INTRODUCTION TO WEEK TWO: ORTHODOXY
This week we will be exploring the theme of Orthodoxy, and the various things that make our worship distinct and different — those things that make us stand up and cry out in church, “This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe.”
First, we’ll discuss the events we commemorate on the Sunday of Orthodoxy — we are celebrating the return of the icons to our churches, but why were they ever gone, and what was that experience like? We’ll consider icons, and especially the very first icon ever. One of the great lessons to come out of the Iconoclasm controversies was the Church’s assertion of the importance of the Incarnation of Christ, and how that is made manifest in our worship. Our God took on human flesh, and He uses matter as a vehicle to share His Grace with us. We’ll talk about that in ways that we can all understand, and then look at some of those other Orthodox things that give glory to the Incarnation — making the sign of the cross, burning incense, lighting candles, and using holy water.
Throughout this week, in addition to the daily readings, you might also want to enrich your family’s experience with some activities that bring what we’re learning to life!
Crafts & Activities for this week:
1. Have a family parade of icons in your home. Each family member can carry his/her favorite icon as you process through the house singing “Oh Lord, Save Thy People And Bless Thine Inheritance…” Then circle up and each tell why you chose the icon that you are carrying. Talk about icons and give each family member the chance to tell why they are glad that icons are part of our Faith.
2. Decorate the windows of your home with homemade “stained glass” icons that help you to get ready for Pascha. (For example, icons of the crucifixion, the burial of Christ, the Resurrection, the Myrrh-bearing women, etc.) Print out copies of line art icons, color them with crayons, and then apply vegetable oil with a cotton swab until the whole icon is oiled. (Be sure to do all of the coloring before you apply the oil: the slippery paper will not accept color afterwards!) The oil causes the paper to become more transparent, like stained glass. Hang your artwork in a window to let the light illumine it! Find printable line art icons here: http://dce.oca.org/resources/tag/icons/ .
3. From early Christian times, Christians have made the sign of the cross often, so that they could make every part of their life holy. Do we do this? Do we make the sign of the cross over our food? Over our work? Over our play? What would happen in our life if we did? Here is one example, a story of a saint who wanted his life to be holy, so he made the sign of the cross frequently:
About 100 years ago, St. Silouan was traveling on a train. Another passenger in the same car offered him a cigarette. St. Silouan took the cigarette and thanked the passenger. Then the saint asked the other passenger to make the sign of the cross along with him before they smoked. You know, just like we make the sign of the cross before we eat a meal. The other passenger was a little confused. He told St. Silouan that it felt weird – maybe not even proper – to make the sign of the cross over a cigarette and then smoke it! St. Silouan responded, “Well, if what we are about to do does not go with the sign of the cross, maybe we should not be doing that thing at all!” (Adapted from the book, The Sign of the Cross, by Andreas Andreopoulos, p. 93-94)
Talk together about this story, and challenge each other to always remember St. Silouan’s reply. Every time we are about to do something, we should think about whether or not this thing we’re about to do agrees with the sign of the cross, or not. If it would be odd to make the sign of the cross and do the thing, probably we should not do that thing at all!
4. If you don’t already cense your home, this is a great week to start! Gather the family in your parish’s bookstore (if you have one) after church so that you can smell the different kinds of incense available. Wonder aloud why there are different aromas of incense? Purchase one and take it home to use during or after your family prayers this week. Especially on Thursday of this week, set a piece of incense on a lit coal and watch it together as it burns. How does the incense change while burning? Watch the smoke. Where does it go? How does incense affect the air around it? Talk about how, when we pray, God changes our hearts, softening them just like the incense softens as it burns. When we pray, our prayers rise to heaven like the smoke of the incense. When we pray, we help to make the world around us more beautiful and more holy, just as the incense makes the air around it smell more beautiful and holy.
5. Decorate your Paschal candles so that they are ready to “come, receive the light!” when we arrive at Pascha. Acquire your family’s candles (they can be wax candles, or if your children are very young, you may consider using taper-shaped LED candles instead). Allow each family member to decorate their candle with permanent marker drawings, or by pressing on bits of colored beeswax, or by gluing on small decorations, etc. Store the decorated candles in your Pascha basket, so that you can easily find them when you need them!
6. Purchase small empty water bottles and make some beautiful Holy Water bottles for your home. Use permanent marker or stickers to label each bottle with the words “Holy Water.” Decorate the bottles with stickers, glue, permanent marker, yarn/ribbon, colorful paper, etc. Use the decorated bottles to store holy water that you bring home for your prayer table.
Week Two — all in one PDF for younger children
Week Two — all in one PDF for older children