Select Page

Three weeks prior to Great Lent, the Triodion (the service book for Orthodox Christians which contains the services for the three weeks prior to Lent, Great Lent, and Holy Week) begins. In these three weeks prior to the beginning of Lent, it is a time of preparation for our upcoming, long and arduous journey. The Church, in all of her wisdom, gives us these pre-Lenten weeks of preparation as an opportunity to ease into Great Lent.

This past weekend, my husband and I were discussing our plans for Lent this year – services, fasting, almsgiving, and evening prayers for our family. This is the first year, in memory, that my husband will not be traveling during Lent. It’s kinda a big deal for our family this year. So, we were talking about how we could have a visual in our home of the passage of days and weeks until Pascha for our kids as well as our desire to teach our kids (and ourselves!) more about the meaning of these services. We spent the better part of Saturday afternoon talking back and forth and sketching out ideas. We ended up with the poster below, which we have taped next to our family altar in our living room. This poster could definitely be used as a supplement to the Pascha Passports or as a stand alone learning prompt. (I’ve also had adults, who don’t have kids, tell me they intend to hang the poster on their refrigerator. It truly can be used for all ages!)

Below, are some ideas for using this poster and other resources within your classroom or home during this Lent:

Classroom Use:

  • Download the poster below, save it to a USB stick, and take it to a store that has printing services (I used FedEx Office for mine.)
  • You have the option of printing out just one poster for your classroom and using it in conjunction with your weekly lessons or print out enough for each of your students, send it home with them, and include some lessons or activities for them to do with their families. (Or both!)
  • See below for additional learning opportunities

Home Use:

  • Download the poster below, save it to a USB stick, and take it to a store that has printing services (I used FedEx Office for mine.)
  • Decide where you want to hang it in your home. Pick a place that is more likely for you to use it on a regular basis: near the kitchen table, next to your family altar, or your homeschool area.
  • See below for additional learning opportunities

"Our Journey to Pascha" Poster

* This is a pdf for an 11×17 poster. It will not print out properly on a home printer due to the size I made it. (I wanted my kids to be able to read it easily.) If you plan to print this out at a FedEx Office (or another place with printing services), open this pdf by clicking on the “download” button below and then save it to a USB stick. Bring the USB stick with you to the FedEx Office and use it at the self service printers. You can select whether you want a color or black & white print and you NEED TO SELECT 11X17 before you print it. My print was $1.18 for an 11×17 color print at the self service printer (before tax).

Download

“…’Liturgical catechesis’ is not just an interesting custom of the ancient Church, but the traditional method of religious education”

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

"Liturgy and Life"

Attending Services During Great Lent:

Very few have come here today. Whatever is the reason? We celebrated the Feast of the Martyrs, and nobody comes? The length of the road makes them reluctant; or rather it is not the length of the road that prevents them from coming, but their own laziness. For just as nothing stops an earnest man, one whose soul is upright and awake, so anything at all will stand in the way of the half-hearted and the lazy.
– Saint John Chrysostom, On the Respect Due to the Church of God and to the Sacred Mysteries

Every person and every family are going to have unique situations when it comes to attending services during Lent. I fully understand how draining it can be to bring little ones to multiple services during the week. I’ve been there…and am still there. The reality is – it’s hard. Really hard. But at the same time, Christ died on the cross for us. For our personal salvation. Is it possible for us to endure walking the narthex with toddlers and putting an arm around a squirmy or talkative child in church in order to participate in the Lenten journey this year?

Which services did you attend during Lent last year? Could you plan to attend one more service this year? Could you dedicate one additional day per week (besides Sunday) to attending another service during Lent? How can you take where you were last year and improve your attendance at Lenten services this year?

We often talk about how we (especially) include fasting, prayer, and almsgiving together during Lent. Almsgiving is not strictly about giving of one’s money. It is also about giving of one’s time to others. How much more important is it to find a way to attend more services this year?

