Faith-building Learning Activities To Do at Home
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!