Saturday, March 31, 2018

Holy Week Boxes

Repost from April, 2011:

I originally posted these last year, but have made a few additions to the boxes, as well as taken some better photos!  So, here is another look at my learning boxes for Holy Week.  I will mention again, that this is an involved project.  When I first had the idea several years ago, it was Lazarus Saturday and I jumped into action planning how I would create them.  My wise husband cautioned against it, saying that rather than a blessing, it would be a consuming project for Holy Week, distracting me from what I should be doing.  So, I followed his advice, and waited until after Pascha to begin making them.  I say this again to caution you - if this is an idea you want to replicate, do it slowly.  Do not attempt to pull it together quickly, you will find yourself frustrated and it will not be a joyful project.  The wonderful thing about the church rythms is that we can look to next year.
Finally, a word about the use of the boxes.  In my home, we have used them in several ways.  The first is actually taking them to church on each day of Holy Week.  If you have a young child, the items in the box offer a focus.  I usually tell my littlest ones to listen through the service, especially at the readings, and see if they can hear mention of each item in the box.  The joy on the face of my 4 year old when she heard the parable of the grape vine as she sat holding those plastic grapes was priceless. Some pieces are more interactive.  One year I watched as several children in our church sat and carefully lined the palm branches and fabric in the shape of the cross.  The icon was placed at the top, and the donkey was walked along the path, over and over again.  For a young child, that is prayer.  That is meditating on the scripture.  That is learning.  The boxes may also be used at home.  You may wish to read the scripture ahead and present the items.  If you are concerned with small pieces being all over the place, take a small placemat to church and roll it out on the floor.  Explain that this is the space to work with the box, and the items are to stay on the mat until they are returned to the box.  Then watch, and be prepared to have visitors in your aisle as curious children around you are drawn to see what is going on!

Box 1
This box is for Palm Sunday, but could be used on Lazarus Saturday as well. It contains a strip of linen fabric to represent the raising of Lazarus, a donkey (from the crocodile hunter's stash), palm branches (a piece of artificial greenery I found at H*bby L*bby, just pull off the individual fronds off), palm crosses from past Palm Sundays, and icons of Mary and Martha, the Raising of Lazarus, and the Entrance into Jerusalem.  The prayer card is a small wooden plaque from the craft store painted purple.  I printed the script off my computer and attached it with mod p*dge.  A second coat of mod p*dge and some pearl 3-d paint finished it off.  
Box 2
This box is for Sunday evening Bridegroom Matins and Monday morning services. The focus of these services is humility, with Joseph as the Old Testament type of Christ, suffering in humility before saving his people. The grapes (from a craft store) and figs are references to the parables told during these services.  I purchased the figs online, but they are no longer available from that vendor.  Let me know if anyone finds another source for them, but you could model them from sc*lpey clay.
Box 3
This box pertains to Bridegroom Matins on Monday evening and Tuesday mornings gospel readings. The theme of readiness for the final judgement runs through these readings and the parables of the 10 talents and the 10 virgins are told. The sheep and goats (from the crocodile hunter's stash) are a reference to the scripture in which the people will be divided at judgement. The coin recalls the story of the Pharisees' attempt to trick Christ - render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. The lamps and oil are from this site, but are rather expensive.  They are made from sc*lpey clay and would be easy to replicate with a bit of time.  Icons include the Prophet Moses and the icon of the Last Judgement.
Box 4
This box covers Tuesday evening through Wednesday evening, with an emphasis on healing. The scriptures read during these days recalls the parable of the good Samaritan, and references to Christ healing the sick. The pitcher, basin (doll house items) and vial of oil remind us of the harlot washing Christ's feet, and also His rebuke to the disciples that He came to save those who are sinful. The bag contains 30 pieces of silver, as Wednesday is also the day Judas is paid for his betrayal of Christ. Finally, the oil also calls to mind the Service of Holy Unction which is commonly held on Wednesday of Holy Week.  Please note, the coins are not a good item to take to church!  They make far too much noise, so I only use them at home, and for church place 3 coins in the bag to represent the 30 pieces.

Box 5
This box is for the Mystical Supper, and contains a chalice, bread, an icon of the last supper and figures of Christ and disciples.  

