Category Archives: Holy Week

On Mark 11:17, “My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All Nations.”

Note: the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts Festival 2017’s theme is the inspiration for this blog post. We will take a closer look at the theme, to help them to better prepare for the festival in case they participate. Whether or not they do, what we can gather from this passage of St. Mark’s Gospel is applicable to all of us, not just the children participating in the festival!

Have you ever thought about that time when our Lord went into the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove out the salesmen? Why did He do that? What can we learn from His actions? How can we apply this passage to our own life?

It all began with the Triumphal Entry, the glorious reception that Jesus was given when He arrived in Jerusalem. Even the fact that He was riding on a lowly donkey did not stop the crowd from singing His praises. But instead of glorying in that acclaim, He went straight to the temple and “looked around at all things.” (Mark 11:11) His means of entry into Jerusalem modeled humility and His choice to go directly to the temple exemplifies the priority that should be given to being in God’s house.

Something else is tucked into this passage that could easily be missed. The passage says that He “looked around at all things” but “as the hour was already late He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” This shows us something else: it models self restraint. After all, as He looked around, our Lord saw all of the greedy money-making happening in what should have been a very holy, completely God-focused place. He knew that it was wrong, and had every right to be furious about it. But instead, He left to be with His disciples, calmly choosing being with people over being frustrated about stuff.

The next day our Lord returned to Jerusalem, and went back to the temple. This time He “drove out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.”  (Mark 11:15-16) He thus demonstrated the importance of keeping what has been set apart for God free from greed and from earthly stuff.

Once the temple was restored to its intended state, it could also return to its intended purpose of worship and godly teaching. And so Christ taught the people, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” This teaching was appropriate for the people who had gotten so accustomed to seeing (and doing) marketing in the temple that they perhaps didn’t even think about how inappropriate it was. It turns out that this teaching is also appropriate for those of us living 2000+ years later. Concepts that we can take from this passage include: honoring God’s house as a place to pray; welcoming all because God’s house is for everyone, regardless of nationality; and guarding against deceit and greed that can steal us away from right relationship with God.

St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians pushes us to look at this event in an even more personal light. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reads, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?” Reconsidering the account of our Lord’s cleansing of the temple from the perspective of our own body being a temple, set apart for God, offers us even more insights for our Christian life. First and foremost, we need to aim to live humbly as our Lord did, especially when things are going well and others are lauding us. Secondly, God should always be our first stop, whether we are looking for personal guidance or we are prioritizing our schedule (being in church at the Divine Services should be at the top of our list). Thirdly, we need Christ Himself to cleanse our hearts, drive away the greed and selfishness in us, and restore us to the way we were intended to be. Finally, we need Him to teach us: how to guard the holiness of His temple, keeping our bodies from being marred by greed; how to welcome all around us to worship Him as well; and how to keep ourselves pure so that we do not house thoughts and desires that steal our focus away from Him.

May the Lord indeed cleanse us, that we may each become a worthy temple that properly worships Him and welcomes others to do the same.

Here are some ideas of ways to help our children (whether or not they will be participating in the aforementioned Creative Arts Festival) to learn about this passage:

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If your parish will be participating in the Creative Arts Festival, you can find information about it here: http://www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf

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Together as a family, read this easy-to-understand version of the story. If your children would enjoy them, print some of the activity pages or play some of the related online games found at the bottom of the page. http://gardenofpraise.com/bibl39s.htm

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This series of 5 devotional readings can help your family learn more about the temple, Christ cleansing the temple, and being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Note: the readings are not written from an Orthodox perspective, but can still be very helpful discussion-starters. http://children.cccm.com/NTDevotionsPDF/DEVNT261.pdf

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If your children enjoy doing activity pages related to family discussions, you will want to peruse the printables in this pdf about the cleansing of the temple: http://freesundayschoolcurriculum.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/5/0/12503916/lesson_11_jesus_clears_the_temple.pdf

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These commentaries on the Mark passage offer insights into the passage: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/coffeecup/mark_1115_intro, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/coffeecup/mark_1117_19, and http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/transforminglives/part_59_mark_1115_19.

