Saint Luke the Evangelist

Overview

This Sunday (October 18) the church celebrates the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist. Unfortunately, we do not have any books about the life of Saint Luke, though we have many books based on the stories in Luke’s Gospel. The truth is that we don’t know a whole lot about each of the Gospel writers as there is little historically reliable information about their lives. We do know from Scripture that Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14), a travelling companion of Saint Paul (Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11), the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, and it is suggested that Luke was probably a Gentile, making him the only non-Jewish Evangelist. Some tradition has suggested that he was also a martyr, but no significant details of his death are known.

Excerpted from Holy Women, Holy Men

Luke was a Gentile, a physician, and one of Paul’s fellow missionaries
in the early spread of Christianity through the Roman world. He has
been identified as the writer of both the Gospel which bears his name,
and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. He had apparently not known
Jesus, but was clearly much inspired by hearing about him from those
who had known him.

Luke wrote in Greek, so that Gentiles might learn about the Lord,
whose life and deeds so impressed him. In the first chapter of his
Gospel, he makes clear that he is offering authentic knowledge about
Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Gospel is not a full
biography—none of the Gospels are—but a history of salvation.
Only Luke provides the very familiar stories of the annunciation to
Mary, of her visit to Elizabeth, of the child in the manger, the angelic
host appearing to shepherds, and the meeting with the aged Simeon.
Luke includes in his work six miracles and eighteen parables not
recorded in the other Gospels. In Acts he tells about the coming of
the Holy Spirit, the struggles of the apostles and their triumphs over
persecution, of their preaching of the Good News, and the conversion
and baptism of other disciples, who would extend the Church in
future years.

Luke was with Paul apparently until the latter’s martyrdom in Rome.
What happened to Luke after Paul’s death is unknown. Early tradition
has it that he wrote his Gospel in Greece, and that he died at the age
of eighty-four in Boeotia. Gregory of Nazianzus says that Luke was
martyred, but this testimony is doubted by most scholars. In the fourth
century, the Emperor Constantius ordered the supposed relics of Luke
to be removed from Boeotia to Constantinople, where they could be
venerated by pilgrims.

Respond to the Story

1. Luke and Letter writing: The Acts of the Apostles and Gospel of Luke are both addressed to Theophilus. Imagine you are writing a letter to a friend and telling them the most important stories about Jesus. What story would you tell? What story do you most want to know? What questions do you have about Jesus that are not answered in any of the Gospels? If you class would like, we can send these letters to people in our church who receive visitors, but are unable to come on Sunday mornings.

2. The Evangelists: An Evangelist is someone who shares the good news of God in Christ. Create books of the four evangelists by cutting out the images from this coloring page and gluing them on to different pages. You might call this a four-fold Gospel-writer codex (har.har.).

3. Icons of the Madonna and Child: Some traditions hold that Saint Luke was a friend of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and that he painted her first portrait. This is why images of Luke often show him painting Mary and Jesus. It is also why Luke is the patron saint of artists and iconographers. (When iconographers paint an icon it is called “writing” an icon.) Create your own image or write your own icon of Mary and Jesus. Writing an icon is very serious work. It isn’t just painting, an iconographer prays with every stroke, reflecting on the life and work of the person, scene, or story that is depicted. Icons are holy. If you do this activity, try to encourage a sense of calm and quiet in the class while you complete the work (play music on an ipad while working). Younger classes may need to use a coloring page like one of these. Try using the coloring sheet differently though, carefully gluing squares of tissue paper is a wonderful way to get a mosaic of Mary and Jesus.

4. Winged ox–The symbol for Saint Luke is a winged ox. All of the Evangelists (writers of the Gospels) have different symbols. Matthew is a winged human, Mark a winged lion, and John an eagle. The Patristic Fathers, beginning with Jerome, associated the four winged creatures with the creatures who draw the throne of God in Ezekiel 1. Luke’s symbol the ox was assigned because Luke opens up with the sacrifice of Zechariah. No source I found mentioned this, but the ox also seems to be appropriate to the Gospel in which the main character is placed in a feeding trough.

