Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What Can You Tell Your Children About Theophany?

The Blessing of the Waters is a beautiful service that takes place in the Orthodox Church for Epiphany (also called Theophany).  Today our priest sent around a beautiful sermon by Father Mark Sietsema that began with the question,

Fr. Mark's expounds:
This was the question that little Israelite children were taught to ask at the Passover seder ritual (Exodus 12:26). This same question we too should ask in the month of January as we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. Through the liturgies of Epiphany and the blessings of homes, we also re-celebrate our own Baptisms, which are simply reenactments of His Baptism. 
(You can read the sermon in its entirety here.)

Archbishop Anastasios, Blessing the Waters [source orthodoxalbania.org]

Father Mark says that to comprehend the deeper meaning of the feast of Epiphany, we must look to the book of Genesis - and particularly the story of Creation, Adam and Eve, and The Flood in the time of Noah.

As Father goes on to explain, these Genesis stories will help us better understand Christ's own baptism because...
What we see on Epiphany, then, is a re-staging of the Creation: the Spirit hovering like a mother bird, in the form of a dove; the approval of the Father thundering from the open heavens; and out of the dark waters emerges the new creation—but this time God starts from the end and works backward! The first creature to emerge from the waters is a man—Jesus Christ. And so it begins—the healing of our nature, the re-harmonization of all creatures, the reconciliation of all living things to God. In time the New Creation will embrace the whole Universe...“For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His Cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

Genesis Stories for Children
So, on to my book recommendations for today - gorgeous offerings from gifted artist, Jane Ray.

All her biblical stories are descriptive, adapted from Scripture (King James version), with vivid folk-art-inspired illustrations. I'm happy to say that all are available used, from Amazon!

This stunning volume, Let There Be Light, newer edition is The Orchard Book of Bible Stories) might be your best choice! It is a collection of the re-tellings of The Story of Christmas, The Story of Creation, and Noah's Ark.

To see all my posts and book recommendations for Theophany and Epiphany, go here.


  1. These are interesting resources. I haven't read them, but I'm interested. There is no surplus of good children's books on the Genesis stories for Christian children, books that are interested in initiating children into a typological mindset, rather than ramming a literalized myth into their heads.

    Myths are powerful things, and true -- in the way that myths are true. One can hope that children can be told them in a way that does not confuse, but provides food for young life, and for later life.

    The language of "re-enactment" is a particular interpretation of sacramental theology that seems to fall flat to me. It is correct on a performative level. Are sacraments more than performances? These question have been hashed out for thousands of years. Are we, as Orthodox, aware of the conversations that have preceded us? We are afflicted by the general amnesia of our culture, despite our best efforts, it seems.

    We think that illumination is exclusive, or brightest, in the communities that are heir to the Byzantine traditions, so we ask the inheritors of this tradition, regardless of what they have forgotten, or what they have never asked. --and yet light is found in the strangest of places.

    1. I am certainly no theologian, but I understood Fr. Mark's language of Epiphany "as a re-staging of the Creation..." and our liturgical celebration and commemoration of Christ's baptism in the same way we understand the Eucharistic language of anamnesis/memorial. By participating in these liturgies, we are making real and actual (not just "re-enacting") these events being recounted, remembering also what has not yet occurred - “the second and glorious Coming” and eternal presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the close of the present age. I'm not going to enter into further debate - I welcome you to continue reading on the subject here: https://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/eucharistic-offering. The writings of Fr. Alexander Schmemann are also excellent!

  2. What great photos! I never heard of Jane Ray before, thank you for sharing. Happy Theophany to you, we celebrate Nativity tomorrow.

    1. My son celebrates tomorrow as well. :) Blessed Nativity to you!