Category Archives: Education

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 12 and 13

This is the final portion of a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we focused on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We have shared a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We have also occasionally included a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Lesson 12: Fasting

The twelfth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins with a reminder that true prayer is being with our best friend. The lesson asks the reader if they only think and talk when they’re with a friend, or if they use their whole body (for example, to wave or give a high five and to play) when they’re with their friend. Of course, the whole body is involved! It is the same way with prayer.

But how can we pray with our whole body? There are many ways, including standing to pray, making prostrations, reverently kissing things (and people) that point us to God, making the sign of the cross, etc. But the lesson also goes on to say that we can pray with our body by fasting.

The lesson speaks of how fasting shapes our obedience and trains our spiritual muscles. Just like we work out to make our body strong, fasting helps to make our spiritual muscles strong. It cites examples from the lives of the saints, including a story of one time when Fr. Arseny, in the Soviet prison camp, leaned on his fasting and prayer, and they made him strong (not just spiritually, but physically in this instance!).

This lesson makes it clear that we need to fast, not just because it is good for us, but because it is a necessary part of our spiritual life.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“We love God and pray to Him with all that we are, and that includes our strength, our muscles, our bones, and every cell in our bodies. We can use our bodies to help our heart and our mind and our soul to pray, to be with God and to know Him better.” (p. 99, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Fasting is forgetting about our hunger for food so that we can be hungry for God. If we fast properly, it helps us to focus our mind and soul and heart on the Lord. When we fast, we empty our stomachs in order to fill our souls and hearts more fully with prayer.” (p. 4, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Saint John Chrysostom said that fasting is one wing and prayer is the other. Have you ever seen a bird fly with one wing? We need both wings if we are to fly spiritually toward God.” (p. 101, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Parents and older children will benefit from listening to this podcast about fasting from Fr. Thomas Hopko (of blessed memory). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgWh8C7ezNE

***

 

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

Lesson 13: Almsgiving

The thirteenth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” picks up where the twelfth chapter left off: by reminding the reader that we need prayer and fasting, the two wings that help us fly to God. Then it goes on to state that we need more than those two things if we wish to fly to God. The third essential thing to help us grow toward God is almsgiving. Fr. Michael calls almsgiving the wind that will lift our prayer and fasting “wings” to God.

The lesson goes on to talk about how God gives us alms: He gives us love, rain, food, clothing, cheer… He knows what we need, and He gives that to us. The lesson explains that “alms” means mercy. It goes on to explain what mercy is and how important it is for us to give mercy, because of how merciful God is to us.

The lesson takes a look at how we should show mercy, or give alms: not loudly to get attention, but secretly. It cites St. Nicholas’ example, and explains that God’s rewards last forever. The reader is encouraged to share alms with others out of love, seeing them as Christ Himself. (The lesson includes the story of St. Martin, who shared his cloak with a beggar, and that night he had a dream in which Christ was wearing that cloak!)

The lesson concludes with a reminder that faith, hope, and love are the greatest things. Prayer shows that we have faith. Fasting places our hope in God. And Almsgiving gives God’s love to others while also growing His love in our own heart. This is why prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are so necessary to our Christian life: they are ways that we show that we are living out “the greatest things”!

May God grow all of us closer to Himself as we live in this way.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“Prayer and fasting are like two wings. But almsgiving is the “wind” that lifts our wings upward to God.” (p. 105, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“The Lord is telling us to do good so that God will notice, not other people. Because then God will reward us. If we do it so that others will think we are good or special, we may become prideful and there is no heavenly reward in that.” (p. 106, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“People with little, tiny hearts have a really hard time loving and showing mercy. But God wants our hearts to be really big. Is your heart big? Can it get bigger? Are you giving alms so that you will have rewards in heaven?” (p. 107, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

Faith, hope and love are the three great virtues of the Christian life. Everything we have learned in our catechism is meant to lead us to these qualities and to this virtuous way of life, so that we may be united to our one God and Father, through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit—the Holy Trinity, one in essence and undivided. Amen!” (p. 108, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 8 and 9

This is the fifth in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Lesson 8: “The Medicine of Immortality”

The eighth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” is called “The Medicine of Immortality”. It takes a closer look at Holy Communion, beginning by helping the reader to think through why it is that we call this sacrament “communion” in the first place. That is, because it joins us together in a common union. Communion joins us together as one with each other and with God.

