Archive for the ‘Exaltation of the Cross’ Category

More images will be added to this post over time.

Matthew’s Moses dividing the red sea.


Palamia’s Serpent from Genesis.


Matthew did St. John the Baptist, Michael did one monk and one St. Anthony (with a little help).



Read Full Post »

The kids loved making stepping stones. It was like decorating ‘mud pies.’ We first tried it with concrete, but then learned that Sackcrete sand motar was identical to the hobby store stepping stone mix ($4.95 for a sixty pound bag at Lowe’s verses $6.50 for an 8 pound box at Michael’s). Concrete works, but because it includes gravel, it is much more difficult to press letters in that can be clearly read. It also has a different texture. We also discovered that the aluminum tins were good for only two stones each at most. I have since bought the cheapest cake pans available at Walmart (around $2.50 for two). They are sturdy and we can reuse them as much as we need.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the stones made this week:


Each child made a ladder and a wee folk doll (the younger children had quite a bit of help). Here is Palamia with hers:


And then we experimented with Sculpy clay on river rocks (that I also purchased from Walmart in the same section, floral and vases, where I purchased the small stones and glass gems for the stepping stones). There are more done, but it’s too late to upload those pictures tonight.


I can’t wait until we can begin building our garden trail.

Read Full Post »

Building our ladders:

We have found a simple solution to building ladders that won’t require my husband since it still will be sometime before he is home from his latest trip. Honestly, I should have scheduled the last week of August to begin this, starting with learning about the Ladder of Divine Ascent then, and using that time to start our journals, build ladders, etc. As it is, we are using our evening family time to get these extras done. At least the kids are enjoying it when Daddy’s gone!

To build our ladders (each child participating are building their own), I bought 8 36″x1/4″ square dowels at Home Depot. They were $1.45 each. I then bought one package of 150 count Mini Craft Sticks (2 1/2″ x 3/8″) for $1.44 at the Super Walmart. Each child then took two rods and evenly places 30 sticks on it. Either they or I (depending on age) glued the sticks to the rods using wood glue. The ladders were done last night, though the listing of steps still needs to be done. The simplest way to do that, probably will be to write on them directly with permanent pens. I hope to get that done tonight. Then each of the participating children will make a little “Wee Folk” acorn capped doll that will be used to climb the ladder and show where we are in our studies each month.

Building our stepping stones:

If you buy stepping stone materials at a craft store, which is what I did for our first stone, it can become quite expensive, particularly if a number of stones are to be made. My children really like the idea of decorating their own stones. So I have found far less expensive materials to do it. I bought an 80 lb sack of premixed concrete from Home Depot (I will post a picture of it later to show brand name). It was just over $6. It is enough to make many, many stones. It is my intent to come up with a recipe that fits each of our stepping stone moulds, and to post that later. I bought inexpensive 8″ diameter foil cake tins at Walmart. A package of 3 cost $1.17. It will be used as the stone mould. And rather than buying the teeny and very expensive bags of mosaic material used for stepping stones at the craft store, I purchased larger bags of colored glass and rocks used for filling glass vases for flowers at Walmart. Their prices ranged from $1.88 to $2.97 per 2 pound bag. I have also been collecting old colored dishes purchased inexpensively at Garage sales, that will be broken into mosaic pieces for stepping stones and mosaics. If you can find a tile place that will let you have their scraps, that would be a good alternative too. For the lettering, I did purchase the press-in stamps at a craft store for around $6. But you could use a stick and write your own letters if you want to keep costs down. For me though, because my writing isn’t that great, it was a worthwhile investment.

For our virtue journals:

We are using chalk pastels, again available at larger Super Walmarts, to color the background. A 25 color set cost $5.77. The kids draw some lines with one or several colors, then smudge it in with a small bit of tissue. I then spray it with a matte acrylic spray outside to preserve it.

I do have a collection of nature stamps that they used and ink pads. Those are not cheap however, though you could always use nature printing instead to cut costs (find interesting leaves outside, or cut vegetables, ink them and stamp with them). They did a background layer and then stamped some leaves and natural objects on top of that. I did pick up some nice stickers at the craft store a while back that they used on their front covers. But Walmart did have some less expensive nature-theme stickers that the children may use for the inside pages. 