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“The first and most important temple for the holy spirit is us.” Listen to this short podcast on keeping our bodies, our temples, clean: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/isermon/living_as_a_temple

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Gleanings from a Book: “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks

I wish I had “Queen Abigail the Wise”in my hands two months ago. I had heard about the book online somewhere, so I found and liked its Facebook page, in hopes that I would get to the book itself some day. Throughout Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, author Grace Brooks kept posting links to the book’s blog. I chose not to read the blog posts, because I didn’t want to have any spoilers before I finally got my hands on the book and read it. Now that Lent is finished and I got a copy of the book, I can’t help wishing I had read both it and the related blog posts months ago! So many of the experiences that Abigail and her friends (oops, that’s a spoiler, sorry!) have throughout the course of this book are things that I can relate to, even though I’m a “grownup.”

I am an adult, but I freely admit that I love children’s literature. I have always enjoyed a good story, especially one with takeaway value whether in the overall story, the ethical choices of the story’s characters, or the lessons that they learn along the way. “Queen Abigail the Wise” offers all three: it is a package deal. The storyline is filled with the ups and downs of a very realistic Orthodox Christian girl, Abigail, as she lives her life during one Lenten season. Each of the main characters – the girls in the Every Tuesday Girls Club – have struggles, but they are determined to do their best, and the reader is invited along for the ride. Throughout the book there are many lessons learned, as well! Many chapters of the story contain their own mini-lessons, but the story is told so effectively that the reader doesn’t even notice that they are learning.

This book does an excellent job of presenting the Orthodox Christian life as real, applicable, and desirable for modern day girls. The charming illustrations enhance the storyline, adding delight to the story itself (and tempting this reader to break out her colored pencils!). The saints whose lives are appropriately introduced throughout the story are presented realistically, and the things that the characters learn from both the saints and the scriptures are relevant for life. Each of the girls in the Every Tuesday Girls Club is very different from all of the others, yet they interact with the Faith and each other in a genuine manner. This means they sometimes get along and sometimes they are just being, well, pre-teen American girls! The characters are so believable that the reader steps away from the story feeling like she has several new young friends.

I have a daughter who will soon turn 20. She has always loved to read, and has loved the Church and her girlfriends at church. Like Abigail and her friends, my daughter and hers have not always gotten along at every step of their journey, but they have learned together and grown closer to God along the way. To be honest, I wish I had this book ten years ago. She would have inhaled it, learned a lot, and shared it with her friends. And she probably would have made up a song about it. But I won’t say more about that: I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it yet!

Since I have the book now, instead, I will just have to share it with my 10-year-old goddaughter… so we can BOTH wait impatiently for the second in the series!

To learn more about “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks, or to purchase your own copy, visit the book’s website at http://queenabigail.com/. Follow along on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/QueenAbigailtheWise/.


“Queen Abigail the Wise” is a great story for young girls to read. But it is not just for young girls! Here are just a few of my favorite “quotes to ponder” that I found as I enjoyed the book and the blog posts related to it:

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Words to ponder from pp. 66- 67, when Abigail is talking to her mom and trying to figure out how to help her friend:

“Abigail… felt disappointed. ‘But isn’t there something to do?’

‘Praying is doing, Abby. Didn’t you hear what father Boris said in the homily? …He said that if you didn’t remember anything else about St. Gregory [of Palomas] you should just pray this week. Not just with words. Pray with your heart. And then—?’


‘Listen?’


‘Yes. Pray and then listen. Because God hears our prayers, but we don’t always hear His answers…’”  

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Words to ponder from page 138, in a discussion with one of her parish’s priests, Fr. Andrew tells Abigail, “There’s a lot more to the Cross of Christ than you understand right now. But then, there’s more to the Cross than any of us understand. It’s certainly more than just an expression about someone being your cross to bear. And the crosses God brings into our lives aren’t just bad things — they’re the things that can save us.”

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Words to ponder from Fr. Andrew’s sermon on Holy Saturday (pg. 234): “‘We’ve come to the end,’ he said. ‘Lent is over… Tonight we will meet here again when the sun is gone and the stars are out… We all know what will happen tonight, but what happens now, in the present? What will happen at the end of the service?’

