I live on a street with a fair number of retired couples who like to garden. These faithful tenders have spent time planting, weeding, pruning, and watering; consequently, purple petunias, yellow pansies, and pink roses greet me when I walk around my neighborhood.
Unexpectedly, I'm also encountering a springtime of arts on my computer screen, with beautiful and free material blossoming from well-nurtured places!
With my home full of makers (artists, poets, sword-fighters, and writers) I have particularly appreciated these talks about our role as creators. Perhaps you will find one to nourish your soul or inspire your own art!
Heidi White gives a humble and inspiring talk: "Finding our Place in the Larger Story" from the Redeeming our Imagination conference for artists. After I watched it, I decided to share it with my children, and my teens appreciated it too. Afterwards one said, "I just got inspired on how to start my next science fiction!" and the other admitted, "I feel like I need to put more effort into my drawings." My littlest guy (8 yo) spent most of the talk wiggling around on the floor, so maybe he is a little young to appreciate it, but he did note the references to patterns that repeat across stories, and shared a connection between Zaine in his Lego Ninjago book and Martin the warrior mouse from the Redwall book Legends of Luke.
S.D. Smith, author of our beloved Green Ember series, shares this talk: "Tolkien Can't Write Like Me" from the same conference. I haven't listened yet, but the title reminds me of his Q&A from the Hope*Writers workshop that I listened to a few weeks ago. Like Heidi, he emphasizes the need for humility and writing as a servant, out of love for the readers, as opposed to writing to be awesome. I look forward to watching this later.
The next two talks are from Dn. Nicholas Kotar, author of the epic fantasy Raven Son series. My older teen and I really liked this series that has been described as "Lord of the Rings meets 1984." Ha! The first talk is a zoom meeting sponsored by St. Raphael School and Ancient Faith Ministries. You can register join this meeting on May 4: "Don't Just Look for Good Culture: Go Make It!" His talk at the Doxamoot last year (which I heard on Amon Sul) motivated me to write a short story, and I am curious to see what he will share about Russian writer and philosopher Ivan Ilyin in this talk. The other interview with Dn. Nicholas Kotar looks like it will share many of the same ideas: "The Vocation of the Sub-creator" from the podcast Good Guys Wear Black.
These are the opportunities that have just sprung up this past week, but beautiful art is everywhere.
Have you tried the first opera in Wagner's Ring Series that inspired the "one ring to rule them all?" The Met Opera has a free one week trial. Das Reingold is mostly family-friendly and offers amazing set design and beautiful music. The children immediately picked up on the Lord of the Rings connections. I had never seen an opera before - what a great introduction for a Tolkien fan! I do recommend reading a summary of the scenes before watching. Operas are long! Depending on the ages of your audience, it might take you several days to watch one.
On May 1, you can watch a ballet of Shakespeare's The Tempest on the Royal Opera House facebook page. You'll need to check to see what time 7:00 pm BST is for you! I highly recommend the free Shakespeare online course from Hillsdale College, with one of my favorite instructors, Stephen Smith, discussing Hamlet and The Tempest.
For older viewers, The Royal National Theatre is making both version of Frankenstein available for one week on youtube, April 30- May 6. Having the two actors playing Frankenstein and the monster switching roles on different nights really highlights the question: who is the real monster? Radio Read Along offers a well-done a free audio read-aloud.
Finally, I'll end with a tie-in back to Heidi White's talk. She mentions the role Anne of Green Gables played in her formation as a child. Hosts Heidi, David, and Tim discuss this novel on the Close Reads Podcast.
I know that I haven't even touched the surface of what is available. Perhaps our little tour of this spring's online art garden will inspire you to find and share other opportunities!
