Monthly Archives: April 2016

Pascha Celebration Resources for Families

Pascha is the Feast of Feasts! It is a time of the year like no other. That is as it should be, for it is when we celebrate the most important thing that there is to be celebrated: the resurrection of our Lord, and His trampling down death itself by His own death! Let us celebrate accordingly, in ways that help to communicate to our children how important this festal celebration is!

We have gathered a few links in case you are looking for additional ways to set this feast apart for your family. We hope that these ideas enhance what you already have planned to do to celebrate. May we be granted to see His glorious Resurrection once again, and may we help our children to celebrate well alongside us. May the Light of Christ indeed illumine us all!

Blessed Pascha! Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!

Here are resources that can help your family prepare for Pascha:

Find ideas of ways to prepare your family’s hearts for Pascha here:

If you have younger children, consider printing these figures on cardstock, cutting them out, laminating them, and using clay or playdough to help them stand. You can use them to tell the story of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. And then the children can use them for retelling play! Read more here:

Find an article titled “The Meaning of Pascha” here:

Download this centerpiece featuring the icon of the resurrection: Print one for your family’s prayer corner, or the dining room table. Or print one for each child to color and assemble, and keep in their bedroom throughout the course of the Paschal season.

Find a family lesson on Pascha here:

Practice answering the resurrection greeting in a variety of languages. Find a lot of them here:

Read this blog post full of ideas of ways to continue to celebrate Pascha for the entire Paschal season:


Holy Week Resources for Families

Holy Week is a wonderful, special week for Orthodox Christians. It is also filled with long services that can be challenging to anyone, but especially to young children. This post offers suggestions for Holy Week that can help to make Holy Week more meaningful for children of different ages. There are many ideas here. They range from ideas of ways to prepare yourself for the week to ways to help your children understand the services to crafty things you can do together.

Check out these ideas if you have time, and apply any that you wish. Please do not let these many suggestions discourage you, especially if you do not have the energy to add “one more thing” to your family’s schedule! You know your family, and what each member needs the most. So live accordingly!

Above all, let us love our Lord and each other throughout Holy Week. May we live this week together, in awe of His compassion and mercy, and in gratitude for His great gift to us. May all that we do (or do not do!) prepare us to celebrate His holy resurrection!

Blessed Holy Week!


Here are resources to help your family learn more about Holy Week:

Find encouragement and ideas for Holy Week from an Orthodox mama here:

Read/study up on the services ahead of time:
Find brief descriptions of each service of Holy Week here: Find background information, customs, and scripture references for each of the services of Holy Week here:

Find ideas for helping children to navigate the services here:
Print this guide to the week’s services, complete with helpful links to sites that can support your family’s journey through Holy Week:

Find suggested highlights for you and your children to look for in each Holy Week service, here:

Print this Daily Guide to Holy Week to read and study with your children before each service that you attend:

Here’s a free printable “passport” with a colorable icon for each day of Holy Week:

Find ideas of activities and other ways to help your children learn about, celebrate, and participate in Holy Week here:

Consider making these for your young children (or godchildren) to handle during Holy Week. A “new” mini-box each day will make the week more special and meaningful to the little ones.

Create a scrapbook for Holy Week, as suggested here: Consider adding one page each day, and allowing younger children to take it with them to look at in the car or in church during Holy Week.

This cached webinar from GOARCH on Observing Holy Week as a family offers fabulous ideas and is well worth the time it takes to listen in:

Here are recommendations for books that you can read together as a family during Holy Week:

In case you missed this post on the cross of Christ and leading children through Holy Week:

On the Feast of the Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)

Exactly one week before Pascha, we celebrate one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Holy Orthodox Church: The Feast of the Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem. Let us take a moment to think about Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and compare it to His greater triumph at the other end of that same week. When He entered Jerusalem, our Lord had to some degree, everything that many people want out of life: He had the acclaim and respect of others; He was well known; and people gave Him the very coats off of their backs to welcome Him as they would have welcomed a king. How interesting it is to note that in His humility, our Lord turned all of this attention on its head by riding into town on the back of an “unclean” donkey, all the while appearing (to some, at least) to be ready to free His people and set up His kingdom! Although He knew what lay ahead for Him, He came willingly to Jerusalem. He did not hesitate.

