that? What does each child in the class love about Pascha, and why? How do we feel when it is Pascha? Is the joy of Pascha different from any other feeling of happiness? Why?

Ideas for Celebrating Resurrection and New Life in Springtime

It is springtime in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a tangible way in which we see how our lives are changed by God’s grace. All around us, the “dead” is “coming back to life” and growing, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is the perfect time for us to talk with our Sunday Church School students about the new life that Christ brings to us through His death and resurrection, as we see the miracle of new life all around us in this season!

We have just come through Great Lent, a spiritual “season” that is a flowering springtime for our souls and should bring us new hope. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware once spoke of the words of the Lenten Triodion in an interview, “Lent is spiritual springtime. Not winter, but spring. The world of nature is coming alive round us during the Lenten season. And this should be a symbol of what is to happen in our own hearts. The dawning of springtime… It goes on to speak of repentance as a flower that is opening. We shouldn’t just have a negative idea of repentance, as feeling sorry, gloomy and somber about our failings. But repentance, rather, is new hope. An opening flower. How our lives can, by God’s grace, be changed.” (http://myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-memorizing-scripture/) That change is a continual process, and God continues to offer other reminders of His work in our lives.

The “resurrection” that is happening all around us in nature during the springtime season gives us physical reminders to celebrate Christ’s resurrection! According to Fr. Theodore Ziton’s article for the Word magazine in April 1959, “Winter is now past! The snow is gone, and the gardener prunes his trees and vines for another harvest. Nature joyfully cries out: ‘Stop, look and listen for spring is here!’ Yes, there is a glorious resurrection in nature. STOP! or you will tread upon the tender flowers that have just risen from the dead. LOOK! and you will see that old tree whose branches in winter resembled the long arms of a ghost, but now the tree begins to bloom with fragrant apple blossoms. LISTEN! and you will hear the singing bird so full of song that it seems he will burst his little throat. The earth sounds a note of joy and gladness. Everyone picks up the melody and intones the words:  ‘Stop, look and listen, for there is a resurrection in nature.’

Yes, the winter of Calvary is past; the storm of sorrow is gone, and Jesus the Nazarene, whose very title in Hebrew means the Flower, has appeared in glory today. Beautiful was that Flower when it took its roots in the dark cave of Bethlehem. Fragrant was that Flower when it was bruised and pinned to the Cross which became its vase: but glorious is that Flower today, for It now fully blooms never to wither away again.”   (http://www.antiochian.org/content/april-18-2012-empty-tomb)

As we think about the Lenten springtime and the physical resurrection of the world which points to Christ’s resurrection, let us truly celebrate springtime, and invite our students to do the same! We honor the spring not just for its beauty (although that is certainly worth celebrating) or for the joy that the warm sun brings (also worthy of accolades, especially after a very cold winter!). Rather, we celebrate springtime because God uses it to remind us of the glory of resurrection; especially of Christ’s resurrection. And the resurrection of Christ is truly worth celebrating!

So, how can we celebrate spring-that-points-us-to-resurrection? What can we do with our Sunday Church School children to help them (and ourselves, as well) to properly commemorate what is going on around us? Here are a few ideas. Perhaps they will help to inspire a lesson focusing on how spring points us to Christ’s resurrection!

Here are a few scripture-related spring activities that can help you to celebrate springtime:

  1. Work together to illustrate these Bible verses about spring. You can write them with fancy letters (or print them out with a decorative font), draw pictures to illustrate them, or take photos to show what they are saying.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.” Song of Songs 2:12-13

“Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.” Zechariah 10:1

  1. Go on a spring Bible verse (outdoor) scavenger hunt! Look up the Bible verses, write down the answers, go on a hunt for the items and take a picture of them. Print the pdf found at: http://rachelwojo.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Spring-Bible-Verse-Scavenger-Hunt.pdf
  1. Find spring things in the Bible, in this (indoor) scavenger hunt: http://christianhomeschoolmoms.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Spring-Bible-Hunt-PDF.pdf

Here are a few (not necessarily “religious,” but definitely usable) ways to intentionally celebrate spring:

  1. Find 150 ideas of activities for kids to do in the spring at http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2013/03/spring-kids-activities.html
  1. Find free printable spring-themed coloring sheets here: http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.com/Just_Color_Spring.pdf
  1. Slow down and savor spring with your students with these ideas: http://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/spring-bucket-list.html
  1. Read A Butterfly Is Patient, An Egg is Quiet, or A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston. Talk about how God transforms the butterfly/egg/seed and how He also transforms us! http://diannahaston.com/books-and-reviews/a-butterfly-is-patient-2/

Resurrection is well illustrated to us in the spring. One can especially see it by observing butterflies, flowers, and seeds/plants. Here are ideas related to each of those examples of new life:

BUTTERFLIES:

Read this story about a caterpillar changing into a butterfly just as we are being/will be changed by Christ:  http://www.christianitycove.com/spring-object-lesson-caty-caterpillar/4774/

Help a caterpillar become a butterfly in this maze with Corinthians 5:17: http://www.akidsheart.com/holidays/spring/iicor5_17spr.htm

Visit a Butterfly House as suggested in this educational blog. Check out the blog’s many, many links to butterfly books and activities, as well: http://www.kcedventures.com/blog/butterfly-crafts-butterfly-activities-learn-about-butterflies

Try your hand at butterfly crafts:

Make a butterfly journal cover. Find a template and directions here: http://family.disney.com/crafts/butterfly-journal-cover

Make ribbon butterflies into a pin/barrette/magnets: http://family.disney.com/crafts/fairy-butterfly-barrettes-and-pins

