Category Archives: Divine Liturgy

Through the Eyes of a Young Reader: “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks

You may remember the blog post we published about the recently-published Orthodox children’s book, “Queen Abigail the Wise,” by Grace Brooks. Our blog post was published in May 2015. (If you did not get a chance to read the blog before, find it here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/gleanings-from-a-book-queen-abigail-the-wise-by-grace-brooks/.

We are in the new calendar year, which means that Great Lent is not too far off. The entire story of “Queen Abigail the Wise” takes place during Great Lent. We are revisiting the book in this blog post for two reasons. First and foremost refers to my statement in the first blog post about the book, “I must share this book with my 10-year-old goddaughter.” I did exactly that, and gave my then-10-year-old goddaughter Hope her own copy to read. After she read the book, we got together and talked about it. I thought you may be interested to hear Hope’s perspective on the book, not just mine, so here it is! (Mind you, there are spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet, don’t say we didn’t warn you about them!)

When Hope and I got together to discuss this book, I came with a series of questions for her. I tried to think of questions that would help “grownups” have a sense of how relative and enjoyable the book is for a young Orthodox Christian. (As you may have read in the prior blog post, the book is geared to children, but I found it to be uplifting even though I am an adult. I thought it was a great book, and I was pretty sure that Hope would like it. The older I get, though, the more I realize that what I think is nice for a person of a certain age may not necessarily sit as well with them as I thought it would. So I wanted to test this in-my-opinion-wonderful book with Hope to get her opinion of it. Here it is.)

The first question I asked Hope was whether or not she liked “Queen Abigail the Wise.” I was rewarded with the anticipated resounding “Yes!” and a huge smile on her face. Curious, I asked why, and she said, “I liked how [Abigail] had to do something to get something.” and “I like that she figured out that the young priest was the the iconographer by the end of the story.” (Remember, I already warned you that there are spoilers!)

I went on to ask Hope if there were parts of the book that she could relate to, and she said “Yes…” So I asked her which parts of the story she could relate to. She said, “Well, sometimes I get bored in church, too…” and went on to explain that she can understand how that felt to Abigail. She also said that she could relate to Abigail’s feelings at Pascha, when Abigail felt hot and cramped. Hope said that, like Abigail, she’s also not a crowd person and also, she is not hungry when she’s tired — just like Abigail.

Hope named Abigail as her favorite character in the book when asked, because, “I liked how she didn’t want to give up; and she felt bummed about missing church. I do that too sometimes. I also liked how she was willing to work hard and help others because she wanted the icon so badly.”

I couldn’t just ask about a favorite character, so I wondered aloud if Hope had a least favorite character? She said, “Well, at the beginning probably Vanessa because she seems snobby but I changed my opinion at the end. I could also say baby Jacob but he did play an important role.” (Again, spoilers! Well, almost…)

Although “Queen Abigail the Wise” is a chapter book, it contain a few illustrations. I am a visual person and love pictures, so I was delighted with the sketches: I found them charming. But, as mentioned above, I wondered if my personal theory fit with the actual practice and thus, how the illustrations would sit with a young lady of her age. So, I asked Hope if the illustrations added to the story. She said, “Yes, I like to have visuals!” (Like godmother, like goddaughter, I suppose!) But she mentioned that she wished for color, not just blackline illustrations. (I suggested that since the book is her very own, she could go through and color any illustrations that she wanted to, if she wished. A few weeks later, she came to church with her book and showed me that she had colored part of it with colored pencils! It was beautiful.)

I then asked an all-encompassing question about the theme of the book. I wondered what Hope thinks that the author, Grace Brooks, was trying to say with this story. What does Hope think is the book’s message? She give me two excellent answers: “If you set your mind to something and if you work hard you can achieve it… And no matter how much you dislike something or someone, in the end you may find that you actually love them.” Both answers were insightful. Sage words, coming from a 10-year-old.

I asked Hope if she had a favorite part of “Queen Abigail the Wise.” She answered, “The end, when Abigail gets her icon… And the way she describes the icon was pretty, too.”  I asked her if she would recommend this story to others, and she answered,”Yes!” She went on to say, “I would recommend it especially to those new to the Orthodox faith.”

Hope could not think of any part of the story that she did not like. Rather, she liked the book so much that sometimes she stayed up reading it past her bedtime! She was reading it in summer, so she could lie in bed reading until it got too dark outside to read by the snatches of light shining through her window. She got in trouble for doing so (oops!), but she really liked the book, and that’s what she does when she likes a book. (Again, like godmother, like goddaughter!)

