What do you do when Big Christian Book Industries doesn’t have the book you need for your toddler? You make your own sub-par-but-maybe-since-they’re-a-toddler-they-won’t-care version, of course.
My daughter, who is just shy of two years old, has been obsessed with picking up the books at church and attempting to sing and pray along with the rest of us at Divine Liturgy. I love that she wants to participate, but unfortunately, the black-and-white text and sheet music don’t really communicate much to her. (The ribbons and the bend-ability of the pages are oh so interesting, though). Plus, she’s getting to the age where she’s increasingly distracted by socializing with the other kids at Liturgy and needs something to keep her focused. So I decided to look for a Divine Liturgy book for her that might help keep her on track and fulfill her whim to have a book to follow like everyone else.
For better or worse, all the of the books I found wouldn’t be very interesting or durable for anyone under five. So I got this crazy idea to make my own. And it didn’t turn out half bad, nor did it take me a ridiculous amount of time (maybe a few hours if you include all the time shopping for supplies and getting photo prints). We'll see how long this lasts, but so far, my daughter loves pulling her book out at Divine Liturgy.
On the off chance that you are in the narrow market of people who might need such a book--or in the wider market of people for whom this could be a great springboard for other ideas--I thought I’d share how I made it.
My basic idea was to make something with lots of icons and pictures and a few words. My daughter, of course, can’t read yet, but the words serve as at least an indication that there is something book-like going on, and they help me to guide her through the book and the Liturgy. I got the idea to do it in a photo album so that my daughter couldn’t tear the pages (as easily) and her Goldfish crumbs could be wiped off (mostly).
I purchased a brag-book photo album with removable cover inserts and with room for 4” X 6” pictures inside, and I began drafting what parts of the Divine Liturgy would go into each section of the album. Each section ended up consisting of an icon or picture on the left and a few key words on the right. A list of those sections, with pictures and descriptions, is toward the end of this article.
To create each section from the draft list I had made, I made a 4” X 6” print of the appropriate picture. I found all of my images online--Wikipedia Commons has a wealth of Byzantine icons--and I edited them to properly fit 4" X 6" proportions on Picmonkey.com. For the wording in each section, I used a good marker to write on the unruled side of a 4” X 6” index card. People who are tech savvy could probably print the words rather than handwriting them. To dress up the index cards, I used craft tape to make a pretty border.
With the amount of sections I chose, there is room at the front and back of my album to put other icon photos. If I'm super on top of it--hope springs eternal--I might use these to switch out icons for the day or season.
With the insides complete, I removed the cardstock inserts from the front and back covers of the brag book and used them to cut two, 4” X 6” pieces of gold cardstock (one piece each for the front and back). I used the same craft tape from before to make a border on each of these, and I wrote “The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for [my daughter’s name]” on the front piece. If I was cooler and had more money, I would have used some fancy letter stickers to do it. But it’s handwritten, because I’m cheap! I also drew a Byzantine Cross on the front, just for kicks.
Below is the list of details for each section that I made, with some photos to help illustrate the idea:
- The Litany
Words: “Lord, have mercy.”
Picture: An icon of the communion of saints, because we are praying for everyone.
- The Antiphons
Words: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
Picture: An icon of Christ crucified, because this is mentioned in the doxology that we sing.
- The Antiphons (continued)
Words: “O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us who sing to you: Alleluia.”
Picture: An icon of the Resurrection, which serves to help complete the idea presented in the previous icon of the crucifixion.
- Thrice Holy Hymn
Words: “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us.”
Picture: Rublev’s Trinity icon, because the thrice holy hymn points to the Trinity. I had also contemplated using a picture of someone making the sign of the cross or bowing, but I didn’t have a good photo for that.
- Liturgy of the Word
Words: Epistle and Gospel readings
Picture: Our priest reading the Gospel at Liturgy.
Picture: Our priest delivering a homily. (I am omitting photos of the last two sections to protect the identity of my parish).
- The Great Entrance
Words: “...now set aside all earthly cares.”
Picture: A public domain photo from Wikipedia of the Eucharist in the Eastern rite.
- The Creed
Words: “I believe.”
Picture: An icon of Pentecost, because this is when the Church was “born” in many perspectives. Another great--probably better--option would have been an icon of the First Council of Nicea. But at the time of printing the pictures, I wasn’t clever enough to think of something so obvious!
- The Anaphora
Words: “Holy, Holy, Holy!”
Picture: An icon of the Angel Gabriel, because this is the hymn of the angels and because many of the prayers in this section reference joining our worship with that of the angels.
- The Anaphora (continued)
Picture: A public domain photo of a Byzantine priest praying the Anaphora.
- Hymn to the Theotokos
Words: “It is truly proper to glorify you, O Theotokos.”
Picture: An icon of the Theotokos.
- The Litany
Words: “Lord, have mercy….Grant this, O Lord.”
Picture: An icon (different from the first one) of the Communion of Saints, because, again, we are praying for everyone.
- The Lord’s Prayer
Words: “Our Father”
Picture: An icon of the Prodigal Son, which shows the son embracing his father.
Picture: An icon of the Last Supper
- The praises sung during Communion
Picture: An icon of Christ’s Baptism or the Theophany icon. My reasoning for this is two-fold: first, Baptism is intrinsically linked with the Eucharist. Second, the praises reference creation praising the Lord, and the Theophany icon in particular shows creation “responding” to the Lord.
Words: “Amen.” It may have been good to do other words from the final prayers in this section, but my daughter really likes saying “Amen,” so I put it in again.
Picture: An icon of Christ, Pantocrator.
- Kissing of the Cross
Words: Kissing of the Cross
Picture: An icon of the Transfiguration, as a reminder that we are illumined by the Holy Spirit in Christ and sent into the world to give glory to Him.
On a final and bittersweet note, I want to say that this is the last article I will be writing with Catholicmom.com for a little while. This fall, I am starting an intensive program to become a physical therapist assistant, and I am stepping back from the majority of my "extra" responsibilities to ensure I have enough time to devote both to school and my family. My articles will remain in the Catholicmom archives, and I hope to be back in a little less than two years when my schooling is done. Thank you all so much for your support--the stuff I get to see in the comments as well as the stuff I don’t get to see. I’ll be praying for you, and I hope you can spare a prayer for me. I’ll need it!
Copyright 2015 Brittany Balke.
All photos (2015) (Brittany Balke) All rights reserved.
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