28 January 2011


I'm slowly gathering resources.  As I said in a previous post, I will soon start reviewing some books.  I came across Around the Year with the Trapp Family.  It suggests songs, recipes, and crafts for the liturgical year; the Trapps apparently got some criticism for being too observant!  I'm going to see if I can find it through inter-library loan.  Here are some online resources which have been very helpful!  Feel free to suggest more!

Cyberbrethren:  Pr. Paul McCain will always post reflections, history and a relevant prayer for the various feast days and commemorations.  He often includes appropriate Bach liturgical compositions (for example, see his post on the Cantata for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.)

Issues, Etc. A Lutheran talk radio program that includes episodes for the liturgical seasons, feasts, festivals and commemorations.  I'm usually 2-3 days behind listening (on-demand), so I probably won't recommend episodes unless they are exceptional and/or offer a unique Lutheran view.  Two that come to mind are Jacob and Esau (we commemorate Jacob on February 5th) and St. Peter's Confession.  If you haven't heard these yet, please go listen!

Issues, Etc. also has a weekly Sunday School lesson review; I listen to the appropriate lesson review before days we honor Biblical people or events.  Deaconess Pam Nielson always does a good job tying everything back to Christ and his work for us.

Pictures of the Bible  I love this site, although the layout is a little awkward.  Paintings are organized according to Bible stories, and there are brief descriptions of detail. (Roman Catholic)

Family in Feast and Feria inspired me to start this blog.  I especially love the hard-to-find books she recommends. The author has a sister-site, Family Food in Feast and Feria. (Roman Catholic)

Catholic Cuisine offers both traditional and cute/creative recipe suggestions.  I haven't fully explored the site, but I liked the "horse" theme for the Conversion of St. Paul (the first detail my kids noticed about the paintings of Paul's conversion was they all had horses in them). (Thanks Aubri, for suggesting this site!)

Other RC sites on observing the liturgical year in the home: Faith Filled Days, Catholic Culture, Domestic-Church, Women for Faith and Family.

Free Christ Images offers a lot of beautiful religious art, and some coloring pages.  I like that you can search for art by event or verse or person.

Waltzing Matilda can draw as well as dance.  She has made a bunch of (free) coloring pages for individual use. (Roman Catholic)

27 January 2011

St. John Chrysostom (January 27)

One of my first introductions to Chrysostom was through the Touchstone Magazine article, One Flesh of Purest Gold.  Although Lutherans and Protestants criticize Chrysostom for cloistering himself for many years in a monastery,  his writings do not reflect a low view of marriage.

He also was a prolific Pauline scholar, and his homilies on the Epistles are full of "faith alone" rhetoric.  Pr. Will Weedon compiled a nice collection of "faith alone" quotes from Chrysostom in Where Were the Lutherans Before Luther?

If you google St. John Chrysostom, you will find vast amounts of "anti-semite!" accusations.  I have not read all of Chrysostom's writings on the "Judaizers," but a lot of what I have read are condemnations against Judaizing Christians, not Jews themselves.  At the same time, he was exiled for putting pressure on the religious and secular rulers for their worldliness and unconcern for the poor.

"Chrysostom" means "golden-mouth," and St. John earned his nickname by becoming a very famous preacher.  The common people loved him, and he used many simple illustrations to communicate his points.  Unfortunately, for all his "faith alone" and anti-Judaizing rhetoric, some of his sermons seem heavy on the Law, except for maybe a blurb about Christ at the end.  It's a good reminder that even the early Fathers sometimes fell into the same "moralizing" temptation as our own preachers of the Gospel.

He contributed to the liturgy, shortening what had become a very long service.  He was concerned that the people were missing communion because of the length of the liturgy.

Today I cut up pieces of colored and "gold" paper and we made a "mosaic" of Chrysostom (my 2-year-old's was rather abstract, but he got the "golden mouth" part.  My future Picasso...)

26 January 2011

Blog Block

Our family has unexpectedly downsized from one to two computers.  My husband needs the only working one for his business.  Therefore, posts over the next few weeks may be sporadic and short.  I will still post each feast and commemoration, even if all I post are pictures, so chime in if you have suggestions or ideas (even if they have been untested!)

