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Eastern Lenten Work Out: Climb The Tree With Zacchaeus And The Ladder With St. John Climacus

Lent, the Great Fast, as we call it in the Eastern Churches, prepares us for the greatest of Catholic feasts, Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord. In our Byzantine Catholic liturgical cycle we prepare for the Great Fast with five pre-lenten Sundays. Zacchaeus Sunday is the first. This year, our priest exhorted us in his homily to ascend above the problems of the world during the Lenten season. We should climb a tree to meet Our Lord as did Zacchaeus, the short tax collector. We should build this tree from our prayers.

Here is a wonderful Byzantine guide to climbing the tree with your family. In her book The Zacchaeus Tree, Lynne Drozdich Wardach has compiled lessons including liturgical discussions and instructions, meditations and accompanying crafts, recipes and projects to help your child earn leaves for the Zacchaeus tree. This book is a great resource for Byzantine Catholic families, teachers and homeschoolers.

Visit Lynne's website Byzimom for a wealth of ideas, resources and companionship for the Byzantine mom.

My Book of Great Lent is a beautiful Orthodox coloring book illustrated by Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis. Coloring icons is a very educational work out for young Lenten athletes. This book comes with 14 dogmatically correct icons, a map and stickers.

Holy Week, also by Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis, describes the events of the Passion in colorful, iconographic illustrations and simple words for young children ages four to ten.

For more climbing exercise from the East for ambitious spiritual athletes, have your mature teens read The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus' manual for salvation written for his monastic brethren in thirty not-so-easy steps. This is classic Lenten reading in East and West. Why not read it together with your teens?

You can also access the text for free at

Find the original Ladder too hard? Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou has written Thirty Steps to Heaven to guide lay readers to apply the ancient lessons of St. John of the Ladder (Climacus) to their modern lives.

Or edit the task instead of the text. Have your teen compile a journal by copying a pararaph or a phrase from each of the thirty steps that speaks to him. Tap into your creative teen's love for scrapbooking and make a Ladder Journal. Look for ideas at Catholic Icing. Their bible journaling tips can easily be adapted for a Ladder Journal.

Make sure to contemplate the icon The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Beware! Even some of the hierarchs fall from the top rungs of the ladder. There are many versions on Google images. You will find another version of this icon with an explanation at iconreader, a great blog with many beautiful icons and information about them.

Teens Guide For Holy Week by Meena Awad is a Coptic publication going through the events of Holy Week in detail. Along with comments on the events by the Church Fathers, the guide provides contemplations suitable for teens and establishes connections to their daily lives.

Find more Lenten materials for teens in my previous post: Ready, Set , Go: Lenten Athletics for Catholic Teens.

Stay tuned, there's more to come.

Have a blessed Lent!

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