The lesson goes on to explain how St. Ignatius of Antioch called Holy Communion “the Medicine of Immortality” because it unites us to Christ and allows us to live forever with God. The book takes a look at the institution of Holy Communion: when Our Lord served His disciples just before His death. We call this the “Mystical Supper” because of the Mystery of how Christ revealed Himself to them (and now, reveals Himself to us) through eating and drinking.

The lesson tells how in the Liturgy, we experience the Mystical Supper, Christ’s death, and His resurrection. It reminds us of Christ’s words “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). It compares someone giving a healthy kidney or donating their blood to help sick people with Christ offering us His Perfect Blood to heal our sick souls.

In order to be ready to receive that healing “transfusion”, though, we must prepare our hearts. The lesson reminds us to constantly prepare our hearts for Communion by the way that we live, including being kind, fasting, praying, and participating in the services at Church. When we prepare our hearts, they are ready for the healing that Holy Communion offers.

The lesson finishes by talking about gifts: we bring gifts (bread and wine to represent the good things in life, and to represent our own selves) to God. He transforms these gifts into His own Self: His flesh and His blood, Holy Communion. It is the greatest gift of all, and the very best medicine for us.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“When we receive Holy Communion together from the one loaf of bread and from the one chalice, we become one: one family, one community, one communion, one Church. We even become one with the perfect Community, the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!” (p. 65, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Have you heard about the notion of time-travel? …The Divine Liturgy is a kind of spiritual time travel. God does not live within time and His kingdom is beyond time… So, whenever we celebrate the Divine Liturgy we return spiritually to be with Christ at the Mystical Supper, at the Cross and at the Resurrection.” (p. 67, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“We also refer to the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion as ‘The Eucharist.’ Do you know what this word means? Eucharist means gratitude or thankfulness, so every Divine Liturgy is a ‘Thanksgiving,’ a giving thanks to God for our lives and for all His gifts.” (p. 68, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents and older children may enhance their learning about Holy Communion and its gifts to us by reading this article: https://www.goarch.org/-/holy-communion-the-gift-of-eternal-life

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CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

Lesson 9: “Holy Baptism”

The ninth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” helps its readers learn more about the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Just like we have to be born before we can eat anything, we must be born into God’s Kingdom through baptism before we can receive the healing gift of Holy Communion. Only when we are joined to the Church, Jesus’ Body, through Holy Baptism can we commune.

Fr. Michael uses the object lesson of walking around in a dark room and not knowing where the light switch is, to help his readers better understand their soul before being illumined by Baptism. Without turning on the light, we may get used to the darkness and maybe even forget what light is like, but with the light it is so very much easier to see where we should go and what we should do. Fr. Michael encourages his readers to pray for those who do not have the light of the Church and Holy Baptism.

The lesson goes on to take the reader, step by step, through the baptismal process, carefully explaining each part of the service and its importance. From “telling the devil to ‘get out of town!’” to the prayers preparing both the individual and the water to the anointing to the actual baptism to the new white robe and chrismation, all the way to the first taste of Holy Communion, each step is gently explained in this lesson. It is a thorough and child-friendly introduction to the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“And how are we born in the Church? What is the Mystery that makes us into a new person, as if we are born again? (Here’s a hint: When it happens, you should probably hold your breath. Another hint: We begin our new life with a splash!) Did you get it? Yes, it is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism!” (p. 73, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“The Saints teach us that when we are baptized in the Church we are illumined or enlightened. Do you know what that means? It means we are lit up; the light goes on inside us, because Jesus the True Light has come into us.” (p. 74, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Now that they have been born into life with God in the Church, the priest leads them, with the Gospel Book in his hands, in a little walk or ‘dance;’ a dance of joy around the baptismal font. This shows that their lives will be led by Christ and revolve around the life of Jesus and His Church.” (p. 79, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

In episode #71 of “Be the Bee”, host Steve helps older children and parents think about what it means to become an Orthodox Christian through constantly making the choice to follow Christ. He suggests that we are not just Orthodox through Baptism and Holy Communion (although both are certainly integral to our Christian Faith!), but that we also need to make daily choices to continue to follow Christ. Watch the episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EysL5aldWhg

***

 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 6 and 7

This is the fourth in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 6: Holy Tradition

 

The sixth lesson in “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” reminds its readers that God wants to embrace us with His love through Christ, who is our Healer. Our priest works as Christ’s “mouth” and “hands”. He helps to give us the “medicine” of God’s divine grace.