Hopefully this problem will be resolved by Lent.

St. Titus (January 26)

 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day  to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to  the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must  help the weak and  remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"               Acts 20:28-35

St. Titus

It's been a busy week here, and when it comes to "saint talks" my children last about 20 minutes.  Today I'm going to have them write a thank you note to our Pastor ("write" as in draw a picture) to commemorate St. Titus.  They will dictate to me the note.

We will talk about Paul's relationship to Timothy and Titus and how they were all pastors.  It's so much fun introducing my children to the Old and New Testament saints they are unfamiliar with.  I forget that I learned all these stories and facts at some point in my childhood.  It feels like I always knew about Paul, Titus and Timothy, which is a great testament to my parents' instructing me and my sisters in the Bible.  My 3-year old is connecting the dots and asks lots of questions throughout the day ("Why did Saul change his name?  Is he still blind?  Why wasn't he baptized as a baby?")

Besides the Office of the Holy Ministry, we also might talk more about Titus as a "not-Jew" and how Jesus died for everyone, not just the Jews.  "Gentile" is a tough concept at my kids' age.

Some other ideas:

* Learn about Crete, the island Titus served.  If you can, learn about the early church there.  When my kids are older, I plan on having a "geography" lesson associated with each feast day of the calendar year, briefly researching where the person was born or served, or where the event happened .  I think it's very important to be mindful of (and prayer for) Christians throughout the world.  Learning where these historic events happened and people lived helps anchor salvation history in time and space.

It might be fun to hang a large world map in your school or play room and mark with labels where different saints and Bible characters lived.

* Make a Greek meal.  (Titus was Greek).  Pastitso (Greek lasagna) and a generally greek-ish (olives, feta) salad is a kid-friendly meal.  Or keep it simple and just serve Greek yogurt with berries at lunch.  (That pastitso recipe is almost exactly like my mother-in-law's recipe,  passed down from my husband's YiaYia. I guarantee it's good.)

25 January 2011

Conversion of St. Paul (January 25)

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
 [T]he Lord said to [Ananias], "Go, for [Saul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.         
Acts 9:1-9, 15-22

Hymns:  By All Your Saints in Warfare LSB #517: 12
               The People That in Darkness Sat LSB #412
The Conversion on the Road to Damascus. 1660. Caravaggio.

The Conversion of St. Paul. 1545. Lucas Cranach the Younger.

The Conversion of St. Paul.  1430. Fra Angelico. (Missal Illumination)

(couldn't identify)

(Couldn't identify)

Conversion of St. Paul. c.1542. Michelangelo.
You can find more relevant art at textweek.com

I went a little overboard with the art, but there is so much from which to choose, and so much theology to draw out of them!  Notice three of the paintings have Christ's WORDS to Paul written right in the painting (one has the Alpha and Omega figures).  Even pre-Reformation artists understood how important Christ's spoken Word is in converting the sinner.   Christ speaks salvation to us; we are not saved by our dramatic experiences (although we may have those).  So often I hear old-time Evangelicals--or even conservative Reformed types--talk about giving testimonies, which end up focusing on a dramatic psychological experience or change of heart (subjective), instead of speaking God's Word (objective, and always efficacious).  Often "testifiers" put the pressure on others to have a dramatic conversion experience (like Paul), when really it was God's spoken Word, the laying of hands and baptism that converted Paul.  God speaks to us and converts and sustains us when we hear his Word proclaimed and when we are baptized, just like Paul!

For more reflections on Paul's conversion, see Pr. Weedon's blog here and here.

Talking to my kids about Paul's conversion, I focused on Jesus as the Word speaking salvation to Paul.  We also talked about Jesus as the Light of the world, and how light allows us to see things, and how much better light is than darkness.  I tried to talk a bit about Paul as a missionary, telling people outside Israel about Jesus.  They had lost interest by then.  If you have older kids, though, think about showing them how Paul's conversion, with its emphasis on Jesus' (blinding) light, and Paul's eventual preaching to the Gentiles ties so well with those Epiphany themes.

