Veneration of the Cross: Activities inspired by Tending the Garden of our Hearts

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On the third Sunday of Lent, the Church celebrates the Veneration of the Holy Cross: the finding in 326 AD of the true Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Byzantine empress Saint Helena, and Saint Makarius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. On this day, we listen to the same readings and hymnology, and observe the same procession of the Cross around the church, as on the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), and the Feast of the Procession of the Cross (August 1).
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The Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross is wisely and lovingly placed in the middle of the Lenten season to remind us that we are not alone in our spiritual struggle – our Lord is here, with us, and His Cross gives us the strength and courage to continue ‘the good fight’ in anticipation of His Passion and the glory of His Resurrection.
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Tending the Garden of our Hearts is a series of daily Lenten meditations for children and their families, from Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger. Every day, there is a new Lenten lesson (perhaps a Bible story, Saint’s story or desert fathers anecdote), followed by questions to help build discussion in the family. The meditations are arranged around weekly themes inspired by the Sunday of Lent that opens the week. In addition, there are weekly ideas and activities.
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Week 4 at Tending the Garden of our Hearts deals with the role of the Cross in the Orthodox Christian tradition, and also with the theme of humility. We were inspired by this wonderful resource, and are sincerely thankful to its creators for allowing us to put together some printables to help with their activities targeting the younger children. Our printables and ideas can be used both at a family and at a Sunday School setting. For a comprehensive discussion, please visit Tending the Garden of our Hearts.crosses

Cross Scavenger Hunt 

Elissa and Kristina propose a scavenger hunt that can help the children become more aware of the Cross’s presence in their lives. Please hop on to their website for details.

We created a printable to accompany this activity. It can be printed out and used to count the crosses found on the scavenger hunt. It also contains the troparion of the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross.

Helpful tips

  • One page can be used by the whole group/family, or the group can be separated into teams/individuals, with one page each, and at the end compare the results – even make a small friendly contest out of it.
  • To make it exciting for young children, the parents/teachers could make a significant amount of paper crosses and hide them around the house or school so that there are many of them.

Troparion Scramble

This activity can help young children learn the troparion. Print out the page and cut out the rectangles. Scramble them up, then the children can try to put them back in order, with help from the previous printable.

Helpful tips

This activity can be easily turned into a game for one or more children. Here are a few ideas:
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  • Bowling: Hide each phrase rectangle under an upside down paper cup. Each child uses a small ball (a tennis ball works well) to knock over the cups. When s/he knocks over a cup, she takes the piece of paper from underneath it, and places it at a designated spot, in the correct order. If doing this activity at a group setting, the children can be separated into competing teams, each with its own set of paper rectangles and cups.
  • Toss game: The phrase rectangles are spread out on the floor. The child uses a small beanbag (a sock filled with rice works fine) to aim at the pieces of paper. When the beanbag lands on a piece of paper, the child takes it and places it at a designated spot, in the correct order. This can be again turned into a small competition between teams, if desired.
  • Basketball: The phrase rectangles are scrambled up and put into a bag, jar, or cup. A container such as a laundry basket is placed on a high spot, such as a table. Each child throws a small ball at the container. If the ball lands into the container, the child gets to randomly pick a piece of paper from the bag/jar/cup, which s/he then proceeds to place at a designated spot, in the correct order. At a group setting, if the child misses, s/he goes at the end of the line and waits for her/his turn to try again.
  • Additional fun activity ideas for using the phrase rectangles to help with memorization can be found at this very useful blog post, by the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education.

Humblebox 

On their website, Elissa and Kristina discuss Humbleman, a very special superhero who takes after the Saints – humbleness being his most important superpower. The children are also encouraged to reflect on how we can all act humbly in our daily lives. We were inspired by this discussion to create Humbleman’s toolbox: The HUMBLEBOX. This small box of cards can help young children grasp the concept of humility – and practice it in real life.

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Materials

  • The Humblebox pages, printed out from our printable packet.
  • An empty Altoids candy box.
  • Scissors, liquid glue or Mod Podge.
  • Premium printer paper is optional, but produces better results.

This printable consists of a decorated rectangle for the cover and a number of cards. Some of the cards contain humble act ideas to be implemented by the child. There are also blank cards to be filled in with the parent’s or child’s own ideas of humble acts.

The cover is glued onto the box. For a more finished look, it can be sealed with a thin layer of Mod Podge. The cards are kept inside the box, to be used throughout the rest of Great Lent.


EXPLORE FURTHER

  • Coffee with Sister Vassa video series, Ep.23, Week 4 of Lent / Cross.

For more, visit CoffeeWithSisterVassa.com.

  • Be the bee video series, Y2AM Ministry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Episode #29, The beauty of the Cross.

For more, visit Y2AM.org.


Special thanks to Sister Vassa and Y2AM for allowing us to embed their videos into our webpage.