Abigail couldn’t help jumping a little at the question. On the other side of the church, where Vanessa stood with Noah, she grimaced and pulled him a little closer to her. Fr. Andrew paused again, gazing around the church at the assembled people. ‘That part is up to you. May we use these last hours before the blessed Pascha service in ways that bring glory to the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’

All the people murmured, ‘Amen,’ and Abigail exhaled. That had been a bit of a shock. It seemed that things in  church sometimes mirrored what was going on in her life to an astonishing degree.”

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(Warning: spoiler alert!!! Skip this until AFTER you read the book!)

Words to ponder from p. 264: “For the girls to walk in such sweet and simple harmony was more touching than they new. It had been a hard year at St. Michael the Archangel Church. There had been a lot of arguments and problems that had to get solved that year, and some people worried that they would never stop fussing and carrying grudges. But if the daughters of the Murphys, Peasles and Jenkinses could go along together, then maybe they could as well. If Abigail Alverson and Vanessa Taybeck could walk hand in hand, then really anything was possible.

“Abigail didn’t know it then, but that was when the Every Tuesday Girls Club began in earnest. That was when those five girls truly began to help the church.”

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Insights to ponder: “‘Queen Abigail’ is really just the story of how one girl ‘woke up’ to the Living God, to Christ present in every moment. That is really the very heart of any Christianity that is alive, intelligent and active. There are many of us — young and old, ‘cradle’ Christians and converts — who are going along in a kind of sleep-walk. We talk about God all the time — we talk and sing and hear about Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But do we believe that the Trinity is active and present in every moment — not 2000 years ago or at the Second Coming, but now?” ~ from author Grace Brooks’ blog post http://queenabigail.com/2016/05/10/last-thoughts-comments-and-some-secrets/

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Insights to ponder: “Whether we grew up Christian or not, chances are we were hearing the story of Jesus Christ’s life and death from the time we were young. We probably heard Christian claims that this man, who declared Himself to be the Son of God, died for us and rose from the dead. But do we really try to take that in? Do we let ourselves be amazed, as a child would be amazed?

Abigail’s eyes strayed up to the dome and the great image of Christ Himself looking down on them all. That image larger than any other, seeming to fill up the sky. One hand was raised in blessing. The other was on a book and on the book, a cross. She seemed to hear that voice again. Do you see, Abigail? Do you see?

“I wrote that passage for me, to give me a little kick. Do I really look, when I’m in church? Do I really listen? Lent is halfway over, so it’s worth thinking about, because we’ll arrive at the days of Holy Week sooner than we know. The cross of Christ is there every week in church, and extra attention is paid at the feasts of the Cross. But do we see?” ~ Grace Brooks, author of “Queen Abigail the Wise”, in her blog post http://queenabigail.com/2016/04/05/so-many-crosses-from-one-cross/

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: http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/children-during-holy-week-tips-for-parents/

Read/study up on the services ahead of time:
Find brief descriptions of each service of Holy Week here: http://www.antiochian.org/1175027131 Find background information, customs, and scripture references for each of the services of Holy Week here: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8432

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: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/files/lent/files/folder.2014-03-20.8273141169/holyweekguide.pdf

Find suggested highlights for you and your children to look for in each Holy Week service, here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html?m=1

Print this Daily Guide to Holy Week to read and study with your children before each service that you attend: http://lent.goarch.org/bulletins/documents/8.5x11_JourneyToPascha_1.0.pdf

Here’s a free printable “passport” with a colorable icon for each day of Holy Week: http://www.themccallums.org/michelle/2015/04/02/holy-week-passport/

Find ideas of activities and other ways to help your children learn about, celebrate, and participate in Holy Week here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/holy-week-activities/

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.  http://jmrockhill.blogspot.com/2014/04/holy-week.html

Create a scrapbook for Holy Week, as suggested here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-week-scrapbook.html. 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: https://youtu.be/2MZ_PiUBsAE

Here are recommendations for books that you can read together as a family during Holy Week: http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/the-lenten-journey-best-childrens-books-for-lent-and-holy-week/

In case you missed this post on the cross of Christ and leading children through Holy Week: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/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: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/d5aa72ed369c7b1fc58ddd93ebde329a.pdf. Add some of the palms that you bring home from church, after the service,  to add to the display.