Discuss this symbol with your class and create a depiction of it individually or together. Tracing paper may be especially helpful for this one and is available in the supply closet. Make a large collage of the winged ox together. Create an image with acrylic paint or colored pencils, or a combination of different mediums. If you are interested in showing your class symbols for the remaining Gospel writers, you may find an image here. Churches and cathedrals often show all of the Evangelists together, some on all four corners of large, mosaic ceilings, an image of the cross central to the grouping (example here).

Meister der Fuldaer Schule, Deutsch: Der Evangelist Lukas, c. 840. from Wikimedia Commons.

5. Gospel Writer Activity (Older children, This activity will take most if not all of a class period and may, if you choose, be separated into two weeks): Each of the four Gospels presents part of the picture of Jesus’ life and ministry. While many details and stories are shared among all the Gospels, there are also stories and details that are unique to each. Luke, for example, includes the story of the Annunciation, Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth, and the story of Jesus’ birth and the shepherds visitation. In this activity, children will work as a group to consider the experience of the Gospel writers as they recorded details from the life of Christ. This activity will take your whole class.

Divide your class into two groups. One group of students should be assigned a text from the Gospel of Luke (A shorter selection from the stories in Luke 2:1-40 may be a good start). This group should go into the commons and work on acting out the story. The other group (of at least three or four students) should remain in the class. After 5-10 minutes, the first group returns to the class and acts out the selected scenes.

After the scenes are presented, teachers offer a few questions for consideration (don’t answer out loud yet!) What happened in the story? What did the story say about who God is? What was your favorite part of the story? What was your least favorite part? Those who remained in the class and did not act out the story then work in pairs to rewrite the story they saw. The writing groups should keep in mind the questions above as they work. Reconvene the large group, and share each story. What is common among all the stories? What details are left out of each telling? What details are added? How are these stories different? What does this activity suggest about the Gospel writers accounts of the story?

Finish with prayer and your feast.

Advertisements

“Our Hearts are Restless”: Saints Monica and Augustine of Hippo

Saint Monica (sometimes Monnica) was born in the fourth century and converted to Christianity at a young age. She was married off to a non-Christian when she was very young. She is best known as the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo who wrote most of what we know of her in The Confessions. She is remembered for her virtuous life of patience and prayer, especially her prayers for the conversion of her husband (who was not an altogether nice guy) and her son. Her entire life is marked by prayer and tears and it is said that when she mentioned her prayers to a Bishop, he said to her, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish” suggesting that God would not leave her prayers unanswered. Since Monica is well known for her tears, she is often pictured in prayer (with rosary, praying/folded hands, eyes to heaven) and periodically she appears grieved or crying.

The Consecration of Saint Augustine by Jaume Huguet c. 1470

Saint Augustine follows a pattern of many saints in their youth–wealthy, distracted by parties and drinking, and well educated–he is a follower of Manichean philosophy which he later rejects. Augustine’s conversion and baptism in 387 happened after many years of prayer by his mother. His conversion story, which took place in a garden in Milan is told in Book 12 of The Confessions which is excerpted below in the block quotation.

Once converted, and after the death of his mother, Augustine moved to Africa where his son also died. He sold his extensive family inheritance and gave all he received to the poor, keeping only a family house which he turned into a monastery. Shortly after Augustine was ordained as a priest he was appointed as bishop of Hippo. A prolific writer and excellent orator, Augustine left behind more than 100 books and 300 sermons. In his last days, it is reported, that Augustine asked for the Psalms to be posted around his room so that he might pray them as he prepared to die. Augustine is a doctor of the church and is one of the most influential thinkers of all time. Certainly his impact in the church–Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox cannot be underestimated.