By the end of that same week, our Lord had been stripped of everything (literally) and was treated in a way that no person ever wants to (or should!) be treated. He was ignored, mocked, beaten, and then, finally, cruelly killed. Once again, He turned all of this on its head. This time, however, He “rode” into Hades on the “back” of a cross, and destroyed Death by His death, bringing life to the entire world, freeing us all from Death, and opening the doors to His Kingdom to all. And again, He did not hesitate! And our world – indeed, our very LIVES – will never be the same!

It is important that we help our children learn about this feast, because of what it conveys to us about Christ and His Kingdom. It is easier to ponder Christ’s kingship when we think about all of those people waving palm branches and laying down their coats to welcome Him as He rode by. The depth of His humility is evident when we learn that donkeys were at that time considered to be unclean, and yet He deliberately chose to ride one. The Triumphal Entry shows us that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world. He could have had an amazing earthly kingdom, but He chose something infinitely better, the Kingdom of Heaven, and then did everything that He could to free us from our chains so that we can be part of it. But that’s a festal celebration for another day.

Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!


Here are ideas of ways that you and your family can learn more about this important feast:

Celebrate the Feast of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem by decorating your dining room table with this pop-up centerpiece: Add some of the palms that you bring home from church, after the service,  to add to the display.


“As Jesus begins His journey on the road to the Cross, it becomes apparent that most people don’t want the kind of salvation He brings. He doesn’t conform to their expectations. Today’s world doesn’t want Jesus’ kind of salvation either. Yet like those who spread their garments before the hooves of Christ’s donkey, we are called to shed our old selves and lay them in the path that Jesus takes through our lives. We can do no less than throw open the gates of our hearts. The Conqueror of Death—and everything that leads to it— is coming.” “Heaven Meets Earth; Celebrating Pascha and the Twelve Feasts,” p. 37,


Find a family lesson focusing on the Gospel reading for the Triumphal Entry here: This lesson offers some information about the feast, as well as ideas of activities to do together as a family to continue learning about the feast.


The latest issue of “Little Falcons” Orthodox Christian children’s magazine is called “Palm Sunday.” It contains articles about the Feast; traditions from the different jurisdictions of the Church (such as palms vs. pussy willows; a bit about Lazarus Saturday in a Serbian church and Palm Sunday in an Antiochian one); a woman’s diary entry from fourth century Spain that explains how the feast was celebrated at that time; an excerpt from a book imagining what the Triumphal Entry was like from the donkey’s perspective; directions for folding palm crosses; and much more! Find out how you can get your own copy here:

*Before Holy Week begins, take some time to listen in on this very helpful webinar about preparing your family for Holy Week:


Create Learning Boxes for young children to investigate during Holy Week:

On the Lord’s Prayer: “Amen.”

With our “amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying, “so be it.” That one word reaffirms our intent in praying the prayer. Now that we have taken a closer look at each part of the Lord’s Prayer, let us pray mindfully every time that we pray it in its entirety. Let us not just reaffirm the Lord’s Prayer with our verbal “amen,” but with our very life, our living “amen.” Let it be so.

“The Lord’s prayer begins with our goal — becoming a child of God — and then slowly spins out through the path that carries us to that goal.  When we read it backwards like this, we can see how it is a path that takes us home.” ~


“We saw that behind each word, behind each petition, there lies a world of spiritual realities, spiritual connections which regularly escaped our attention, which have vanished in the turmoil of our daily lives. From this point of view, the prayer, ‘Our Father,’ is more than a prayer; it is an epiphany and revelation of the spiritual world for which we are created, that hierarchy of values which enable us to arrange everything in its place within our lives. Each petition opens a whole layer of personal awareness, a whole revelation about our selves.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 85-86


For more on the Lord’s Prayer, visit these sites:

This page ( offers insights into each part of the prayer. And this one ( offers additional readings for each part of the prayer. You could also listen to a series of homilies on the Lord’s Prayer, found here:


Idea: the following offer activities based on the entire Lord’s Prayer. These can be done with the children in your family, one-on-one, or together as a group:

Here is a “Lord’s Prayer” craft idea: make a lift-the-flap book explaining parts of the prayer:

Find a printable “Lord’s Prayer” coloring book with pages for each part of the prayer and extra pages explaining each part here: (Free for the first 100 copies printed per parish, so you could make some extra copies to share!)