Fr. Michael compares God’s grace to a river, which runs through the Church in the form of Holy Tradition. The saints have lived holy lives in this Tradition, and passed it down to all of us. They have shown us through their lives what it looks like to live in the flow of God’s grace.

He also compares the Tradition of the Church to a few other things. For example, a treasure map. Just as a treasure map helps us find treasure, the Tradition of the Church helps us to become holy, to be closer to God, the greatest treasure that exists! Holy Tradition is also like the instructions for a Christmas gift: it helps us to know how to put the pieces of our life together in the proper way.

Five smaller “streams” feed into the “River” of Tradition. This lesson takes a quick look at them as well. They include the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments of the Church; the Scriptures; the Seven Ecumenical Councils; the Lives of the Saints (and what they wrote); and the physical aspects of the Church (Holy Icons, the Church building itself, Church music). All of these things work together to flow the grace of God into our lives, just as many small rivers flow together into one.

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“…what is this medicine that God offers to heal us and lead us back to Himself? What is it called? It is called His divine grace. Grace is God’s own life. We also call it His power, His energies, and His love for us.” (p. 46, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Holy Tradition is not just a set of ideas that really smart people made up one day, or even over many centuries. It is the way of living that brings the healing grace of God into our souls.” (p. 47, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Holy Tradition is like the instructions for your Christmas present. Our Church Tradition provides us with instructions on how to live as a Christian and how the Church should function, so that we know God’s truth and grace is flowing into us.” (p. 50, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“What will you do with the Holy Tradition of the Church? Live it! Love it! And Lend it! Pass it down to others! When we do this, we become part of the River of Grace of Holy Tradition: when we practice it, protect it, and pass it down.” (p. 52, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

Lesson 7: The Priesthood

 

The seventh lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins by reminding the reader of the River of Grace (Holy Tradition) that flows through the Church to the entire world. Certain men have been given a special responsibility to protect the River of Grace: these men are our priests.

In his typical child-friendly writing style, Fr. Michael reminds us that there are things we should not do when we go swimming, because they’re dangerous. To help protect us and keep us safe, there are lifeguards. In a similar way, in the Church, our bishops are like lifeguards. They help to preserve the Faith of the apostles. They appoint priests to be other lifeguards, since the bishops can’t be everywhere at once.

The priesthood is a gift of grace given to men who have been called by God to do this work. Jesus is our High Priest, and He gives the gift of the Priesthood to the bishops and priests of the Church. These men are not perfect, and they can’t become priests by their own power. Christ lets them borrow His perfect Priesthood, and gives them His power to do the work that they must do. This happens through the sacrament of Ordination.

Because of the gift that God gives to us by giving us priests, we can be baptized. We can be chrismated. We can receive Holy Communion. There are so many things that Christ does through our priest that lead us to God. This is why we pray for our priest and treat him with love and respect.

The lesson closes with a brief look at each of the ranks of ordination. It describes the work of the bishop, priests/presbyters, and deacons. The reader is reminded that the River of Grace flows through all of these men. It is through the work of their hands that Christ grows His Church.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“God has given to the Church special protectors to guard the River of Grace and keep it from being polluted. They guard the holy teachings of the Church. They also guard the holy things of the Church. Do you know who these guards are? …the bishops and priests of the Church!” (p. 55, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Do you remember in the Divine Liturgy—the priest calls down the Holy Spirit on the bread and the wine, and they become something much more than bread, and wine?… something similar happens to make a man a priest. The church calls the Holy Spirit down to make a man something more than he was before. The Holy Spirit makes a change in him, and God’s grace makes him a priest, an icon of Christ, the High Priest.” (p. 57, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“…because the priest reflects Christ and His Priesthood—we should treat him with great love and respect, even though he is a human being and a sinner. Since he is an icon of Christ, we receive a blessing and kiss his hand when we see him. Because he brings God’s grace to us, we honor him, we pray for him and are thankful for him. We do this because of Christ, who is with the priest in a special way since the time of his ordination. When we respect the priest, we show respect for Christ, for  His Holy Church, and for the Holy Spirit who ordained him.” (pp. 58-59, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Through the bishop, priests and deacons, the River of Grace flows abundantly to all those in the Church, bringing refreshment to the hearts of Christians.” (p. 60, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 4 and 5