Augustine provides this account in Book 12 of The Confessions. moves to Milan where one day in a garden, he experiences this:

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read. “ Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Hear the story: Share the stories above with your class as you begin your lesson. We have no children’s books about Augustine or Monica. If you ever find one when you are out and about that looks good, let me know. Remember to ask some of the key questions established at the beginning of our unit on Saints: What do Augustine and Monica show us about God? What do they teach us about what it means to be friends of God?

Respond to the Story

  1. Restless hearts: Saint Augustine famously said, “Our hearts are restless God, until they find rest in you.” Wonder with your students on the meaning of this quotation. You may want to discuss it and write it in simpler language together–“God, you give us peace, and no one else will do” or “God, we cannot rest until you find us.” or “God, our hearts will search for you non-stop.” After your discussion, invite students to create a visual symbol of a heart using paper, clay, beads, paint or any other material you would like to explore. Encourage your students to work silently.
  2. Prayers for others: In images and icons Saint Monica is often pictured with a rosary or other symbol of prayer since she prayed so fervently for her son’s salvation. The four activities below focus on themes of prayer, intercession, and praise.
    1. Anglican Rosary (older children) create prayer beads. We have a tub of wooden beads in the supply closets (including bags and bags of pony beads. Use this guide for making Anglican prayer beads, and send home copies of this guide so children can explain to their parents what the prayer beads are for and how to use them. See page three of this document for a pattern.
    2. Prayer beads (younger children) can make prayer beads by stringing beads onto yarn in a line while saying a different person to pray for as they string each bead. Children under (about) 4 or 5 will need help stringing beads, but will likely love to use their beads over and over again to pray for the people they love. As they finish stringing their beads, ask them to tell you who is represented by each bead. It seems small, but I did this last thing with a group of children under the age of five a few years ago, and it was very meaningful. Children, I think, are not often given time to list their prayers for people outside of prayer times with their parents.
    3. Paper People Chain: Prayer is one of the most important things we do as Christians. Saint Monica prays for her son and husband, and in doing so intercedes for them, asking God to change their hearts. Invite your students to pray for people who are important to them. Christians have always believed that our prayers are joined by the Holy Spirit who prays with and for us. Who can we pray for with the Holy Spirit? Make a paper people chain using these directions and this template. Older students may be able to cut out the people chain by themselves. Ask students to work together to come up with a list of people for whom they can pray. Students can the name of each person/location on one of the paper people (Emily, Jasper, the people of Syria, etc.).
    4. Church, World, People we love: During the liturgy, we always have the prayers of the people for the church, world, and people we love (sometimes other categories as well, such as those who have died). Write three columns on the board–church, world, people we love and ask students to list prayers for each of the categories. Create a class poster on which students may always write names or situations below each heading.
  3. The Gift of Tears: Saint Monica shed many tears over her son. Saints throughout the world at different times have had what is sometimes called “the gift of tears,” they are moved by deep compassion and desire for God to make things right in the world. Use watercolors to create images of those things that we most deeply desire to change in our world–it may be something small or something huge, but listen closely to what the children describe. What prayers is the Holy Spirit crying out on their behalf?
  4. Tolle, Lege (Take up and read!): Augustine’s conversion in a garden in Milan was finally prompted by the sound of a child’s voice saying,  “Take it [scripture] up and read” or, in Latin, “Tolle, Lege.” Play a game using these words. Here are a few ideas:
    1. Marco Polo (subbing the words–Tolle, Lege).  
    2. Pick it up (older students): Divide your class into pairs. Each pair should stand back-to-back with a Bible in one person’s hands. The other (who cannot see) gives directions–open the Bible, go back five pages, go forward 20, etc. Once the person giving directions wants the other person to read, they should say “tolle lege.” Then, read the verse or story on which they have landed together. Discuss what the passage or story tells us about God. Come back into the large group and share.

Close with a prayer and snack.