On the Lord’s Prayer: “But Deliver Us From Evil.”


This short phrase in the Lord’s Prayer serves several purposes. It recognizes that there is evil pursuing us. It acknowledges that we cannot deliver ourselves from that evil. It affirms that God can deliver us from it. It implies that we want to be delivered from evil. It combines all of those truths into one short request. That request is one which Our Lord’s entire life on earth answers immutably with “Yes! I can and I will!”


Read more about this phrase:


“I have always been bothered by the ‘but’ in the Lord’s Prayer. I have wanted to say, ‘and deliver us from the evil one.’ However, the ‘but’ is firmly fixed in the original. We are told to pray this way, to ask the Father not to lead us into temptation–with one exception. Temptation might be necessary to deliver us from the evil one.” ~ read the rest of the article here:

We ask deliverance from the Evil One or from all evil — in both cases, recognizing that Satan and his demons do attack us, and that persons who have willingly given themselves over to evil will cooperate with them and will hope for our destruction.  We ask for God’s protection, recognizing both His strength and our own weakness.” ~


“We pray also that God would deliver us from the evil one, and here we are given not an explanation but one more revelation, this time about the personal nature of evil, about the person as the bearer and source of evil. …There exists no concrete reality that we could call hatred, but it appears in all its awesome power when there is one who hates; there’s no suffering as such, but there is the sufferer; everything in this world, everything in this life is personal.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 81


“The source of evil is in the evil person, and this means in the person in whom paradoxically and horribly evil has replaced good, and who lives by evil. It is perhaps here, in these words about the evil one, that we are given the one possible explanation of evil, for here we discover that it is not some kind of impersonal force spread throughout the world, but rather as the tragedy of a personal choice, personal responsibility, personal decision. And therefore only in the person, and not in abstract theories and arrangements, is evil defeated and goodness triumphs; which is why we pray first of all for ourselves, for each time that we overcome temptation, it is because we choose faith, hope, and love and to not the gloom of evil.”~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 82


Idea: Here’s an activity that mimics a lighthouse’s importance to a ship in safely maneuvering trouble spots. It is a great beginning place for a family discussion on how God, our Light, delivers us from evil.

On the Lord’s Prayer: “And Lead Us Not Into Temptation”


If we pay attention to this petition in the Lord’s Prayer, it will cause us to stop and really think. Why are we asking God not to lead us into temptation? Does God ever actually lead us into temptation? Or are we asking Him to lead us in ways of righteousness, those ways which take us away from temptation? Regardless of whether or not we know the answers to these questions, we are certain of one thing. And that is this: we need God’s help to be delivered from the temptations that beset us. So we ask Him to lead us. And He does.

It is up to us whether or not we follow His leading.


Read more about this petition of the Lord’s Prayer:

“First we clarified that God does not lead us to temptation, but that we are hoping He will lead us away, for we are here recognizing our weakness.  Temptation can surely come from outside us, from demons and bad influences, but temptation also comes from within — our own weaknesses and insecurities may cause us to want to lash out or to steal or to run from consequences.  Our weaknesses are our temptations, and in humility, we ask that God shield us and protect us, for we know that alone we are not strong enough to overcome all temptation, but through Christ Jesus there is nothing we cannot do.” ~


“Is this then what the Lord teaches us to pray, that we may not be tempted at all? How then is it said elsewhere, ‘a man untempted, is a man unproved’; and again, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations’ (James 1:2)? But does perchance the entering into temptation mean the being overwhelmed by the temptation? For temptation is, as it were, like a winter torrent difficult to cross. Those therefore who are not overwhelmed in temptations, pass through, showing themselves excellent swimmers, and not being swept away by them at all; while those who are not such, enter into them and are overwhelmed… If ‘lead us not into temptation’ implied not being tempted at all, He would not have said, ‘But deliver us from the evil one.’ Now the evil one is our adversary the devil, from whom we pray to be delivered.” ~St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Read this and more of what St. Cyril had to say about each part of the Lord’s Prayer here:


“…this victory lies not in the ability to understand and explain evil but rather in the ability to face it with the full force of faith, the full force of hope, the full force of love. For it is by faith, hope, and love that temptations are overcome, they are the answer to temptation, the victory over temptations, and therefore the victory over evil.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p.79