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“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, http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth

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Find a family lesson focusing on the Gospel reading for the Triumphal Entry here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/files/lent/gospels/palmsunday. 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.

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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: http://www.littlefalcons.net/

*Before Holy Week begins, take some time to listen in on this very helpful webinar about preparing your family for Holy Week: https://youtu.be/lX3UyHAKMac

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Create Learning Boxes for young children to investigate during Holy Week: http://www.sttheophanacademy.com/2011/04/revisiting-pascha-learning-boxes.html

Holy Week Activities

Following are suggested activities to help make journeying through Holy Week with children more focused and holy:

Lazarus Saturday activities:

Divide your family into two teams and have a Lazarus Race as described on p. 9 of http://www.phyllisonest.com/.

Practice folding palm crosses like this: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/Palm-Crosses.pdf.

Palm Sunday activities:

Palm Sunday word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/phj05-triumphal-entry-hidden-message-word-search.pdf.

Lesson 4 (of this first grade level printable book) is on Palm Sunday: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/folder.2012-03-22.9458973042/unit-7.pdf.

Read the Palm Sunday story, written in easy-to-understand language, here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/131.pdf.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week printable guide for kids: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/125.pdf.

(Also, find Bridegroom Services info for parents here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/42.pdf.)

Holy Week activities:

Find brief descriptions of the Holy Week services, written in a way that children can understand, here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/25635.

Find links to articles on the Holy Week services (and more) that can help you better understand and experience the week here: http://www.antiochian.org/lent/holy-week.

Find practical, hands-on tips for helping children to better experience Holy Week here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html?m=1 and here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2011/04/18/holy-week-activities-for-kids/.

Find a fantastic selection of lesson plans, discussion ideas, and activity suggestions for helping children “Journey to Pascha” here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/pascha/. The lessons are leveled by age group, so be sure to check out each lesson for the ages of your children! (There are also many printable pdfs including a “Guide to Holy Week” that children can take with them or read, prior to each service.)

Together answer questions related to the Holy Week icons that are found at: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-week-scrapbook.html.

Make a mural for the events of Holy Week as suggested here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/1832.pdf.

Find the Bridegroom Matins “Teaching Picture,” along with its description for use with children, at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.
Read about the Bridegroom Matins services here: file:///home/chronos/u-a7946be60baa093c55717211fa16f6ff84c0651b/Downloads/42.pdf.

More Holy Week activities:

Watch a 5-minute story, animated with Legos, from the Last Supper through the resurrection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M8Yesnt1V8&feature=youtu.be.

See the 25-minute animated story of Holy Week through the resurrection from The Beginner’s Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PSgoPdKQFQ.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Week here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/colorear-pascua.html.

Play this board game together: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/Great%20Lent%20Board%20Game%202011%202-19.pdf.

Holy Thursday activities:

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/jesus-washed-the-disciples-feet-word-search.pdf.

Find a printable Holy Thursday notebooking page here: http://www.catholicicing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Holy-Thursday-Notebooking-Page.pdf.

Find printable “Last Supper” coloring pictures here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2013/10/ultima-cena-colorear.html.

Read the Last Supper story written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/107.pdf.

Find the Last Supper icon to color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/LastSupper1.pdf.

There is a footwashing icon to print and color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/175.pdf.

Holy Friday activities:

Find quiet activities for Holy Friday and Saturday here: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2014/04/quiet-activities-for-holy-friday-and.html.

Find the Holy Friday Vespers “Teaching Pictures” photo and description for use with children at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Friday here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/historia-ilustrada-para-colorear-muerte.html.

Read the story of the crucifixion written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/100.pdf.

Print the crown of thorns icon to color, from: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/54.pdf.

Print a colorable icon of the crucifixion at  http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/53.pdf.

Find a printable, colorable icon of the burial of Christ at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/43.pdf.