Create coffee filter butterflies: http://www.mommygaga.com/2012/03/spring-crafts-for-kids-coffee-filter-butterfly-craft.html

Older children will enjoy making these origami butterflies: http://goorigami.com/single-sheet-origami/origami-butterfly/3006

FLOWERS:

Find connections between spring flowers and our faith (ie: dead bulbs grow into tulips, as when we die with Christ, we bloom beautifully in His kingdom) http://www.christianitycove.com/spring-faith-flower-craft-lesson/4746/

Create flower crafts:

Make lollipop flowers with these directions: http://www.redtedart.com/2014/01/28/tissue-paper-flower-lollipops/

Learn how to make tissue paper flowers with these directions: http://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/crafts/paper-crafts/paper-flowers4.htm

Younger children will enjoy making these cupcake paper/button/popsicle stick flowers (picture only): http://homicraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/easy-spring-kids-crafts.jpg

Older children will enjoy the challenge of these more complicated flower crafts: http://www.dosmallthingswithlove.com/2014/04/50-flower-crafts-spring.html

SEEDS/PLANTS:

“Dead” eggshells and dead-looking seeds become faces with fun, growing hair in this gardening activity: http://nurturestore.co.uk/eggheads-with-cress-hair

Plant bulbs indoors to watch them “come to life” and bloom: http://www.funathomewithkids.com/2013/02/learning-about-spring-bulbs-older.html

Celebrating the Feast of Feasts: Great and Holy Pascha!

Very soon we will be celebrating the Feast of Feasts, Great and Holy Pascha! We have readied our hearts by fasting and praying. We have set aside time to attend and participate in preparatory church services. We have planned to cook special foods and to wear nice clothing for the feast. Pascha is a very special day, and because it is, we prepare accordingly.

But the Paschal season is longer than just one day. Yes, it begins on Great and Holy Pascha, but it continues on until Pentecost, and the whole season is a time of great celebration! We truly teach our students that this is the Feast of Feasts when we celebrate throughout the Paschal season, not just on Pascha itself.

So, how can we celebrate properly? What can we do to demonstrate to ourselves and to the children in our care just how important this feast is? Studying and applying the guidelines (about things like fasting, kneeling, The Hours, and a change in our prayers) for the Paschal season found here, http://www.antiochian.org/node/22733, can be a place to start. When we are familiar with the guidelines and some of the reasoning behind them, we can plan our continued celebration accordingly!

There are many ways to remind ourselves and the children about Christ’s triumph over death, and His glorious resurrection. Let us find ways to do so every day of the Paschal season! Even just small ways to celebrate this triumph will set this season apart from the rest of the year, allowing the Paschal season to be truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Here are some ideas of ways to set this season apart:

The following (non-Orthodox) ideas related to the resurrection of Christ can also give you ideas of things to do with your class:

Teaching About New Life in Christ (connecting spring with Christ’s resurrection)

It is spring in the northern hemisphere, the time of year when we witness new life everywhere we look outside. Seemingly dead plants and empty ground are busting forth with leaves, buds, and flowers. With the death and glorious resurrection of our Lord fresh in our minds, this is the time of year for us to make connections for our students between what is going on in the world and what has just happened in the church year.

Here is one suggestion of how to do so:

1. Talk about fall/winter and how it looks outside during those seasons. Ask the students what the church building/property looked like in those months. Show pictures if you have any available, to remind them of how cold and dead the outside of the church looked, during the winter months.

2. Then, take your students for a little walk outside the church now that spring is here. Walk around on the parish’s property, looking for growth/signs of life. Talk about each thing you find, and how it looks different from its winter look.

3. Back in the classroom, make a comparison (verbal or a chart) of the church grounds’ winter look with the spring one.
4. Ask the students what is the difference between the two. Talk about new life, and how it makes you feel: Hopeful? Excited? Happy? Right?

5. Ask the students what just happened in the church year (we celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ). As the students how what they’ve just observed outside is like what has just happened in the church year. Invite them to make the connection between the new life of spring and Christ’s resurrection.

6. Talk briefly about the students’ baptisms. Make a further connection by reminding them that baptism is like dying with Christ, and being raised to life again, only now, as a follower of Christ – a Christian. Help the students make the connection between the new life they received in baptism and Christ’s rising from the dead. (You could also refer to the recent singing of and/or actually SING the Apolytikion of Palm Sunday, which again demonstrates the connection:  “O Christ God, when we were buried with Thee in Baptism, we became deserving of Thy Resurrection to immortal life. Wherefore, we praise Thee, crying: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.” Note: if you do so, you may want to talk about “immortal life” being the new, forever life that is granted to us through Christ.)

7. Brainstorm with the children ways in which they can live their new life that Christ has given them through His breaking the power of death and raising us all with Him to new life through baptism. What are the best ways for them to “blossom” as Christians? Talk about how the students feel when they live in those ways: Hopeful? Excited? Happy? Right? Encourage them that, though they may not be “blossoming” perfectly all the time, just like spring plants, in our lives there is also room for growth, for more “blossoming.”
8. Craft/extender: use brightly colored cupcake liners to create “flowers.” Glue a bright paper circle to the middle of each liner, as the flower’s center. On each flower’s center, have students write one way that they can live their new life in Christ (ie: being kind to my sister; saying my prayers; paying attention in church; etc.). Mount the “flowers” on paper with hand-drawn stems (if they’re being taken home immediately) or on a bulletin board in the classroom labeled “Blossoming With New Life in Christ” (or something similar).
9. Challenge each student to look for ways to show their new life in Christ, at home or at school, this week. (And then, the next time you meet, remember to ask them for stories of how they or someone they know showed that they are blooming for Christ!)