This is the third in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 4: Jesus Christ

The fourth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” begins by reminding the reader that sin has made us spiritually sick, and we are not able to turn back toward God on our own power. We need a strong medicine that can heal us. It goes on to talk about how Jesus, the Good Samaritan became the medicine that we need.

In this lesson, Fr. Michael incorporates objects like an inside-out t-shirt and a sponge with water to help the visual and tactile learners better understand what Christ did in taking on our inside-out humanity and absorbing our sins to remove them and turn our humanity aright once more. The lesson talks about all of the things that Jesus set aright. He healed our broken/sick humanity; He broke the power of death over us; and He also raised us to a new, resurrected life.

The new, resurrected body He had was like Adam and Eve’s had been before they sinned. And He did not leave that body on earth, but took it to heaven with Him! Then He sent us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to help us to receive God’s life and light. Christ is the most powerful Medicine for all of us!

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“We needed medicine, not just for our bodies, but for our souls. We needed the light to be brought back to our spiritual eyes… Like the man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we needed someone to have compassion on us, to stop as we lay on the road wounded and half-dead and bring us back to life.” (p. 34, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Jesus made our human nature alive again by joining it to God’s nature, taking all the sickness out. He re-made us by putting on what we’re made of. And now each of us can be re-made by putting Him on. That’s what happens when we are baptized. We put on Jesus Christ and his clean and healthy humanity. ‘As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’” (p. 36, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“Jesus has become our Medicine. He remade us by becoming Man, He destroyed the power of sin and death through the cross, and He rose from the dead to take away our sickness and fill us with His life!” (p. 38, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

Lesson 5: The Church

 

The fifth lesson of “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” begins with a concise review, to remind the reader of what has been discussed thus far in the book. The bulk of the lesson focuses on “Finding the Medicine”, beginning by making a life connection. The lesson invites its readers to remember a time when they were sick and/or injured, and what happened: likely they were taken to a clinic or hospital, which provided them with the needed treatment and/or medicine.

The lesson reminds the reader that the Church is our spiritual hospital. Christ is the Great Physician, and in the Church we find the medicine that our souls need. Our priest(s) are like “spiritual medicine practitioners”. They receive their orders from Christ and then apply the “medicines” that we need to be spiritually healed.

The medicine that the Church offers is God’s life, the Holy Spirit, which is offered to us through the Church. We in the Church call this “God’s grace”. The lesson goes on to cite two examples from the Scriptures of God’s grace pouring into someone and healing them. Then it establishes once more that God’s grace is poured out through the Church, Christ’s Body, for the healing of our souls and bodies.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“Then Christ Jesus rose from the dead, ‘trampling down death by death.’ He swallowed up Death with Life! (1 Cor. 15:54) He beat the devil at his own game! God planned a surprise attack. The devil thought he had a mere man, but instead he found himself face to face with God!” (p. 40, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“So where do we get the spiritual medicine that the Lord Jesus has for us by His becoming Man, dying, and rising again? It is similar to the doctor and the hospital. Jesus is the Doctor, the Great Physician, and the Church is the Hospital. It is in the Church that we find the medicines for our soul. The medicine is from Christ, who is the Head, but we find it in the Church, His Body.” (pp. 41-42, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“But how is it that God’s grace is in the Church? Because Jesus is joined to His Church as a head is joined to a body… Does your head go anywhere without your body? I hope not! …Your head is attached to your body. It is one with your body. The same is true with Christ’s body. Christ and the Church are one.” (pp. 43-44, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

 

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 2 and 3

This is the second in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Lesson 2: The Fall

 

The second lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” helps children to learn about the choices that Adam and Eve made and the consequences of those choices. As is characteristic of the book, the lesson is written as a conversation. It uses only words that children can easily understand.