On the Cross of Christ and Leading Children Through Holy Week

We are rapidly approaching Holy Week, the most wonderful week of the Orthodox Christian Church year! It is a truly holy and deeply meaningful week. Experiencing the events of Holy Week is the best possible preparation for celebrating the deep joy of Pascha.

The reality of Christ’s death on the cross is a very real part of our journey on this particular week of the year. It is difficult enough for an adult to wrestle with the idea of God Himself enduring such pain and death. With children and their many questions added into the mix, Holy Week can be a real challenge for parents to face.

As we thought about Holy Week, the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education thought it would be helpful to offer ideas and suggestions for parents preparing to enter into the week with their children. We asked a variety of people to offer their wisdom and insights. This blog will offer a compilation of their answers.

Many thanks to Father Peter Pier (parish priest at St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in York, PA), Annalisa Boyd (parent and author), Carol Federoff (homeschooling parent, blogger, and writer), Dr. Chrissi Hart (parent, child psychologist, podcaster, and author), Molly Sabourin (parent, blogger, podcaster, and photographer), and Rebekah Yergo (homeschooling parent and Sunday Church School Director) for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Their insights will help us to better prepare ourselves and our children for what we are about to experience. (And their roles are far more numerous than those listed here!)

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We will begin with the subject of death. Death is a significant part of Holy Week. It is unavoidable, and can be a very difficult topic for some people, especially children, to encounter. But Holy Week cannot happen without it! After we hear about death, we will move through questions about why Christ had to die, and what was significant about Him dying on a cross. We asked our contributors how they explained Christ’s death to their children and what ideas they have for others who are teaching children about Christ’s crucifixion. Finally, we asked them for ideas of how to prepare our children for Holy Week. Here are some of their responses to our questions:
AODCE: What ideas do you have for parents and teachers as they approach the difficult subject of death with their children?

Dr. Hart: “There are developmental considerations here – depending on the child’s age. Children under six do not have a sense of finality of death [and] so [they] do not fully understand death. Ask children what they think happens when we die. We believe that from death there is new everlasting life, with Christ. Death is not something to be feared.  Just as Christ was resurrected from the dead, so we will [rise] also, to join Him in Heaven.”

Fr. Peter: “It is my opinion that parents should not hide death from children; it is part of our human existence. Children should be aware of it. However, parents should emphasize God’s love and care for us and the fact that a person who dies in Christ will be with God and therefore we don’t mourn them as people with no hope. If you shelter your children from death and try to pretend there’s no such thing out there, how will they make any sense of Holy Week and Pascha?”

Carol: “Use picture books that deal with death. I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm and Always and Forever by Alan Durant are wonderful examples.  Don’t wait until someone significant in their life passes…pick these books now during Lent and other times during the year so that this subject can be a gentle introduction rather than dealing with it after such a crisis in their life.  Of course, read Bible stories with your child.  There are situations and hints of death all through the Bible and can spark many mini conversations that will introduce the idea of death.”

AODCE: Why did Christ have to die?

Molly: He died “to destroy the power of death… He loved this world so much [that] he became us, to shatter death’s dominion over us.”

Fr. Peter: “In my opinion the best way to explain why Christ had to die is to emphasize that God knew that the only way to destroy power of death was for Him to go to the cross Himself and give His life for us. Christ went willingly because He knew that through His death he could destroy the power of sin and death over us. I would emphasize a number of things: First and foremost, God’s love. Put the love of God the Father and the Son at the forefront. Secondly, emphasize obedience: We as humans are constantly disobedient to God. Jesus, however, was able to obey even unto death (the thing that we fear most) and in so doing shows Himself to be the Perfect Human and an example to all of us.”

Carol: “I’m assuming these questions are for very young children and with them I would focus on the resurrection more than the death.  Christ died because he loved us and he died and rose to Heaven taking the people that were in Hades (a dark place that wasn’t fun to be in) to make it possible for us to go to Heaven when we die and leave the earth.  By Christ rising from the dead and going to Heaven, it gave us the chance to be like Him and do that too.”

AODCE: What is the significance of His death on a cross?

