Monthly Archives: January 2015

On the Lord’s Prayer and Holy Eucharist

This is the seventh in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy. The intent of the series is to remind us of what our children are learning about the service. That way we as a family can better understand what is happening around us during the Liturgy, and together we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!” (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics.)

We continue our look at the Liturgy of the Faithful by picking up where we left off: at the Lord’s Prayer. In this blog, we will discover what our children are learning about the Lord’s Prayer, about the final preparations for Holy Communion, and about Communion itself.

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Our children are learning the history and the importance of the Lord’s Prayer. The children are learning that even our very stance during the prayer has a history: “In some parishes, the priest holds his hands upward during the Lord’s Prayer, as shown in this picture. This is an ancient gesture of prayer that is dated back to the time of worship in the catacombs (or caves) by the early Christians.”(1) They are learning the origin of the prayer itself:  that it was Christ Himself who taught it to his disciples; hence the name! The Lord’s Prayer should be very important to us, just because of its source! Another reason this prayer is important is because, when it was introduced, in the language of the prayer the relationship between God and His people changed from how it was before: “God’s people were allowed for the first time in history to call Him ‘Father.’ Knowing this helps us to understand the words of the priest before we say the Lord’s Prayer: ‘that with boldness and without condemnation we may dare to call upon Thee, the heavenly God, as Father…’” (2, p. 100)

Our children are learning what we mean when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. The article, “The Lord’s Prayer,” on pp. 12-14 in “Prayer,” issue #39 of Little Falcons Magazine, has taken our children step by step through the prayer itself and has helped them to understand it. Here are a few excerpts: “Our Father Who art in heaven: These words remind us that God, Who made us and the world we live in, loves us like a Father… Hallowed be Thy name: Hallowed is another word for holy. God’s Name is holy. When we say these words we mean that we want all people to know how good how wonderful, how holy is God… Thy Kingdom come: This reminds us that we want God to be our King… We want God to rule our life… Thy Will be done: We want to obey God. We will accept everything that God sends us both pleasant things and unpleasant ones, because we love Him and trust Him… Give us this day our daily bread: When we say ‘our daily bread’ we mean that which we really need in our life. We should ask God to take care of our basic needs and help us not to worry about the things that aren’t really important… And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us: This is a very difficult part of the Lord’s Prayer… Sometimes it is very hard for us to forgive someone who has wronged us in any way… God wants us to be just as forgiving as He is…  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: This part of the prayer reminds us that it is not always easy to be good… Wanting to do something that we know is bad is called temptation. We ask God to keep these temptations away from us and help us to be stronger than any evil. We know that with God’s help we can always overcome it.” (3)

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Our children are learning what is happening just before Holy Communion. They are being made aware that we must each admit our need for Christ. “Before receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, each of us must personally acknowledge and proclaim our reliance upon Him… ‘for it is good for me to cling to God and to place my hope of salvation in the Lord.’” (4) One way to admit to that end is to pray. Our children are being encouraged to pray along with the pre-communion prayers, as should we all. “This prayer (referring to “I believe, O Lord, and I confess…” etc.) is one of a group of prayers to be said before you receive communion. Listen to the prayers and try to learn the words.” (5) Confession and prayers are the best way we can prepare to receive Holy Communion.

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Our children are learning about the Holy Eucharist: what it means; who may partake, and why it is important. They’re learning what ‘Eucharist’ means and why we call communion by that name: “Eucharist means thanksgiving. [It is] the ceremony where the bread and wine are consecrated and distributed to the faithful. The Eucharist is called the ‘sacrament of sacraments.’” (6) “…The Church calls Holy Communion the Eucharist [because] it is a way of thanking God for taking care of us, for coming as Jesus the Christ to be our savior.” (7, p. 5) Our children are learning who may take Communion: “Only those who believe the truth of our teaching can take part in the Communion Service, for we do not receive it as simple food and drink. Just as God became man in Jesus Christ, so is Jesus Christ, in His Body and Blood, present in the bread and wine we take.” (7, p. 13) They’re also learning why it is so very important. Put simply, “Holy Communion is very special. It is like being invited to a great banquet in God’s house. God makes us His special guests… We are happy to be at God’s banquet and share His food with Him.” (8) “The Divine Liturgy culminates in the great moment of receiving the Eucharist. This is the reason we have gathered. This is the great joy of the assembly: to have communion with God and one another. It is in gathering that we become the Body of Christ. It is in gathering that our Head, Jesus our Lord, is still with us. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.’ (Matthew 18:20)… As [the first Christians] partook of the one chalice, the Body and Blood of Christ, they knew they were joined to one another for life. The Eucharist could be thought of like the Cross itself: the vertical beam joining them to God, and the horizontal beam joining them to one another.” (2, pp. 100 – 101)

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Our children are learning how to approach the chalice. They are learning how to stand as they approach, and why they should approach in that way. “As you wait for your turn to receive communion, cross your hands over your chest and stand quietly.” (5) “This is a symbolic gesture indicating our humility as we come to receive the precious body and Blood of Christ. We know that we are unworthy; nonetheless, we have faith in God’s love for us, and approach therefore with fear of God, with faith and with love for all in our hearts.” (2, p. 104)

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Our children are learning what happens when they commune. “The faithful come forward to the steps of the sanctuary to receive from the priest the Holy Eucharist, which is the heart and the high point of the Liturgy. In this Holy Mystery, the most precious moment on our journey of theosis, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We are united with God and each other. We are transformed into a closer likeness to Christ, and we answer our calling to be temples of the Holy Spirit.” (2, p. 100) “When we eat and drink the bread and wine which are the Body and Blood of Christ, we have a common union – communion – with Him and with each other. We are sharing with one another the gift of life.” (9)

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Our children are learning to thank God for Communion after they receive.  “After you receive Communion, return to your place and stand. Quietly say, ‘Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee.’” (5) “We receive God Himself, and as physical food changes our bodies, this spiritual food and drink transform us into a closer likeness to Jesus Christ.” (2, p. 102)

It is evident that our children have been learning a lot about this portion of the Liturgy of the Faithful! From the Lord’s Prayer to the Eucharist itself, there is so much rich history and beautiful activity that we enter into every time we take part in the Divine Liturgy. Now that we know what our children are learning, perhaps we can participate more fully in this part of the Divine Liturgy!