Box 6
This box covers the services of Thursday and Friday, from the Passion Gospel service to Royal Hours on Friday. It contains a small plastic sword which Peter drew to defend Christ in the garden, a rooster as a reminder of Peter's betrayal hours later, a crown of thorns (miniature wreath from H*bby L*bby), a vial of vinegar as offered to Christ on the cross, a strip of leather to remind of the beating he received, a die as they cast lots for his clothing, and a small wooden skewer to represent the spear that pierced His side

Box 7
The final box is for Saturday, and contains a strip of linen to represent Christ's burial, vials of frankincense and myrrh which the women took to the tomb to prepare his body, a stone, icons of the resurrection and the risen Christ figure.  The prayer card was made in the same way as described above.  Another nice item to include in this box would be flower petals gathered from the Lamentations service the evening before.

A great addition to the boxes are the Great Lent and Holy Week Coloring books from Potamitis Publishing, and for older children, the Holy Week and Pascha book is wonderful.

Some of the items in the boxes are not appropriate for younger children, and I am sure there are many other items that could be included, and ways to personalize this project.  Use your own judgement to determine what is safe and best for your children.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On Halloween

Once a year I feel compelled to mention this topic, though it is such a controversial subject among believers.  There are those who feel strongly both ways.  I would ask that whatever your opinion, you at least take the time to consider the following: how do we make the decision to participate or to not participate?   I would suggest the same way we make all decisions as Orthodox Christians, by looking at what the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Canons say.

"...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
 Phillipians 4:8

If that is what we are to hold up and think about, the lovely, the gracious, the worthy of praise, how does Halloween measure up?  There is nothing lovely about glorifying death. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what the Church is about.  We celebrate life.    We are mere weeks from entering into a time of honoring the incarnation of our Savior.  We begin turning our hearts and minds to the fact that God humbled himself by becoming fully man to destroy death.  Think about that just a minute.  The One True God, all powerful, all knowing, all honorable.  Put on flesh.  Lived on this earth. Suffered temptation from Satan. Endured mockery, pain, death. Entered Hell. CRUSHED DEATH. FOR US. Why would we want to celebrate that which He endured so much to destroy?

So, for me, no, it is not just all in good fun. It is not just a harmless night for children to dress up and get free candy. IT IS A NIGHT THAT HOLDS UP ALL WE REJECT.  IT IS A NIGHT FOR SATAN.  So, my question is "why?"  Why would we WANT to participate? Because it is fun?  Because it is uncomfortable to keep our kids home from Halloween parties?  Because someone might make fun of us or our children?  Because we don't want our kids to "miss out", or we don't want to miss out on those cute photos of our little one in costume?

Each morning as we read the lives of men and women who gave their lives rather than eat food sacrificed to idols, children who died rather than bow to anyone other than God, how can we ask those questions?  I think of the mothers who encouraged their children to martyrdom.   They weren't worried their kids would be made fun of - they were worried their children might not attain eternal communion with God.  They didn't try to protect their children from embarrassment, they exhorted them to stand strong against the world, a world that hated them and their God.  This world still hates us, and it hates our God.   So, give your children the strength to stand against evil, teach them to be martyrs!

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22

If you are interested in reading what others have to say on this topic - here is a selection of links to articles that say far better than I what our duty is as Orthodox Christians in this world. If you have never given this issue thought, or if you are unsure about what is right, I challenge you to take the time to read at least one of these articles.

Finally, on the practicality of the issue. I really do encourage you to consider keeping your kids out of school Halloween celebrations if your school participates in such events. Avoid too much shopping with your children over this  time. I try to limit the places we go during this time, since even a trip to the local drugstore is full of nightmarish images that can affect a young one in ways we often don't realize until much later. My daughter had years of nightmares from a grocery trip where she turned a corner to be faced with a life-sized plastic witch. The night of October 31 has always been stressful for me, with young kids how do you avoid the ringing doorbell? Our former parish used to have an Akathist to the patron saint of our church. What better place to be on this night, than in church, praying for the world?  A sister parish has a prayer service followed by a meal and skits on the lives of saints performed by the children.  If your parish does not offer a service that evening, gather with a few friends and say the prayers yourself. 

first posted October 2010

Friday, September 1, 2017

First Day of Class for our Schole' Community

  First Day of Theoria Fellowship Schole' Community 2017-2018!

the chore chart hangs in the foyer 
Morning Meeting:
The moms gather to look over the schedule and make sure we are all on the same page for the day.  We take a few minutes to pray a portion of the Akathist to the Mother of God Nurturer of Children, and then contemplate a question from the final chapters of Norms and Nobility.   We have a game set out for the kids during this time.  This is also the time for them to choose their community chore for the day and help with set up of the prayer table and the peace table.