So, as I had expected, Hope liked the book. She could relate to the characters and enjoyed learning along with them. Her experience with the story was similar to mine, and I am glad. But you’ll recall that I mentioned two reasons for this blog post, and you may be wondering about the second.

Well, the second reason I am posting about this book right now is all about timing. In a matter of weeks we will be in Great Lent again! You may want to get this book to share with an Orthodox youngster of your own, so that he/she can read it during Great Lent this year! Or perhaps you personally want to follow the related blog posts as the weeks go by: they are very challenging and encouraging for Orthodox Christians of any age! Or maybe you just want to read the book yourself, for your own growth. We’re sharing this blog post now because both Hope and I want to give you plenty of time so that you can do any (or all!) of the above!

Taking one final glimpse at my interview with Hope, my final question for her was whether or not she would be willing to read a sequel when it comes out? She answered with a resounding, “YES!.” So now there are TWO of us eagerly anticipating the second book in the “Every Tuesday Girls Club!” Our guess is that if you and/or your young Orthodox friends get a chance to read “Queen Abigail the Wise,” you will feel the same way. We certainly hope so!

Here are some important links related to the book:

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Purchase “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks, either for yourself or for young friends, here: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Abigail-Wise-Grace-Brooks/dp/1518600115/  
There is also an ebook available. (But you can’t color in the illustrations of an ebook with colored pencil!)

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Meet all the girls in the “Every Tuesday Girls Club” at the Queen Abigail website: http://queenabigail.com/

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According to this blog post by “Queen Abigail the Wise” author Grace Brooks, http://queenabigail.com/2016/11/27/december-news-with-queen-abigail/, the second book in the series will be available soon! This one is called “Vanessa the Wonderworker!”

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Follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/QueenAbigailtheWise/ for a variety of interesting posts including fresh creations by “Queen Abigail the Wise” author Grace Brooks, new blog posts that she writes, and other interesting things that she finds online and shares which are enjoyable to children and adults alike!

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Consider reading your way through “Queen Abigail the Wise” bit by bit, meditating on these wonderful blog posts by author Grace Brooks. http://queenabigail.com/2016/07/20/reading-through-queen-abigail-with-me/ Perhaps you can do this with a young friend, or even an entire Sunday Church School Class, throughout the course of Great Lent. Consider using these “Abigail” notebooks to document your learning along the way: http://www.cafepress.com/+queen_abigail_the_wise_journal,1908228623!

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On Helping Children to Participate in the Divine Liturgy

We attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday and sometimes during the week as well. Admittedly, there are times when it may seem like a long service to us adults, and it is certainly even more so to our children, for whom time feels different. Depending on the child, their age, and their ability to understand what is going on, the Liturgy can seem a daunting service. Getting beyond merely attending (being present) to truly ATTENDING (paying attention and participating) is not easy for any of us, especially for children.

Some have translated the words ‘Divine Liturgy’ as “the work of the people.” Perhaps a better translation is “the offering of the people for the whole world.” Either way, it is the people who do the work or the offering. The Orthodox Church considers all of its members, including children, to be an important part of the Church’s life. Therefore it follows that even the children are needed to do this work/give this offering. So, if it is important that every member of the parish participate in this work/offering, but if it is a challenge even for adults to be fully present and engaged, what can be done to help the children? This blog post will offer a few suggestions, as well as links full of even more ideas of ways that all adults in a parish can help the children of their parish to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Regardless of our status as adults: whether we are parents, godparents, Sunday Church School teachers, or any other adult in a parish, we share the responsibility for helping to raise the children who are a part of our parish.

Rather than focus on the things children should NOT do during the Divine Liturgy, we will frame this blog post more positively. Here are things that children CAN AND SHOULD do during the Liturgy to participate more fully. (I will include a few personal anecdotes as well, to serve as illustrations for some of the ideas.) Children in our parishes can:

See – The very tiniest among us can see the candles, at the icons, at the clergy, at the choir… (For an idea of how to do so: I have always loved watching my husband during the first moments that he holds our godchildren during a Liturgy when they are still very young. I am in the choir, not with him, but I know what is happening. He whispers, “Where’s Jesus? Can you see Jesus? Can you see Mary, His mother?” and I know that he is pointing their thoughts towards why we are in church: to be in God’s presence and to lift our hearts and minds towards Him.) Young preschoolers can look for items in the church such as crosses, animals, the color of Jesus’ robe, etc. Older preschoolers can count how many of those items they see, how many candles are burning in front of Jesus’ icon today, etc. Young elementary students can look for the icon of St. John the Forerunner, the Evangelist whose Gospel we hear during the service, what’s in the window by the Theotokos in the icon of the Annunciation, etc. The list of things to look for is limitless. It takes a little adult pre-planning to think of things for the children to look for, as well as placement in the sanctuary that allows the children to be able to see, but throughout the Liturgy, the children’s attention can be directed to look for things in the icons or in the service itself.