  1. Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #17. (Available here:http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
  2. Various, The Way the Truth the Life, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 2003, (available here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/2214/0856/4733/OCEC-Catalog-2014.pdf)
  3. Unknown, “The Lord’s Prayer”, Little Falcons Magazine: #39, “Prayer,” pp. 12-14. (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf.)
  4. Barker, Jason. “Unit 8: The Divine Liturgy 6.” Audio blog post. http://worshipandyou.com/2010/03/worship-you-episode-8/. Ancient Faith Radio, 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.
  5. Timko-Hughes, Anna, The Divine Liturgy for Children: An Interactive Guide for Participation in the Divine Liturgy, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 1996, p. 36. (Available here http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-divine-liturgy-for-children-an-interactive-guide/)
  6. Various, A Child’s Guide to the Divine Liturgy, Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2014, p. 100. (Available here http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-childs-guide-to-the-divine-liturgy/.)
  7. Ashanin, Natalie, “Giving Thanks”, Little Falcons Magazine: #15, “Thanksgiving,” p. 5. (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. )
  8. Tarasar, Constance and Matusiak, V. Rev. Fr. John, Together With God, Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 1973, Lesson 18.
  9. Ashanin, Natalie, “Bread of Life”, Little Falcons Magazine: #48, “Bread,” pp. 4-5. (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. )

Following are more details about this part of the Divine Liturgy as well as a few suggestions for ways to teach our children even more than they already know!

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“In the Lord’s Prayer we say ‘Thy Kingdom come.’ What does it mean? We want God to rule our life. We want Him to be our king and we want to live according to His commandments. We want also all the things necessary for our life in His Kingdom, which includes Holy Communion and Holy Confession… When we say ‘Thy Kingdom come; we pray that God’s kingdom will come in the future for us.” Unknown, “Thinking About Things” sidebar, Little Falcons Magazine: #16, “God’s Kingdom,” p. 33. (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. )

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Read more about the Lord’s Prayer, including quotes from Church Fathers, here: http://www.orthodoxwriter.com/2010/12/lords-prayer-orthodox.html

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If your children are young, find ideas for teaching them the Lord’s Prayer here: http://www.inlieuofpreschool.com/teaching-the-lords-prayer/

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“Following the Lord’s Prayer, the elevation of the gifts takes place. The priest makes three low bows before the Altar, takes up the Holy Lamb in both hands and elevates it above the diskarion, saying aloud: ‘Let us attend! Holy Things are for the holy.’ As the priest lowers the Holy Lamb, he makes with it the sign of the cross, above the diskos. The priest then break the Holy Lamb into four parts while saying: ‘Divided and distributed is the Lamb of God, who is divided, yet not disunited; who is ever eaten, yet never consumed by sanctifies those who partake thereof.’ The celebrant arranges the pieces of the Lamb in the form of the cross on the rims of the diskos like this:

IC

NI KA

XC

 

“The priest then takes the portion IC (Jesus) and makes the sign of the cross over the chalice with it, drops it in and says quietly: ‘The fullness of the cup, of the faith, of the Holy Spirit.’ He takes the hot water from the acolyte (altar boy) and blesses it and says quietly: ‘Blessed is the fervor of thy Saints, always: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.’ As shown in the picture, the priest then pours the water into the chalice crosswise saying: “The fervor of the faith, full of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It is at this time that the priest says the prayer: “I believe, O Lord, and I confess…” The people may say this prayer with the priest. After this prayer, the clergy begin to receive Holy Communion.” Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #18. (Available here:http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)

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“At the Divine Liturgy we are invited to eat dinner in God’s Kingdom, to receive Holy Communion. Holy Communion is brought to us through the opened doors, which always remind us of Jesus and His Resurrection and that God’s Kingdom is open to all of us who believe in His Son and live according to His commandments. He is the only Way to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Unknown, “Entrances and Exits in God’s World”, Little Falcons Magazine: #17, “Doors,” p. 12.

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Listen to this podcast about holiness which features the portion of the Divine Liturgy which we are focusing on this week, and learn together with your teens: http://audio.ancientfaith.com/recall/rec101worship8_pc.mp3

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“Then daring to call God, Father, as Jesus did and as Jesus taught us, we sing the Lord’s Prayer, the ‘Our Father.’ With a blessing and the bowing of our heads, the priest asks that the Gifts be given to us for good according to each one’s needs. He then lifts the Gifts off the discos (plate) and exclaims that these Holy things are for those who are holy — those who are baptized and chrismated and those who are prepared to receive them.

“He then divides the Lamb into four parts. The IC portion he places at the top of the discos, the XC portion at the bottom on the discos, the NI portion at the left on the discos, and the KA portion at the right on the discos — forming a cross. The IC portion he places whole into the chalice and then blesses and pours in hot water saying, ‘the warmth of the faith full of the Holy spirit.’… The clergy commune from the XC portion of the Lamb and drink from the chalice. The NI and KA portions are divided and placed in the chalice for the communion of the people. Then, after the prayer before Communion, the faithful partake of the life-giving banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven, by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 33.