I will post pictures later of some of these items and our finished projects as they are completed.

Read Full Post »

We are printing the images below in a size that will fit in our “Garden of Virtues” journals, on attractive paper. Once the children are done coloring, they will cut them out with decorative scissors and glue them in their journals:  

More coming…

Read Full Post »

Unfortunately, I was not able to find a pre-made ladder at the craft store today so we likely will need to make one when my husband gets home from his latest trip. Meanwhile, a friend of mine came over and we made stepping stones. Two of my children helped me decorate the one pictured below. It will be the start of our “Children’s Garden of Virtues” which we plan to build on some acreage that we have outside of town. 

I also discovered a couple of weeks ago these blank books from Miller’s. We are decorating the covers now and plan for each child to document their studies, including quotes, pictures, etc using scrapbooking methods. We are using Miller’s small bare books plus (60 page version, you have to scroll down to find it on their Bare Books Small page). As we work to build the garden, this will serve as both a nature journal and a journal of their virtue study.

Read Full Post »

Check back, more coming…

Everyone bears his cross, and you bear your cross, even though it is only the size of a finger; you still bear it. The bearing of a cross is absolutely necessary for every Christian for his salvation, and not only for monks. Yes, everyone ears a cross, and has borne a cross; even the Incarnate God bore a cross, and His Cross was the heaviest, as if combining in itself all the crosses of mankind. And take note: God is carrying the cross and a man (Simon the Cyrenian) helps Him. He takes the cross from Him and carries it himself. This means that by bearing our crosses we help the Lord to carry the cross, i.e., we are preparing to be His servants in heaven in the choir of bodiless Spirites… . What a high calling! -St. Barsanuphius of Optina

We seek and desire sweet, spiritual enjoyment; I do not argue, it is pleasant—but it is lower than the cross. It is granted to us through the cross and without the cross it cannot last. It comes to us and leaves us according to the degree that we travel the way of the cross and humility. -St. Macarius of Optina

To bear the cross does not mean only visible, external sorrows, but also internal spiritual ones. One must endure darkness, faintheartedness and similar things as well. For God sends this for the destruction of our pride and acquiring of humility. -St. Macarius of Optina

It has been so arranged by the Lord God, that in His care for the salvation of our soul, each person in this life has a cross which he must humbly carry to our Heavenly Father from his childhood, calling to Him from the depth of his soul: “Our Father! May Thy Holy Will be done in all things, only do not deprive me of Thy Heavenly Kingdom. -St. Anthony of Optina

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:2

By the world, “world,” we understand everything which is subject to the passions, which is far from God. Here we are fine. Glory to God! We live in the desert of the world—we can go to church, we can converse with like-minded people. Glory to God! -St. Nikon of Optina

Beware of passionate attachments to the world. Although they deceive you with peace and comfort, they are so fleeting that you do not notice how you are deprived of them, and in their place come sorrow, longing, despondency, and no comfort whatsoever. -St. Leo of Optina

Having recognized the truly useless vanity of the world, you should flee from it and seek for yourself a way to fulfill the will of God. But as long as we serve the world, we do not see the darkness of the passions, darkening our thoughts. Being in such a state of blindness, we do not care that by pleasing the world we become violators of the Divine Commandments, and we think by making a few minor corrections we will become true Christians; but in this way, we greatly deceive ourselves, not studying the teachings of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. -St. Macarius of Optina

The man who is poor in spirit desires and says with his whole heart, Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.  It is as though he himself disappears; everywhere and in everything he wishes to see God–in himself and in others.  ‘Let everything by Thine, not mine.-St. John of Krondstat

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. -1 John 2:17

We abandon ourselves, we renounce ourselves, when we escape from what we were in our old state, and strive toward what we are called to be in our new one. Let us see how Paul, who said `It is no longer I who live’ renounced himself: the cruel persecutor was destroyed and the holy preacher began to live. But how was Paul, who said that he was no longer living, able to proclaim the message of truth? Immediately after saying `It is no longer I who live,’; he added, `but Christ lives in me.’ He means that he had indeed been destroyed by himself, since he no longer lived unspiritually, but in his essential being he was not dead since he was spiritually alive in Christ. -St. Gregory the Great

