This week we are thinking about the theme of the Ladder of Divine Ascent as taught by St. John Climacus. We will begin by learning about St. John’s life and why he is called “Climacus,” or “of the Ladder.” We will talk about what it means to renounce the world (rung #1 of the Ladder of Divine Ascent) and how we who are not monastics can also leave the world behind as we grow towards God. We will look at rungs #16 and #17, which encourage us to not love money or our possessions. The rest of the week will be focused on almsgiving. We will study stories from the Scriptures, including the story of the widow who gave two mites, the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and St. Peter and St. John’s gift to the lame man at the temple. We will learn from St. Nikolai Velimirovich how our almsgiving affects Christ. And last, but not least, we will learn from the life of St. Luke of Crimea, who gave generously to the poor throughout his life.
Crafts & Activities for this week:
- Use a ladder or stairs to talk together about climbing towards God. Study St. John of Climacus’ steps on the “Ladder of Divine Ascent”. Select a few steps to work on together as a family, especially during the remainder of Great Lent. Print this copy of the Ladder’s rungs, or write the steps you plan to work on on masking tape. Families with young children will likely want to re-word the steps in simpler language. You may wish to invite your children to draw a picture of what the step is about, then use the pictures for this activity, instead of words. Once you have the steps printed/written/drawn, affix the paper or tape to the front of a few stairsteps or on the rungs of a ladder (placed where you will see it often) in your home. Let these words/pictures remind you to “keep climbing!”
- St. John Climacus said, “Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously…. assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience.” As we are climbing the Ladder toward God, of course we will fall off sometimes! Being an Orthodox Christian is all about falling down, getting up again, then falling down, and getting up again, every day of our life. Talk about how Olympic champions don’t just quit when they fall down. They keep going! We need to do the same, and also help each other to get up again. Here’s a beautiful example of this, from the 1992 Olympics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj7NI8bzBFc! Make a copy of the Olympic flag and post it on your fridge to remind your family to get back up again – and to help each other back up – when you fall off “the Ladder.”
- Step #16 of the ladder is “on love of money, or avarice.” Work on climbing this step during Great Lent by looking for opportunities to help those less fortunate in your neighborhood. There are many ways that you can do this. Here’s one: put together a few “Blessing Bags” (basic necessities packed in a plastic bag to have available for when you encounter a needy person: see http://www.thriftynorthwestmom.com/blessing-bags-assemble-bags-keep-hand-need/ ). Keep them in your car or home where you can share them with those in need.
- Decorate a family coin box where you can collect alms to give to “Food for Hungry People” or another similar charity. Start with an empty coffee can. Paint the outside gold, and add icons (recycled from an Orthodox catalogue) that are specific to your family (ie: each family member’s patron saint and other saints that are special to your family). Cut a slot in the lid of the can, and set it where you can add money throughout the rest of Great Lent, to be donated at the end of Holy Week.
- Double the good that your family does for others during Great Lent! Encourage your entire family to act selflessly, and to notice others who do so! Then, each day, take time to ask the family, “What self-sacrificing thing did you see another member of our family do today?” For each selfless thing that a family member notices someone else doing, they get to add a certain amount of money to an alms box (a quarter, a dollar, etc.). Remind each other that selfless acts are most selfless when no one notices, but because we are practicing living in such a way, it is okay for us to notice others doing these good things, and then talking about it. At the end of Holy Week, when you add up what you’ve gathered in the alms box, you can talk about how much this money will help people who need it, here on earth. Be sure to also talk about how, even though most of the time our selfless acts are unnoticed on earth, the good that we do gathers treasure in heaven, because God is always watching!
Week Four — all in one PDF for younger children
Week Four — all in one PDF for older children