Faith-building Learning Activities To Do at Home
The Parables of Christ: A Rainy Day Activity —Offered by Fr. Alex
The need for something engaging and fun to do during those occasional rainy summer days, interfering with our outdoor plans.
To help our children appreciate and engage the thought-provoking and powerful parables of The Bible by acting out a particular scriptural “scene.”
Look up some of Christ’s parables (link below), and do some reading. This is not only important as we prepare to engage our children in this activity but also a wonderful opportunity for us parents to dive into scripture.
After giving your children some examples of parables to choose from, settle on one. Then sit and read it together; as you are reading and then afterward, you can take the time to clarify aspects of the text, answer questions and generally discuss it. Take your time with this part, looking for signs of comprehension and then an understanding of meaning.
Next, have some fun hunting around the house for costumes and props that generally fit the scenario of the parables. For example, if your children will act out “The Prodigal Son,” you might find a few little pig or other farm-related stuffed animals to represent the Prodigal’s low point before coming home to the Father. Once you have gathered everything you need, your children can practice on their own. Give them freedom to focus on what they feel are the main ideas of the parable—they may surprise you with what they emphasize and how they approach things.
Finally, they can present their parable to the rest of the family. Consider allowing a brief question and answer session afterward, giving our children an opportunity to reflect on what they did and why.
Celebrate this big event with ice cream or another rainy day treat! And remember to look out for the parable you chose in our Sunday readings (link below). Then your children can hear the parable they acted out at our parish home.
Parable Lookup: Parables of Jesus - Wikipedia
Daily Gospel Readings: Online Chapel - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (goarch.org)
Our Lenten Offering Container —Offered by Fr. Alex
The “pillars” of Orthodox spirituality: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as part of our journey closer to Christ, and His people, during the Lenten season.
To offer a concrete way to connect all three pillars and make a spiritual and material difference in the lives of others.
Speak with your children about the three pillars and how they are all an important part of Lent. Prayer: we pray to God more during this time of year; Fasting: we fast and abstain from certain foods to experience a level of sacrifice; and Almsgiving: we consider the needs of others and make offerings for the relief of hunger, pain and suffering in our world. Next, gather some supplies to create your container: an empty jar or can, along with stickers, colored paper (purple would be great to reflect the Lenten season), pictures of food or whatever else you’d like to use.
Decorate your awesome container, and decide on a prominent spot for it—perhaps on the dining room table, a kitchen counter or anywhere else it will be seen easily and often. Next, everyone in the family can make a commitment to put funds in every week of Lent, ideally in place of something else they would usually buy. For example, if you usually get a restaurant sandwich at work several times a week, have a simple packed lunch, and put the funds you would have used for the restaurant in the container. Children can put in part of their allowance or money they might usually use for a treat after school. Let the savings from your abstaining and fasting be a resource for others. After everyone has discussed their commitments, also agree to pray, daily, for those who may face food insecurity and other hardships.
Carry through with your weekly commitments, and at the end of Great Lent, bless a helping organization or other worthy cause with the fruits of your prayerful efforts. This is almsgiving at its highest level: an action motivated by prayer, self-sacrifice and love of God and neighbor. While this activity certainly does not encompass the gravity and
A blessed Lenten journey to all—remember, we begin Great Lent on March 7 this year, so there’s no time like “now” to begin this meaningful project!
Blessing Your Home —Offered by Fr. Alex
The glorious Feast of Epiphany, celebrated each year on Jan. 6. This feast not only commemorates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River but also marks the revelation of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
To help us celebrate the feast and bless our homes with Holy Water, inviting Christ to dwell with us, especially if we aren’t able to have Fr. Alex over at this time.
Pick up some Holy Water from Saint Gregory, and pour it into a large bowl. You can add more water if needed as well, as a drop of Holy Water “sanctifies an ocean” from the Orthodox Christian perspective. Also gather some evergreen or other branches from your yard to help spread the Holy Water throughout the house; you can also use basil or other greens from the market. Finally, make sure to gather your family around you for this special event.
Place the Holy Water bowl and greens on a table and say the “Our Father” together. Then, a parent can use the greens to sprinkle Holy Water on the heads of every member of the family—and don’t forget your pets if you have one (or more!). Then as you move through the house, room to room, springling the Holy Water, read the hymn of Epiphany below. You can repeat it as many times as you need to until you’ve blessed each and every room.
After the you are done sprinkling, the family can say “Amen.” Finally, the leftover Holy Water can be poured into houseplants or somewhere special outside, such as into a garden area—just not down the drain or sewer. Sometimes, priests and families will use the leftover water to make the sign of the Cross on the front porch of the house.
Enjoy blessing your home. Also, keep in mind that Fr. Alex would be very happy to join you remotely for your blessing event. Just contact him to discuss the possibility.
A blessed Epiphany to all!
Apolytikion Hymn of Holy Epiphany
Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the veneration of the Trinity was revealed. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved, and the Spirit, in the guise of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world.
A Different Kind of Gingerbread House —Offered by Fr. Alex
The joyful season of the Nativity and our children’s love of building gingerbread houses.
To put a different spin on making gingerbread houses—challenging our children to build a manger and thus creating a moment for us to reflect on the coming of the Lord.
Pick up a gingerbread kit, and get your icing, candy and other sweets ready … maybe even a glue gun! Regarding the candy, try and get some animal-related treats: animal crackers, gummy bears, anything you can think of.