The lesson begins by describing Paradise as a place that was beautiful both inside and out. When God placed Adam and Eve in this beautiful place, they could have lived there with God forever, if they had chosen to do so. They had a lot to learn, since they were newly created. Their bodies were grown up bodies, but they needed to grow spiritually.

God provided all that Adam and Eve needed, and set only one limit: they were not to eat from one tree in the middle of the garden. Just as we are all easily tempted to do the things that we know we are not supposed to do, Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s tempting words when he told Eve that God’s limits on the tree were not quite fair.

The lesson explains how they ate, and everything changed. Their communion with God was broken. They felt cold and naked. They even tried to hide from God. Then it goes on to show how God in His mercy extended the opportunity for Adam and Eve to repent, to own up to what they’d done, so that their relationship could be restored. But they blamed others rather than admitting their own choice.

The lesson tells about how this made God feel very sad and that because of their choice, He had to send them out of Paradise, and eventually they would die. However, it explains that this was not a permanent separation: it is more of a “time out” until God could do something to cure them. That “something” is Christ.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

***

“God gave them everything they needed. And He wanted them to love Him and to be obedient so they could always know His embrace. But sometimes kids are not obedient. Have you always been obedient? Tell the truth! Did your mom and dad tell you not to touch a hot plate, but you did, and you burned your hand? Did they tell you not to eat so much candy because you would get sick? Did you eat it anyway and end up with a stomach ache? Most of us have done something like that. Adam and Eve did something like that too.” (p. 19, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“What did Eve do? She listened to the serpent… Eve was tempted with pride. And so, she ate. Then she gave some to her husband Adam. And he ate too. And what happened? They began to feel different inside: sad and lonely and cold. God seemed so far away now. Things changed outside too…” (p. 21, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

***

“God wanted to give Adam and Eve a chance for Confession. But they didn’t confess their own sin: they confessed the sin of others. In the Church, God has given us the Sacrament of Confession… whose sins do we confess? Only our own, right? We don’t blame others like Adam and Eve did. This is very important to keep us healthy and close to God.” (p. 22, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents and older children may benefit from hearing more about the Fall in this podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/emmaus/three_falls_of_man_and_return_to_paradise_mar_10_2019

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CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

Lesson 3: The Sickness of Sin

 

The third lesson of the book focuses on the sickness of sin. It begins with a quick review of the preceding lessons, since they lay the groundwork for this one. It also offers several footnotes which contain additional activities that could be done during the reading of their particular part of the lesson, to enhance the lesson and better demonstrate the point(s) being made.

After the brief review, the lesson goes on to talk about how God has created each person in His image, stamped with His image on our heart. Beginning with Adam and Eve, anytime someone chooses to sin, this icon, the image of God, becomes dark and difficult to see. It is easy for us to forget God when His image in our heart is dirty with sin. We think more of ourselves and what we want. His image in our heart needs to be cleaned and restored. The lesson mentions that only Christ can clean it, and that the reader will learn more about it in a future lesson.

The lesson goes on to teach the reader about their nous, the eye of their soul, which was created to help each of us to see God and His blessings. It tells the reader that when we sin, our nous becomes dark like a window at nighttime: we can not see through it because it is darkened. When God’s light is not in us because of our sin, we can’t see Him clearly and it feels like He is far away (even though He is not).

The lesson explains how Adam tried to replace loving God with things, as he tried to become happy again. All of us do the same, choosing to follow our passions instead of God. It compares passions to magnets and offers a memorable hands-on suggestion of how to demonstrate the lesson using actual magnets. The lesson talks about how everyone has passions, even saints. The saints, however, have learned to turn their passions over and turn to God instead, which makes the passions no longer able to “stick”. (The suggested activity of turning one of the magnets over at this point to show how they repel each other will be an effective way to make this point.)