Here's a fun online activity, if you let your kids use a computer.  You can also find some free comic-book style color sheets here.  Check your bookshelf or church library for the Arch book Saul's Conversion. (By the way, you might want to order or reserve Arch books for future days: Presentation of Jesus, Jacob, Silas, the  Transfiguration).  A complete list is at cph.org.

23 January 2011

Inter-Food Dialogue

"Shaved terrier is kosher, right?

While thinking of ideas for the commemoration of Sarah, I wondered why it was so hard to find traditional activities and meals associated with the Old Testament saints.  After some research, I learned the Old Testament "saint days" were not observed by the Western church until the Reformation.

This reminded me (there's a point to this post, I promise) of an employer I had in high school.  I worked for a Muslim veterinarian, and he and his family often stayed in an apartment attached to the clinic.  One day his wife brought him some mid-morning food, and he very excitedly explained to me that it was a traditional dish Muslims ate to commemorate Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son (Ishmael, not Isaac, according to Islam).  He offered me a bowl.   "Food offered to idols" popped into my head, and almost simultaneously, "to the pure all things are pure."  I did try some, and it was very good (a sort of runny rice pudding called Seviyan).*

So I decided to see if I could find a traditional Eastern Orthodox dish inspired by Sarah and Abraham hosting the three guests.  I even tried some Jewish sites.  Did not find anything.

That is why I made a meal on January 20 inspired by the meal described in Genesis (beef, bread, curds and milk).  I then went through some of the OT patriarchs/prophets/kings/priests commemorated in the Lutheran calendar and thought of meals or dishes based on Bible passages.  Just because no one else has done it before, doesn't mean I can't start my own family traditions.  Here's what we're going to do (I'll post recipes as the days approach):

Elijah--bread made from oil and flour (poor widow's miracle)
Sarah--meal prepared for angelic visitors
Joshua--milk, honey-cakes, grapes (for entering the Promised land)
Daniel--vegetarian dinner served with water ;)
David- raisin cakes (like those Abigail brought him, interceding for her husband)
Jacob-- lentil stew he traded for Esau's birthright
Jonah-fish and figs
Peter-- a Gentile dinner ("do not call unclean that which God has made clean"); since Peter shares his feast with Paul, maybe a discussion of the First Council of Jerusalem and the Jewish/Gentile Christian controversies would be relevant.

Any other ideas?

*[Don't worry. This blog won't be promoting Muslim holidays or an inter-food alliance, union, or "potbless"]

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22 January 2011

St. Timothy (January 24)

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers.                                                 Act 16:1-5 (see also I Timothy 6:11-16 and
Matt 24: 42-47)

Hymns:  All My Hope on God is Founded- 1 Tim 6:17 (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #203)
               By All Your Saints in Warfare LSB #517:1, 11, 3
St. Timothy, 5th c. Basilica of Paul outside the Walls
Sts. Timothy and Novatus, 16th c.
Timothy and his Grandmother. 1648. Rembrandt.
Timothy's Stoning unknown

Modern Icon of St. Timothy
Baptism and Ordination of St. Timothy, 11th c. (damaged)

Found no (acceptable) coloring pages, so I will have my kids draw Timothy either with his grandmother or assisting Paul.  I plan on focusing on Timothy as a pastor, and talking to the kids about what a pastor does (preaches God's word, baptizes and communes, speaks God's forgiveness to us, takes care of all the people in the church).

My husband and I will raise a toast to St. Timothy after the kids are asleep ("No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments").

Reading through the Timothies tonight, I realized how frequently Paul exhorts the younger pastor--and his parishioners-- to avoid idleness and study [Scripture] often.  I am so thankful for a faithful pastor who studies diligently and is eager to teach his flock, even while he works long hours.  I am thankful for his wife, who sacrifices many an evening with her husband for the sake of the church.  Consider sending off an email to your pastor on Monday, thanking him for all he does for your spiritual and eternal welfare.