Kiss – Even very tiny children can show their love for God and their veneration of the saints by kissing the icons, the Gospel book, the cross, the priest’s hand, and even their fellow parishioners. (When our baby goddaughter and I arrive at the icon of Christ after communion, I whisper, “Let’s kiss the icon of Jesus. We love you, Jesus! Thank you for giving us your Body and Blood so we can live more like you this week!” and then I venerate the icon. She has yet to kiss the icon, but I know that she will, in time. And in the meantime, she looks intently in His eyes while we have that quiet moment together. We have an older goddaughter who has taken a while to be willing to do any of this kissing, but she has begun to do so. She just needed some time and to be willing to do this on her own. That’s okay!) Be sure to include the children around you in the Kiss of Peace, as well. Encourage your own children to make peace with their siblings before church; or during the Kiss of Peace if need be.

Talk – Although there are many opportunities to be silent, with a little practice beforehand, children can (and should!) talk during the service! There are plenty of opportunities to talk, but we must help them learn when those opportunities are, and what they should say during those times in the Divine Liturgy. With a cue until they get the hang of it, very young children can begin with the “Amens” during the Anaphora. Then, as they learn the following, they can also join in for (probably in this order): the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the communion prayers, etc. (They even get to SHOUT in church on the Sunday of Orthodoxy! When that Sunday approaches, we must practice, “This is the faith…” with our children ahead of time so they know what to say! My children loved that part of Sunday of Orthodoxy when they were younger. Actually, they still do, even though they are in their late teens!)

Sing – Children can sing “Lord, have mercy!” from a fairly early age. They can learn other responses to the prayers and refrains to the antiphons as well. They can learn to sing the troparia, the kontakion, the Trisagion Hymn, the Cherubic Hymn, the list goes on and on throughout the service. (A favorite song at our parish is “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord,” near the end of the service. The choir director’s granddaughter’s face has always lit up when we arrive at that song, even when she was very small. It is such a delight to watch her as she joyfully sings along!) As with many of the other suggestions for Liturgy participation, this one requires a little work together ahead of time. Gather a collection of CDs of the Church’s music at home, especially ones that use some of the same tunes that your church sings during the Liturgy. Play the CDs often so you can listen and sing together. Listening at home too, makes it much easier for the children to participate during the Divine Liturgy. Besides this additional exposure at home, a key to having the children sing along during the Liturgy is for them to hear other parishioners also singing along. Children who are surrounded by adults who sing along tend to join in as they are able. (Although, “a little child shall lead them” also applies at times: our daughter jumped into singing in the choir before I got up the courage to, and she has been blessing our parish with her voice, ever since! So perhaps it depends on the child…)

Hold – Children can hold service books, either a child’s version (our older goddaughter has worked her way through several versions, in increasing difficulty level, as she has grown) or the regular service book (when they’re old enough to read it – that same goddaughter has a little pocket prayer book containing the Liturgy that she now uses to follow along). Children can also hold and pass the offering plate. Some young boys like to hold a pretend censor and “help” Father or the deacons with the censing. Older children (and adults like me who need it to help them focus!) may want to hold a prayer rope and pray the Jesus Prayer during the Liturgy.


Stand – While in their parents’ arms, and then on their own once they know how to balance on their feet, children can learn to stand reverently during the Epistle, the Gospel, and the Great Entrance. As they get older, they can stand longer and longer until they are able to stand for the entire Liturgy (or at least all of the times that your tradition suggests for standing). (Our son challenged himself at a young age to stand for the whole service. His goal was to be an altar server – which can happen at age 7 in our parish – and he knew he’d have to be able to stand the whole service once he got to do that, so he started practicing when he was 5 or 6. Now that he’s a senior altar server, he is reaping the benefits of having learned to stand so long ago. Both of our children have joked about how tired their schoolmates get, standing during school concerts, etc., because “We’re Orthodox! We stand for hours every Sunday!” so they are quite accustomed to being on their feet. But they had to learn to stand for that long; and to choose to do it.)

