Monthly Archives: October 2011

Rejoice Jr. Newsletter, Oct. 2011

Books, Books, Books

Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary is a great book for any

second or third grader.   It is about a boy who just loves to

stir up trouble.  He seems to always be in the right place at

the right time for getting into trouble.  He can manage to

mess up a beautiful dance and leave it a three-ringed

circus, ruin a class experiment and turn a simple math

lesson into the biggest spitball war you’ve ever read about.

But best of all, he does love to tease his arch nemesis Ellen

Tebbits to no end and he does it VERY VERY well.  But like

all teasing, it has its breaking point and this one day, Otis

has just gone too far.  With Ellen just plain mad, she is

cooking up something that will leave Otis in a very bad

situation that will definitely teach him a lesson.

This book is written with the world of a third grader

in mind.  It’s like the author is an actual third grader

herself.  It’s a book that you won’t want to put down until

you see Otis get what’s coming to him…but don’t just take

my word for it.


Our Church

Our Church is a very special place in our lives.  We know

that our friends go to Church too, but nothing is quite like going

to our own Church that we have been growing up in.  Our Church

smells a certain way, has familiar faces, and we are comfortable

there.  We like to go, even though sometimes it feels like we

are standing for a very very very long time.  If we are at home

sick or away for a Sunday, part of us misses being in our

Church.  This is because we know that we are part of God’s

family.  We are connected with everyone in our Church because

they are part of God’s family too.  We eat and drink a meal

together every Sunday that we gather together.  Sharing that

meal together is a bond that we have with everyone in our

Church family.  That’s why it’s a little strange when we visit

another Church.  We don’t have that bond with those people at

that other church.

Imagine if your family said that you would live at your

neighbor’s house for a week while your mom and dad went away

for their Anniversary.  Your neighbor’s family is a family like

yours, but not the family that you are used to.  This family has

breakfast, lunch and dinner like yours does.  They play

together, sleep in the same house, but it doesn’t smell like your

house.  It doesn’t feel like your house.  Everything is different


Not only do we know that we are part of God’s family, we also

know that Church is a special place because it is God’s house.

When we gather as a church family, God is at the center of our

gathering.  He is our Father.  We can feel His presence with us

as we light candles, kiss the icons, sing the hymns, and listen to

the words spoken during the service.  It’s no wonder

that we are more comfortable in our own Church.

It’s like our second home.



In the Spotlight

St Luke is known in the Orthodox Church as the

patron saint of artists.  That means that artists all

around the world ask St. Luke to pray to God on their

behalf.  They would ask God for guidance, inspiration,

and creativity.

The reason St. Luke is the patron saint of artists, is

because he supposedly painted the very first icon.

Legend has it that he painted Mary the mother of Jesus

with her actually sitting there:  like painting a portrait.

There is a very interesting icon called the “Black

Madonna.” It is called this name since the face of the

Virgin Mary, the Madonna, is very dark.  This icon is in a

monastery is Czestochowa, Poland.  Historians tried to

scientifically find out what date the icon was painted,

but raiders captured it in 1430 and it was damaged

pretty badly.  When it was restored, the paints that

were put on the icon to repair it, ruined the icon and the

only way to fix it was to erase it and repaint it.  It has

always been said that this icon was painted on a table

from Mary and Joseph’s own house.  Now of course all

this sounds like a great legend and it would be awesome

if it were actually true.  But we don’t know.  We might

never know the truth if St. Luke actually panted the

icon or not and frankly, it doesn’t matter.  What

matters is that Luke, an Apostle of Jesus, painted icons

and many many more people after him painted them too?

It is no secret that having pictures of our beloved

family, church family or genetic family, is something

that is so very important in our lives.


Inside an Orthodox Church

When we walk inside an Orthodox Church, they are all

the same.  Yes, they might all look different and some are small

and some are large. Some are different colors and some might

even be in a rented building.  But the physical set up of the

church building is the same.  There are always icons to kiss and

candles to light.

The physical space of the church is divided into three

parts:  the narthex, the nave and the sanctuary.  When you walk

into the Church, you are in the back part called the narthex.

This is a little space where you can buy candles, kiss icons, and

prepare yourself before you walk into the Church.  In earlier

times, the narthex was the space where those who weren’t yet

Orthodox Christians could stand during a service. Today, we

invite everyone to come stand in the inside part of the Church.

This part of the Church, where people stand, is called the nave.

It is called nave from the Latin word for boat, “navis”.  When

we are in Church, it’s like we are on our journey to the Kingdom

of God.  The third space in the church building is called the

sanctuary.  It is more commonly called the altar.  This place is

sometimes considered the most sacred part of the building

because on the altar table, inside the tabernacle, Holy

Communion is kept for the sick and suffering people.  The

sanctuary is separated by a large wall of icons called an

iconostasis.  This is to remind us that the sanctuary is reserved

for those who have a purpose to be in there.  The priest and his

helpers have a reason to be in the sanctuary.  But it’s not okay

to just go walk around in the sanctuary if you

feel like it.  We might think of the altar as

sacred ground.  The whole Church is actually

sacred ground since it’s God’s house.  We have

to treat it with respect, love and honor.  It’s our


 The Artist

Ramone was an artist.  He didn’t just make beautiful things to

see, he made beautiful noises too.  Ramone played the oboe, the cello

and every type of flute you could possibly think of (even the boroque

flute).  He made warm hats that he hand knit, warm sweaters, cool

funky beany caps, and long beautiful scarves.  He played in the

orchestra and in a small 4 person quartet.  It seemed like everything

he touched turned into beautiful art.