The chief evil with relation to the body is love for the body and pitying it. This takes away all the soul’s authority over the body and makes the soul the slave of the body. And on the contrary, one who does not spare the body will not be disturbed in whatever he does by apprehensions born of blind love of life. How fortunate is one who is trained to this from childhood! -St Theophan the Recluse

… The holy Fathers relate that when the thief of the Gospel, too, came to the gates of the Kingdom, the Archangel with the flaming sword wanted to chase him away, but he showed him the Cross. Immediately the fire-bearing Archangel himself withdrew and permitted the thief to enter. Understand here not the wooden cross. But which? The Cross in which the chief Apostle Paul boasts and concerning which he writes, ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17). -St. Anatoly of Optina

Do not the angels differs from us in this respect, that they do not want so many things as we do? Therefore the less we need, the more we are on our way to them; the more we need, the more we sink down to this perishable life. St. John Chrysostom

But it is not enough for us to abandon our possessions if we do not abandon ourselves as well. What does it mean to abandon ourselves? If we abandon ourselves, where shall we go outside of ourselves? And who is it who departs, if a person has forsaken himself? But we are one thing when we have fallen into sin, and another in the nature with which we were created; what we did is one thing, what we have become is another. Let us abandon the selves we have made by sinning, and let us continue to be the selves we have become by grace. -St. Gregory the Great

If you wish to see the blessings which “God has prepared for those who love Him” (I COR 2:9), then take up your abode in the desert of the renunciation of your own will, and flee the world. What world? The world of the lust of the eyes, of your fallen self (I JN 2:16), the presumptuousness of your own thoughts, the deceit of things you can see. Niketas Stethatos

The first duty of a Christian, of a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, is to deny himself. To deny oneself means to give up one’s bad habits, to root out of the heart all that ties us to the world; not to cherish bad desires and thoughts; to quench and suppress bad thoughts; to avoid occasions of sin; not to do or desire anything from self-love but to do everything out of love for God. To deny oneself means, according to the Apostle Paul, to be dead to sin and the world, but alive to God. -St. Innocent of Alaska

The chef reason why so people attain to full Christian perfection is exactly their reluctance, through self-pity, to force themselves to deny themselves. -Bishop Theophan the Recluse

Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Mark 8:34-37

A man takes a little walk and sees something. His thoughts say to him, ‘Go over there and investigate’ and he says to his thoughts, ‘No! I won’t’ and he cuts off his desire. Again he finds someone gossiping and his thoughts say to him, ‘You go and have a word with them.’ and he cuts off his desire and does not speak. Or again his thoughts say to him, ‘Go and ask, the cook, what’s cooking?’ And he does not go but cuts off his desire. Then he sees something else and his thoughts say to him, ‘Go down and ask who brought it?’ And he does not ask. A man denying himself in this way comes little by little to form a habit of it so that from denying himself in little things he begins to deny himself in great without the least trouble. Finally he comes not to have any of these extraneous desires but whatever happens to him he is satisfied with it as if it were the very thing he wanted. -Abba Dorotheos of Gaza

If we mortify our desires, cut off harmful pleasures, and not only allow nothing to remain with us of this world’s goods but actually recognize that we are not our own masters, then we truly make our own the apostle’s words, ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. -Abba Abraham

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. -Gal. 2:20

A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemies heart. -St. Dorotheos of Gaza

Read Full Post »

In commemoration of the feast:


Feast of The Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross

Virtue to be studied for the month of September:



If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” Luke 9:23-25


“For none of us lives to Himself and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8



  • Week 1: The Fall and Old Testament saints in commemoration of the new liturgical year
  • Week 2: The Theotokos in commemoration of her Nativity
  • Week 3: The life of Christ in commemoration of His sacrifice for us (Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross)
  • Week 4: A survey of saint lives—Fulfillment of God’s Promise, their self-renunciation leads to eternal life and Communion with God
  • Initial preparation:

    Read Introduction and ‘Step One’ in “Ascending the Heights: A Layman’s Guide to The Ladder of Divine Ascent” or for young adults if more appropriate, the same chapters in the actual: “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” by St. John Climacus.” Have children look up the meaning of self-renunciation in a dictionary and discuss. 