I have ordered a bunch of liturgical literature, and cookbooks, and out-of-print, pre-Vatican II books that specialize in celebrating the church year in the home (many thanks for your suggestions).  I hope the material will flesh out this site a bit. I'll be sure to review them for you as I read them.

"Grace be with you. Amen."

21 January 2011

Sarah (January 20)

  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
  Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
  “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
  “There, in the tent,” he said.
Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
   Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.  Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.  So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
  Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
  Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
  But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”                                                  Genesis 18: 6-15

Hymnody: Lutheran Service Book #855: 1, 3, 4 "For All the Faithful Women"

Abraham, Sarah, and the Angel. c. 1520. Jan Provost.
James Tissot - Sarah Hears and Laughs - Art Prints and Posters
Sarah Hears and Laughs. c. 1896 James Tissot

Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham. c. 1637  Matthias Stomer.

Sarah Presenting Hagar to Abraham. c. 1699. Adriean van der Werff

Abraham and Sarah. 1956. Marc Chagall

Interestingly,  most art depicting Sarah shows her handing (a half-dressed) Hagar off to Abraham.

After reading the Genesis 18 story and showing my children the paintings of Sarah laughing from her tent at God's promise to give her a son in her old age, we talked about how God kept his promise anyway, in spite of Sarah's unbelief.   I emphasized God's faithfulness even when his people are unfaithful. Then we talked about her joy at God giving her Isaac, and how through Isaac, Jesus would eventually be born, bring true joy to his people by saving them from their sins.  My eldest remembered all the stories of the patriarchs and their wives from Sunday School last fall, so she filled her younger brother in on the rest of the story ("then Isaac married Rebekah and had Jacob and Esau.  They were twins!  Two babies!")

We made a meal like the one Sarah served to the visitors (bread, roast beef, and a yogurt dish).  We also talked a bit about hospitality toward those who visit our home (sharing toys was a big topic). We prayed for women who are unable to have children, that God would give them His blessing and peace (and children, if it pleases Him).

Summary: As we celebrate and remember the saints before us, for my small  children it helps to focus on particular details or themes, and keep it simple.  Today for us it was laughter (both in disbelief and later in joy), God's faithfulness to his promises, hospitality, and praying for the barren.

Jewish Children's Books -- Sarah Laughs

Books: I've read a lot of good reviews of the children's book  Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules.  The book emphasizes Abraham and Sarah's monotheism and holding fast to God's promises. However, as one Amazon reviewer put it, "The neutral language makes this book useful for readers of many faiths." (I believe the author is Jewish.)

Other activities: You can find coloring pages here and here.  And, in case you're not still recovering from Christmas cookies (we just finished our last frozen sugar cookie last week) or dreading Valentines Day sugar-comas, you can always make star cookie cut-outs, reminiscent of God's promise to Abraham (and Sarah) to make their descendants as the stars in the sky.  You and your child are one of those descendants, born of faith in baptism!

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20 January 2011

Confession of St. Peter (January 18)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed  in heaven.”  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.     Matthew 16: 13-20

Confession of St. Peter, Bas Relief from the Vatican Museum,  4th c. sarcophagus

Christ_Handing_the_Keys_to_St._Peter_by_Pietro_Perugino.jpg (775×480)
Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter Pietro Perugino (1448-1523)

St. Peter, 13th-century fresco fragment
Earliest icon of St. Peter, 4th century
Other relevant art:
Church of Santa Costanza mosaic (5th-7th c.) Jesus gives Peter the Kingdom of Heaven
Apostle St. Peter El Greco (1541-1614)

See also Duccio, Bassano, Fra Angelico, Tissot, Le Nain, von Honthorst, Mola, Raphael, and Rembrandt for other depictions of Peter.  I had a hard time finding depictions of the actual confession of St. Peter.  Caravaggio has a nice Crucifixion of St. Peter, which can be compared to his famous Conversion of St. Paul (which we celebrate on the 25th). 