But Ramone wanted more than anything to learn how to paint

icons.  He never drew or painted or did collage.  He only knew how to

knit.  But when he stood in Church each Sunday he looked at the

icons: the way their noses went long and skinny on their faces.  He

looked at how their hands just folded over each other and looked

relaxed. He liked how you could look into the eyes of the saint and

they would look right back at you.   Ramone wanted to be able to

paint like this too.

So, he started drawing and drawing and drawing.  One day

when he was a grown-up, he went to visit a monastery in New York.

He learned that one of the nuns was an iconographer, someone who

paints icons.  He asked if he could visit her in the art studio to see

how she made icons.  He was so fascinated when she asked if he

would like to take art lessons from her.

For his first art lesson, Sister Mary sat Ramone down and all

he did was draw noses. He drew them long and skinny, he drew them

on the left side and on the right side.  He drew them again and again

and again until he was sick and tired of noses.  For the second art

lesson, Ramone drew eyes.  He drew them looking left and looking

right.  He drew them sad and thoughtful.  He drew them looking

down and looking out.  He drew them until he was sick of them.  For

the third art lesson, Ramone drew mouths.  He drew them always

closed.  Some had beards and some didn’t.  Some were straight and

some were somber, but none were ever smiling.  He drew mouths until

he was sick of them.  At the forth lesson, Ramone asked Sister Mary

when he would ever get to use paints.  She said that he could finally

use paints when he was sick of drawing eyes, noses, mouths, beards,

clothes, halos, hands, necks, ears, hair, backgrounds, animals,

letterings that would go in icons and designs that would go on the

saint’s clothing.  Ramone wasn’t sure that he still

wanted to learn to paint icons.  It was harder than he

had ever imagined that it would be.

To be continued…




Icons are an important part of Orthodox worship.  We have

them in our homes, cars, churches, and our parents probably even

have an icon at work with them.  But why are they so important to


Have you ever had a friend who moved away or a relative

that you haven’t seen in a long time?  Usually your mom and dad will

show you a photograph of this person and instantly you remember

what they look like.  You instantly remember things that you did

with them and fun that you had with that person.  The photograph

helps “jog” your memory about that person.

What about your grandparents?  Do you have a photograph

of them in your room?  When you look at their photograph don’t you

feel like you want to hug and kiss your grandparents?  Don’t you

think about them when you look at their photo?

What about you?  Do your parents order your school

photographs every year?  Parents have photographs around the

house and buy photographs to remember.  Parents want to

remember what you looked like at a certain age.  They want to

remember how long your hair was, when you started wearing glasses

and how you loved to dress as a child.  Some families even have a

family photo spot on a wall with photos of everyone in the

family…even aunts and uncles, great grandparents and grandparents,

family reunion photos and photos of you.  It’s a way for everyone in

the household to keep the memory of everyone in their

family alive and not forget about family.

Well, since we are God’s family, we have pictures of

the members of God’s family, just like we have at home.

But in Church, we call these pictures icons.  Icons are

pictures of saints and holy people who are part of God’s

family, who have already died.

Icons help us to remember the saints and holy people.  We

remember what they did in their lives that made

everyone wants to remember them as holy.  We remember

that they have a special place in God’s heart and we often ask

saints to help pray to God for us.  We also remember that we

too, are trying to be as good as the people in the icons, so that

we will also have a special place in God’s heart one day too.

When we see an icon, it doesn’t look like a photograph

does it?  Icons are painted with special paints on a special

piece of wood.  Sometimes we have an icon print.  That is a

copied piece of paper that is then glued onto wood.  This is

just the same as a hand painted icon.  Not everyone has money

to have a real artist hand paint an icon for them.  An artist

who paints icons is called an iconographer.  Iconographers are

very special people because they do a lot of thinking and a lot

of praying.  Not just anyone can paint icons.  First of all, you

have to be trained.  You have to study under an iconographer

whose style you like…just like if you want to be an artist you

have to study under a real working artist.  If you want to be a

vet, you learn with someone who is already a vet and they

teach you what and how to do it.  Iconographers, once they

learn how to paint icons, are actually making little windows for

us.  They are making windows for us that lead to heaven.  Icons

are even called, “windows to heaven!”  They help us have a

look or a glimpse at what our life should be like in order

for us to make the journey to the Kingdom of God.  Icons

give us a window straight to God.  When we stand in front

of an icon and pray, we can feel like we are standing right

with God and all his saints.  Truly, icons make us feel part

of God’s family.