Annalisa: “In the Old Testament the Israelites disobeyed God (Numbers 21).  After they were delivered from slavery in Egypt they complained to Moses.  They were tired, hungry and angry at God.  God sent snakes into the camp of the Israelites and these snakes bit the people causing many to die.  The people realized they had sinned against God and repented.  God made a way for the people to be healed.  He told Moses to make a fiery snake, put it on a pole and lift it up for the people to see.  Anyone who looked at the snake on the pole would be healed.  This was a picture of Christ and the Cross.  Jesus was put on a cross so we could be healed from sin and death. The Israelites received healing for this life but through His work on the Cross Christ offers us eternal life!

“We cross ourselves all the time.  We cross ourselves at church, when we pray and any time we hear the words ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’  Sometimes we can forget why we cross ourselves and what it means when we do.  Each year during Great Lent we walk with Jesus through the most painful time of His life on earth.  His good friend betrayed Him and the rest of the Apostles ran away at the first sign of danger.  He was lied about, made fun of, beaten and finally hung on the Holy and Life Giving Cross.  When we cross ourselves we are reminding ourselves and telling others that we follow Jesus whether we are betrayed, lied about, made fun of beaten or even killed.  But it doesn’t stop there.  When we cross ourselves we remember that we take up our own cross and follow Him wherever He leads.  We no longer live for ourselves.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was crucified, Jesus asked God the Father to take the burden of death from Him.  Then He said something very important, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Luke 22:42.  That is what we are saying when we cross ourselves, “Lord, if there is another way please show me.  But I will do what You say no matter what.” In the Bible we read, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20 NKJV  When we cross ourselves we remember that the Cross of Christ is powerful and just as we followed Him in His passion if we love and obey God we will follow Him to life eternal.”

Molly: “Why the cross? Because crucifixion was seen as such a humiliating way to die, for common criminals. Everyone expected God’s kingdom to be an earthly one but Christ’s death on the cross communicated loud and clear our calling to live humbly on this earth and in hope of His heavenly, eternal Kingdom.”

Rebekah: “God created man with a physical body. You cannot be born without a body. It is part of the very essence of humankind. God, who made us this way, knows how important physical things are to us. Touching, seeing, tasting, hearing, and smelling things around us is how we understand the world we live in, and how we understand and connect to bigger and more complicated things- including spiritual things. God, who is spirit from before all worlds and bigger than the universe, sent Jesus to put on flesh; to become a man, in order to save us from the curse of sin and death. We learn of this mystery when we celebrate the Nativity. This was Love come to us. Man could now see God. Man could hear His words, straight from His own mouth. They saw His miracles and His compassion for all those around Him. And now, Christ Jesus showed us exactly what essence God is made of. God is Love. And in His loving-kindness, not only did he sacrifice His flesh on the cross, but in doing so, he left a physical reminder of this most loving act. It is a reminder to us that perfect Love not only died for us, but he raised himself from the dead and is seated on the right hand of the Father in heaven, awaiting that great day when He shall come again to call all of us to be joined with Him.

“From our prayers, we pray: ‘Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the cross and say in gladness: Rejoice, most venerable and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified on thee, Who went down to hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His venerable Cross, for the driving away of every adversary.’

Carol: “For a young age group, I simply state that that is the way they killed bad people who were dangerous back in those days.  I try not to give too many details at this age (toddler through around 1st grade) as these kids, in my opinion, are not always ready for details and need more focus on the resurrection and that it’s very important for us. When they are getting older and actually ask for those details, I use the guidance of books!  We have many Orthodox picture books around and other sources.”

Dr. Hart: “The Cross is the symbol of our salvation, and of hope, love and redemption. The Holy wood of the Cross was predestined from the beginning of time, to be the instrument of Christ’s death and also of our salvation, as prophesied by the prophets of old. We worship and love the cross because Christ died on it to save us.” (An aside: read her book, The Legend of the Cross, for more on this!)

“Fr. Thomas Hopko in his CDs, The Word of the Cross, by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, described the Cross as the definitive act, word and manifestation of God: ‘Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more God can do. Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more God can say. Beyond the Cross, there is nothing more to be revealed.’”