Before its close, this lesson touches on the struggles we all face to keep our hearts clean, keep our attention on God, and keep our trust in God. Sin fights against all of these. But Christ can provide the medicine that we need to be saved in these struggles, and the forthcoming lessons will help us to learn more.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“…God did not create Adam and Eve to die… He was sad to see their hearts darkened and sick with sin. For this meant their hearts could no longer see Him and experience His perfect love.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we also live with this sickness… How can we become healthy again?” (p. 27, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“…after Adam sinned he had difficulty seeing the stamp of Jesus in his heart. This means that Adam forgot about God and thought mostly about himself and his own desires. He no longer sensed that God was in him and with him. Do you ever forget about God?” (p. 28, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“Like a magnet, when our passions get too close to sin they want to stick to them. These passions pull us toward sin. And the more we sin, the stronger the magnetic force becomes. Sometimes it feels like we can’t stop from sinning, but with God’s grace we can.” (p. 30, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“The saints cleaned their hearts from the dark passions so that the light of God could come in.When the light of God comes into our hearts, we can see what is really important and true. Our spiritual eye—our nous—is filled with light. We find joy and peace. Then we can turn our attention to the love of God and our neighbor.” (p. 31, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents and older children may benefit from listening in as Mother Melania from St. Barbara Orthodox Monastery in Santa Paula, California talks with Kevin Allen about the passions, how they cloud the window of our hearts, and how we can begin the work to be free of their grasp in this podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/the_passions_how_we_got_into_this_mess_and_how_we_get_out

 

While at Home: Choosing to Make the Most of Bonus Family Time

In this season of social distancing, many of us find ourselves at home with our children, with considerably fewer activities and opportunities filling our schedule. At moments this may feel daunting: how can we possibly keep our children “entertained” for that many hours, for an uncertain number of days? How will we not all go “stir crazy”?

Right now, at the beginning of this season – however long it may be – is a good time for us to carefully choose our mindset, which will shape the atmosphere of our home. If we view this “bonus” time together as a gift from God, wherein we can build our relationships with each other and continue to grow toward Him, our children will respond accordingly. We are being given the opportunity to teach our children, through our example, what it means to trust God and to love and serve others. They will see – even more than usual – our gratitude towards God and His provision; our generosity with our neighbors near and far; and the love that we have for Christ, demonstrated in our prayer/study/participation in church (as possible).

Will we fail? Yes. When we do, let us model asking for forgiveness and getting back up again. Fall down, get up again: this is the way our Faith works! How we handle our own failure is also an opportunity to teach. Glory be to God, Who never gives up on us when we fail.

This bonus family time affords us the chance to help our children learn more about the Faith. Of course, our own example is the best way to teach them! But there are many resources available that we can access from home that can help. We aim to share these resources (and some others, just for fun!) with the community. It is our hope that these resources will help you to build your (and your children’s) faith while also creating many fun family memories.

May the Lord bless us all, and strengthen us for the days ahead.

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Here is a large collection of resources that you may wish to comb through: http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/index

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Orthodox Educational Resources:

Listen to Dr. Chrissi Hart reading a great variety of children’s books at https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine

Every day, you can listen to Deacon Jerome Atherholt’s readings about a saint commemorated that day, here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday

Prepare your heart for Sunday’s Gospel reading by listening to https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend

Each week you can listen to this meditation and then discuss it together: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/tendingthegarden

If you have small children in your life, don’t miss this resource: https://orthodoxpebbles.com/

Find Orthodox crafts, ideas, and even some recipes here: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/

If your children enjoy activity books, check these out! Themes include “Saints Who Were Physicians and Healers”, “Saints and the Animals That Served Them”, “Saints in Times of Trouble”,“Saints of North America”, and more! Find them here: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/

The OCA’s department of Christian Education has these wonderful focus units (“Journey to Pascha”, “My Orthodox Family”, “The Theotokos”, and more) available for free download: http://dce.oca.org/page/focus

Potamitis Publishing offers all sorts of children’s books and activity books. Their “Paterikon for Kids” books are child-sized and colorful, and will be a useful resource to any family! https://potamitis.us/

This is a great time to take in the “Be the Bee” video series and talk about them together as a family! Find them here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/bethebee

Celebrate spring and new life with these activities: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/on-celebrating-new-life-in-springtime/

There are so many needy people around us, and now we “see” them more easily. How can we help, even if we have limited resources? Here are some suggestions of ways to work together as a family to help someone in need: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/on-finding-a-way-to-help-even-on-a-limited-budget/