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“Having prepared the Gifts, the priest turns to the faithful and exclaims, “With the fear of God, with faith and with love, draw near.” The faithful approach orderly and reverently to receive the Eucharist. Please note some guidelines for receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

“™Holy Communion is truly the pure Body and precious Blood of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Although the Gifts are brought in the form of bread and wine, the Holy Spirit consecrates them into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy. Therefore, we must take care to pay special attention during Holy Communion, remain standing (as long as physically possible), and not allow ourselves to be distracted, look around or to be inattentive. Your focus should be on the very real presence of the Lord in our midst!

™“Preparation for Holy Communion includes fasting on Wednesday and Friday, and a complete fast on Sunday morning (no food or water from midnight on Saturday night). The ONLY exception should be for medical purposes (i.e. for low blood-sugar, you might eat a small price of bread or drink a little orange juice). We should also prepare by attending services on time (If you were not present to hear the Word of God – the Epistle and Gospel – you should not be receiving the Word of God!). Finally, preparation from Great Vespers on Saturday night until Sunday morning Liturgy is encouraged.

“When you approach the Chalice, make the sign of the cross and say aloud your Christian name. Priests often know the names of those who come for Holy Communion. However, by giving your name, you are identifying yourself as a Christian seeking to be united with God through His holy Sacraments.

“Take the cloth and hold it under your chin. The cloth is there to catch spills – it cannot do that if it is not in place to do so. Also, after you have received Holy Communion, please wipe your mouth. If you do not do this yourself, please do not be surprised if the Acolytes do it for you. (It is the custom in some Orthodox parishes to cross your arms when approaching the Chalice. This is also an acceptable practice.)

“Please open your mouth wide to receive Holy Communion, and close your mouth to ensure nothing spills. You need not be afraid of catching any viruses or diseases from the spoon! (Holy Communion contains alcohol and boiling hot water – two of the most effective sterilization components we have. More importantly, it is the Body and Blood of Christ, which provides life, not death!)  http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf

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“After the priest has given communion to the faithful, he places the particles that remain on the discos into the chalice and prays that the living and departed have their sins washed away by the Blood of Christ.”

“…The people, after receiving communion, are usually given a small amount of wine mixed with hot water and a piece of bread remaining from the proskomedia to break their fast in preparation for communion, to purify their mouths, and so that the first food after communion is blessed food.

“Incensing the chalice, the priest transfers what remains of the Gifts back to the table of Oblation. After the Liturgy he will consume whatever remains in the chalice. He returns to the Holy Table to fold up the antimins and to intone a final litany and prayer of thanksgiving to God for being allowed to receive holy communion…” Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 33.

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More on the Liturgy of the Faithful

This is the sixth in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy. The intent of the series is to remind us of what our children are learning about the service. That way we as a family can better understand what is happening around us during the Liturgy, and together we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!” (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics.)

This week’s post will continue our look at the Liturgy of the Faithful. I must admit that, because I am a member of the choir in our parish, by this point in the service I am often swept away with paying attention to the music and the director, and not always focusing on what exactly is going on or what we are saying/singing/praying. This process of studying the Liturgy is giving me much to think about! I hope that you are learning along with me, and that, together, we can help our families be better aware of what we are participating in at the Divine Liturgy.

We have already discussed how the Liturgy of the Faithful begins with the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, the Great Entrance, etc. It then continues with reciting the Creed, the Anaphora, and hymns of preparation for communion. So what is it that are our children learning about this part of the Liturgy of the Faithful? I found that they are actually learning quite a lot! Let us look together at what they are learning and learn along with them.

After the Great Entrance in the Liturgy of the Faithful, we recite the Nicene Creed. Our children are learning that the Nicene Creed is more than just something nice that we can say together: it is the basis of what we believe. “The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word, ‘credo,’ which means ‘I believe.’… Reciting the Creed is… a far greater pledge than one to any country on earth. When we sing or recite the Creed during the Liturgy, we are acknowledging that we accept and believe in what the church teaches us and there is an implied pledge to uphold and witness to these things… The Creed uses ‘I’ because each person is called to make their own statement of faith. I order for Christians to act together as a people of God, they must have a common belief and the Creed served the purpose of bringing them together in their faith.” (1) “In the Nicene Creed, we proclaim the truths of our faith. When we say the Creed aloud together, we confess our faith and confirm our unity…” (2)

Immediately after the Creed, the priest points our attention to the anaphora, or the lifting up of the gifts of bread and wine which are being offered to God for Him to use in the Eucharist. Our children are learning that the anaphora is a very holy moment in the Divine Liturgy. “The word Anaphora means ‘offering.’ This is the part of the Liturgy where we offer the bread and wine to God. We are told to stand up, listen and pay attention to this important part of the Liturgy.” (3, pg. 26) “The most important gifts are the gifts of bread, wine and water that we offer to God during the Divine Liturgy. Jesus Christ taught us to offer these gifts because they represent our lives and everything we have.” (4)

There are many beautiful fulfillments of Old Testament worship in this part of the Liturgy. We ask God to transform the gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. “During… [the anaphora], we offer our gifts of bread and wine, our hearts, and our thanksgiving to God. We hear Christ’s words when He consecrated the bread and wine to be the Eucharist at the Last Supper. We ask the Holy Spirit to come down upon these gifts to become the Body and Blood of Christ.” See (2) above. “Most importantly of all we pray to the Holy Spirit to come to us and change the bread into the very body of Christ and the wine into His blood. This is the climax of the Liturgy, when God truly comes among us.” (5) Immediately after we ask God for these things, we thank Him in song. “At the holiest moment of the Divine Liturgy, when the priest asks God to bless our gifts, we sing: ‘We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks to Thee, O Lord.’ The priest asks God to send the Holy Spirit to bless us and to bless our gifts. the Holy Spirit makes our gifts truly the Body and Blood of His son Jesus Christ. When we receive these Gifts in Holy Communion, we truly receive Jesus Christ in us.” (6)

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Our children are learning that we do not approach the throne of God (or His Table) alone: the saints who have gone before us are already there, praying for/with us. “The priest now remembers all those Christians who’ve gone before us. He ends by remembering the purest example of a Christian, the Virgin Mary.” See (3) above, p. 30. These prayers conclude with the Theotokos, since “she was the one who gave birth to the God-Man in the flesh which makes possible his ‘birth’ in our midst on the Holy Table.” (7)

They are also learning that we pray for the departed and all living people before we are ready to ask God to bless the Holy Eucharist of which we are about to partake. The anaphora concludes with prayers for both the departed and the living, (especially the poor), and a blessing from the priest. The anaphora is followed by yet another litany in which we ask “that the Gifts be received as a sweet smelling fragrance on God’s heavenly altar… [and] that we may receive the Gifts worthily, for the forgiveness of sins, for the communion of the Holy Spirit and not for condemnation.” See (7) above. That is a lot to ask for, in one brief litany. Let us be sure we are paying attention as we ask!

The next time I am participating in the Divine Liturgy, the Kiss of Peace will be my cue to pay special attention to what’s happening next! Whether we are corporately stating our beliefs through reciting the Nicene Creed; praying along through the holy moments in the Anaphora; lifting up the world through litanies; or agreeing with the request for God’s blessing on the Gifts, each opportunity now has deeper meaning to me! I hope that they do for you as well, now that we have spent a little time looking more closely at them.

Endnotes:

  1. Ashanin, Natalie, “The Creed is What We Believe”, Little Falcons Magazine: #37,The Creed” .pp. 4 & 6, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
  2. Various, The Way the Truth the Life, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 2003, p. 99, (available here http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/2214/0856/4733/OCEC-Catalog-2014.pdf)
  3. Timko-Hughes, Anna, The Divine Liturgy for Children: An Interactive Guide for Participation in the Divine Liturgy, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 1996, p. 26. (Available here http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-divine-liturgy-for-children-an-interactive-guide/)
  4. Ashanin, Natalie, “Giving Thanks”, Little Falcons Magazine: #15, “Thanksgiving” .p. 7, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
  5. Ashanin, Natalie, “The Liturgy – Where We Meet God”, Little Falcons Magazine: #52, “Holy Liturgy” .p. 8, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. )
  6. Kazich, Fr. Thomas, “Giving Thanks in the Liturgy”, Little Falcons Magazine: #15, Thanksgiving” .p. 13, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
  7. Cutler, Archimandrite Alexander, “The Divine Liturgy: An Explanation for Parents & Children, Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 32.

 

The following posts feature quotes related to what is happening during this part of the Liturgy of the Faithful.

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“…The people are invited to join in the recitation of the Creed… It is a confession of faith by the whole Church, and individually by the members who constitute it. Participation means reciting… [the] Creed with full awareness and commitments. One way of helping this happen… is to ask ‘To Whom am I saying the creed?’ The creed takes on a totally different, and very personal aura when we direct it consciously toward God Himself, as a prayer, as a conscious linking of one’s self with the Triune God.” ~ Harakas, Stanley S. The Melody of Prayer: How to Personally Experience the Divine Liturgy. Minneapolis, Minn: Light and Life Pub. Co, 1979, pp. 28-30.

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If you have not already done so, help your children learn to recite the Creed from memory. Here is one suggestion of a way to do so: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/398498267001089819/

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There are many ways to help your children learn the Creed. For example there is a coloring book of the Creed as shown through icons, found at http://www.stnectariospress.com/the-creed-in-coloring-icons-and-stickers/. Slightly older children can learn about it by reading the illustrated “I Believe: The Nicene Creed” found at http://www.amazon.com/I-Believe-The-Nicene-Creed/dp/0802852580. Older students will benefit from studying this guide to the Nicene Creed (with a study guide) available at http://www.stnectariospress.com/the-nicene-creed-for-young-people-with-study-guide/.

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“During the singing of the Creed, it is the custom in the Church for the clergy to fan the eucharistic gifts. This fanning was an act of veneration used toward the earthly emperor in the Byzntine period, during which time it was incorporated into the Church’s liturgy, and used as an actof  veneration toward the  ‘presences’ of the Heavenly Kin gin the midst of His People, namely towards the book of the Gospels and the eucharistic gifts. In some churches special liturgical fans are carried by the altar servers at processions.” Hopko, Fr. Thomas, sidebar, Little Falcons Magazine: #37, “The Creed” .p. 8, (available at Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )

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“Immediately after the Creed the priest calls all to attention for the anaphora or the offering up of the gifts of bread and wine to God. This is the holy oblation or sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ, for our salvation on Calvary represented to us in this Eucharistic offering. The choir responds, ‘A mercy of peace a sacrifice of praise.’ This ‘Mercy of Peace’ refers to the communion sacrifices offered to god by the Jewish priests in the temple at Jerusalem. Communion sacrifices were offerings (usually of animals) that had certain parts burned up for God and other parts eaten by those who made the offering. This was thus a sacrificial meal with God. In Leviticus 7:11-12, we read, ‘This is the ritual for the communion sacrifice… offered to God: If it is offered with a sacrifice of praise…’ After the priest asks all present to lift up their hearts, he invites us to make a thanksgiving unto God (literally, from the Greek, ‘Let us make an Eucharist.’)” Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 32

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“The Anaphora (‘offering back’) is the lengthy prayer which culminates in the Consecration of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. However, we are offering to God from the very gifts that He Himself gave to us. It is for this reason we say, “Your own from Your own.” It is God who truly provides, and God who receives.

“The Anaphora begins with a dialogue between the priest and the faithful. The priest commands, “Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering (“anaphora”) in peace.” The faithful respond, “Mercy and peace, a sacrifice of praise.” The priest continues, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you” – to which the faithful reply – “And with your spirit.” Again, the priest exhorts, “Let us lift up our hearts” – the faithful respond – “We lift them up to the Lord.” The priest then says, “Let us give thanks unto the Lord,” which prompts the response, “It is proper and right.”

“This dialogue puts into perspective what is taking place during the Liturgy – we are presenting a gift to the King. As the created, we stand at attention in the presence of the Creator. This exchange highlights the point of the Liturgy – God offers us His mercy and His peace, and we respond with praise and thanksgiving. We lift up our hearts and give thanks to God.” http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf

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“As if standing before the Throne of God in the Kingdom of Heaven, while thanking God the Father for all that He has done for us, we join our voices with the angels to sing to Him this hymn of the heavenly hosts, “Holy, holy, holy…” Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 32
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The Beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful

This is the fifth in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy. The intent of the series is to remind us of what our children are learning about the service. That way we as a family can better understand what is happening around us during the Liturgy, and together we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!” (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics.)

This week’s post will begin to look at the Liturgy of the Faithful. The Liturgy of the Faithful begins with the Litany of Fervent Supplication, and continues with the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, the Great Censing, and the Great Entrance. This is followed by the Litany of Supplication and (in some parishes) the Kiss of Peace. What are our children learning about the beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful? Let’s take a few moments to find out!

Our children are learning that it is important for us to pray fervently throughout the Divine Liturgy. “These prayers have been compiled by the Church to make it possible for everyone to pray together, so that the liturgy will truly be the work of the people. In the Great Litany at the beginning of the liturgy we pray for ‘peace from above and the salvation of our souls, for our city and country, for seasonable weather and abundance of the fruits of the earth and for our deliverance from tribulation and anger.’ We start the liturgy by praying for our physical needs and as the service continues, we pray for our spiritual needs, for God’s blessing forgiveness of our sins and for our soul’s salvation… The greatest prayer of the church is at the Divine Liturgy.” (1)

Our children are learning what is happening during the Liturgy of the Faithful, even the parts that they may not be able to hear/see. For example, do you know what the priest does at the altar during the singing of the “Cherubic Hymn? Our children are learning about that! He “makes the sign of the cross over the antimins with the Gospel Book… The priest then places the Gospel Book upright before the tabernacle on the altar table; he unfolds the antimins and makes the sign of the cross over it with the sponge. The priest prays for himself, confesses his own unworthiness and prays to God to make him and the people worthy to be a part of His Kingdom. The priest then says the Cherubic Hymn, raising his hands and saying “Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and sing to the life-giving Trinity, the thrice-holy hymn, let us now lay aside all earthly cares: that we may receive the King of all, who comes invisibly upborne by the Angelic Hosts. Alleluia.” (2)

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Do you know what the priest is saying during the censing in the Liturgy of the Faithful? Our children do! “As the choir sings the Cherubic Hymn, the priest prays Psalm 50 and censes the people…” (3) My son, who is an altar server, assures me that the whole time our priest is censing, it is true: he is reciting this long Psalm! “But he stops in the middle of the Psalm, Mom! And then he finishes it later, after the Great Entrance.”

Do you know which icons the priest censes, and in which order? Our children do! “When censing the icons, the priest first censes the icon of Christ, then the Theotokos, then the rest of the icons on the iconostasis. ” See (2) above.

The first few times that our family visited an Orthodox church, when we arrived at this part of the service, I remember thinking that the Cherubic Hymn took such a long time to be sung! “But I just thought it was pretty!” said my upper-teens daughter (who had been 7 or 8 at that time) in a recent conversation about the song. So, while I was ready for the choir to sing a little faster, she was enjoying the angelic music, as should be the case! Our children are learning what to do during the Cherubic Hymn. “The choir now sings the Cherubic Hymn. A cherub is a type of angel. This hymn tells us to sing praises to God like the angels and put away any concerns we have.” See (3) above. “Singing the Cherubic Hymn, we forget our cares in this world so that we can draw closer to the Kingdom.” (4)

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Our children are learning what happens during the Great Entrance, and what it represents. “During the Great Entrance, the gifts for the Eucharist in the chalice and on the discos are transferred from the preparation table to the altar, signifying the Church’s journey into the eternal Kingdom. In this solemn entrance, we acknowledge Christ’s sacrifice for us and completely offer ourselves to God.” See (4) above.

“This procession represents Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holiday of the Passover, during which He was crucified.” (5)

“During this procession, the priest prays that the Lord God remember us all in his Kingdom – the prayer of the thief crucified with Christ. The petitions in the Great Entrance vary from parish to parish. In some parishes, the priest again prays for the bishop and all brethren in Christ, for the country’s leader and all civil authorities, and for named Orthodox servants of God, both living and departed. Each prayer ends with the prayer of the crucified thief: ‘the Lord God remember them in his Kingdom, always now and ever and unto ages of ages.’ After the last petition is prayed, the priest enters the sanctuary while the choir sings the remainder of the Cherubic Hymn… The priest places the holy gifts on the altar table. The priest says silent prayers… He then censes the gifts three times and prays quietly the last part of Psalm 50: “Then they shall offer young bullocks upon thy altar.” (You see? My son was right! The priest really does finish that Psalm AFTER the Great Entrance!)  (6)

Our children are learning what to do during the Great Entrance. “Listen to hear who the priest is praying for during the Great Entrance. Pray quietly for your family, loved ones, and anyone you think needs God’s help.” see (3) above.

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Our children are learning about the Kiss of Peace, in the event that our parish practices exchanging it. “The Kiss of Peace is exchanged by celebrating clergy after the priest prays ‘Let us love one another that with one accord (mind) we may confess…’. (This prayer is completed by the choir.) Some parishes have brought back the custom of the exchange of the Kiss of Peace also among the faithful people. This is an outward expression of love, love that is necessary for the Divine Liturgy to proceed. Love is the foundation of life and fundamental to Christian truth.” (7)

When it comes to the beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful, it seems that our children are learning so much about what is happening. They’re not just learning what’s going on, though: they are also learning how to respond and/or participate. We will do well to learn along with them, so that together we can all participate more fully in “the offering of the people for the whole world.”

Endnotes:

  1. Ashantin, Natalie, “Have You Talked With God Today?”Little Falcons # 39 “Prayer,” p.7. (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
  2. Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #11. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
  3. Timko-Hughes, Anna, The Divine Liturgy for Children: An Interactive Guide for Participation in the Divine Liturgy, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Eduation Commission, 1996, p. 20-21. (Available here http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-divine-liturgy-for-children-an-interactive-guide/)
  4. Various, The Way the Truth the Life, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Eduation Commission, 2003, p. 99, (available here http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/2214/0856/4733/OCEC-Catalog-2014.pdf)
  5. Ashanin, Natalie, “The Liturgy – Where We Meet God”, Little Falcons Magazine: #52, “Holy Liturgy” .p. 7, (available at Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
  6. Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #13. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
  7. Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #14. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)

 

Following are related quotes; the “grownup version” of what is going on during this part of the Divine Liturgy.

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“It is now time for the sacrificial offering to God. There is only one true and acceptable offering with which God is pleased. It is the offering of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who offers himself eternally to the Father for the sins of the world.

“In Christ men can offer themselves and each other and all men and the entire world to God. Christ has united all things in himself, and has taken all things upon himself. Thus, in and through him, men can offer all that they are, and all that they have, to God the Father. They can do this because they are in Christ, and have received the Holy Spirit from him.

“At this moment in the Divine Liturgy the celebrant prays for himself, confessing his personal unworthiness and affirming that the only Priest of the Church is Jesus:

“For Thou art the One who offers and the One who is offered, the One who receives and the One who is given, O Christ our God…” ~http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-divine-liturgy/offertory-great-entrance

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“The priest recites Psalm 50 (51). All the while, the priest is censing around the Holy Altar Table, the Icon Screen and the faithful. When the censing is complete, the priest makes three prostrations and venerates the Antimension and the Holy Altar Table. He then turns to the faithful and asks, “For those who love me, and for those who hate me, forgive me, a sinner.” Then, processing around the Holy Altar Table, he venerates the Holy Gifts, puts on the “Aer” (the cloth covering the priest puts around his shoulders), and picks up the Paten and Chalice for the Great Entrance.” http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf

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“The hymn… which is sung during the Great Entrance is not directed to God. Rather, it is a set of ‘spiritual rubrics’ providing not only a symbolic meaning to the transfer of the gifts, but also direction on how to relate to that transfer… We are speaking to ourselves with instructions on how to receive the King who moves among us on the way to His crucifixion on the Altar table… We are to put aside all worldly concerns. We are no longer to think about good weather, for civil rulers, the fruits of the earth, for travelers. We have prayed for those things. Now, there is only one thing needful: prepare to receive the King of all in our midst!” The Melody of Prayer by Stanley Harakas, p. 34

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“As the choir concludes the Cherubic Hymn, the priest takes up the Paten and Chalice and, preceded by the acolytes carrying the cross, candles, fans (representing the Cherubim), and the censer, exits the Sanctuary through the North Door and processes around the church down the north aisle, and returning towards the Sanctuary down the center aisle. During the procession, the priest intones the words spoken to Christ on the Cross by the penitent thief, ‘May the Lord, our God, remember you all in His Kingdom, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.’ The choir responds, ‘Amen.’ If more than one priest is present, the priests turn to each other and say, ‘May the Lord, our God, remember your priesthood (or archpriesthood for a bishop) in His Kingdom, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.’

“Returning to the Sanctuary through the Royal Doors, the priest places the Paten and Chalice on the Antimension, which has been opened upon the Holy Altar Table, and covers them both with the Aer, which he has removed from around his shoulders. Having censed the Holy Gifts, the priest returns the censer to the Acolyte, concluding the Great Entrance.

“A pious custom has developed where the faithful reach out to touch the fringe of the priest’s garments as he passes during the Great Entrance. This is based upon the story of the woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years, and was healed simply by touching the fringe of Christ’s garments (see Mark 5:25-34). This practice should be encouraged to anyone who is in need of healing – physically or spiritually.” http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf

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“The ‘Completion Litany’ is so called because it begins with the petition, ‘Let us complete our prayer to the Lord.’ It is typical in Orthodoxy to title a hymn or section of the service with the first word or words of that hymn. The Completion Litany repeats a few of the petitions from the Great Litany, and then adds six new petitions:

  • For this whole day, that it may be perfect, holy, peaceful, and sinless, let us ask the Lord.
  • For an angel of peace, a faithful guide, a guardian of our souls and bodies, let us ask the Lord.
  • For forgiveness and remission of our sins and transgressions, let us ask the Lord.
  • For things that are good and profitable to our souls, and for peace in the world, let us ask the Lord.
  • That we may complete the remainder of our lives in peace and penitence, let us ask the Lord.
  • That the end of our lives may be Christian, without pain, blameless and peaceful, and for a good account at the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord. The response to these petitions is not the customary, ‘Lord, have mercy,’ but rather, ‘Grant this, O Lord.’ The culmination of these petitions is the ‘Prayer of the Proskomide,’ which asks God to receive our prayer, to forgive us our sins, and to make us worthy to offer the Sacrifice about to be presented.” http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf

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“Following the ‘Completion Litany,’ the priest turns to the faithful and blessing them, says, ‘Peace be to you.’ This peace is the same peace offered by Christ to His Disciples after His Resurrection (see John 20:19). The faithful reply by saying, ‘And with your spirit.’

“When the priest blesses the faithful, he makes the sign of the Cross in the air with his right hand by raising his hand and bringing it down, then he moves it to the left, and then right. The faithful, however, see it as going right to left, as the Orthodox make the sign of the Cross on their bodies (Christ rose to sit at the right hand of the Father). It has been surmised that in the West, the faithful began to imitate the motion of the priest, and not what they saw, in making the sign of the Cross from left to right. Furthermore, the priest makes with the fingers of his right hand four letters – ICXC (the Greek letters that make the initials for Jesus Christ). In this way, we are reminded that the blessing comes not from the priest as an individual, but from Christ our God, through the instrument of the priest.”

http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf

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“Five times in the New Testament we are told to greet one another with a ‘Holy Kiss’ (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). This kiss is a sign of concord and reconciliation. Not only does this kiss signify the harmony of faith and love of the brethren, but it is also a symbol of repentance, as expressed in Matthew 5:23-24: ‘Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar; and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.’

“Saint Maximus the Confessor further explains in his Mystagogy 17, ‘The spiritual kiss which is extended to all prefigures and portrays the concord, unanimity and identity of views which we shall all have among ourselves in faith and love at the time of the revelation of the ineffable blessings to come.’ The Kiss therefore is not simply a greeting of those around you in the pews, nor is it an opportunity to ‘catch up’ with friends on a weekly basis.

“The Kiss of Peace is an opportunity for two Orthodox Christians to sit next to each other and worship God together. These Christians may have had a recent argument, maybe they have a habit of arguing, or perhaps they have made a lifetime of it – it makes no difference. What does make a difference is that these two Christians can worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One God – in mutual agreement, and just before they declare their shared belief by proclaiming the Symbol of Faith, they can embrace and kiss one another in peace and mutual forgiveness.”

http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf
“Christ is in Our Midst! There is only love among us.  No remembrance of past wrongs, no prejudice, no expectations, only the reality of the God who lives in us and draws us as one into His body.” ~ http://www.orthoanalytika.org/2013/12/22/teaching-the-divine-liturgy-meditations/

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More on the Liturgy of the Word

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy. The intent of the series is to remind us of what our children are learning about the service. That way we as a family can better understand what is happening around us during the Liturgy, and together we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!” (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics.)

Let us now look closely at the second part of The Liturgy of the Word, which begins with the reading of the Epistle. What happens during this important part of the Divine Liturgy? What are our children learning about it? How can we all best contribute to and benefit from this part of the service?

This part of the Divine Liturgy contains important readings from scripture; that’s how it got its name. “…The first part of the Liturgy –the “word” – contained all of the readings from the Old and New Testaments – the “Word” of God.” http://www.uocyouth.org/files/Download/hgh%20february%20liturgy%20of%20the%20word.pdf

Here’s a brief (grownup version) synopsis of what is happening during the Liturgy of the Word: “As an introduction to the first reading, a Psalm verse (Prokeimenon) is sung as a refrain, with other Psalm verses. The reader then reads a designated portion from an Epistle (letter by an Apostle) or the Acts of the Apostles (a short history of the Church in Jerusalem after Christ’s Resurrection). Before the Gospel is read, it is preceded by the refrain “Alleluia” sung three times along with selected Psalm verses. During the Alleluia, the altar, icons, temple, and people are incensed in preparation for hearing the holy Gospel and to remind us of God’s presence through His Word — Jesus Christ — in the Gospel. The deacon, if one is present, or a priest then reads the appointed Gospel of the day. The Gospel is the Word of God given to us as food and nourishment for our souls. This is followed by a sermon or time of instruction on what we have just heard in the Scriptures or on some other theme.

“The Liturgy of the Word… ends following the Litany of the Catechumens. This litany prays for those who are being instructed in the Faith and who are preparing for Baptism and admission into the Church… Today, throughout the world in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, [and in Latin America, as well] there are many people who are catechumens preparing for Baptism. They need our prayers, and the prayers of this litany. If nothing else, this litany reminds us again and again that we are to be a missionary and evangelizing Church — that is, a Church bringing the good news of the Gospel to those who have not come to believe in Christ and who are not members of His Body, the Holy Orthodox Church.” from “The Orthodox Liturgy Part 2: The Liturgy of the Word,” by Archimandrite Alexander Cutler, http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/olit-word.htm.

Our children are also learning about what happens at this part of the service. “Before we listen to the Gospel read in church, the priest says, ‘Let us attend!’ This means ‘pay attention.’ The church is censed. This lets us know that something important is to happen. First we hear a reading from the Epistles, letters of advice written by St. Paul. After this, we listen to the priest (or the deacon) read from the Holy Gospel Book… As we listen each Sunday to the reading of the Gospel, …we learn how Jesus lived and how He wants us to live. The priest explains the Gospel reading in his sermon and helps us to understand how we can make the lesson part of our life.” “Hearing God’s Words in Church” by Mick Mirovic, Little Falcons Magazine: “Holy Gospel” #55, p. 12, available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. “As we listen, we gather His [our Savior’s] words into our minds and hearts as treasures…” The Way the Truth the Life, p. 31, available here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/2013-2014_book_list_and_order_form.pdf.