AODCE: How would/did you explain His death to your children?

Carol: “I have explained the reason that He had to die and explained that the men who put Jesus on the cross did not know or understand that He was truly the Son of God.  It is sad that they did not know this but Jesus forgave them, so we need to forgive them and others who have wronged us.”

Annalisa: “When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they brought both sin and death into the world.  Because of their sin, and our sin, we could not be permitted into heaven to be with God, just as Adam and Eve could no longer be permitted to be in the Garden.  The “bridge” between God and us had been broken by mankind and only God could fix it.  Jesus didn’t just die, He took the sins of the world upon himself making a way for us to be saved.  In the resurrection icon we see the Apostles, Jesus and two people being lifted out of the tomb. Those two people are Adam and Eve.  Christ’s death and resurrection fixed what had been broken in the Garden of Eden.  At Pascha we sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” Christ conquered death by His death so we can be forgiven for our sins and death no longer means separation from God.”

Dr. Hart: “Christ died for us to give us eternal life. Because of the fall, sin came into the world through the first man, Adam. Christ opened the door to Paradise to those who believe in Him, love Him and accept Him as our Savior.”

Fr. Peter: (We spoke once again about how he we should emphasize the love that God offered to us all through the Cross. And then we took this helpful detour:) “Sometimes we think our answers have to explain everything, that we must leave [our children] asking no questions. However, there are things about our Faith that we don’t understand. For example: How does the Eucharist happen? Why does Christ continue to offer Himself that way? We don’t know and we can’t explain it. If our adult answer doesn’t satisfy our children, that is not a bad thing: far more important is accepting the Gift that is being given to us! We don’t always have to have a pat answer for everything; we can allow for the fact that God really is beyond our understanding. If children demand more, it’s not bad to humbly say, ‘That’s the best explanation that I have, but God is far bigger than we are and we really shouldn’t expect to understand everything.’”

AODCE: What suggestions do you have for parents and teachers as they teach their children about Christ’s crucifixion?

Fr. Peter: “Above all, emphasize the love of God for us and how much He cares for us. We have to emphasize that God’s love is perfect and He loves us with a love that is even beyond what we can understand; the Cross is part of that mystery of God’s love. Christ offers Himself to death, to destroy death and power of sin over us because of that Love.”

Carol: “Start with the story of Lazarus!  Alexander (age 4) was thrilled when we recently read the story of Lazarus! He told many people about the man that Jesus told to ‘Come Out’ when he was dead and he came out!  So the following week, when we got to the story of [Christ’s] death on the cross in the Children’s Bible Reader (American Bible Society – 2006 Greek Bible Society) I immediately reminded him of the story of Lazarus when I saw that he was showing some upset over what was happening to Jesus.  ‘Do you remember what happened to Lazarus?’ I asked, smiling. ‘Let’s keep reading!  The same kind of thing is going to happen to Jesus too!’  Then he got excited!”

Annalisa: “When we teach about the death and resurrection of Christ it is important to keep the information age appropriate.  We don’t have to go into as much detail for the little ones while still communicating how awful and painful it was.  We also want to remind them that He did it because He loves us.  For older children we can talk more about the prophecies in Isaiah and how brutal His passion was to help them understand how great the sacrifice was by Jesus for us.  He was not just hung on a cross, which in and of itself is excruciatingly painful, clumps of his beard were pulled out, he was beaten to the point he did not look human anymore and all this because He loved us.”

Dr. Hart: “Contemplate the meaning of the cross and salvation.  Ask children what the Cross means to them. Why do we wear our cross?  We wear it because we are Christians and to remind us of what Christ did for us.”

AODCE: As we approach Holy Week, how can parents best prepare their children for what they will see and hear?

Fr. Peter: “It’s appropriate to talk about the services in advance to tell children what we’re going to experience and what it’s about to prep them so they can look forward to services. For example, ‘Tonight we’re going to the service of Holy Thursday evening. It’s all about the crucifixion of Christ. We’re going to see the priest carrying the icon of Christ out and put it on the cross. This is to remind us of how Jesus was nailed to the cross and died for us. We’re going to read from the Gospels. We’re gonna hear that story again about how Jesus offered His life for us, for the world…’ I think it’s good to do some prep like that. It helps children to anticipate and to look forward to each part, and to remember, ‘Oh, this was what mommy was talking about!’”