TOPIC: The Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem
READING: Mark 11:1-11 (Entrance w/ palms) and in the evening at Bridegroom Matins Matthew 21:18-22
(cursing of the fig tree – good explanation of this here)
CRAFT: construction paper palm leaves
MEMORY VERSE: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Mark 11:9
HYMN: Troparion of Saturday of St. Lazarus, Orthros. Tone 1
O Christ God, when Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead, before Thy Passion, thou didst confirm the universal resurrection. Wherefore, we, like babes, carry the insignia of triumph and victory, and cry to Thee, O vanquisher of death, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord (You should hear this one Sunday morning and can listen here)
TOPIC: Bridegroom Matins – Parable of the Ten Virgins
READING: Matthew 25:1-13 (Parable of the Ten Virgins) and Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents)
CRAFT: Coloring page of Christ the Bridegroom; Glue 5 yellow birthday candles onto oil vessels in the Coloring Page of Parable of the Ten Virgins
MEMORY VERSE: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
HYMNS: Troparion “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.”
Listen to Father Apostolos Hill
TOPIC: Forgiveness of the Sinful Woman Anoints Jesus’ Feet
READING: Luke 7:36-49
CRAFT: Printed coloring page of Woman Anointing Jesus
Printed “Perfume for Jesus” jar - Either color it or glue colored paper to the jar
MEMORY VERSE: "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.”
HYMN: Hymn of Kassiani
O Lord God, the woman who had fallen into many sins, having perceived Thy divinity received the rank of ointment- bearer, offering Thee spices before Thy burial wailing and crying: "Woe is me, for the love of adultery and sin hath given me a dark and lightless night; accept the fountains of my tears O Thou Who drawest the waters of the sea by the clouds incline Thou to the sigh of my heart O Thou Who didst bend the heavens by Thine inapprehensible condescension; I will kiss Thy pure feet and I will wipe them with my tresses. I will kiss Thy feet Whose tread when it fell on the ears of Eve in Paradise dismayed her so that she did hide herself because of fear. Who then shall examine the multitude of my sin and the depth of Thy judgment? Wherefore, O my Saviour and the Deliverer of my soul turn not away from Thy handmaiden O Thou of boundless mercy."
TOPIC: Holy Unction
READING: James 5:14-16
CRAFT: Trace child’s hand (optional also cut out face shape); use paint brush dipped in oil, paint, or water to paint crosses on the hands where we would be anointed for Holy Unction.
MEMORY VERSE: Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
HYMN: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.”
TOPIC: Mystical Supper
READING: Matthew 26:26-28 (Mystical Supper) and John 13:2-13 (Washing of Feet) and Matthew 26:36-46 (Garden of Gethsemane) and Matthew 26:47-56 (Judas’ Betrayal)
CRAFT: Print and cut out a chalice. Little ones might like to break saltine crackers into pieces and glue in chalice. You could also glue coins onto brown construction paper bag.
MEMORY VERSE: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42
HYMN: Troparion of the Mystical Supper
Receive me today, O Son of God,
as a partaker of Your Mystical Supper:
for I will not betray Your Mysteries to Your enemies
or give You a kiss as did Judas,
but as the thief I confess You:
Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom
TOPIC: The Cross, Christ’s Death and Burial
READING: Matthew 27:32-44 (Crucifixion) and Matthew 27:45-56 (His Death) and Matthew 27:57-61 (His Burial)
CRAFT: print a color a cross; vinegar on a cotton swab (smell/taste it); flowers for the tomb
MEMORY VERSE: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34
HYMN: 15th Antiphon, Plagal of the Second Tone “Today is suspended on a tree He who suspended the land upon the water.” Listen
TOPIC: Victory over Hades
READING: Mark 15:42-47 and Luke 23:50-56
CRAFT: Arrange & glue bay leaves and rose petals on a page. (like what the priest throws in the air during the Liturgy Saturday morning). See ideas below if you want to assemble your Pascha Basket today.
MEMORY VERSE: "(Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death" (Liturgy of St. Basil).
HYMN: "Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth: for Thou shall take all heathen to Thine inheritance". Listen
Other optional hymn for older children, 9th Ode from Canon (a conversation between our Lord Jesus and His Holy Mother, getting close to Pascha with all that talk of rising!):
"Weep not for me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the Son whom thou hast conceived without seed in thy womb. For I shall rise and shall be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify thee with faith and love."
"O Son without beginning, in ways surpassing nature was I blessed at Thy strange birth, for I was spared all travail. But now beholding Thee, my God, a lifeless corpse, I am pierced by the sword of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified."