“Lord, What do you Want of Me?”: The Poor Saints of Assi

Saint Francis is one of the most popular and well loved Christian figures. It’s easy to find children’s books about Saint Francis in which stories of Saint Clare are often easy to find. Saints Francis and Clare (one of Francis’ followers) were both a tremendous challenge to the church in their time and continue to be so for us today. Below, I include excerpts from Holy Women, Holy Men on each of their lives. Since our time with students is brief, I recommend selecting an activity below (from the “Respond to the Story” section), as each is paired with a story from the lives of Francis or Clare and giving an overview of their lives plus the story for your selected activity.

Saint Francis of Assisi
 from Holy Women, Holy Men

Francis, the son of a prosperous merchant of Assisi, was born in 1182. His early youth was spent in harmless revelry and fruitless attempts to win military glory. Various encounters with beggars and lepers pricked the young man’s conscience, and he decided to embrace a life devoted to Lady Poverty.

Despite his father’s intense opposition, Francis totally renounced all material values, and devoted himself to serve the poor. In 1210 Pope Innocent III confirmed the simple Rule for the Order of Friars Minor, a name Francis chose to emphasize his desire to be numbered among the “least” of God’s servants. The order grew rapidly all over Europe. But by 1221 Francis had lost control of it, since his ideal of strict and absolute poverty, both for the individual friars and for the order as a whole, was found to be too difficult to maintain. […]

Not long before his death, during a retreat on Mount La Verna, Francis received, on September 14, Holy Cross Day, the marks of the Lord’s wounds, the stigmata, in his own hands and feet and side. […] Of all the saints, Francis is the most popular and admired, but probably the least imitated; few have attained to his total identification with the poverty and suffering of Christ. […]


Saint Clare of Assisi
 From Holy Women, Holy Men

In the latter part of the twelfth century, the Church had fallen on evil days, and was weak and spiritually impoverished. It was then that Francis of Assisi renounced his wealth and established the mendicant order of Franciscans. At the first gathering of the order in 1212, Francis preached a sermon that was to make a radical change in the life of an eighteen-year-old young woman named Clare.

The daughter of a wealthy family, and a noted beauty, Clare was inspired by Francis’ words with the desire to serve God and to give her life to the following of Christ’s teaching. She sought out Francis, and begged that she might become a member of his order, placing her jewelry and rich outer garments on the altar as an offering.

Francis could not refuse her pleas. He placed her temporarily in a nearby Benedictine convent. When this action became known, friends and relatives tried to take Clare from her retreat. She was adamant. She would be the bride of Christ alone. She prevailed, and soon after was taken by Francis to a poor dwelling beside the Church of St. Damian at Assisi. Several other women joined her.

She became Mother Superior of the order, which was called the “Poor Ladies of St. Damian.” The order’s practices were austere. They embraced the Franciscan rule of absolute poverty. Their days were given over to begging and to works of mercy for the poor and the neglected. Clare herself was servant, not only to the poor, but to her nuns.

Clare governed the convent for forty years, caring for the sisters, ready to do whatever Francis directed. She said to him, “I am yours by having given my will to God.” Her biographer says that she “radiated a spirit of fervor so strong that it kindled those who but heard her voice.” In 1253 her last illness began. Daily she weakened, and daily she was visited by devoted people, by priests, and even by the Pope. On her last day, as she saw many weeping by her bedside, she exhorted them to love “holy poverty” and to share their possessions. She was heard to say: “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be God, for having created me.”

Hear the Story

Use the excerpts above from Holy Women, Holy Men to share the life stories of Clare and Francis. We also have some wonderful books in our Christian Education Library about Clare and Francis, including: Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie de Paola, Saint Francis by Demi, Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith. We also have several books that use the Canticle of the Sun. They can be found under the saints and Christian Life sections in the library.