Hear – From an early age, children can listen to more and more of the service. The Epistle, the Gospel, the homily, the music, the prayers… the list can grow a bit every year until they are listening to the entire Liturgy. Younger children may need to be challenged quietly during the Epistle/Gospel/homily, “Listen for (a word you anticipate will be said multiple times, like ‘Our Lord’) and smile at me or gently squeeze my hand each time you hear Father say it.” Older children can listen for a theme during the scripture readings. (For example, my 10-year-old goddaughter and I listened for “healing” in all of the readings during this year’s Holy Unction service, and quietly pointed it out to each other when we found/heard it.) Many children can listen for “one thing that you want to remember from Father’s homily today” that adults can ask them about during Coffee Hour or on the ride home from church. It can also be helpful to quietly whisper directions that help you both focus better during the Liturgy. (For example, “Listen! Jesus is speaking to us right now, through Father!” just before the priest says, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is broken for you, for the remission of sins…”)

Move – There are even opportunities for movement during the Divine Liturgy! Once again, it takes a little pre-teaching, but even young children are able to make the sign of the cross, bow their heads unto the Lord, kneel if/when applicable, reply to Father’s bow with one of their own, etc. We can help the youngest ones to do so, taking their baby fist in our hand to make the sign of the cross over their body, etc. The older ones, with a little preparation ahead of time, can participate fully when the time comes in the service without us physically helping them as much, because they have practiced and they know what to do. During the lenten season, children can also do prostrations! (One of my favorite memories of Great Lent was when my now-elementary-school-aged godson was about 3. He came to some of the lenten services with his parents, and I took great delight in watching him flop himself down wholeheartedly and then joyfully pop right back up again during the prostrations in the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian. He was willingly offering his entire self in praise to God, and I can only imagine that God was infinitely more tickled than I was to see that enthusiastic worship!)

Children love to participate. They long to feel a part of things. They want to contribute to the world around them. Here are a few ways that we adults can help the children in our homes/Sunday Church School classes/parish to do so during the Divine Liturgy.

These ideas are admittedly only a scratch on the surface of ways children can participate in the Divine Liturgy. What ideas do you have? Please comment below and help the rest of this community to better bless and assist the children in their parish. May we all work together to attend the Divine Liturgy; and, as we do so, may we all truly ATTEND, regardless of our age! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory be, forever!

Here are a few resources with even more ideas of ways to help your children participate in the Divine Liturgy:

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Fr. Paul Gassios of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, Ohio, offers this excellent article about the importance of having children participating in the Divine Liturgy. The article offers suggested guidelines for how often they should attend, where to sit when attending with children, when they can participate in the fasting, and more. He says, “When I hear the ‘holy noise’ of children in Church it makes me very happy because it tells me the parish has a future. We should be worried when we no longer hear that noise!” Read his article here:

http://www.stgeorgerossford.org/parish-life-and-ministries/reflections/4-reflections-sub/109-children-and-the-divine-liturgy

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Purchase a Divine Liturgy Book for Young Children and personalize it with photos from your own parish. This is a great book for your own children to use to familiarize themselves with the Liturgy. It would also make a great gift to godchildren, a Sunday Church School class, or other children in the parish! https://www.createspace.com/4773892

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“Giving children other things [ie: toys] to do during church teaches them that the Liturgy is for adults only and that is not what we want to be teaching our children.” Find this quote in context, part of one of a list of 10 things to do to interest your children in the Divine Liturgy, when you read this blog: http://www.freshandfaithful.com/?p=113.

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“Talk to your child about Church as often as you can. Liken things to Church. Make Church sound fun and exciting. For kids, it can be fun and exciting. [My son] loves Church because there is SO MUCH to look at, listen to, and do. Keep Church in the forefront of their minds.” This is one of many tips from Presbytera Marilisse I. Mars, in her blog http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2013/01/time-to-go-to-church-a-time-to-fear-and-dread/.