Couldn't find any coloring pages.  I just had my kids draw a picture as I read the account.  For those of you with older kids (junior high or high school age) this short Bible passage can open a number of theological discussions.  For example, much Renaissance art focuses on Peter receiving the Keys, and not on his confession.  You could talk about why this might be, given the time period, and geo-political source of much of Renaissance art, and the different understandings of "keys" in different  Christian traditions.  You could also talk to older students about the different interpretations of "upon this Rock I will build my church," and why Lutherans confess that the Rock is Peter's confession of Who Christ is.  And then there's Confession and Absolution....so much theology to talk about!!

Does anyone know the history of how this festival developed?  There are not a lot of traditions surrounding the day, perhaps because it is centered on words and not a personality or event.  Is this a Lutheran innovation to the calendar, like moving the Transfiguration to Epiphany?

16 January 2011

Marking the Seasons

We are thinking of ways to differentiate the seasons of the year in our home.  Here are some ideas (I'll post pictures and follow-ups as these ideas become realities):

* Using colored fabric to remind the family of the season.  I have heard of mothers hosting "tea parties"  in the afternoon, where the tablecloth each day reflects the liturgical colors; while the kiddies snack and sip, she teaches catechism, they go over memory verses, the saint of the day, etc.  Some homes have a family altar, where the hymnal, Bible, and some candles (maybe an icon) are kept.  This "altar" would be a great place to put a purple, white, green, black or red runner.

* Having a certain "hymn of the season" the family sings every day.  Our family actually sings three hymns a day for the duration of a season: a family-member's request, a seasonal hymn, and a particular piece from Divine Service I, III, or Matins (the services out of the Lutheran Service Book our church uses).  So, for example, during Advent we sang "God's Own Child I'll Gladly Say It" (LSB #594--daughter's request), O Come Emmanuel (LSB #357-Advent) and This is the Feast (LSB 171-Setting I).  Many hymnals are organized by the seasons of the church year.  Or you could ask your pastor if he will be introducing a new hymn your family could begin practicing.

* A verse of the season.  The whole family can memorize a particular verse that captures a theme (or one of the themes) of the season.  I will tell you what verses we're working on each season, but they will be fairly small for my 3 and 2 year old.  If you have older kids, especially those who are good at memorizing, assign a different one each week!  Whole chapters!

*Bulletin board collection of seasonal projects: Line a bulletin board with the appropriate liturgical color and then fill it with the crafts, coloring pages, and photos of activities your family did to celebrate the various feasts and festivals during that season.  Sunday school projects could go up here, too.

Most importantly, associate the individual celebrations to the time of the Church year ("How is Peter's Confession an Epiphany? What does Jesus reveal about Himself when Peter says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?") and the time of the Church year to our salvation in Christ's work on the cross.

How do you "mark the seasons" of the church year?  How are you celebrating Epiphany?

15 January 2011

Prospectus and a Request

For three years now I have intended to design a curriculum for parents that follows the Church Year, its seasons, feasts, festivals and commemorations.  I can not think of a better way to teach and impress on our children God's Work for us--that is, the atonement for our sins by Jesus Christ's perfect life, death and resurrection--than through celebrating Biblical and Church history, the lives of all God's saints, and of course, the Gospel story itself.  This is the Church Year in a nutshell.

The theology herein will reflect those expressed in the Book of Concord.  All visitors are welcome to contribute and make suggestions, regardless of their own confession, but please know I reserve the right to evaluate suggested resources against the BoC (and include disclaimers or "heads up" warnings).  And parents, it's ultimately your responsibility to determine what is appropriate for your family.  I will try mightily to assess materials theologically  (and for historic accuracy...and maybe aesthetics, too), but something may slip through the cracks.

This is a supplement to--not a replacement of-- your family's reading the Word of God and praying daily.  Please visit the General Resource part of my blog for general devotional and catechetical aids.  

Finally, help me out!!!  Tell us what your family does to celebrate the days and seasons of the Church!  My own children are under 4, so a lot of what I will post may reflect that fact.  However, I want this site ultimately to be a resource for any age.

So.. .what art, children's books, biographies or fiction, hymns, coloring pages, meals and treats, fun games or activities, poems and folk songs, Bible memory verses do you like?