"By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble as they see me, clothed in the bloodstained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God have I struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee."
"Let the creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those born on earth be glad: for hell, the enemy, has been despoiled. Ye women, come to meet me with sweet spices: for I am delivering Adam and Eve with all their offspring, and on the third day I shall rise again."
TOPIC: Resurrection of Christ!
READING: Luke 24:1-12
CRAFT: Dye red eggs; make Resurrection Cookies; assemble your Family Pascha Basket:
What goes into a Pascha basket? Nichola T. Kraus has written an informative article about what goes in their baskets, and what each thing symbolizes. This explanation from "Children of the Church" posted by St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Texas reminds us that, "...each of the foods in the Pascha basket have rich meaning, as does everything in Orthodoxy. Glory to God!" If you would like to print something with pictures to use in teaching your children, you might like this one that the kids might color.
As the Church secretary, I type up our parish's weekly Sunday bulletin. When I started on next week and got to Lazarus Saturday, I started weeping.
Our parish usually has a beautiful Divine Liturgy, followed by a huge Pancake Breakfast together. I just received an email from my dear friend who makes all the pancakes - with the Lenten Pancake recipe for me to email to the other families in our parish. She wanted to make sure everyone could enjoy pancakes even if we couldn't all be together to eat them!
Even if you don't have little children at home, I encourage you to give these a try. The adults in my workshop had quite a good time making them. Not one completed Lazarakia looked like another, and they were all great!
Step 1 - pinch 2 triangles into 1 larger rectangle.
Step 2 - cut the sides like shown above
Step 3 - spread a little peanut butter and top with a slice of banada
Step 4 - wrap to look like a mummy
Step 5 - add chocolate chip eyes & bake according to package directions
Now, if only I had the sheet music to practice Rejoice O Bethany! At least we can listen to it.
If you've never made homemade pizza, Auntie Leila will make you feel like you can't screw up.
I take her method (don't measure!) and add a can of beer to replace some of the water. It does take a while to rise, but the actual hands on time is not that long. Something about hot homemade crust makes the fasting toppings more special (bearable....).
Our Catechism for the Age of the Patriarchs (Antiquity) worked so well last year in helping us to remember the important stuff, that we are doing it again! If you want to learn more about using this teaching method, see samples, and understand how to write your own, I highly recommend this book by Joshua Gibbs. Certainly, much of the catechism below came straight from him! We simply read it every school day aloud together, the four of us: 16 yo, 12 yo, 7 yo, and me.
Catechism for the Age of Triumph (Middle Ages)
Gentlemen, what are you?
I am a king, for I rule myself.
Ladies, what are you?
I am a queen, for I rule myself.
What does it mean to rule yourself?
I am free to do good. I am not the slave of my
desires. St. Basil
interprets the power to rule given to man in terms of taming the beasts, birds
etc as well as in terms of the rule over passions and thoughts. He describes
anger, greed, hypocrisy, lust, and other passions, as beasts and asks the
question: “Have you truly become ruler of beasts if you rule those outside but
leave those within ungoverned? You become like God through kindness, through
endurance of evil, through communion, through love for another and love for the
brethren, being a hater of evil, dominating the passions of sin - that to you
may belong the rule.”
Who has made you kings and queens?
“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are
the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that
you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your
adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself
testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children,
the we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in
His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that
our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be
revealed in us. (From St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapter 8)
What keeps you from being kings and queens?
The vices: pride, avarice, lust, envy,
gluttony, anger, sloth, being a slave to the passions.
What does it mean to be human?
virtues include Faith, Hope, Love, Obedience, Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and
Temperance, which is Modesty, Self-control, Chastity, Humility
Why should we seek virtue?
St. James asks, “What does it profit, my
brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save
him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of
you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give
them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also
faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You
have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I
will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do
well. Even the demons believe – and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish
man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by
works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was
working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the
Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted
to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.
Dante teaches that righteousness is wanting
what is good, not merely knowing what goodness is; if a knowledge of goodness
is not married to a desire for righteousness, mere knowledge profits a man
St Cyril of Alexandria says, “The Lord of all
therefore requires us to be thoroughly constant in our exertions after virtue,
and to fix our desires upon the better and holy life, setting ourselves free
from the distractions of the world… that we may serve Him continually, and with
How can I know if I am gaining virtues?