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“Above all, pray for your children to grow in their love for Christ and His Church. No amount of practical advice can substitute for the work of God’s Spirit in the lives of your children. There is no magic formula for producing children who passionately worship the Lord. God has called us to train our children and set a godly example before them, but at the end of the day we must all lay our children at the foot of the cross and call upon our gracious God to be true to His promises and finish the work He has begun in the hearts of our children.” This is only one of the many helpful and practical tips for parents and all adults in a parish, to help them help children to join in during the Divine Liturgy. This entire article is a must-read for any Orthodox Christian adult who wants to fulfill their role with the children in their parish, whether it is parenting, godparenting, being a positive role model, or teaching Sunday Church School: http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/parishinfo/helpchildrenworship.cfm

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“Teaching a child to be an Orthodox Christian — and what that means every day — takes a huge commitment and constant effort on the part of the parents and godparents. Here are some of the things we learned the hard way, or were shown to us by people much wiser…” This is at the beginning of a list of ages/stages of helping children to participate in the Divine Liturgy, written by Nichola T. Krouse. Read her tried-and-true ideas here: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/inchurch/lazyparent.htm

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Orthodox Christian Sunday Church School teachers can also help to influence children’s participation in the Divine Liturgy. “Classroom time should be set aside for questions and answers about that day’s worship.” Read more about this, as well as other ideas and suggestions here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/resources/religiousedbasics/reledbasicsarticles/reledbasicsliveliturgy

 

The Creed: About Our Statement of Faith

What is the Nicene Creed? Why is it important?

One of the oldest prayers in Christianity, the Creed was drawn up by the Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.). The word “creed” comes from “credo,” the Latin word for “I believe.” The creed is the core of Orthodox Christianity: it is the definition of our Faith, the statement of the essence of what we believe. Sometimes the Creed is referred to as “The Profession (or the Symbol) of Faith.” The Creed contains the basic truths of Orthodox Christianity, and is therefore a basis for Orthodox Christian life.

“The Nicene Creed, also called the Profession of Faith, begins with ‘I believe.’ With those two words, we launch into the substance of our faith.” (“The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” lesson 2, p. 7.)

“Reciting the Creed is like reciting the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ to our country, but this pledge of our faith in God 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 teachings.” (Little Falcons issue #37, “The Creed,” p. 4.)

Try this: During the next Divine Liturgy you attend, begin to take note of how the rest of the service relates to what we say in the Creed.

Gleanings From a Book: Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle

This book made me cry. Loud, soggy gasps accompanied my declaration, “I didn’t see THAT coming!”  My husband came running, thinking something was horribly wrong. “I… love… this book!” I assured him between sobs, and then I showed him the cause of my tears. We’ll get to that in just a little bit..

From the moment I cracked it open, this book appealed to me on so many levels. The story is genuine. The illustrations are eye-catching and detailed.The unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is clearly emphasized. The joy of Pascha is palpable. This book is a delightful celebration of Pascha!

Catherine’s Pascha is written in a realistic, believable way. As I read, it was like I could hear my own children being Catherine’s age again, from the “Why do I have to go to bed at regular time, tonight, when I’m getting up again in a few hours to go to church? You KNOW I won’t sleep!;” through the delight of shouting “Indeed He is risen!” in multiple languages throughout the Divine Liturgy in the wee hours of the morning; all the way to the gleeful “I’m not a bit sleepy!” while trying to win at the egg-cracking game and then eating all those things we haven’t eaten in weeks. The story itself is a gentle walk through what happens at the Paschal Divine Liturgy, accentuated with the pure delight that children regularly experience and share. The way the story is written fills me with anticipation for the Pascha celebration that lies ahead! Reading the book gave me excited goosebumps.

The brightly colored illustrations of this book are filled with details. There are so many things to look at and look for on each page! The main illustration in the center of the page depicts what is happening in the story: it shows Catherine and her family and/or what is going on in their church at that part of the Paschal service. (An aside: I noticed that the icons are the most realistic parts of each illustration, subtly reminding us that the saints are the most ‘real’ people celebrating Pascha because of their surrender to/reflection of/proximity to Christ.) Surrounding each picture is a border with words that allow the reader to “hear” what is going on in Catherine’s world at that moment: from snatches of the service to Paschal exclamations in a variety of languages to people’s conversations at the Paschal feast after the Divine Liturgy. All around that border which represents Catherine’s immediate world are illustrations of churches around the world, shown as they appear at that same hour of Pascha night. Each church is portrayed in its location, some of them have people arriving, or processing, or leaving, along with Catherine’s family, just as they do at that hour of the Paschal night. Even the sky changes to reflect the location and/or time of night. The attention to detail in these illustrations is impeccable, and leaves me wanting to re-read the book just so that I can look for more details.