Morning Prayers:
We all gather to pray together.  We use an abbreviated version of the Third Hour prayers with a prayer before study added, and we sing the Troparion of the Transfiguration of Christ as we have adopted that as our community feast day.

We use The Homegrown Preschooler for our littlest ones throughout the day.

Spanish Drill:
Using TPR techniques and Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason, the children develop a working knowledge of the Spanish language

Humane Letters:
Our students break into groups according to age and spend time reading together and discussing the good and the great books using the CIRCE Reading Guide.

Students are led through the acquisition of vocabulary, grammar and Latin chants with Matin Latin.

Wonders of Math:
wonders of math
This is one class I am sorry I can't attend myself!  Inspired by Constructing the Universe, our quadrivium mentor leads the students through some fascinating explorations of numbers and geometry, beginning with Compass Drawing.

The kids come back together as a whole group to enjoy practice in elocution through scripture, poetry and Shakespeare memory work.  They are learning liturgical hymns (this year they are tackling the Paschal canon in English, Greek and Arabic!) as well as classical hymns. They also have picture study and composer study during this class.

We have a sign up, and each week one family makes a hot dish for the group and another family brings sides.  We take a nice long lunch, outside when possible, and when the kids finish eating they help clean up then have some free play time while the toddlers are put down for their naps.

Natural Philosophy:
This is a class I am really excited about teaching this year.  We are using Sabbath Mood Homeschool Form 3 Biology Study Guide with our oldest students, and science journals from Riverbend Press.

Good Neighbor:
letters to shut ins
Our Forms 1-2 students spend time doing copywork and handwriting with a purpose by writing notes and creating drawings for the shut-ins of our church.

Nature Study:
Time to explore the outdoors!  They have 10 acres to enjoy, and over the years we have studied edible plants, creek critters, the trees and plants of the area while honing our skills of attention.  They learn how to make nature journal entries and develop brush drawing skills.  Some of the resources used for this include Sharing Nature 
brush drawing practice

with Children, The Curious Nature Guide,  How to Raise a Wild Child, and The Handbook of Nature Study.

Clean up and closing prayers:
The kids pack up, help put the house back in order, and we gather to pray Ninth Hour Prayers before departing.  At times we try to have a few minutes to share what we are thankful for about our day together.

It must have been a great first day, since as their last classes were wrapping up least three of them asked what class was next, and couldn't believe the day was already over!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Numinous: Reflections from above the clouds

There are moments in our lives when we are lifted up above the clouds.  We are offered glimpses of the divine, we are surprised by unexplained joy,  the sound of a gentle breeze,  We get to experience a rush of emotions, a high that is both beautiful and painful.  Beautiful because it offers us the inspiration to continue on in faith.  Painful because it is just a taste, and we know we cannot remain in those moments, not yet.   Each time, we must descend back beneath the clouds.  We have to step back out of the wardrobe, return from the island of Pan, leave the place of our song-dream, turn the page in the magician's book.  This withdrawal of His presence allows us to experience the longing, to struggle in the Christian life, to continue to seek to become more like Him, to become transformed, glorified.

(a few thoughts gleaned from the wisdom of others,  as I descend from the clouds after a week at CIRCE National Conference 2017)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's here!!!

The Holy Fire arrived last night from Pennsylvania
 Fr. John lighting transport candles
Transporting the lantern

 Fr. Stephen receiving the Holy Fire for St. Ignatius 

Fr. Matthew at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church receiving the light 

My entryway 5 1/2 hours later :)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Holy Fire

Well, yes, it has been a year since I have blogged here.  I have been terribly lazy, finding the simplicity of Instagram far less time consuming to my daily life and so by default that is where I have lived online for the past year.  I hope to come back and re-inhabit this space, as I miss my blogger friends.   What brings me back to this space?  The joy of Pascha!!! Holy Week was a time of intense joy within our house, and as always, Holy Saturday has become a day that I cannot live without.  But my joy continues with the realization that the Holy Fire of Jerusalem has made its way to our North American shores, and I am excited to participate in transporting and spreading the fire to the surrounding areas.  If you want to receive the Holy Fire, go here and enter your information and you can help to spread it across the continent!