Seraphim Rose writes in Christ the
The man of the highest
Is like water which
dwells in lowly places
In his dwelling he is
like the earth, below everyone.
His heart is
What did Boethius teach
about the good life?
No man is rich who shakes and groans,
convinced that he need more (26). No man is so completely happy that something
somewhere does not clash with his condition (30). Remember, too, that all the
most happy men are over-sensitive. They have never experienced adversity and so
unless everything obeys their slightest whim, they are prostrated by every
minor upset. So nothing is miserable except when you think it so, and vice
versa, all luck is good luck to the man who bears it with equanimity (31). The
more varied your possession, the more help you need to protect them, and the
old saying is proved correct, he who hath much wants much (35). Decide to lead
a life of pleasure, and there will be no one who will not reject you with scorn
as the slave of that most worthless and brittle master, the human body (60).
What does Dante’ teach about wasting our lives
away in petty amusements?
Put off this sloth, for
feather-pillows, lying reclined
Beneath the blanket is no
way to fame-
Fame, without which man’s
life wastes out of mind,
Leaving on earth no more
Than foam in water or
smoke upon the wind.
How does Beowulf approach his rule?
“I feel no shame, with shield and sword
And armor, against this monster: when he comes to me
I mean to stand, not run from his shooting
Flames, stand till fate decides
Which of us wins. My heart is firm,
My hands calm: I need no hot
Words. Wait for me close by, my friends.”
Then Beowulf rose, still brave, still strong,
And with his shield at his side, and a mail shirt on his breast,
Strode calmly, confidently, toward the tower, under
The rocky cliffs: no coward could have walked there!
How can we fight so as to find victory?
“For we do not
wrestle against principalities, against flesh and blood, but against powers,
against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of
wickedness in the heavenly places. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God to the
pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations and every high thing
that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
(Ephesians 6 and 2 Corithians 10) Our weapons also include obedience, the Jesus
Prayer, prostrations, and confession.
What is the Medieval timeline:
The Apostolic Era: 33 AD through 90 AD
The Age of early Martyrs: 90 AD through 313 AD
313 AD: Constantine issues the Edict of Milan
and legalizes Christianity
325 AD: The Council of
Nicaea confirms the dogma of the Trinity and creates the first half of the
330 AD:Constantine founds the new capital of the
Roman Empire on the existing site of the ancient Greek city Byzantium:
Byzantium was renamed Constantinople and it would become the capital of the
395 AD: The Roman Empire
divides in half, with the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople and the
Western Roman Empire based in Rome/Ravenna.
381 AD: The 2nd Ecumenical Council
in Constantinople condemns Arianism and defends the two natures of Christ:
fully Divine and fully Human. It also completes the 2nd half of the Nicene
431 AD: The 3rd Ecumenical Council
in Ephesus rejects Nestorianism and confirms that we should call the Virgin
Mary Theotokos - not Christotokos - because she was the bearer of God (not
merely a man).
451 AD: The 4th Ecumenical Council
in Chalcedon confirms the visible organization of the Church into five sees: Rome,
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem - all with Apostolic foundation.
400 - 500 AD: St. Patrick is a missionary in
Ireland; while in Italy, Ss. Benedict and Columba found many monasteries and
write about how to be rulers of a monastery and how to have a monastic rule.
Augustine of Canterbury goes to Kent to convert England. King Clovis of the
Franks converts to Christianity.During
the Late Antique period, the pagan, barbarian hordes on the outskirts of the
Roman Empire slowly move into Roman space. Though the Western Roman Empire falls,
the Eastern Roman Empire continues and is called The Byzantine Empire.
553 AD: The 5th Ecumenical Council
(2nd in Constantinople) condemns monophysitism, which falsely
claimed Jesus had only one nature.