The reality of the Holy Orthodox Church being One Church all over the world throughout history is clearly represented in the illustrations. Catherine’s own parish is a multicultural one. Even her best friend is a different race than she is. So, the main story’s illustrations depict a unified Church. And then there are the borders: the outer border of each page while Catherine’s in church features an illustration of a church somewhere in the world. It tells the name of the church and the year that that church building was established. This is where the tears happened for me. I turned one page and unexpectedly found the Church at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Lake Amatitlán, Guatemala, founded in 2007. My parents were Protestant missionaries in Guatemala, so I spent my entire childhood there and consider it my home. The recent conversions of many Guatemalans to Orthodoxy has been a great delight to my own convert soul. Seeing an Orthodox church from my home country represented in a book alongside Hagia Sophia, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Saint Catherine’s Monastery, to name a few, brought tears of immense joy. Truly God is at work through His Church, around the world. And what joy, to celebrate Pascha alongside our brothers and sisters, whatever our cultural background!

The joy of Pascha is evident throughout this book. As well it should be: we are, after all, celebrating both the greatest sacrifice and the most resounding victory ever! We are celebrating our Lord’s defeat of death and His glorious resurrection! The joy that Catherine and her family and friends feel is the joy that we all feel at Pascha. The story and illustrations work well to portray that joy, and leave the reader longing for Pascha, as well.

Ah, yes: this book made me cry. And I cried hard. But the last page made me laugh. Read it yourself to find out why!

You can purchase Catherine’s Pascha at http://www.catherinespascha.com/store/.

Here are some links that can enhance your reading of this book:

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“Picture book illustrations should be more than simple representations of the actions of the story, and far more than decorations on the pages. In stories like Catherine’s Pascha, the illustrations can be windows into whole new worlds.” Read more about the illustrations in Catherine’s Pascha at http://www.catherinespascha.com/book/picture-book-illustrations/.

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See the list of Orthodox churches illustrated in the book Catherine’s Pascha at http://www.catherinespascha.com/book/orthodox-churches-around-world/. Click on the name of the continent to learn more about each church.

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Why do Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha at night? Why not have a sunrise service like many other Christian churches do? Read the answer here: http://www.catherinespascha.com/pascha/paschal-liturgy/

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Practice Paschal greetings in many languages with your children so that they can reply to the priest during the Paschal service, just as Catherine does in the book Catherine’s Pascha: http://www.catherinespascha.com/pascha/paschal-greetings/

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Find book activities, crafts, and lessons to go along with the book Catherine’s Pascha at http://www.catherinespascha.com/book-activities/.

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Find some helpful parenting tips for Pascha here: http://www.catherinespascha.com/pascha/parenting-tips/

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Discover ideas for Pascha baskets, including ideas for Pascha basket covers and recipes for some of the foods illustrated in Catherine’s Pascha at the book’s main website: http://www.catherinespascha.com/.

 

Gleanings from a Book: Help! I’m Bored in Church by Fr. David Smith

A note from the blogger: During the time that I was preparing the recent series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy, I was also reading the book Help! I’m Bored in Church, by Fr. David Smith. It was timely to be reading it while I researched and wrote those blogs. I found it so helpful that I decided to share a few of my gleanings from the book with you. So here is a “bonus” blog on the Divine Liturgy, in case you ever feel bored in church.

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The title of Fr. David Smith’s book Help! I’m Bored in Church caught my attention from the moment I saw it. I mean, who HASN’T felt bored in church? Maybe a few people haven’t, but in this entertainment-overload society, I for one have “felt” (or, perhaps, “chosen to feel”) bored in church, and I am certain that I am not alone. The title caught me, and the tagline Entering Fully into Worship in the Divine Liturgy only enhanced my desire to read this book. So I began, and here is what I found: honesty, truth, and logical steps towards being more involved in the Divine Liturgy, served up with a delightful touch of humor. (And Fr. David says things so well that I will use many of his quotes, straight up: rewording would be inadequate.)

“My original title for this book was Church is Boring. You might react to that title by saying, ‘Of course it’s boring. Finally you’re admitting it.’ If even priests admit that church is boring, then that settles it. We can all stay home and sleep in on Sundays.

“Or perhaps you think it’s irreverent to say, ‘Church is boring.’ You’re thinking, ‘It’s not right for you to speak about the Divine Liturgy like that. If the priest says church is boring, he shouldn’t be a priest.’ You don’t find church boring, and your only complaint is that it’s not longer.