Annalisa: “In our home Holy Week is a time of quiet.  Keep in mind we are a household of 10 so we are certainly not silent, but we work on turning down the energy level of our home.  We only watch Christian movies, if we watch anything at all.  We stay away from video games, internet and anything that isn’t specifically focused on Christ.  We listen to church music and eat very humble meals. We participate in as many services as possible especially from Wednesday forward.  We are trying to set a particular mood in our home with the prayer that in the calming of our home we can hear the call of Christ in our hearts.  Here are some of the resources we use in our home:

Parent’s Guide to Holy Week http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/holyweekguide

The Jesus Film for Children http://www.amazon.com/Story-Jesus-Children-16-Language/dp/1894605411/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426773611&sr=8-1&keywords=the+jesus+film+for+children

“We have enjoyed the visual Bible over the years.  It helps to set the tone for Holy Week as we focus on the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection.  It is a dramatization of the life of Jesus but the only words used are the whole of the book of Matthew.”

The Book of Matthew Vol. 1 http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Bible-Matthew-Richard-Kiley/dp/B00S5OBQAG/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1426789986&sr=1-3&keywords=Book+of+Matthew

The Book of Matthew Vol. 2 http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Bible-Matthew-Richard-Kiley/dp/B00S5ORM2C/ref=sr_1_4?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1426789986&sr=1-4&keywords=Book+of+Matthew

Carol: “Take your child to as many services as they are able to handle but do keep in mind the length and maturity of your child.  We want church to be a good experience and overtaxing them at a young age can take away from that.  If they are going to a service, tell them about your favorite parts or favorite hymns, etc.  Find a copy of the service book and read over a few parts with your child ahead of time so they can try to listen for those parts.  Potamitis Publishing has a coloring book on Holy Week that may be helpful!  Archangel Books also offers a book titled Glorious Pascha written by Debra Sancer that tells about the days of Holy Week.”

Rebekah: “Making a list of the services available at your local parish will help you prepare for and manage your week. Each service will teach valuable lessons. This description of the daily services from the Greek archdiocese is helpful: http://lent.goarch.org/bulletins/documents/8.5x11_JourneyToPascha_1.0.pdf There are so many services though, that it is not always possible to attend all of them.  Whether you introduce the stories to your children beforehand, or review what they heard during the services, keep in mind that each story points to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, come to redeem us from sin and death, and whom we look for to come again. There are so many witnesses to this fact, and the church has chosen wisely in showing us this. Holy Week is a time to prepare ourselves for the coming Christ. Often, on the practical side of bringing young children to evening services, it is helpful to know how long each service will last. Your local priest or choir director could best give you a time estimate.”

Dr. Hart: “Take your child to church. [Also] use Bible readings, read Orthodox children’s books, listen to the ‘Readings from Under the Grapevine’ podcast on Ancient Faith Radio and the ‘Let Us Attend’ podcast for Bible readings. Potamitis Publishing has excellent coloring books for young children.  Keep explanations simple and brief for younger children.”

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So, as we approach Holy Week, we will find that sorrow surrounds us, but resurrection pulls us forward. In the midst of this week there is great struggle, pain, and a myriad of questions from ourselves and from our children. But there is also hope. Smack in the middle of this horribly honest week where we face the reality of our own separation from God through our own choices, hope comes when we are met with Love Himself. He Who has loved us so much as to not spare His own Son; He Who loves us so much as to Himself take on our flesh and break the power that sin and death had over that flesh; He Who loves us so much as to breathe His Life back into our very core. This is the message of the Cross of Christ: Love.

May we all live this Holy Week cognizant of that Love. May we share it freely with our precious children. And together, let us approach the glorious resurrection of our Lord drenched in the love that He is pouring out on us along the way as we journey through this Holy Week.

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Thy Holy Resurrection, for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee: we call on Thy name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection, for by enduring the Cross for us, He has destroyed death by death.