New Resources for Great Lent

Cheesefare approaches, and the Orthodox will begin Great Lent on Clean Monday, February 27.

In our parish, we’ll be making treasure boxes with the younger kids tonight, and talking about these verses:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 19-21)
We’ll talk about how the earthly treasures for which we all work so hard can be destroyed by moths and by rust, and stolen by thieves. Only the treasures we lay up in the Kingdom of God are eternal and true, and will not disappear. Most importantly, we’ll ask ourselves what this means: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.  We’ll explore the idea that wherever we invest our effort and our attention is where our heart really is. If we invest in and focus on this world and the money and status we develop here, then our heart is here in this world and not in the Kingdom of God — but if we want our hearts to be with Jesus, we must build our treasure with Him.

Great Lent is the season when we work to change our hearts, to make sure that they are focused on Christ, as they should be. How do we do that? We pray, we fast, we go to church, we study the faith and we put it into action by showing love in the world.

To help families accomplish this, we’ll help the kids decorate little treasure chests and we’ll give them each bags with 48 gold coins — one for every day of Great Lent and Holy Week. The coins offer ideas for living out Lent, from doing good deeds and speaking kind words, to saying special prayers or thanking God for long lists of blessings. Every day, they can do one of these things and place a coin in the treasure chest, reminding them that they’re building up treasure in heaven by living out the faith.  (Our craft is based on the original concept by Phyllis Onest.)

If you’re interested in trying this, you are welcome to use our handout for parents — we have a two-sided PDF of ideas and information on the treasure chest and also on the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim, which we’ll also be discussing and handing out.  Click on the Sunday School Curriculum Page on the right side of this blog to find these and other downloadable files.

Updated on April 5, 2017

IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  There may be enough coins to do one every day, but know that your family and the families who do this craft with you will probably not be able to accomplish this every single day of Great Lent and Holy Week.  That is ok.  Do not feel that you’re going to have to ‘catch up’ by doing 8 special prayers and 14 good deeds in the last week.  Do this on the days when you can do it; forget it on the days you cannot. Don’t let this become a stumbling block.

Elissa Bjeletich

About Elissa Bjeletich

Elissa Bjeletich hosts three popular Ancient Faith Radio podcasts: Raising Saints, Everyday Orthodox, and together with Kristina Wenger, Tending the Garden of Our Hearts. She is the co-author of Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home and author of Welcoming the Christ Child: Family Readings for the Nativity Lent, and In God’s Hands: A Mother’s Journey through Her Infant’s Critical Illness. She serves as the Sunday school director at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. Elissa lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband, Marko, and their five daughters. You'll find more information on her website: elissabjeletich.com

5 comments:

  1. Dear Elija,
    Excellent post, wonderful idea.
    I understand we could built our own “treasure coins” for our Sunday school students or our children but would you care sharing yours with us? Or maybe the format? I suppose they are paper circles in “goldish” color with a word or two of an objective/idea printed in them.
    Thank you so much for this blessed work you ahare with us.

    1. Hi, Presvytera!

      The Phyllis Onest site has a plan for a foldable printable treasure chest, but we ordered online a few weeks ago and got some papier-mâché tiny treasure chest boxes. We cut slits in the top, and let the children decorate them with jewels and markers.

      1. We used Phyllis Onest’s ideas for coins as inspiration. Ours say phrases like, “good deed” or “read the Bible” or “meet a new Saint” or “thank God for a long list of things” or “help out around the house” or “thank someone”. we just printed the words on yellow paper and then used 1″ circular hole punches to cut them out. Pennies would work well too.

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