Here are a few of the Orthodox books that we’ve shared, as well as some learning ideas that could be used at home (even though the ideas were originally written for Sunday Church school classes): https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/gleanings-from-a-book-anthony-the-great-by-john-sarantakis-illustrated-by-misha-pjawka/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/05/10/gleanings-from-a-book-spyridons-shoes-by-christine-rogers/                                         https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/260/ (“H is for Holy” by Nika Boyd)

Learn more about the saints during this time! They have all been through great struggles and show us how to be faithful to God to the end. Although these blogs were written for Sunday Church school, many of the ideas will work in a home setting, as well. Search “saints” at https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com  to find ideas like these: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/01/25/learning-about-a-saint-st-kendeas-commemorated-oct-6-19/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/learning-about-the-saints-st-tikhon-of-zadonsk-august-13-or-26/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/learning-from-the-saints-st-peter-june-29/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/learning-from-the-saints-st-nina-january-1427/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/saints-of-recent-decades-st-paisios-july-12june-29/

Find a variety of Orthodox-related art and craft ideas here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/back-pocket-ideas-for-creative-expression-in-lessons/

Other Educational resources:

Many companies are offering free subscriptions during the social distancing period. Here’s a list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1t3r618pd8MAi6V87dG2D66PtiKoHdHusBpjPKXgm36w/htmlview?fbclid=IwAR1MdJ7K0-_QEbSGW78tR9hYtY9KGs9_2YOat1Ow8jPk0E-b14Vm5HN8qiY&sle=true#gid=0

Free printable pages by theme or age level: https://www.123homeschool4me.com/home-school-free-printables

Online educational resources for a variety of ages: https://funinfirst.com/free-online-learning-at-home/

Take these virtual field trips without any of the expense! https://www.tripsavvy.com/virtual-field-trips-for-kids-3129414

Here are even more virtual field trips: https://adventuresinfamilyhood.com/20-virtual-field-trips-to-take-with-your-kids.html

Just for fun:

Here are a variety of spring-related activities: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/a-handful-of-spring-memory-makers-for-families/

Here are 50 (!) family-fun activities you can do together: https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/50-fun-things-to-do-at-home-with-kids

This is a wonderful season for reading. Here are some suggestions for great chapter books: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-books-together-part-3-books-to-read-with-older-children/

Perhaps it is too cold to do some of these activities, but others may be fun! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/on-family-fun-ideas-for-summer/ and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/go-out-and-play-ideas-for-summertime-outdoor-fun/ and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/back-pocket-ideas-for-summer-fun-activities/

This is the perfect time to practice random acts of kindness. What a gloriously fun way for us to be thinking of others more than ourselves, and to bring joy in this tense time! Need some ideas? Check these out: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/try-a-little-kindness/

Take a daily safari with the Cincinnati Zoo! From their Facebook post: “While the Cincinnati Zoo is closed and kids are home from school, let us help make your children’s hiatus from school fun and educational. Join us for a Home Safari Facebook Live each weekday at 3pm where we will highlight one of our amazing animals and include an activity you can do from home.” https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

Here’s a daily lunch doodling time with author/illustrator Mo Williams: https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems

Craft idea: make a Godfulness Jar. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/on-creating-and-using-a-godfulness-jar/

Explore a variety of art styles together (yes, you too, mom or dad!) during this time at home. Here are a few suggestions: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/back-pocket-ideas-for-creative-children/

Work on learning the scriptures together by scripture journaling. Here are a few ideas: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/on-learning-the-scriptures-by-creating-a-scripture-journal/

There’s a whole series of art tutorials, each featuring a cross (but could be used for anything), that you may enjoy trying together. The first in the series focuses on using paper as the main medium, and is found here. (At the end of the blog post there’s a link to the second in the series. Follow that link and the subsequent ones to find all of the different tutorials.) https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/art-projects-for-sunday-church-school-paper/

A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Introduction and Lesson 1

This is the first in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: https://www.wenorthodox.com/product-page/the-good-samaritan-a-children-s-catechism). This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-the-good-samaritan-a-childrens-catechism-by-the-very-reverend-fr-michael-shanbour/. In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.