1440 AD: The Medieval Era
637 AD: Jerusalem is conquered by Islamic
680-681 AD: The 6th Ecumenical
Council (3rd in Constantinople) defeats Monothelitism, which
conceded that Christ had two natures, but erroneously taught that he had only
one will. This council upheld the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor, who
taught that Christ is to be glorified in his two natures, wills, and energies.
693 AD: The Muslims attack Constantinople and
over the next 300 years, the Muslims attack all over the Empire – Africa,
Greece, Syria - gaining ground in many lands.
787 AD: The 7th Ecumenical Council
(2nd in Nicaea) triumphs over iconoclasm, defends the Incarnation of
Christ and restores the proper place of icons in worship.
800 AD: Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor
without the blessing of the Christian Emperor in Byzantium, & for the first
time in 300 years there is an Emperor in the East and in the West.
800s AD: In England,
Alfred the Great defended England against the Viking invasions, made an
agreement with them known as Danelaw, and oversaw the conversion to
Christianity of the Viking leader Guthrum. He translated many Church Fathers
& much literature - including Boethius - into English.
1054 AD: Schism caused by the Roman Pope
against the Eastern Patriarchates of the Church.
1095 AD: The Byzantine
Emperor appeals to Urban II at the Council of Piacenza for help against the
Turks. The First Crusade is proclaimed at Council of Clermont. The Crusaders
are successful, but eventually withdraw from cooperation with the Byzantines.
1204 AD:The Fourth Crusade turns against the Eastern
Church and plunders Constantinople.
Joannes Gutenburg invents the printing press; the Modern Era begins.
1453 AD: Fall of
Constantinople to the Ottomans. End of the Byzantine Empire. The French defeat
the English in the 100 Years War.
Fries w/ Baked Beans Pizza (either w/ Vegan Cheese or with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Veg) Pasta Salad or Viniagrette Potato Salad M'Jeddra Cabbage Soup (but with Veggie Boullion) Red Lentil Soup Boca/MorningStar/Hilary (for those who can't have soy) Popcorn Shrimp (from freezer) Po-boys Bean Burritos
Dinner Rotation Nana's Shepherd's Pie (Shhh! Don't tell - my kids think their grandmother invented this recipe!)
Stuffed Mushrooms (these are the BEST! I think I'll bring them to a Pre-Sanctified Potluck)
Bean Pot Soup over Rice (15 bean mix w/o packet; add sauteed onion, 1 can rotel and juice of 1 lemon when beans are done cooking)
St. Nektarios of Pentapolis once said (after his repose), "It's as if we saints are in retirement... The people don't pray to us, don't entreat us, don't ask us for anything, don't give us any handiwork to do. They don't give us the opportunity to pray to God for them."
Surely we can find some way to call him out of retirement!
November 9 is the feast of St. Nektarios. Orthodoxwiki tells us that, "St. Nectarios was born on October 1, 1846, in Selymbria in Thrace to a poor family. At the age of 14 he moved to Constantinople (Istanbul) to work and further his education." When looking at the Akathist hymn, we get a beautiful picture of this transition:
"When Thou didst leave home and travel to Constantinople, thou didst labor in the midst of worldly distractions. Yet thou didst not forsake the Faith, which dwelt first in thy grandmother and mother and also dwelt in thee."
Let us ask St. Nektarios to pray for our young adults, as they transition into leaving home and travelling out into the great, big world. May they, like him, not be drawn into the earthly distractions even though they be surrounded by them. May the Faith of their childhood still dwell in their hearts!
The Akathist continues:
"Steadfastly dedicating thyself to prayer and to the sayings of the Fathers, thou didst write these sayings on packages and wrappings so that others might read them and receive spiritual profit."
St. Nektarios scribbled little words of inspiration on the backs of packages in the store where he worked, little surprises for customers to find later. May he also send fitting sayings of the Fathers to our young adults, leading them towards spiritual profit. May he help them to steadfastly dedicate themselves to prayer.
What if our young adults make unwise decisions, as surely they must be tempted to, as surely we ourselves do too? Let us give a little more work to St. Nektarios, whose Akathist claims, "Rejoice, thou who makest wise the unwise by the teachings!" and "Rejoice, good guide of men!"
St. Nekatrios, guide us to draw near to our Lord Jesus Christ!