This is the eighth 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 and Kristina Wenger.)
We have learned so much about the Divine Liturgy as a whole throughout this series. I hope that taking a look at the things that our children are learning about the Liturgy has been helpful to you and your family. In this eighth and final blog, we will finish our look at the Liturgy of the Faithful by looking at what happens at the end of the Liturgy, after we partake of communion.
Our children are learning to thank God after receiving Holy Communion. There are many prayers of thanksgiving that can be prayed after communion. Someone in our parish always reads one aloud, but there are many more in the service books, so some parishioners pray all of them. This particular “Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion” would be a good one to learn together as a family, if you haven’t already committed one to memory: “O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, let Your holy body be my eternal life and Your precious blood, the remission of my sins. May this Eucharist be my joy, my health, and my gladness. Make me, a sinner, worthy to stand at the right hand of Your glory at Your Second Coming, through the prayers of Your Most Pure Mother and of all the saints. Amen.” (1)
Our children are learning to continue to participate in the service even after communion is over. After communion, there are still litanies for us to focus on, during which we should respond. For example, “after the Prayers of Thanksgiving are completed, the priest directs the people to ‘depart in peace’ [and] the choir and people respond, ‘In the name of the Lord.’ (2)
I still remember, during our family’s first visit to an Orthodox Church, hearing the priest say, “Let us complete our prayer to the Lord!” and thinking, “Oh, good: it must be almost over! My feet hurt,” or something to that effect. But then, to my surprise, the service went on for a while longer! I remember wondering why it wasn’t over yet and why we kept praying stuff that it seemed we had prayed before… I realize now, of course, that really the only part that was the same as before are the words “Lord, have mercy,” and what we actually are agreeing with as we make that statement are prayers of thanksgiving to God for His mercy in allowing us to partake of communion, as well as prayers that we will leave the church and live in a way that is worthy of Christ’s presence in our lives. What a beautiful prayer the priest prays in this part of the service! Here it is, in case you’ve not read or heard the whole thing before:
“O Lord, who blesses those who bless Thee, and sanctifies those who put their trust in Thee: save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance; preserve the fullness of Thy Church; sanctify those who love the beauty of Thy House; glorify them in recompense by Thy divine power, and forsake us not who hope on Thee. Give peace to Thy world, to Thy Churches, to the priests, to all civil authorities, to our Armed Forces, and to all Thy people: for every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from Thee, the Father of Lights, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, thanksgiving, and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages.”
The resounding “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” that follows has always been a favorite in our family. I love to watch children sing this song! At least in our parish, the children are the ones whose faces light up as they sing with abandon. And well they should! As they sing this song, they are fulfilling what they’ve been learning by praising God with all their hearts, even in this “ending” part of the service.
Our children are learning to receive the blessing offered by God through the priest before they leave the church. Our youngest children are learning what the priest is saying to us, and why: “In God’s house, the priest gives us God’s greeting and blessing. He says, ‘Peace be with you all.’ Whenever the priest blesses us, he is giving us God’s greeting. He is asking God to be with us and give us peace.” (3)
Our older children are learning how we should respond to that blessing: “After the final prayers, the priest then stands outside the altar to offer a special blessing to the people. The people approach to venerate (kiss) the cross or the priest’s hand and receive a piece of holy bread. The people will also take holy bread, called antidoron, to give to those who may have been absent from church.” (4)
Our children are learning to pray as they leave the church. The prayer of St. Simeon the God-Bearer is a good one to pray as one leaves the church: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
Our children are learning to take their faith with them as they leave after the Divine Liturgy. “When we have received Holy Communion we have God’s Kingdom within us which we must take with us into the world so that although we might live in the ordinary world, within us we will have God’s Kingdom. This is very important because there are so many forces which try to lead us astray – try to make us do bad things…” (5) Also, “when the Liturgy is finished, we are told to ‘depart in peace.’ Having tasted God’s peace in the Liturgy, we are sent forth to bring this peace to the world. If we go back into the world of our daily life with the peace of God in our hearts, we will, almost unconsciously, bring a little bit of it to our surroundings. Just think, if everyone did that, we would be surrounded by peace and the world would be a better place.” (6) And finally, “When we leave the church after partaking of the Eucharist, we immediately begin our journey back to the chalice. The Eucharist is at the center of our lives, and the procession to the Eucharist is the journey of our lives.” (7)
I hope that you have benefitted as much as I have from this these weeks of studying what our children are being taught about the Divine Liturgy. I know that each Divine Liturgy that I have been privileged to participate in since beginning this blog series has taken on new meaning for me. I hope it is the same for you, dear brothers and sisters! May we continue to learn together with our children, may we keep bringing them to the divine services, and may we all cooperate together in “the offering of the people for the whole world.” May the Lord have mercy on us, and save us all! I’ll meet you at the chalice…
- Various, A Child’s Guide to the Divine Liturgy, Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2014, p. 46. (Available here http://store.ancientfaith.com/a-childs-guide-to-the-divine-liturgy/.)
- Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #23. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
- Tarasar, Constance and Matusiak, V. Rev. Fr. John, Together With God, Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 1973, Lesson 19.
- Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #24. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
- Ashanin, Natalie, “Blessed is the Kingdom”, Little Falcons Magazine: #16, “God’s Kingdom,” pp. 4-6. (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. )
- 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. )
- Various, The Way the Truth the Life, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 2003, p. 104. (available here:http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/2214/0856/4733/OCEC-Catalog-2014.pdf)
Following are additional related quotes on this part of the service and/or ideas of how to help children in the Divine Liturgy:
“So, you came to church and were granted to meet Christ? Don’t leave if the service hasn’t finished… When you go to the theater, you don’t leave if the show hasn’t finished. You enter church, the Lord’s home, and do you turn your back on the immaculate Mysteries? …What are you doing, O man? While Christ is present, His angels stand by, and your brethren are still communing, you abandon them and leave? Christ offers you His holy Flesh, and you won’t wait a bit, to thank Him at least in words? When you sit at a supper you don’t dare leave the moment you have been filled, while your friends are still sitting at the table. And now when the dreadful Mysteries of Christ are being performed, you drop everything in the middle and leave? Do you want me to tell you whose work those who leave before the Divine Liturgy finishes—and thus don’t partake in the last thanksgiving prayers—are doing?” ~St John Chrysostom, as found here: http://preachersinstitute.com/2014/11/28/attending-church-part-4/
“Let us depart from the Divine Liturgy like lions who are producing fire, having become fearsome even to the devil, because the holy Blood of the Lord that we commune waters our souls and gives us great strength. When we commune of it worthily, it chases the demons far away and brings the angels and the Lord of the angels near us. This Blood is the salvation of our souls; with this the soul is washed, with this it is adorned. This Blood makes our minds brighter than fire; this makes our souls brighter than gold.” ~St John Chrysostom, as found here: http://preachersinstitute.com/2014/11/28/attending-church-part-4/
“‘How would you react if you found out your Army instructor was a Medal of Honor winner, your Med School lecturer was a Nobel Prize winner, or your Business School teacher was a member of the Fortune 500 who did it all from scratch. You’d pay attention more. You’d have more respect. You would not want to miss a lesson. And you would become better by your attentiveness. Christ the Great Rabbi is here. Among us. Teaching us. Preparing us for paradise.” http://www.orthoanalytika.org/2013/12/22/teaching-the-divine-liturgy-meditations/
Gather ideas for how to best benefit from Sunday morning church attendance by listening to Fr. John Finley’s podcast addressing just that, at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/triumphalhymn/the_divine_liturgy_-_part_5.
This may be an excellent time to review church etiquette together as a family. Fr. David Barr offers his wisdom in “Some Things You Should Know while in Church” in this article: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/etiquette
Here are some simple ideas of ways to make participation in the Liturgy meaningful for younger children: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/inchurch/attend2.htm
“Introduce to your children an activity illustrating the way we worship and more importantly, why we worship the way we do in the Orthodox Church. Below are some talking points for the lesson, as well as a coordinating activity or craft.” ~ from http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2011/11/way-we-worship.html