    Build Ladder of Divine Ascent (30 steps). Label first rung at bottom: Self-renunciation. See example from the Children’s Garden of Holy Dormition Monastery:


    Week 1: “In the Beginning”


    Because September 1st is the beginning of the liturgical calendar, it only makes sense to start our study of the Cross, and what it means in our spiritual life, at the very beginning of human history.


    Day 1: Read the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall (particularly Genesis 2:8-3:24). Have a discussion on Self-will verses God’s will, and how Adam and Eve’s desire for the pleasure of forbidden fruit led them to break His commandment and lose communion with Him.

    This article includes a very helpful discussion on how, rather than being hungry for God, Adam and Eve became hungry for God’s Creation, which lead to their breaking of Communion with God. Its explanation could be helpful in discussing how fasting helps us to strengthen our hunger for God, verses the worldly pleasure of food and likewise how self-renunciation of the world helps to direct our focus back onto God.


    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”-Matthew 5:5

    copywork coming…


    Day 2: Read or listen to the story of Isaac (chapter 2 in Our Young Folks’ Josephus Audiobook), how he prefigured Christ, his obedience to his father’s will paralleled Christ’s obedience to The Father’s will: “not my will, but Thy will be done”.


    And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8 (Copywork coming)


    Day 3: Read or listen to the Story of Moses and Israel’s flight from Egypt (chapters 11-24 in Our Young Folks’ Josephus Audiobook). What did Israel struggle most against while in the wilderness? What did Egypt represent to them? What did the desert represent? And what did the “Promised Land,” “The Land of Milk and Honey” represent?


    By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26 (Copywork coming)


    Days 4 and 5: Read/listen (we will be using “Our Young Folks’ Josephus Audiobook for the younger children) to the stories of various Old Testament Prophets. We hope to cover Ruth (chapter 32), Daniel (chapters 85-87), and St. John the Baptist. How did their lives prefigure the Cross? How were they examples of self-renunciation? What was their consolation and reward for their sacrifices and labors? In particular, read/discuss the example of St. John the Baptist. Read this article including how the Old Testament prophets are an example of renunciation and the model for Christian monasticism.


    They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:37-38 (Copywork coming)


    Close week study with reading:  Hebrews Chapter 11

    Week 2: The Theotokos: a primary example among the saints of self-renunciation  

    • Read the “Protoevangelium of James” or the “Illustrated Life of the Theotokos for Children
    • Contrast the Theotokos’ obedience to Eve’s disobedience (read here)
    • Discuss her life and how it is an example of renouncing the pleasures of this life and obeying the will of God
    • Read the “Magnificat” (copywork coming)
    • Paint stones, broken slate and pieces of granite, including scripture verses and quotations commemorating her example

    Week 3: Life of Christ, the supreme example of self-renunciation

    • Read one of the first three Gospels during the week
    • Discuss His example and self sacrifice for us
    • Make crosses for the garden
    • Plant basil near where the crosses are placed
    • Make cross cookies
    • Copywork for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross (coming)

    Week 4

    • Learn About Orthodox monasticism and how it is our primary example of renunciation of the world and self.
    • Each child chooses a saint who epitomizes self-renunciation and reads about him or her
    • Each child narrates, written and/or orally (depending on age of child) what they have read and then discuss how the saint they studied is an example of self-renunciation
    • Each child builds or paints an object (or objects) for the garden that commemorates the saint he/she studied
    • Photograph objects, print them and have the children paste them as well as copywork quotations and their narrations in each of the children’s Nature/Virtue Journals. Have them decorate the pages using rubber stamps, and scrapbooking supplies

    Possible activities planned during the month of September:

    • Play act as a family, “The Taming of the Shrew,” by William Shakespeare
    • Listen to Jim Weiss audio recording of “Taming of the Shrew”
    • Read Lamb’s free online version of “Taming of the Shrew
    • Learn the Troparion of the Holy Cross and possibly Before Thy Cross
    • Build a 30 rung ladder, with the first rung at the bottom listing “Self-renunciation.”
    • Paint crosses on rocks and pieces of granite. Plant basil next to where these are placed in the garden (following Greek tradition)
    • Build caves out of stones in garden with either icons, painted rocks, or wooden figures of saints. See examples from the Children’s Garden of Holy Dormition Monastery:

    Read Full Post »