"The whole trouble is that -- literally -- we do not know what is good for us; and what makes the trouble still worse is that we think we do. We have our own plans for our happiness, and too often we merely regard God as somebody who will help us to accomplish them. The true state of affairs is just the opposite. God has His plans for our happiness, and He is waiting for us to help Him to accomplish them. And let us be quite clear about it: We cannot improve on God's plans." This Tremendous Lover, M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunday of the Most Holy Cross

Tomorrow we celebrate the Most Holy Cross and the fact that our Savior has transformed death into new life for us!

For the children, we will be planting flowers in a small flower pot. Traditionally, this should be daffodils or basil, but since those were not available here in Arizona at this time, I used marigolds. They are bright and beautiful. Then, using Popsicle sticks, we created crosses that were placed in the soil. The children will process with these during Liturgy. The idea is to remind them of the icon for this day. The cross, with flowers at its base.

For the prayer time, I created a card. The children will decorate the card and give it to someone they want to offer their sacrifices for. We will light a candle and pray for each person by name. I have attached the document HERE for you. Print the two pages front and back on one sheet of card stock. On the left is the card, simply cut it out and let the children fold and decorate it. On the right, the "left-over" portion of the page, is a prayer card. I laminated it and gave it to the children to pray at home with their families.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sunday of Orthodoxy...Bingo!

The first Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Below is a short explanation of the feast and its history from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center.

The First Sunday of Great Lent commemorates the Triumph of Orthodoxy: that is, the victory of the True Christian Faith over heresies, enemies, and other adversaries. This Sunday especially celebrates the restoration of the holy ikons and other holy images to Christian worship after the defeat of the Iconoclastic heresy (heresy of Iconoclasm) of the 8th and 9th Centuries. (The word "Orthodoxy" does not refer to the modern-day Orthodox Churches.)

Procession with the Holy Ikons and Presentation of the Holy Ikons for Veneration

On the First Sunday of Great Lent, we traditionally have a procession with the holy ikons at the end of the Divine Liturgy. The people are between the Holy Cross bearer and the priest. The people carry their favorite ikon from home three times around the Church. Then, everyone comes forward to venerate the ikons.

The reason for the procession with the holy ikons is:

To show that we understand the true meaning of images. Images remind us of transcendent realities, but we never mistake the images for the realities. That is, holy ikons of Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ help us to focus on Him as Our Lord, God, and Savior, but we do not worship the actual ikons...

In the 7th and 8th centuries, a movement arose that declared that ikons were sinful and bad. This movement is now called "Iconoclastic heresy (heresy of Iconoclasm)". (In Greek, the word "Iconoclast" means "image smasher".) Iconoclasm banned and destroyed the use of ikons, statues, and all other images of Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ and the saints. Many ikons were removed from churches and homes and were destroyed. The followers of this movement destroyed many ikons and statues, calling them idols, because they thought people worshiped the images instead of worshiping Holy God.

For Sunday school, one of the activities I have planned this year is Bingo using a variety of common icons. You can print the bingo sheets HERE. And, just in case you're not sure, the answer key is provided for you as well! Print this page and cut out the icons, then mix them up and start calling them out! Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Creating an icon corner in your home

As we enter Great Lent, it is the perfect opportunity to re-focus our families around prayer. St. John Chrysostom called the home “the domestic church.” One way your home can reflect this is with an icon corner. Typically, a family will choose a corner which faces east. The family can collect their sacred objects there. The icons of Christ and the Theotokos, the holy cross, and icons of the patron saints of each family member are most common, though many people also include holy water or oil, relics, and other blessed items. Pray with your family at the icon corner each day. If possible, read Bible stories, light candles for the sick, and bring flowers to place before the icons together there.

Our family prayer space (at the old house)

The icon corner should be a place to come for prayer and reflection. You may choose to have an icon corner in your own room, or an icon corner for your children set up near the floor for their bedtime prayers. This encourages the family to grow closer to God, and builds family unity. The icons do not have to be elaborate or expensive. The intention is to bring the family together, and to be more focused on our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father.

Prayer space in the girls' room

If you need a quick, easy way to create additional icons, here are the instructions!

First, purchase an inexpensive, plain wooden plaque. Something like this is perfect.

Second, spray paint the edges with gold spray paint and allow this to dry thoroughly.

Next, print off the icon that you wish to use. You can find these online or I use old bulletin covers. Trim the icon to fit the plaque perfectly.

Finally, take Mod Podge and coat the wooden plaque. Apply the icon on top, then apply another coat on top of the icon. Allow to dry, and you're done!

The Prodigal Son Icon...all finished!

I have made icons this way on many occasions with the Sunday school classes at church. The two icons bottom/center in the girls' room pictured above were made this way. It is simple and they turn out great!