Respond to the Story

  1. Rebuild my Church: Soon after Francis returned to his hometown of Assisi after a year as a captive of war, he was praying in a church when he asked God: “Lord, what do you want of me?” At that moment, Christ, from a crucifix on the wall, spoke to Francis and said: “Rebuild my church. It is falling apart.” Saint Francis began to rebuild the churches, first by using his fathers assets and later by singing in exchange for the large stones that would be used to build and repair the churches on which he worked. Respond to this story by playing one of the following versions on a “rebuild the church” game (based on the ages in your class). Go outside if the weather is good!
    1. Pre-K Class Game: Use the cardboard bricks (supply closet on the nursery side) to build churches. Children can divide into two teams and line up to build churches relay-style. One brick per child. The next child can take their brick once the first child returns. When the churches are complete, discuss what else your churches might need in order to be finished (a cross, font, pulpit, altar, pews, people).
    2. K+1 grade/2+3 grade/4+5 grade classes: Use the relay rules from the pre-k guidelines above except modify by having the children carry cardboard bricks on their back (bent over at the waist). The student behind them in line can help them balance the bricks before they walk toward the build site. If the carrier drops the brick before they make it to the build site, they must go back to the line without adding a brick to the church.
  2. Rich to Poor: If it so happens that we are rich, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to us intentionally to become poor, especially since status/power/respect in our culture are tied to ownership and the ability to consume more things. Going from rich to poor voluntarily is exactly what both Francis and Clare did. Based on the story of Jesus sending out his disciples in pairs of two with the command to take nothing with them and to accept the hospitality of others, Francis believed God wanted from him and those who committed to following God to become poor.
    1. “If you wish to go the whole way, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, then you will have riches in heaven”
    2. “If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, he must leave himself behind; he must take up his cross and come with me.”
    3. “He… instructed them to take nothing for the journey.”

Discuss what would be most difficult to give up in order to become poor. What would one gain? Are there opportunities to give up things we love so that we may come to love God more? What do we own that gets in the way of our love of God and neighbor?

3. The Rule of Saint Francis and the Rule of Saint Clare: On our first day of classes, students helped come up with rules and guidelines for behavior and life together in Church School. The purpose of these guidelines is allow for a place in which all students can actively participate in creating space where they and others experience the good news of God in Christ without behavioral distractions, conflicts, and chaos. When Francis founded the Order of the Friars Minor and Clare established the Poor Clares, they each wrote a rule of life. These rules helped the communities reflect the message of the Gospel and live in accord with one another. What is the rule in your classroom? How is it helpful? Revisit your rule and make any changes you feel are important.

Students can make an illustrated or designed version of your classroom Rule. Alternatively, each student can decorate one of the guidelines so your class rule can be posted on the wall.

Francis’ rule involved simplicity of life, restrictions on ownership, begging for food, and living in complete poverty. How are our guidelines similar and different from Clare and Francis?

4. Blessing of the Animals: Saint Francis was known for his love and care for creation and his recognition that animals were beloved creatures made by and for the worship of God. In one the most famous stories of Francis, he preaches to a tree of birds (sermon below). In another, he asks a wolf who poses a great danger to a nearby village to be at peace with the people. In turn, he asks the people of the village to care for the wolf and ensure that it has enough food so it does not need to live desperately. These stories and others like them explain why Francis is the patron saint of animals and why it is traditional in many Episcopal Churches to have an animal blessing on the feast day of Saint Francis (Oct. 4). Take one of our Francis animal stories from the library and your class outside to the memorial garden. Gather around the garden altar (it’s made of rock and is at the side of the church. Let me know if you need help finding it) and discuss some of the stories of Francis and animals. How do we know that God cares for animals? While your class is in the garden, look for Holy Family’s two statues of Saint Francis and play a round or two of wolf tag. Instructions: One student is a wolf. Another is Francis. All others are villagers. When the teacher says “go” the wolf tries to tag the villagers who sit where they are as they are tagged. While the wolf tries to tag villagers, Francis tries to tag the wolf. The game is over when Francis tags the wolf.

Francis preaches to the birds

Sister birds, you owe God much thanks and ought always and everywhere to praise him. He has give you the joy to fly freely. The whole sky is yours. He has given you warm feathers like thick cloaks. You do not have to sew or spin for your living. God feeds you and gives you water to drink from the rivers and streams. He gives you tall trees to nest in, mountains and valleys for shelter. Each of you has a song. Do you see how God loves you? So, watch that you are never ungrateful. Stay simple and poor as an example to people. And praise and thank our Father everyday. Your song is your prayer. So, sing, m sisters, Praise Him.”