Living Our Faith:

The goal is not to know about the saints but to become saints. – Anton Vrame, The Educating Icon

Activities:

  • Consider making a Lenten Helper Chart for your kids in order to make it easier for your family to attend more services, prepare fasting meals, have time for prayers before bed, or saving money (or time) to give to those who are in more need than yourselves. Explain to your children that this is a form of almsgiving and is a way they can extend their participate in the Lenten journey in their own way. (Do you want them to lay out their church clothes before leaving for school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays? Do you want to ask them to be adventurous one night and take a bite of many different types of fasting foods so you can develop a wider menu plan than just peanut butter and jelly? Are any of your children old enough to help with washing clothes or making food which would make it easier for you to spend more time on going to church, praying, or teaching your children more about the Great Lent and Pascha?)
  • Do your kids have cell phones? Sit down one night, as a family, and set calendar reminders for all the nights you plan to attend services.
  • How much do you pray as a family right now? Can you add one more time during Lent? (trace the sign of the cross on their forehead before you go to sleep, before a meal, before bed, in the morning…)
  • What did you fast from last year as a family? Could you expand it from where you were last year? Do you think it’s too hard for you or your kids?
  • Family Almsgiving Jar: Place a jar of some sort in the middle of your kitchen table or wherever it will work best for your family. On those nights or weekends where you would normally go out to eat, to a movie, buy a book, or anything that your family does for the sake of convenience or entertainment – consider putting the money you would have spent on that, in the jar instead. At the end of Lent, decide who you want to give it to. (Your parish, someone you know that needs money to pay a bill, an Orthodox organization, your church food pantry…the options are limitless.) Almsgiving is not only about giving money, it’s also about giving of one’s time. Is there someone at church, a friend, or a family member that could really use some free babysitting? Is there a shut-in in your parish who would enjoy a visit (and maybe bring a treat with you for them)? Is there some yard work your kids could do for their grandparents or at the church?
  • Family Forgiveness Night: It will impact you deeply

To attain the personal goal of theosis, the ancient Church recognized that each person begins in a different place, dependent upon the person’s life situation – Anton Vrame, The Educating Icon

A five-year-old living in a Christian home should have acquired a lot of experience of celebrations and traditions through which he learns much of the Christian view of life. Christmas, Easter, weddings, baptisms, funerals, the blessing of homes are colorful events that deeply affect the child’s consciousness.

Sophie Koulomzin

"Our Church and Our Children"

Christian education is by its nature total education…It cannot be limited to or defined by the classroom, with the child as the sole learner or the teacher as the sole educator.

John Boojamra

"Foundations for Christian Education"

Formal Learning:

During the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, the priest, after reading from the Book of Genesis, takes a taper from the altar and, blessing the assembled faithful with it, says: ‘The light of Christ illumines all men.’ This action means the gift of understanding of that which the faithful will hear, and at the same time, it points to the ultimate meaning of all the Scriptures – to Jesus Christ  – Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Liturgy & Life

Activities:

  • “Our Journey to Pascha” poster: Place a sticker, post-it note, or an X on one circle on the at the end of each day. In this way, young children and exceptionally visual children will be able to see the progression towards Pascha. (I really wanted to have photos or icons on the poster as well but this may be something I add to it in the future.) On Saturday evenings (during dinner, after dinner, or whenever is most convenient), talk about the following day. What is this Sunday called? What is it about? Why is this theme important? What does it mean for us in our day to day life? What is Compline, Pre-Sanctified Liturgy, and an Akathist? (“Great Lent” by Fr. Alexander Schmemann gives great explanations.) Discuss each day of Holy Week sometime during Lent as well – before that week since we focus on attending all of the services that week. A couple of years ago, I did a Holy Week Study with my kids.
  • More than anything, it’s critically important that we, as adults, learn more about our faith. Pick up a book or two this Lent and learn more.

It’s so critically important that we remember:

You can teach only that which you have made your own, and this means that there is always the danger that your personal mistaken judgement of insufficient knowledge will be reflected in your teaching. – Sophie Koulomzin, Our Church and Our Children

as well as,

If parents and teachers would make the faith their own, then what is communicated to children will be real and engaging. – Ann Mitsakos Bezzerides, Foreward for Our Church and Our Children

%d bloggers like this: