Category Archives: Trinity

On the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (August 6 or 19)

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ (commemorated on August 6 or 19) is an important one for Orthodox Christians to celebrate! After all, the Transfiguration was a revelation of the Holy Trinity (God the Father spoke, Christ was there, of course, and the Holy Spirit was revealed in the form of a cloud). Also, at the Transfiguration, Christ’s radiance was physically seen by the disciples so that they could better realize His Divinity. In addition, Moses and Elijah were present, showing the disciples that in Christ the law and the prophecies are fulfilled. And so it was that on Mt. Tabor, God allowed the disciples to have their own “mountaintop” experience, just as Moses (Mt. Sinai) and Elijah (Mt. Horeb) had during their life on earth.

Since this Feast is important, we need to learn about it ourselves, help our children know about it, and together celebrate the Feast! Transfiguration is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp, but especially so for children. How can we help our children learn what it was like for the disciples to see Our Lord’s Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor? Our Lord did not slip into a hidden wardrobe and change out of His ordinary clothes into shiny robes, nor did He simply step into a giant spotlight shining down from the sky. Rather, the disciples were simply permitted to physically see some of His Divine Glory shining through. (But not all of it: just “inasmuch as they were able,” according to the troparion of the day). So, how can we begin to explain or show the Transfiguration to our children?

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One way to illustrate this concept would be to decorate three little plastic tubes to represent Christ, Moses, and Elijah. We used permanent marker to turn two (upside down) spray hand sanitizer tubes to create “Moses” (holding a walking stick and tablets with the Ten Commandments) and “Elijah” (hands folded in prayer, over a burning fire). Then we took a new (blue) glow stick (also upside down) and added a smiley face for “Christ.” The story can be reenacted with these “characters,” using a throw pillow “Mt. Tabor.”

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“Christ” can climb to the top of the mountain to pray.

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While the disciples (all the people gathered to hear the story) watch, “Moses” and “Elijah” can appear, sparking a discussion that includes why they are holding what they are holding, and why they were even part of this event in the first place, as answered in the paragraph above.

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At the moment of Christ’s Transfiguration, break the glass vial inside the glowstick, allowing the blue to emanate from it. Be sure to explain that, just as the glowstick could have been glowing at any moment (all of the right ingredients were there, but protected from mixing and glowing), Christ is always Divine. However, His disciples could not always see Him illumined, because God was protecting them from something that they would not have understood. It might have even scared them if He was always radiant! (At some point, you may also want to explain that God did not have to “do something” to Christ to make Him radiate; as we have to do something to the glowstick to make it glow. Unfortunately, as always, the analogy falls short of the truth.) However, on Mt. Tabor, God allowed the disciples to see some of His radiance, to help them know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He is God (and also to help them understand that His forthcoming crucifixion was voluntary, according to the kontakion of the day).

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As the shining glowstick “Christ” sits atop Mt. Tabor, talk together about what it must have been like for the disciples to have experienced this reality, and why it is so important to our Orthodox Faith that we celebrate the Transfiguration as one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church.

“When, O Christ our God, Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, Thou didst reveal Thy glory to Thy Disciples in proportion as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light also enlighten us sinners, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O God Thou Bestower of light, glory to Thee!”

Here are some links that can help you and your children learn more about the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, as well as ideas to help you celebrate the feast together:

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Continue to learn together about the Feast of the Transfiguration in the book http://store.ancientfaith.com/heaven-meets-earth

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Read more about the Feast of the Transfiguration, including the hymns for the feast as well as an explanation of the icon here: http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/transfiguration/index_html

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Print this folding stand-up centerpiece about the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ for your dining room table or icon corner: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/44cc08f7375825e0a722417e140a9cce.pdf

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Find a fun family activity that will help all of you learn more about the Transfiguration of Christ here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2008/08/transfiguration-journey.html

 

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Homeschooling families who want to base their school day around the theme of the Feast of the Transfiguration will want to check out this family’s ideas: https://threesidedwheel.wordpress.com/tag/feast-of-the-transfiguration-of-jesus-craft/

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“Saint Seraphim of Sarov’s life teaches us how we are to nourish our experience of the Transfiguration of Christ. The New Testament, the Psalms, the teaching of Saint Isaac the Syrian, the Jesus Prayer, prayer to the Mother of God, Paschal joy, hiding away from the limelight, compassion and absence of harshness: these were the characteristics of Saint Seraphim’s life. We can acquire some of them. Let us start by seeing what we can do with the New Testament, with the Jesus Prayer, and with the Mother of God…” Read more about the Transfiguration and how we can allow God to transform our lives, in the same way that St. Seraphim of Sarov did: http://www.pravmir.com/can-nourish-experience-transfiguration-christ/

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Find suggestions of ways to discuss the transfiguration here: http://myocn.net/transfiguration-its-all-about-change/

 

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The Creed: Who Spake by the Prophets

The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament as they reflected upon the condition of God’s people to whom they spoke. The prophets, the disciples, and we, as well, develop wisdom by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is more than knowledge or intelligence. It is developed by reflecting upon what we have learned and upon life itself.