“Or it’s more likely that you’re in the middle. Church seems boring at times, yes. But there’s something good about church as well, and so saying ‘church is boring’ makes you a little uncomfortable…” (p. 5)

Fr. David goes on to explain that the fact that we are sometimes bored in church actually says something about US, not about the Church. He encourages his readers to change. “You can’t make the Divine Liturgy any shorter, but you can accomplish something within yourself that makes the time you spend in the Liturgy an experience of spiritual delight. Useful. Necessary. Something you look forward to.” (p. 6)

“Look at it this way: If you feel cold, you put on a coat… What do you do if you feel bored? I’ll tell you, you need to do something. It’s a sad and pathetic person who is cold and says, ‘I’m cold but I don’t care enough about myself to put on a coat. I’ll just suffer and be unhappy.’ Would you do that? Certainly not! Well, don’t do it when you’re bored in church either. This is your challenge: Discover the coat you need to put on, and then—put it on! I’ll give you the answer which has worked for me: The coat consists of prayer and watchfulness…” (p. 9)

The book goes on to explore “six reasons people sometimes feel bored in church, five ways to think about your priest, four ways you can participate more fully in services, three kinds of waiting, two kinds of prayer, and the one thing truly needful in our relationship with God…” (from the back cover) Fr. David walks the reader through each part of the book quoting from scripture, the lives of the saints, and personal experience.

We have talked in recent blog posts about the Divine Liturgy being “the work of the people,” or “the offering of the people for the whole world.” Fr. David suggests that actually DOING that work or offering will keep us from experiencing boredom in church. Being fully present during the Divine Liturgy, adding our voices to the singing, praying for those we know (and those we don’t), etc., are all things we should be doing as our portion of that offering. And they will help us maintain control over our wandering, “I’m bored,” mindset. But what is the most important thing for us to do in the Divine Liturgy? “What is your work? If you’re standing in church during the Divine Liturgy, you really only have one task: to worship God. I find the words of our Lord to be very comforting because they’re so clear. But they also make me see that watchfulness… is not an option, it’s a necessity: ‘What I say to you I say to all: Watch!’” (pp. 107-108)

However, that one task of worshipping God fully is not necessarily an easy one. Fr. David asks, “Where is your mind when your body’s in church?” (p. 110) He goes on to explain that the one thing that we need most of all in our relationship with God, so that we can best worship Him, is silence. Our minds don’t like it, especially in this age of continuous information and entertainment, but we need it desperately. “Silence frees us from the weight of the world, but our minds like the weight of the world. Our minds get frightened and bored easily.

“The first time I put my dog in a car, when he was a puppy, he was so nervous he threw up. I told him we were in the car in order to go to the best dog-walking place in the entire universe, but he couldn’t hear me. He tried to keep his eyes away from the windows so he would not see the world flying by faster than he could imagine. He was shivering all over as if he were freezing, even though it was a hot day.

“Today, he launches into a frenzy of barking and spinning in little circles when he hears the word car. He loves the car. It takes him places he wants to go (usually). So it is with silence. When you first try it, your mind starts pacing like a coke addict on his first day in rehab. It yells, I don’t like this! a hundred times. It rapidly starts suggesting other things you could be doing. But when you embrace silence and learn to use it as a tool that (spiritually) takes you places you want to go, you start looking forward to it and long for it when you’re not getting enough.” (pp. 120-121)

Fr. David finishes with, “Is church sometimes boring? And could it be that I’m actually offering silence as a solution? Yes to both. You and I are both citizens in a world that is under the control of the enemy. He knows your weakest point is your mind, and he will do whatever he can to win you to his side. His only weapon, since our Lord took suffering and death away from him, is distraction. Noise and toys. Can he really swing something shiny in front of your face and get you to forget the love and mercy of God? I don’t know about you, but I’ll admit that, yes, it works on me more often than I would like to admit.
“What we’ve done here is to try to stop this from happening. This effort is the very foundation of the Christian life. But listen. We cannot live in the foundation of a house; we have to build on that foundation. Keep growing, keep moving upward…” (p. 130)

One way to begin is to read (and occasionally re-read) this book.

 

About the book: Help! I’m Bored in Church by Fr. David Smith can be found here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/help-im-bored-in-church/.

About the author: Fr. David Smith is the priest at St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church in Syracuse, NY. He is married to Presbytera Donna, and they have four children. He has also written “Mary, Worthy of all Praise” (Conciliar Press; 2003), and “Christianity and Pleasure” (Regina Orthodox Press; 2008). For additional spiritual challenge and input, you can listen to Fr. David Smith’s sermons online at http://stsophias.org/sermons.html, or watch/listen to others on his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS-09S_AEqBHebx1vDXM8RA.

One of his YouTube videos is about this book! See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJWHH0QzmbA.

A related note: Although this is geared to teens/young adults and is not by Fr. David, family members of all ages can benefit from watching this Be the Bee vlog about church being “boring.” (Perhaps it can be a discussion starter to share what you’re learning with your kids as you read this book?) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL0BYNUM9pw#t=237

 

Here are additional quotes from the book:

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“This is how I want you to think about your relationship to God—like a marriage. A perfect marriage—except that you commit adultery nearly every day. But here’s the good news: God will always welcome you back. He will always run out to the car to hug you and walk with you back into your home. But you have to go home… Picture [the front door of your church] in your mind. I never want you to walk through that door again without saying something to God about how you have cheated on Him since last time you were there. The door of your church, from now on, is the gateway of repentance for you. Only in this way will you understand why you’re there in that building.” (pp. 24-25)

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“When your time in church is spent in repentance and communion with God, your heart will be overflowing with joy when you walk out.” (p. 47)

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“Here’s why you should go to church: because you get way more than you bargained for. The Church is the point in the universe where God is most present, and let me give you this advice: I think you’d be the most happy you’ll ever be when  you’re consistently in that place. What you see is not what you get—you get way more than you can see. Look around at the icons, and embrace that hope that tells you those saints are with you right at that moment, and praying for you.” (p. 51)

***

“Look around you while you’re in church, not to judge those who are also there, but to help your mind understand that the church is a holy pace. Your mind might occasionally whine like an annoying child that it wants to go to a different party. Tell it to be quiet. Look around you. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” (p. 53)

***

“The most spectacular miracle in human history takes place every Sunday in your church—the miracle of the bread becoming the Body and the wine becoming the Blood of God. Every word of the Divine Liturgy prepares for that miracle, celebrates it, points to it, makes it possible, and describes it. It’s a beautiful and awesome thing. If you don’t know what’s going on, you’re missing something you definitely shouldn’t be missing.

“Find a liturgy book and follow along. Get to know the parts of the Divine Liturgy, what each means and how each part contributes to the whole…” (p. 70)

***

“The fact is that distracting yourself so you don’t get  bored will never provide a long-term substitute for the genuine, heartfelt, all-consuming worship of God. To achieve this, you need to bring your mind under control. Or, at least, more under control. Think of it as a continuum: on one end you have twenty thoughts galloping around your head like a herd of puppies, and on the other end you have a mind as focused and attentive as an experienced seeing-eye dog. Try to move yourself a little more toward having some control over your thoughts. Perhaps you’re not going to achieve guide-dog concentration at first, but you might be able to teach a puppy or two to stop pooping in the house.” (pp. 95-96)

***

“When someone says, ‘Church is boring,’ he’s really saying, ‘When I come to church, I drag my problems along with me, like a dog trying to drag a dead deer around the yard.’ Why do that? Why not drop the problems off at the door and spend a few minutes each week living free of their weight?

“Of course, most of us keep (mentally) going back outside during the Divine Liturgy to rearrange, or reconsider, or just stare at our problems. But remember St. Seraphim’s advice: When your mind wanders, you should humble yourself and call out to God, ‘I have sinned, O Lord, in word, deed, thought and with all my senses.’ Repent that you allowed your mind to wander, and bring it back into the church.” (pp. 110-111)

***

(When praying the Anaphora Prayers:) “But listen. Does God need to be reminded that He is inexpressible? Or eternally the same? Obviously not. God does not need to be reminded of anything—we do! While you are praying any of the words of the Liturgy—and always remember, the words of the Liturgy are indeed prayers— allow them to teach you about the faith. Allow them to fill you with the One we pray to and teach you why we pray. Allow them to teach you what we believe.” (p. 116)

 

On the Divine Liturgy: After Communion, the Dismissal

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.

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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)

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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)

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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.”

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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…

Endnotes:

  1. 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/.)
  2. Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #23. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
  3. Tarasar, Constance and Matusiak, V. Rev. Fr. John, Together With God, Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 1973, Lesson 19.
  4. Divine Liturgy set, Teaching Pics cards, #24. (Available here: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics)
  5. 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. )
  6. 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. )
  7. 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:

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“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/

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“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/

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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.

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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

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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

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“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

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.