Conclude with prayer and a snack

Stigmata (art project?) Canticle of the Sun? Thanksgiving for creation?

Preacher Lady: Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

Overview

Last week we saw the stories of Saints through the history of art and iconography. Over the next five weeks, we will work with a saint or two each week, learning about their lives, how they searched after God, and what they left for us in the way of stories about God’s work in the Church. We might say that saints are friends of God, exemplars of holiness, and witnesses to God’s work in the world. Remember that even though we are reading and exploring the stories of Saints, these stories are still about what God is doing. Remember to ask yourself (and, when the moment seems right, ask your class): what does this have to do with God? How does this person’s story point to God and who God is? How does this person help us worship God more fully?

Anointing of Jesus, miniature from Heures d’Étienne Chevalier, by Jean Fouquet

On Mary Magdalene: Mary Magdalene has a varied history in Christian interpretation. You may have observed last week that many in many of the depictions of Mary Magdalene, her hair is uncovered (unusual in depictions of Biblical women), she is often pictured in red, and sometimes exposed or covered only by her hair (though I left many of those images out). In the history of interpretation, Mary has often been labelled a prostitute. The Gospel according to Luke mentions that Mary became a disciple of Jesus after he healed her from seven demons, but this is all we truly know about how she came to be Jesus’ disciple. Other figures in the Gospels including the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume and her tears and wipes them with her hair and Mary of Bethany who is the sister of Martha and Lazarus have historically been conflated with Mary Magdalene (hence the label of prostitute, her long hair, red attire). This conflation is called the “composite Mary” and has it’s roots in a sermon preached by Pope Gregory the Great in 591.

What is true about Mary (and all four Gospels seem to be in agreement), is that Mary Magdalene followed Jesus closely during his life, witnessed his death when his male disciples fled, went alone or with other women to Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week, and was the first to see the risen Christ. Because of this, Mary plays a role in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection for the first time to the male disciples. Because of this, Mary came to be called the Apostle to the apostles (no minor title!), a name that is bestowed on her by Saint Augustine (though the honorific was likely in was in use prior to that).

There are not many details about the end of Mary Magdalene’s life and she is not mentioned outside of the Gospels. One popular legend says that Mary Magdalene once had the audience of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Over a meal, with an egg in hand, Mary exclaimed, “Christ is risen!” The emperor is said to have laughed, saying “Christ is no more risen than the egg in your hand is red.” Immediately the egg in Mary’s hand turned red. There are some other variations of this story (We have books about this legend in the Christian Education cabinet under “saints”). This story explains the red egg in icons of Mary Magdalene as well as our use of dyed eggs at Easter (In the Orthodox Church, eggs are dyed red instead of the pastel colors that are popular for us.) Don’t get too caught up in whether this particular story/legend happened. What the story says that is important for us is two-fold. First, Christ is risen! Second, Mary Magdalene witnessed and preached the resurrection to the disciples and likely to others.

Objectives
1. Children will be able to share one of the important stories about Mary Magdalene.
2. Children will ask (and maybe answer) the following questions: What does this story tell us about God? How does Mary Magdalene’s life point us to God?

Hear the Word

You can choose to share some of the stories I mentioned above or some of the stories that are included below. You can find more detailed information here (yes…wikipedia… I know.).

Respond to the Word: Select one of the themes below and one of the corresponding activities to explore the life and significance of Mary Magdalene.

