Monthly Archives: February 2016

Learning About a Saint: St. Gerasimos of the Jordan (Commemorated on March 4)

St. Gerasimos was born in Lycia, in southwestern modern day Turkey. His parents were wealthy, and he grew up living the life of a merchant. He traveled to Egypt, and began to spend time with Egyptian hermits whom he met along the way. When he was still very young, St. Gerasimos came to love God so much that he did not care much at all for the worldly things that his peers seemed to find important. When he was grown, he moved to Egypt and began a monastery near the Jordan river.

The monastery quickly grew to be about 70 monks who all loved God and wanted to live a life devoted to Him. The monks lived and worked alone in cave-like cells most of the week, only coming together on the weekends for Divine Liturgy and a hot meal. When they would gather, they’d give St. Gerasimos the items they had made with their hands during the week, and those items were later sold to sustain the monastery.

The monastery is located in a very dry part of Egypt, so the monks had to fetch water from the Jordan River to bring to the monastery. The water was heavy, so they loaded jugs on the back of a donkey, and the donkey carried the water for them. One day, St. Gerasimos took the donkey to the Jordan to fetch the water. When they got to the river, there was a lion there, roaring in pain!

St. Gerasimos bravely walked up to the lion to see what was wrong. It had a thorn stuck in its paw, and the injury was getting infected! St. Gerasimos pulled the thorn out of the lion’s paw, then cleaned and bandaged it. When he and the donkey had filled the water jugs and were on their way back to the monastery, the lion followed them. It began to follow St. Gerasimos everywhere, just like a puppy. It was happy to eat only bread and vegetables. It even helped with the water-fetching chore! Once it knew the routine, the saint would send the lion and the donkey to fetch the water by themselves. St. Gerasimos did not even have to go along! The lion would take the donkey’s harness in his mouth and lead the donkey to the water. The donkey would step into the river and allow the water jugs on its back to fill with water, then he would climb out of the river, the lion would take the harness in his mouth again, and they would go back to the monastery.

One day when St. Gerasimos sent the lion and the donkey to fetch the water for the monastery, the lion fell asleep while the donkey was in the river filling the water jugs on its back. The lion never even saw the merchants passing by who thought the donkey had been abandoned, so they took him to add to their caravan! When the lion woke up, he looked everywhere for the donkey, but, of course, he couldn’t find him. He returned to the monastery with his head hung low in shame.

St. Gerasimos and the monks thought that the lion had eaten the donkey. They punished him by making him do the donkey’s work: he had to carry the water jugs and fetch the water himself. The lion loved St. Gerasimos, so he obeyed. One day, when the lion was fetching the water, that same group of merchants passed by the lion again while he was at the Jordan river! The lion recognized the donkey, who was still with the caravan. He roared loudly and frightened the merchants away. The lion once again took the donkey’s harness in his mouth and led the donkey (and the camels in the caravan followed) back to the monastery.

St. Gerasimos and the monks were very surprised to see their donkey again! They were also very sorry for accusing the lion of eating the donkey when they did not know the whole story. (Don’t worry: the merchants followed their caravan all the way to the monastery, where the monks very kindly gave everything back to the merchants – well, everything except for the donkey, who belonged to the monks in the first place!)

After the donkey’s return to the monastery, St. Gerasimos told the lion that he did not have to stay and keep working. He was free to leave. The lion did leave the monastery, but came back to the monastery every few days to visit his friend St. Gerasimos.

St. Gerasimos departed this life on March 4th, 475 AD. At the time of his passing, the lion was out on one of his adventures, so he was not at the monastery. He returned soon after the saint had departed this life, and searched all over the monastery for his friend. Of course, St. Gerasimos was nowhere to be found. One of the monks finally took the lion to see the saint’s grave. When he saw the grave, the lion finally understood where St. Gerasimos was. The lion was very sad, and died right there at his friend’s grave.

The life of St. Gerasimos is a great example to all of us for many reasons. Here are a few of them: He exemplified loving God above all earthly things, even from a young age. His life teaches us the value of living simply. He modeled how the very creation (in his case, a lion) is at peace with us when we are living and loving all as God intended – just as it was in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world. And when St. Gerasimos made a mistake (as when he and the other monks misjudged the lion regarding the disappearance of the donkey), he made it right (by giving the lion a choice to go back to its freedom). These are a few of the ways in which St. Gerasimos exemplified the Christian life for us. May we learn from his example, and live our lives in such a way that we, too, glorify God!

You proved to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker,

O Gerasimos, our God-bearing Father.

By fasting, vigil, and prayer you obtained heavenly gifts,

and you heal the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to you with faith.

Glory to Him that has given you strength.

Glory to him that has crowned you.

Glory to Him that works healings for all through you.

This picture book is an excellent way to introduce children to the life of St. Gerasimos of the Jordan: http://www.stnectariospress.com/st-gerasimos-and-the-lion/. Children will be fascinated by the saint’s friend, who was a lion! Here is another picture book that illustrates the saint’s life: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Books-in-English/Paterikon-for-Kids-St.-Gerasim-and-the-Lion/flypage-ask.tpl.html.

St. Gerasimos of the Jordan, please intercede for our salvation!

Here are some ways that we can help our children learn about St. Gerasimos’ life:

This blog post about St. Gerasimos of the Jordan, written in kid-friendly language, includes a picture of the cave where he lived! Read it together as a family: http://orthodoxyforkids.blogspot.com/2015/03/st-gerasimos-of-jordan.html


A section of the brand new activity book, “Saints and the Animals That Served Them” is dedicated to St. Gerasimos of the Jordan. Pages 35 – 41 contain a printable (and colorable!) icon of the saint, a retelling of his life, the Troparion and Kontakion to him, journaling prompts, a map activity page related to his life, and several other activity pages to further our learning about the saint. Print your own copy of this activity book from the OCA’s Department of Christian Education website: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/

St. Gerasimos of the Jordan is still interceding for all of us, and God continues to work miracles through his prayers. Read the July 2013 interview with Archimandrite Chrysostom, the abbot of the St. Gerasimos Monastery, which includes accounts of modern-day miracles performed by St. Gerasimos: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/63156.htm. This blog includes accounts of the same miracles, and more: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/03/recent-miracles-of-st-gerasimos-of.html. Talk about these miracles with your children, and think of times when you need help that you could ask St. Gerasimos to intercede for you!

Listen to the story of the life of St. Gerasimos of the Jordan. Ancient Faith Ministries offers two podcasts that can help. “The Saint of the Day,” a podcast read by Dn. Jerome Atherholt, offers a short reading of the life of St. Gerasimos: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday/mar_04_st_gerasimos_of_the_jordan

“Readings from Under the Grapevine,” Dr. Chrissi Hart’s podcast, offers readings from two different books about St. Gerasimos: “St. Gerasimos and the Lion” can be heard here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/readings_from_under_the_grapevine_-_program_127, and “St. Gerasim and the Lion” is found here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/saint_gerasim_and_the_lion.

Work together to act out the part of St. Gerasimos’ life that included the lion. One person can play the part of St. Gerasimos, someone else can be the donkey, another person the lion, and the rest can be members of the caravan (people, camels, etc.) If you decide to costume your characters, you’ll need to create a lion, a donkey, and a camel (or more) costume. Find a gathering of lion craft ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/torthodoxcpress/lions/; donkey craft ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/vickie72003/donkey-crafts/; and camel craft ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/pmvanginkel/thema-kamelen-kleuters-camel-theme-preschool-camel/

When St. Gerasimos was the abbot, the monks in St. Gerasimos’ monastery lived very simple lives. They had few possessions, and there was no door on their cell. So, whenever a monk went away from his cell (for example, on the weekend, when he went to the monastery proper), anyone who wanted anything that the monk had could simply go into the cell and take it. This was the monastery’s practice, so that the monks would not become too attached to worldly things. Talk together about this idea. Would you like to live that simply? What would you keep with you if you were one of those monks? How would you like to always leave your room door or your house door wide open? Consider taking their example to some degree, and simplifying your family’s lifestyle. Find some ideas for doing so in these blogs: http://midwaysimplicity.com/how-to-teach-your-children-to-live-simply/ and http://theartofsimple.net/9-ways-to-encourage-your-kids-to-live-simply/

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Gleanings from a Book: “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer

Jane G. Meyer’s new book, “When God Made You” invites readers of all ages to look at each person in the world and consider what God was thinking when He made them. Every spread of this gleefully-worded book introduces a child from a different part of the world, and suggests what God had in mind when He created that child. Each “person recipe” in the book, just as in real life, is completely unique and brimming with the love and enthusiasm of our Creator.

“When God Made You” celebrates each person’s extraordinary qualities, looks, talents, and interests, recognizing each facet as a gift that has been poured into that person’s life by God Himself. The book also demonstrates to the reader that God does not just give those qualities to us to enjoy, but because He wants them to be used and shared. Every child in the book, upon being created, is issued a command: to plant, to sing, to paint, to lead… The book brings to life the reality that from the moment we are created, God has in His mind the work that He has set for us to do.

Throughout the book, Megan Elizabeth Gilbert’s whimsical illustrations bring to life the individual being described. Readers can see Makani, Hikaru, Bridgid, Carmelo, and all the others in their home environment, savoring their surroundings and beginning to act on the command that God has given for them to fulfill.The illustrator has carefully captured cultural details (down to the very fabric of the traditional clothing), and uses these characteristics to effectively embellish each spread. The reader can sense the joy God has in creating each person through the charming illustrations in this book.

The book both begins and ends with this important question: “What beautiful things was God thinking when He made you?” This question – actually, the book as a whole – naturally lends itself to a family discussion on individual uniqueness. God’s plan for each person, His delight in each of us, and His love for each person are clearly demonstrated in the pages of this book. This book will be an invaluable addition to any Orthodox Christian family’s library.

Here is more about the book itself:

Take a sneak peek into the book by taking a look at the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F5hoXb8-mM&feature=youtu.be or by flipping through a few digital pages here: https://issuu.com/ancientfaith/docs/when_god_made_you/13?e=0

Check out the “When God Made You” facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WhenGodMadeMe/

To add this book to your family’s collection, purchase a copy here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/when-god-made-you/

 

Here are a few activities your family can do together after reading “When God Made You:”

Have each member of your family draw a self-portrait and write (or describe) what God was thinking about when He made them. Hang the self-portraits up where you can all see them and enjoy them. Find ideas of unique ways to display them here: http://www.helpyoudwell.com/blog/2015/9/30/12-ways-to-display-kids-artwork

Encourage each family member to celebrate the other members of the family. Allow each person to write their version of God’s recipe for every other member of the family. What did God think of when He made the other members? Write the “recipes” on recipe cards such as this (print on cardstock): http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/when_god_made_you_recipe_card.pdf. After you’re finished, read the recipes together and talk about what you’ve written, celebrating the great things God has created in each member of the family. Display the recipe cards near your self-portraits.

Work together to make lists of words that describe each member of the family. These lists can have some similarities to each other, but should largely unique, just as the person they describe is unique from the rest of the family. Order (or create your own) a canvas art piece for each family member, featuring their name and descriptive words, as suggested here: http://www.iheartcraftythings.com/2013/07/god-made-you-subway-art-canvases.html?m=1

Challenge each member of the family to take this idea one step further: Ask each person to  think of someone they don’t get along with very well. Instead of thinking of how much they don’t like the person, have them make a list of the good things that God has put into that person. What was God thinking when He made them? (This is an excellent way to realize that God has created EVERYONE, and to look for the positive even in those whom we struggle to love.) Take some time to pray for the people who you have a hard time getting along with. After making the list of great things God put into the person/people you struggle to love, tuck the list(s) away somewhere that can be re-visited when the going gets tough with the individual(s) again. Re-visit the list to add more great things, as you think of them! And, as Fr. Andrew Harmon says in http://www.antiochian.org/love-your-enemies, keep focusing on the GOOD thing(s)!

Look at what the Scriptures have to say about God creating us uniquely. For example, read Genesis 1: 27-28, Psalm 118:73-74, Psalm 138:13-16, Job 33:4, Isaiah 64:7, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Jeremiah 36:11, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 2:10. Select one to focus on as a family and create a piece of wall art together featuring that Scripture. Find Scripture wall art ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/scripture-wall-art/

This song called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” combines many Scriptures as a sort of lullaby from God to each of the people He has created: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igYWIzrC9Ko

Older children and adults will be encouraged to read this blog post called “What God Says About Me.” The blog tells about the author(who has Down Syndrome)’s search through the scriptures and how learning what God says about His people brought her comfort. Read the blog at http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/what-god-says-about-me.