Help your children build the gingerbread house structure in the usual way, but simply leave out the front side of the house. There’s your manger! You can populate the manger with animal-related treats and maybe even use some figures from a crèche for the Holy Family, shepherds, Magi, etc. Coconut dyed green could be your grass, and there’s really no end to the creative possibilities. When the work is all done, read aloud the birth narrative from Matthew or Luke—or both accounts—and hopefully inspire some discussion and reflection on that most beautiful of nights so long ago. Enjoy the activity; have a blessed Nativity!
Seeing Fall Colors with New Eyes —Offered by Fr. Alex
Several years ago, my family lived close to an old cemetery in Wayland, MA. On fall days, it was a favorite habit of ours to take longs walks and enjoy long talks there. Also, within that place of rest, the fall colors provided much inspiration, including this simple activity, which can be as brief or long as you like.
Help our children learn about the liturgical colors of the Orthodox Church.
Gather a piece of white/light construction paper, a marker and some glue. Do a quick read of this article about the liturgical colors of the Orthodox Church for guidance: http://www.antiochian.org/midwest/liturgical-colors
This fall, take a walk with your children—and make it a leaf collecting expedition! As you enjoy and play along the way, collect as many colored leaves as you can, especially the following colors: green, gold, red, blue (I know this one will be a stretch!) and purple. When you get home, discuss with your children how the colors of the leaves, part of God’s beautiful Creation, are reflected in the way we celebrate different holy times at Church. The altar cloths and clergy vestments show this: Green, Pentecost; Gold, Easter & Feasts of the Lord; Red, Feasts of the Cross/Martyrs, etc. Glue the leaves to the construction paper and help your children label them as a fun reference piece to the entire Church year which, you can also tell them, actually begins on September 1—another neat connection to the fall season.
Digging a Channel to God —Offered by Fr. Alex
The beauty of the beach during the summer and how it radiates the glory and love of our Lord.
To put a meaningful spin on our children’s love of playing in the sand and water, specifically their affinity for digging “channels” along the shoreline.
In addition to the 1,000 other goodies we need to pack for the beach, make sure to have some sturdy digging tools. That’s it!
Run down to the shoreline with your littles ones and suggest digging some awesome channels that run right down to the ocean. In your own creative way, mention that the vastness of the ocean reminds you of the greatness of God’s love for us all—and how the little channels you’re making are reflective of the way God is always “flowing” goodness into our lives: love, hope, forgiveness, etc. Likewise, if the water seems to be flowing downward toward the ocean rather than pushing upward (the shoreline is so much in flux), you could mention how our prayers, open hearts, good works, sacrifice for others and similar attitudes and actions lead us directly (and flow directly!) to the greatness of God’s love. They are our channels to a full relationship with our loving God. Send me a picture of your children working on their channels, and we’ll post them on our site and Face Book.
A Prayer for Our Graduates —Offered by Fr. Alex
Our high school and college graduates, who have struggled with dignity, perseverance and great faith through challenging times.
To thank our Lord for them all, as well as to invoke HIs continued loving care upon them as they journey through the next phase of their lives. In addition, to encourage our graduates during these challenging times and remind them that they are worthy of our prayers.
Within the context of a graduation party, personal family moment or even on your own, make the time for purposeful action in the form of prayer. With joy, love and an open heart, pray the following (personalizing it to your graduate):
Christ our God, we thank you for (name) who has graduated from high school (or college/graduate school). You have blessed him/her through years in school with learning, wisdom, friendship and newly developed skills. You have guided him/her through a challenging year, a year with some disappointments, deep concerns and spiritual struggles—through it all, You never left (name) alone.
Please be with (name) as he/she looks forward to the next steps of life: (starting college, beginning graduate school, interning, volunteering, seeking work or otherwise pursuing his/her vocation).
Give him/her faith and a sense of purpose in these next steps. Show (name) how to serve others in effective ways and share his/her talents and abilities with the world. Let Your compassion radiate through his/her strivings now and always.
May (name) seek the fulfillment of Your will in everything he/she does; may he/she walk with you all the days of his/her life, bearing spiritual fruit for the sake of Your life-saving Gospel.
Making "Lazarus Cookies" or "Lazarakia" —Offered by Fr. Alex
The many friends who have suggested this activity and a host of websites that offer recipes.
To offer a meaningful, hands-on activity to our families concerning the Saturday of Lazarus, pointing to the power of Holy Week and the Resurrection of our Lord.
After Divine Liturgy and our other Church activities on the Saturday of Lazarus, or whenever you can make it all happen, go over the Gospel lesson with your children. It might be helpful to bring up the following: How Jesus had friends while He was here on earth and that Martha, Mary and Lazarus were among them—further, that Jesus loved them all deeply and was truly sad when Lazarus died. Because He loved Lazarus, Jesus came to him; because the people needed to be encouraged in their faith, Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb, prefiguring His own Resurrection.
Here's the Gospel for the Saturday of Lazarus:
Gospel Reading - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (goarch.org)
A terrific recipe for the cookies, with all the ingredients you'll need to prepare, may be found here:
Lazarakia Recipe – Adventures of an Orthodox Mom
The idea is to make the cookies look like little men in burial shrouds. Keep in mind that they don't have to come out perfectly. As long as thoughtful, prayerful time is spent together as a family, bringing us all closer to the meaning of this holy day, what could be better?
Send me a picture of your cookies, and we'll post them on our website and social media channels. A blessed Holy Week to our parish family!