 

Introduction: the Good Samaritan

 

The very first chapter (after the author’s preface) unpacks for its readers the parable of the Good Samaritan. It opens our eyes to see that the whole purpose of the Church is to help us heal from our sins. The lesson recounts the Good Samaritan’s story in its entirety. Then, piece by piece, it unlocks each significant detail of the parable, showing how that part of the story relates to humankind throughout history, as well as to our own life. These elements help the reader to understand how St. John Chrysostom and other saints have interpreted this parable.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is foundational to the rest of the book. Each of the 13 lessons that follows comes out of that introduction. Each pushes the reader to better understand a particular aspect of the Faith. Throughout the book, the reader will find opportunity to take frequent looks back to the parable of the Good Samaritan and see how that lesson’s theme is reflected in this helpful story.

Here are a few quotes from the introduction to the book:

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2. The man travels down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Do you know what it’s like to go from Jerusalem to Jericho? You have to go down, down, down. It’s like a long hike from a high hill to a low valley. So, Jesus is telling us that Adam went from a high place to a much lower place. What is the Lord trying to say to us? He is telling us that Adam sinned.” (p. 4, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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4. The man was left half-dead.

Now the story shows us what sin does to us. Sin makes us sick. It hurts us. It brings darkness and spiritual death into our minds and hearts. God created us to be like Him and to have life, to be well. Sin distances us from God and makes us sick or unhealthy…” (p. 5, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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8. The Samaritan puts the man on his donkey and takes him to the Inn.

The Inn was like a hospital. People went there to find rest, to be cured of their sickness and to be well again. What does the Inn represent in the story? The inn is the Church! The Church is the hospital for sinners—you and me.” (p. 7, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents and older children will benefit from reading more about the Good Samaritan and how this parable relates to the Church and our own life, in this article: http://saintandrewgoc.org/home/2016/1/13/on-healing
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CHILDRENS CATECHISM - COVER, FRONT copy

 

 

Lesson 1: Paradise

 

The first lesson of the book takes a close look at the beginning of the world, as God created it. He created the whole world and its creatures. Then he created humankind and put them in a special place, a joy-filled place, the beautiful garden of Paradise, called “Eden.”

The lesson describes paradise, citing many church fathers’ descriptions. Fr. Michael adds child-friendly insights along the way. For example, as he describes the grass in Paradise, he suggests, “Perhaps Adam could take a nap by rolling up the grass like it was a soft mattress or blanket.” Throughout the lesson, the descriptions are colorful and easy for children to understand.

The lesson tells how Adam and Eve lived with God so closely. But, even though they lived a life that was so close to Him, they still had a lot to learn so that they could grow to be even closer to God. It exerts that the level of spiritual growth in the context of Paradise is what God intended for humankind: that we would be able to care for His world and grow closer and closer to Him.

The lesson helps its readers to see that Paradise was like the Church. It was heaven on earth. God intended for the whole world to become that way. He wanted all of it to be a place where we could live in closeness to Him.

But He also gave humans the ability to make choices. He wants each of us to choose to love Him. He does not force us to love Him. Adam and Eve made a choice to turn away from Him. Sin is the choice that they made which turned them away from Him.

 

Here are a few quotes from the lesson:

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“In the garden of Paradise, the air was completely pure and sweet, and breathing made one remember the Lord (kind of like Church incense does)! The weather was always beautiful. In paradise it was never too hot or too cold. There were no tornadoes or hurricanes or thunderstorms that could scare or hurt any living thing. So Adam and Eve did not need a house to live in, or even clothing to protect them from the elements.” (p. 12, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“Paradise was not just a place outside that Adam and Eve could see and touch; it was also how God lived in their hearts. Paradise was also inside Adam and Eve because God lived in them and spoke to their hearts… God gave them the Tree of Life. This Tree was like Holy Communion, and they could have eaten of it eventually if they had remained in Paradise.” (p. 13, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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“Do you remember in the Divine Liturgy when the priest lifts up his hands and extends an invitation to us? ‘Let us lift up our hearts! Let us give thanks unto the Lord!’ This is an invitation to be like Adam and Eve in Paradise, to do what they failed to do. Do you know that in the Divine Liturgy we experience Paradise for a little while? Do you experience it? (Or do you just feel bored and tired?)” (p. 14, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)

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Parents may find it helpful to hear this short homily on how Paradise can be re-opened to us: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/prayingintherain/paradise_is_open

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