“…Christ didn’t once explain and therefore didn’t once justify and legitimatize evil, but he constantly confronted it with faith, hope, and love. He didn’t destroy evil, but he did reveal the power of struggle with evil, and he gave this power to us, and it is about this power that we pray when we say: ‘and lead us not into temptation.’”~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p.80


Idea: Talk with children about temptation either using the tug-of-war example in the lesson plan here, or the “bait” ideas as demonstrated in the attached video: Then talk about how the petition “and lead us not into temptation” from the Lord’s Prayer can help us when we are tempted. Also, discuss how God helps us when we are being tempted. Talk about things to do when tempted: first, of course, would be prayer; then removing one’s self from the situation if possible; etc. Help your children think of hands-on things to do when they feel tempted. Create a list to keep posted somewhere where everyone can see it and be reminded of it.

On the Lord’s Prayer: And Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us.

This part of the Lord’s Prayer is much easier to say than it is to live. We sin so often, and we come to God in confession and repentance, expecting Him to forgive us, for we believe 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We desire mercy, and we know that He who IS Mercy will extend it to us in spite of our sins. But this petition doesn’t just stop with “forgive us our trespasses:” it continues, “AS we forgive those who trespass against us. The bottom line is that our forgiveness is intimately tied to how we extend forgiveness to others. Forgiving others is not as easy as begging forgiveness for ourselves. May God help us to forgive, that we, too, may be forgiven!


“The prayer ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ has been especially emphasized by the Lord.’For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ (Matthew 6:14-15) This is the point of Christ’s parable about the unforgiving servant. (Matthew 18:23-35) All men need the forgiveness of God and must pray for it. All men are indebted to God for everything, and fail to offer the thanksgiving and praise and righteousness that are due. The only way that God will overlook and forgive the sins and debts of His servants is if they themselves forgive their brothers, not merely in words and formal gestures, but genuinely and truly ‘from their hearts.’ (cf. Matthew 18:35) In the prayer taught by Christ this is clearly acknowledged.” ~ from


“This is a very difficult part of the Lord’s Prayer. Trespasses are the wrong things we do. We notice very quickly when someone is selfish and boastful, mean or untruthful. Sometimes it is very hard for us to forgive someone who has wronged us in any way. We dislike people for this and this means that we do not forgive them. But we say to God, please forgive my trespasses, my selfishness, my meanness, just like I forgive others. God wants us to be just as forgiving as He is.” ~ “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Little Falcons,” issue #39, pp. 13-14, available at


“This should be the most terrifying line of the prayer.  We may not always stop to ponder its significance, but this line suggests that if we are not forgiving of others, we should not expect to receive forgiveness.  He further clarifies it in the Scriptures — Matthew 6:14-15:  ‘For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’  Our students recognized the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18: 21-25) right away — God has forgiven each of us so much, and if we cannot learn from that experience and feel merciful and forgiving to others, then the mercies we have received will fade away.  We explained that it’s not that God is punishing us, it’s just that if we aren’t forgiving, we cannot receive forgiveness; somehow, the state of our heart is only open to forgiveness when we can humbly pass along forgiveness too.” ~ from


“Let us notice at the outset that this petition directly unites two acts: the forgiveness of our sins by God is connected to our forgiveness of sins committed against us… And, of course, precisely here in this connection, in this relationship lies the profound mystery of forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 65-66


“For the profound law of Life consists not simply in doing no wrong, but in doing good, and this means first of all to accept the other, which means to effect that unity without which even the most law-abiding society still becomes a living hell. This is the essence of sin, and it is for the remission of this sin, the sin of all sins, that we pray in the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 70


“Perhaps the terrible tragedy of our time, of those societies in which we live, consists precisely in the fact that while there is much to talk about legality and justice, while many assorted texts are cited, these societies have almost entirely lost the power and morality of forgiveness. This is why the petition in the Lord’s prayer for forgiveness of sins of those who sinned against us, and of us and our sins by God, and possibly the very center of moral rebirth before which we stand in this age.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 71-72


Idea: Since forgiving others is the hardest part of the phrase, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” let us find ways to teach children how to forgive. Find ideas for doing so here: Find a few of the many examples in the Holy Scriptures here: There are 10 important things to keep in mind while teaching children forgiveness (they are also useful for us to keep in mind, as WE forgive) in this blog post: . And last, but not least, here are ways to teach/model forgiveness to your children every day: