Saints Mary and Martha Lazarus’ sisters & Myrrh Bearers June 4th
Mary and Martha host Jesus at their house along with their brother Lazarus. Jesus was talking with His disciples. Mary sat at Christ’s feet to listen to all He had to say. Martha was busy and distracted by providing hospitality and serving her Lord and guests food. She got frustrated and said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work? So tell her to help.” Jesus replied, “Martha, you’re so stressed out. One thing is important right now, and Mary chose it. I’m not taking it from her.” (My retelling from Luke 10:38-42)
Martha and Mary show us strong traits for the faithful. Mary sat and listened, not to avoid work but out of her love for God and desire to learn more. Martha was busy serving, not to show off but for her love of her neighbor and desire to do good works. These are both traits all faithful should have but we must learn to balance them.
Click to download the story with a simple word game as pdf
Select images are available on products through RedBubble. Slightly edited and formated but still black and white so you can make them special with fabric markers, paint and modge podge – create unique projects that will last almost as long as the memories.
I know there are many opinions about the ideas of “Mama time” and I don’t really have strong feelings about it. As a stay at home Mom, I’m here with the kids almost nonstop. Since the quarentine, I’ve been with them except a few grocery trips. So sometimes I need a break away from the kids and I think that is natural. The other day my husband and I were talking. I realized that over the past few years, while I threw myself into life with my kids; I threw off the balance with my husband and I. By not “doing something for myself” I didn’t give my husband anything to support. Of course he praised my parenting and helps to give me with the kids. My husband and I have been together since we were teenagers. We have always helped eachother reach goals. We support and push eachother better than we support ourselves. Its our balance. By living for my kids over the past six years I threw us off balance. I cared for my kids, and supported my husband. I felt burnt out. I knew I needed a change. So I started painting again. It wasn’t about getting away from my kids. I felt I needed something for me. I started spending evenings in quiet prayerful time making icons. Its been a couple of months, my husband has a wishlist growing (LOL- his birthday is coming up). Its no longer about having something for me. My kids are helping to Ghesso boards. In the morning, they compliment and comment on the progress of each painting. In the evenings, my husband works on his latest article or translation while I work. I didn’t notice there was something missing until it was back. I feel better, less stressed and more patient with my kids. Its not about attention, its about feeling like I contribute beyond my kids. It has been a bigger blessing for my family and a new service to the Church. I guess my point is, if it feels like you need a break or that something is missing, let God guide you by His still small voice!
When her son St Constantine (the Great) came to power he sent her on a mission to find the Holy Cross of Christ in Jerusalem. Even though she was in her seventies, she took the long trip. She traveled all over, clearing sites that are important in the life of Christ. She had churches build, and tore down pagan temples. She kept searching until she finally found the Holy Cross of Christ. She found all three (who died alongside Christ?) and a miracle showed her which one belonged to Christ!
Constantine’s Vision at the Melvian Bridge
This document is a one page story of the Vision of Constantine at the Battle of the Melvian Bridge. It is for slightly older kids, up to middle schoolers. Included with some small drawings to color in, and a list of terms to investigate. It makes a good history lesson for anyone interested in Church history or the Roman Empire. Please enjoy!
I want to share a cool website that my husband showed me Orthodox Unlimited has a T shirt line. You may want to check it out as you start to think about Father’s Day (next month). We usually make a Tshirt, but now that we live in a warmer place -I think we’re going to splurge on one he would wear in public! https://www.orthodoxunlimited.com/
St George grew up in Palestine after his father was martyred.His mom moved away to raise him but when he was old enough, he joined the military. St George, the Victory Bearer, is a very famous saint for the story of how he saved a village from a dragon that lived in their lake. The pagan priests told the people to feed it children instead of fighting it. The brave St George, killed the dragon and freed the village from the dragon; and also from the terrible leadership of the pagan priests!
When the Emperor Diocletian pusecuted Christians, St George sold all his belongings and went to the Emperor to bear witness as a Christian. We call him a soldier of Christ. The Emperor knew him, he was a well known soldier, so he talked with George about just sacrificing to a Roman god so he can go home. But George would not deny Christ. The Emperor was furious and had guards arrest George -off to be tortured. He continued to torture George in different ways. One day, the torture was so bad that the Emperor thought George was dead. He ordered his body removed but when they picked up his body, an angel healed him and George was able to stand up. Oh the Emperor was enraged! He came up with new tortures. He even brought in sorcerors to drug George because he thought that magic was protecting George. Not magic, his guardian angel was keeping George safe. Word spread around the city about the miraculous St George. People came to visit him and be healed by him in the prison! Politicians announced they were christian. Even the Empress knew that George’s God was The Saviour. Emperor Diocletian beheaded many of these people but he was trying to save George by forcing him to sacrifice to the false Roman gods. George stood his ground before the pagan statues of their false gods. He called the demons out and the statues shattered! The crowd went crazy, not understanding what was happening; everyone ran! The Empress Alexandra, yelled out praises to the all powerful God. That was the last straw, the Emperor announced both George and his wife, Alexandra would be executed.
Empress Alexandra April 23rd
The Empress Alexandra was married to the Emperor Diocletian. He killed many Christians trying to maintain the pagan ways. Christians could be arrested just for following Christ. She was in the pagan temple when St George called the demons out and all the statues broke. She called out to the God of Truth. The Emperor was so angry that she betrayed his false gods that he had her sentenced to death along with St George. She did not struggle, but she did faint on the way to the execution. People thought she was dead and somehow she escaped the angry Emperor Diocletian. Nobody heard from her again until after he died. Diocletian passed their daughter Valeria off in marriage to a follower of the pagan gods. The Empress Alexandra had secretly raised her as a Christian and she didn’t want to marry Galerius. Her father didn’t care, she had to marry him so that he could be the new Emperor. Her dad retired. When Galerius died, the new Emperor Maximinus also wanted to marry her. She refused, and her dad wasn’t there to make her; so the new Emperor kicked her out of the country. This is when we hear that Alexandra is still alive! Someone must have snuck her out of the palace when she fainted, everyone thought she had died! They lived in Syria until they heard that Emperor Maximinus had died.
St Elizabeth the Wonderworker April 24th
Elizabeth’s parents brought her to a monastery to grow up in a life of prayer and service to God. Elizabeth grew up and continued to live as a monk. Her prayers were heard by God and through His mercy she healed the sick.
She fasted very strictly. She would eat nothing but greens and vegetables, refusing bread or non-fasting foods. During Great Lent, she refused all food. She was just as strict with herself in her prayer life. She would not look up. She followed the example of the Tax-Collector.
What do you remember about the Tax-Collector? How should we act, to follow his example? Can you think of any other kids who’s parents gave them up to live in God’s house?
March 25 *He is celebrated and commemorated many different days
Saint Tikhon was from Russia. He was ordained Bishop at only 32 years old. He came to the United States around 1900 as a missionary in the early years of our Church in America. He worked hard concecrating churches, founding a monastary; and even estabolished the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America. He worked alongside St Raphael of Brooklyn to prepare and concecrate the Cathedral in New York, and went on estabolish St Tikhon’s Seminary in Pennsylvania (named for his patron).
He returned to Russia before World War I and was elevated to Patriarch in 1917. When things got really bad for Orthodox during the war, St Tikhon called on the Orthodox to unite; repent and continue the faith with all their strength. He also protected the priests from getting arrested by telling them not to talk about politics. St Tikhon spoke out himself often, mostly to calm people. He also spoke out against the government destruction of Church property; and was arrested. The government continued to kill and persecute the Christians and destroy places of worship. When the priests were told to sell things from the parishes to buy food for people, St Tikhon went to court to protect his priests again. He said the priests were innocent, it was his fault. He was arrested and spent a year in prison. The soldiers told him the Church was destroyed. St Tikhon was desprate to get out and rebuild what he could, so he pledged loyalty to the Communist Government. All the stress of the war and persecution wore down St Tikhon until he fell asleep in the Lord after Liturgy in 1925. +Biographical information from the Synaxarion Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church and may be different from other accounts
St Hilarion the New
The Father of Palestinian Monasticism March 28th
St Hilarion spent many years as a hermit. The Lord worked many miracles through him during his life. He cast out demons, diverted a river to water crops and sometimes God shared what would happen in the future with him. In the year 754 soldiers broke into the Pelekete monastery church in the middle of services for Great and Holy Thursday. They were looking for icon-venerating-believers. They dumped the Communion on the ground. Saint Hilarion was arrested with 40 other monks. They were killed because they venerated icons. The soldiers hate was so strong that even after they killed the monks, they continued to beat, burn and cut their bodies. St Hilarion and the other monks are martyrs. Saint Hilarion is remembered by name because he left behind writings about the spiritual battle he faced as a monk. See the link below to the archeological project at St Hilarion’s monastery. As the father of Palestinian monasticism, he would be happy to know it is open to the public. Despite the war and political turmoil, local authorities keep it open. https://www.wmf.org/project/tell-umm-el-amr-saint-hilarion-monastery
The Sunday of Orthodoxy is March 8
Be ready for processions with icons or crosses from home. Its a great day to give lamenated icons of their patron saints or the Church’s patron.
I don’t know about you but I do some of my best pondering while housekeeping. I needed to clean the bathroom and mop the kitchen floor. I’m not sure what prompted it, but my mind wondered into the story of Abel and Cain. My kids enjoy this story. I use it when we need to talk about controlling our temepers. My second son inherited my terrible temper. I tell them about the two brother’s and Cain’s uncontrolled temper. So I was on the kitchen floor scrubbing up splatters, and I thought. I wonder if Cain’s retort, “Am I my brother’s keeper” was a snipe at the fact that his brother got to be the sheppard. So I asked my husband to look into the Greek word for sheppard, and the phrase Cain used for “brother’s keeper” to see if it was related to sheppard.
Dr Newman reported back that no, they don’t seem to be related-
The Greek is: οὐ γινώσκω· μὴ φύλαξ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου εἰμὶ ἐγώ; the word keeper is: φύλαξ which means guard, like an armed guard of a city. The word for shepherd is: ποιμήν which comes from an Indo European root *peh2 (to protect). The etymological meaning of shepherd is similar to guard, but the etymology of φύλαξ is unknown.
So its not the play on words that I thought it may be, but Cain is being much sharper than I realized. “Am I my brother’s bodyguard?”
No great conclusion, just something for all of us who fight a temper to think about, maybe the next time you’re scrubbing.
When Mary, the Theotokos, and Joseph, Jesus’ Stepfather, brought little Jesus to the Holy Temple they met these elderly people. They were not a married couple.
Saint Simeon was a very educated man, he was working in a group of 70 scholars to prepare the Holy Books of the Old Testament (the parts of the Bible from before Jesus). While he translated the Book of Isaiah he came across something that didn’t make sense to him. The sentence said that a virgin would give birth to the Christ (Isaiah 7:14). Virgins can’t have babies so he was about to change it from “virgin” to “young women” when an angel appeared to sttop him. The angel said this word is correct, don’t change it; and you will see this baby with your own eyes. So Simeon waited, he visited the Holy Temple and waited until he was a very old man. Anna the Prophetess had lived in the Holy Temple since her husband died as a young woman. She never left and spent her days praying and fasting. She was now in her eighties. When she came up to pray, she met little Jesus. The Apostle Luke tells us that she told everyone about The Redeemer, Jesus (Luke 2:36-38).
St Raphael of Brooklyn February 27th
St. Raphael was born in Syria. He was a smart boy and got scholarships throughout his schooling. He taught Arabic and Turkish before going to semenary at The School of Theology at Halki and then graduate work at the Theological Academy of Kiev. Eventually he became a missionary to the United States, to support the immigrants struggling here. Only two weeks after arriving, he started setting up the Chapel dedicated to St Nicholas in Manhattan. He traveled around the country visiting Arab-Christians from New York to San Francisco. While he visited with these communities, he encouraged them to continue the Orthodox faith at home when there was no priest nearby. He told them to pray and read the hours. Saint Raphael published an Arabic language book to help them, The Book of True Consolation in the Divine Prayers. He also worked to find priests and recommend local men for seminary. Saint Raphael build the Antiochian Cathedral of St Nicholas in Brooklyn as a permanent home for the Arab Orthodox community. Saint Raphael’s work as a misisonary helped to grow and organize the Orthodox communities to the point that the new Bishop Tikhon couldn’t visit them all. He needed help. In 1904 Father Raphael became the fist priest to be concecrated as Bishop in the USA! As Bishop, he had less time to travel to all the communities across the US, so he started a magazine to share news and teach about the faith. Bishop Raphael noticed that the kids in New York who couldn’t speak Arabic were not in Church. In his short time in the US he learned English and he knew that children are the future of the church, so he created evening schools and started promoting English in worship. He found an English service book to recommend in parishes.
When Bishop Rapheal fell asleep in the Lord in 1927, the Syro-Arab Mission to the US had 30 parishes with 25,000 faithful.
I hope these coloring pages and stories are helpful and useful in lessons with your Sparks. I would love your feedback to make this resource better and more applicable to your work. Feel free to comment or message me on Facebook and Instagram or email me through the blog. Constructive feedback is welcome! I’d also love to see what your Sparks have created!
Sparks has more to offer
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37 pages begining with the Triumph of Orthodoxy to Pentecost. It includes hymns, and saints, all the days of Holy Week, Doubting Thomas and many more. $10 plus shipping on the link to Amazon
25 pages of images to help focus your Spark through Holy week. This smaller version is intended to be easier for travel to services. $8 plus shipping at the link to Amazon
If you are in need of a new “go bag” please see the link for a number of images and styles of bags.
I’ve seen the icon for the Presentation of Christ in the Holy Temple many times. I’ve heard sermons about the Righteous Simeon waiting years to see the Christ; fulfilling a promise from God.
Every year a women standing in the middle of that icon has gone all but unnoticed. This year, I’m taking some time to think about the Prophetess Anna. We know that she was widowed as a young women and lived in the Holy Temple serving others. She lived a life of prayer and fasting. We learn about her in Luke 2:36-38 while he tells the story of Christ’s presentation.-
33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Personal speculation- I’ve often wondered at how Mary was prepared for motherhood, who raised her? We know that the Saints Joachim and Anna brought her to the Holy Temple when she was weaned (so about 2-3), and died shortly after. We know that Mary spent much of her childhood in the Holy of Holies and was educated by the priests. We also know that she was working on a new tapastery to cover the door to the Holy of Holies when the Angel Gabriel appears at the Annunciation. But who taught her to sew, embroider or weave? I don’t believe its a cooincidence that Anna was on her way to pray as Mary brought Jesus to the Holy Temple. Mary would have known her routine from childhood, afterall she hadn’t been gone very long. This may be a glimpse at a very special relationship between two faithful women of God. This may be the mother-figure who raised up the Theotokos.
Nativity Blessings! We are done opening gifts but the season of Nativity continues on.
Venerable Desert Mother Syncletica
Syncletica’s family was from Alexandria. As a young girl she loved and did what pleases God. People said she was beautiful and she was from a wealthy family. So when boys started to visit her as a teen, she made it clear she did not want to marry. She spend her time praying and fasting. When her parents died, she gave away everything in the house. Sold her family home and took her little sister to live in the desert. Stories about her spread around and soon other women and girls came to live in the cave with them. She lived to be an old lady, about 80 years old before she became very ill and fell alseep in the Lord.
Name Day Fun!
Here’s something fun to help celebrate name days with your little sparks!
December means most of us will be filled with Christmas/Nativity preparations- decorating, cooking, extra church, and fasting. Its so easy to get lost in the To Do’s and lose patience or just feel grumpy. I know I do this time of year; so this year I am trying to do less so I can slow down and enjoy more. Being a stay at home mom from the northeast, means I can easily go a full week without leaving my house this time of year. All day everyday with three kids under 6 years, sometimes I feel like a pinball going from child to chore to animal to child, to child to chore to animal… Please check out the link to Nativity Fun for ideas I’ve done at our house to encorporate the kids into the preparation and decoration time. https://sparks4orthodoxkids.com/home-2/feast-fun/nativity-fun/
New Coloring pages for December!
Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker
After his wife passed away, he was appointed Bishop of Trimythus. He was one of the Bishops who went to the big meeting called the The First Ecumentical Councel or The Councel of Nicea. They discussed how to describe God and the trinity. There was an arguement with a man named Arius. Saint Nicholas was there too. He was so frustrated with this man that Nicjolas slapped him in the face! Saint Spyridon picked up a brick. Instead of joining the arguement of logic, he demonstrated the relationship of the Trinity. He squeezed the brick and it both burst into flames and dripped water; then he opened his hand and there was dust. While it is true that he is known for many miracles, it is important to remember that saints are people. They had full lives with happiness and saddness just like us. We should remember that Spyridon was a kind farmer who fed many poor people.
We often call them the Three Kings or Wisemen. They were starwatchers, astrologers, watching the sky every night. They each noticed a new star appear in the sky. They thought that was weird, and it had to mean that something special was happening! They each decided to follow it.
Scientists have been trying to figure out what these “Wisemen” were following. For a long time they said it was just a silly story.
We don’t know exactly what they saw, but
neither did they, we know it was strange enough for them to travel for months
with no plan.
They simply followed God’s light and found His Son, Jesus Christ. They brought baby Jesus presents all the way from their homes. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
With all the support Sparks has received, I decided it was time to update our website. Thank you all, I hope the better quality images will be more useful for projects at home or in Sunday school as we head into the string of holiday adventures!