Consider taking this challenge from “When God Made You” author Jane G. Meyer herself: “…If your kids are interested in either writing a profile about themselves, or drawing their own portrait, with your permission we’ll be collecting these images to post on the When God Made You facebook page,and maybe on a page here on my own website. And it doesn’t just have to be kids! Feel free to send me your own writing or illustration as well!!!” She posted that challenge in this blog about her book: http://www.janegmeyer.com/blog/when-god-made-you/

On Learning the Scriptures by Creating a Scripture Journal

Recently, we have looked at the importance of memorizing the Scriptures and helping our children to do the same. This blog post will offer another way to meditate on (and even memorize) the Scriptures: through Scripture journaling. When you maintain a Scripture journal, you meditate on and/or memorize the Scriptures by creating an artistic illustration of a different Scripture passage on each page of the journal. There are many ways to do so, and you do not need to be an artist to create a Scripture journal. If you can write or if you can doodle, you can create one of these journals. Even young family members can make a Scripture journal! It is a fun, creative way to delve into the scriptures, and many members of the family can enjoy doing this exercise together.

You will need a blank journal for each family member who wishes to participate. You will also want to round up pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, watercolors; whatever art supplies you wish to work with in your journal. (Note: remember that if you plan to use markers or watercolors in your journaling, you will want a journal with thick pages so that the colors do not bleed through to the next page. You will also want to place extra paper behind each page as you work, to absorb any possible bleed-through.)

Select a verse (or verses) which you want to ponder or memorize. Decide how you will illustrate that passage. You can simply write it in your own handwriting, thinking about the meaning as you write, and perhaps writing a few of the keywords in a way that emphasizes their meaning. This is a very basic way to Scripture journal, but it achieves the goal of engaging the Scriptures and meditating on each word.

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Once you are comfortable with that method, you could write the passage in a similar way, but add some color and a few small illustrative pieces to help bring out the meaning of the passage.

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Perhaps you would rather meditate on the passage by creating a sketch that helps you to learn its meaning. If that is the method you prefer, you can print out the passage, tape it into your journal on one side, and create an illustration on the other page that helps you think about and learn the passage.

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If you are memorizing the passage, one way to do so is to print it out and glue it in the middle of a journal page. Read through it several times, and then continue to repeat it to yourself as you create a colorful design around it. Zentangle patterns work well for this type of journal piece, and can give you ideas for your design. Repetitive doodling is great for meditation, so, as you are working, continue to repeat the passage. You will memorize the passage and have a beautiful addition to your journal when you finish!

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It could also be that the passage will lend itself to a particular idea of how it should be illustrated. If that is the case, you can create your illustration around the passage, gluing a copy of the passage in the midst of the piece.

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You could also hand write the passage right in the midst of your illustration.

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These are only a few of the variety of ways to create a Scripture journal. If this method of Scripture meditation/memorization appeals to you, by all means, try it! Your final results may not be museum-worthy, and that’s okay. The purpose of the exercise is not to create a stunning work of art for the world to see. The act of Scripture journaling is intended to help you to learn more about the Scriptures, to meditate on their meaning, and to commit them to memory. The final product will serve as a reminder of your work of meditation and memorization.

“And we, too, who do no more than listen to the Scriptures, should devote ourselves to them and meditate on them so constantly that through our persistence a longing for God is impressed upon our hearts [and thereby we shall be amazed to] see how the wisdom of God renders what is difficult easy, so that gradually it deifies man.” ~ Saint Peter of Damaskos

 

Here are some links that you may find helpful as you begin your Scripture journaling:

Here is a blog post about Scripture journaling. This journaler uses both lined and unlined pages when she creates a piece: http://michelleperkett.blogspot.com/2015/11/new-mps-bible-art-journaling.html

Want to try your hand at Scripture journaling, but don’t know where to start? Take this 30 day challenge: http://karachupp.com/shall-write-copy-30-day-challenge/

Here’s an excellent blog on doodling that incorporates Scriptures into the doodles:  https://1arthouse.wordpress.com/doodles-101/

This artist uses some zentangle techniques in Scripture journaling: http://www.zenspirations.com/galleries/scriptures/

This Scripture journaler has illustrated passages in a more “smash journal” style: http://www.carissagraham.com/2012/03/i-made-book-scripture-scraps.html

Need inspiration to draw an illustration for the Scripture passage you are memorizing/pondering? Here are a few beautiful pieces where the artist drew an illustration and incorporated the passage in her own handwriting. http://peggyapl.blogspot.com/search?q=prayer+journal

Consider taking this 31-day challenge to begin your family’s adventure in Scripture art journaling: http://artbyerinleigh.blogspot.com/2012/09/31-days-of-scripture-art-journaling-day.html