  1. Reading the Gospels Together (older children):
    1. Together, read the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ in John 20:11-18. Ask your students to divide into pairs and discuss the following question with their partner: What happens in the story? What is their favorite part? What part do they think could be left out, if any?
    2. Synoptic parallels: Read the story of Mary’s (and the other’s) first encounter with the [news of] the risen Christ by breaking your class into three groups. Each group should take one of the following texts: Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-11. Have your students take notes about what happens in the story, then give students time to work through the text together. Come back into the large group and ask each of the groups to share what happened i their story. Compare and contrast the accounts. What is Mary’s experience in each of the accounts? Which story do they like the most? Which raises the most questions?
  2. Mary Magdalene and the Red Eggs: Orthodox Christians exchange red eggs during the 50 days of Pascha and say “Christ is Risen.” This practice is believed to have it’s roots in the legend of Mary Magdalene and the red eggs (mentioned above), the color red as a symbol for the blood of Christ, and the use of eggs as a symbol of resurrection beginning sometime in the 2nd century. After sharing the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus, talk about how she shared the story of the resurrection with the disciples. Mary Magdalene is also reported to have shared this story with people all over the known world.
    1. Reading: You can find the legend of Mary Magdalene and the Red egg online here or read one of the two books we own, The Miracle of the Red Egg or The Story of Saint Mary Magdalene & the First Easter Egg. Ask your students what they think Mary might have been thinking when she stumbled on the empty tomb. What was her response to Jesus in the Gospel of John? What made her want to share this news with everyone? When she did share this news, how did the disciples respond? How did she come to believe the story of the resurrection herself? Does the story of the red egg help us remember and believe this story?
    2. Art: I have about 15 wooden eggs (older children may want to try blowing the yokes from real eggs. Here’s a tutorial if you are interested). Set your students up with red paint (acrylic, watercolors, or a food coloring and water mixture) and wooden eggs. After they have painted the eggs red, they can select symbols of the resurrection (butterfly, Lamb of God, tomb with stone rolled away, even crosses are a sign of Jesus’ victory over death) to paint on their eggs. If you have writers in your class, suggest that your students write “he is risen” on their egg (4th+5th grade class, here is an opportunity for a short Greek lesson!). Encourage them to share their red egg and the story of Mary Magdalene seeing the risen Lord and then sharing the news with a relative this week
  3. Act it out (younger children): Create a montage of scenes from Mary Magdalene’s life using fabric and costumes from the supply closet. Together, make a list of all the things your class knows happened to Mary (her being at the foot of the cross, seeing the risen Jesus in the Garden, her preaching to the disciples, and her legendary encounter with Emperor Tiberius). Divide your class into smaller groups of 3-4 students (put a teacher with each group). Groups can work on acting out each scene for the class (take a photo of each scene).
  4. Holy Play: Our youngest children may want to focus just on the resurrection story. Use play dough (free-form, 3-d, or with these play dough mats), cardboard bricks (supply closet near the nursery), or found stones to build a tomb and talk about how Mary found the tomb empty before she saw Jesus. If using the cardboard bricks, have the children act out the scene for each other.
  5. Mary Magdalene’s Proclamation: Ask your students to imagine that they are present with Jesus and the disciples at his trial, death, and resurrection. How would they respond if they were the disciples? If they were Mary? Would it be easy to believe Mary’s story? Is it hard for us who have not seen Jesus in person to believe that he has been raised from the dead? If your class plans to do this activity, let me know. I have an icon of Mary preaching the resurrection to the 12 disciples (a favorite icon of mine) in my office. I can lend it to your class for the day as an anchor to your discussion.
  6. Repentance: Tradition holds that Mary Magdalene is the model of a penitent sinner. She points us to a life of holy devotion to God, confession of sin, and living a new life. In our weekly worship, we practice confession of sin. This confession is not just something we say, but opens us to God’s work on our hearts, minds, and bodies. Our prayer of confession is literally one of the instruments God uses to change us and make our lives holy. Challenge your class to memorize the prayer of Confession that we say in the liturgy every Sunday and with your remaining time, work on the prayer together. Older children can do copywork, writing the prayer and making a small booklet. Younger children may want to illustrate confession–our confession and Mary’s confession. How does this prayer lead to a new life?

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will, and walk in your way, to the glory of your name. Amen.

Pray before you conclude