Our children are learning about small details from the Liturgy, including what the word “prokeimenon” means and what the prokeimenon is. “The prokeimenon, which literally means “that which goes before,” is a verse from the Old Testament that is suited to the particular Epistle and prepares the people to listen.” Teaching Pics, back of picture #9, available at <a “http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics”>http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics.

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Our children are learning what the Epistles are and why they are important for us: “Some of the apostles… wrote letters of instruction, or epistles, to the newly formed Christian communities. Many of these New Testament books bear the name of the community or person to whom they are written… These letters encourage the faithful to persevere despite obstacles, and sometimes chastise them for quarreling or immoral behavior. they are important because they continue to teach us how to live as Christians.” The Way the Truth the Life, p. 32, available here: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/2013-2014_book_list_and_order_form.pdf

Our children are also learning where the Gospels came from and what the Gospel book is. “Everything that we know about Jesus Christ’s life on earth was written down by four of His friends and can be found in a book called the Holy Gospel. The book of the Gospel is really four books put together. We can always see this book on the altar table.” ~ from an article called “the Four Evangelists,” Little Falcons Magazine: “Holy Gospel” #55, p. 5, available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf

Our children are learning why the Gospels were written: “When we get a new tv or computer, we always read the instruction manual so that we will know how to make it work properly. The Gospels are our instruction manual in which God teaches us how to live our lives so that the ‘picture’ and the ‘sound’ of our lives are in focus, bringing us the joy and fulfillment which is God’s promise to us.” ~ “The Good News of the Gospel” by Natalie Ahanin, Little Falcons Magazine: “Holy Gospel” #55, p. 7, available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf

Our children should also be learning about catechumens. We have the opportunity during every Divine Liturgy to pray for those people in our community and around the world who have not yet joined the Holy Orthodox Church. The Liturgy of the Word finishes with the chance to remember them in our prayers.

So, besides praying for catechumens, how can we best participate and help with this portion of “the offering of the people for the whole world?” There are a variety of ways: We contribute to the Liturgy of the Word by standing upright during the readings, to show our respect for God’s words. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives when we listen attentively to the Epistle and Gospel being read and to our priest’s homily. As mentioned above, we work together with the saints and angels on behalf of the catechumens when we pray the Litany of the Catechumens.

A little preparation ahead of time can help us to be ready for the Liturgy of the Word. When we have a little time to talk together, we should ask our children what they know about this part of the Divine Liturgy. We can discuss any or all of the above with our children, to make sure they understand, if there is any part that they didn’t already know about. Every Sunday, we should also prepare for this part of the service on our way to church. How? Well, for example, our family has a half hour commute to our parish. We have learned that this gives us enough time to pray together our morning prayers and begin to ready our minds for the forthcoming liturgy. As we drive, we also read together the Epistle and Gospel readings for the day. That way we have two opportunities to hear them, in the event that our minds should drift during one of them! Each family will need to think creatively, and discover the way that works for them, to prepare themselves for the Liturgy of the Word.

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Following are some posts related to the Liturgy of the Word.

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About the Liturgy of the Word: “Sometimes it is difficult for young people to understand the epistle and gospel readings. Each week ask them to explain the readings in their own words and guide them through the process.” ~ a suggestion from http://www.uocyouth.org/files/Download/hgh%20february%20liturgy%20of%20the%20word.pdf

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About the Liturgy of the Word: “When Christ preached the gospel he gathered the apostles and sent them to preach his word. That is why the epistle is read at this point. Again, Christ continued to preach the gospel and to work miracles. Thus the gospel is read, either by the deacon (who represents the apostles) or by the priest (who represents Christ). Incense is offered between the epistle and the gospel reading, because of what has been said: we are Christ’s fragrance before God when we teach God’s word.” http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/liturgics/theophilos_divine_liturgy.htm

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This week’s Divine Liturgy blog focuses on the Holy Scriptures as they are read during the Divine Liturgy. Are you aware how much of the Divine Liturgy itself is actually scripture?!? Check out an abbreviated synopsis (in the form of an image embedded in the blog) here: http://www.theophany.org/services-scripture-in-the-divine-liturgy.php (If you want to go even more in-depth with this, read this http://www.scribd.com/doc/36956193/The-Scriptures-in-the-The-Divine-Liturgy#scribd.)

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One way to prepare for the Gospel reading in Sunday’s Divine Liturgy is to read it together as a family beforehand. Another option is to listen to it! Each Sunday’s Gospel reading is presented in two formats (read straight from scripture and retold at an easier-to-understand level) here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend. Download printable pdfs of these readings; complete with thought-provoking questions written at 5 levels here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/letusattend.

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“In order to fulfil the words of Christ, you must know them! Read the Holy Gospel, penetrate its spirit, and make it the rule of your life.” ~ St. Nikon of Optina http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/b6/59/91/b65991d7cefe06ff20e4be25dd2c1a38.jpg

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“The Divine Liturgy as Teacher”

“How do we learn?  Must be active participants in the process.  Must prepare.  This is not entertainment, but a life experience; the quality of that experience is up to us.  Some are transformed into saints by their participation, others waste this powerful time by daydreaming, just trying to enjoy the music, or gutting it out.  It is the same as in school (we get out of it what we put into it), but the lesson being taught is so much more important.  The homily is part of that.  If we have prepared through prayer, fasting, and the study of Scripture, then we will benefit from even the most dull preacher presenting the most formulaic sermon.  Again, we control what we get out of the lesson.  We need to work with the Holy Spirit so that God can speak whatever words we need to hear into our minds and hearts.” ~ from http://www.orthoanalytika.org/2013/12/22/teaching-the-divine-liturgy-meditations/

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