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 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,
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
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.