“In the Old Testament it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets to speak about God… This same Spirit who spoke through the prophets of old speaks to us today through the Holy Bible and the Church to guide us to know the will of God for our lives… The Holy Spirit ‘who spoke through the prophets’ comes to dwell in us today to make us also prophets. The true meaning of ‘prophet’ is one who speaks in behalf of God.”  (Coniaris, “The Nicene Creed for Young People,” p. 66-67)

“Prayer, fasting, vigils, and all other Christian acts, however good they may be in themselves, certainly do not constitute the aim of our Christian life: they are but the indispensable means of attaining that aim. For the true aim of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.” – St. Seraphim of Sarov

Try this: Talk together about the Holy Spirit and the times in which He appears in the Holy Scriptures. A few Old Testament examples include the Genesis 18:1-15 account of the Trinity’s visit to Abraham; Isaiah 61:1 and Ezekiel 11:5, where He spoke to two of the prophets; and Genesis 41:38, Numbers 27:18, and Daniel 4:8, 5:11-14, and 6:3, where He was “in” Joseph, Joshua, and Daniel. New Testament examples include His appearance at the Annunciation, at the Baptism of Christ, at the Transfiguration, and of course, at Pentecost. Of course there are many, many more examples in both Testaments.

  1. Over the next few months, as you read the Scriptures together, keep a list of His appearances, adding to the list as you find more.
  2. Or divide into two teams and search the scriptures to find as many other references to the Holy Spirit as possible, seeing who collects the most!
  3. Or print this card-matching game (whose purpose is matching icons/symbols related to the Holy Spirit to phrases about Him), prepare the cards, and then play a game with them: http://www.orthodoxcamps.org/assets/files/christianed/holy%20spirit%20icon%20game.pdf.

The Creed: Who Proceedeth From the Father, Who With the Father and the Son Together is Worshipped and Glorified

God the Holy Spirit, like God the Son, existed from all eternity with the Father. In fact, all three always work together. Consider the Creation of the world, as described in Genesis 1:1-3 and in John 1: 1-3, where St. John refers to the Son as “the Word.” God (the Father) fills the Creation; He creates through His Word, the Son; and the Holy Spirit enlivens and sustains creation.

Not one of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity was created; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have existed together from eternity. We glorify the Trinity each time we make the sign of the cross by praising, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…” We sing that the Trinity is “one in essence, and undivided.” It is a mystery that one God can be three Persons, and that three Persons can remain as one God.

“Originally, the Holy Fathers… stated that the Holy Spirit ‘proceeds from the Father.’ Later the Western Church arbitrarily inserted the words ‘and from the Son,’ [also called the filioque clause] meaning that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son… The Orthodox Church has preserved the Nicene Creed in its original form… for the following reasons: First, the Ecumenical Councils forbade any changes to be introduced into the Creed except by another Ecumenical Council. the Creed belongs to the whole Church and one small part of the church has no right to change it. Secondly, the Orthodox believe the filioque to be theologically untrue… Orthodoxy has always taught what the Bible teaches: Christ sends the Spirit but the Spirit proceeds from the Father. This preserves the unity in the Godhead…” (Coniaris, “The Nicene Creed for Young People,” p. 63)

Try this: Look at the Trinity icon (or “The Hospitality of Abraham”). This icon represents the Trinity in the form of the three angels who visited Abraham and Sarah. Read the account in Genesis 18: 1-15. Talk about the icon as you observe it. Point out the following: the Trinity sits side by side as equals around one table, united peacefully in their purpose, since they are of one mind and one will. They form a circle and allow us to see inside this circle. This teaches that we are invited to participate, by grace, in the life of the Trinity. God created human beings to live in union with Him forever.

The Creed: The Giver of Life

The Holy Spirit inspired the first disciples to preach fearlessly, even unto death, the good news of Jesus Christ. The holy Spirit inspires us as we struggle to live as our Savior commanded. Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) It is through the Holy Spirit that we abide, or stay with Jesus. The Holy Spirit abides in us and is the lifeline for our journey.

In the first words of the Old Testament, we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1,2) The Spirit was (and continues to be) the “breath” of God that gave Adam life. The Spirit is the “breath of life” for all that lives, and especially for man, who has been made in the image and likeness of God. for this reason we often refer to the Holy Spirit as the “Giver of Life.”

“God the Father created the world through the Son (Word) in the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is present in all that exists, making it to exist by the power of the Spirit. Thus, according to Orthodox doctrine, the universe itself is a revelation of God in the Word and the Spirit. The Word is in all that exists, causing it to be, and the Spirit is in all that exists as the power of its being and life.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 143)

Try this:

Help your children think about the Holy Spirit by using familiar objects (an egg, water in its various forms, and the wind) for examples, as suggested in activity #1 at http://ministry-to-children.com/holy-spirit-mystery-lesson/. Then lead your children into the scriptures to find answers to questions about the Holy Spirit as suggested in this puzzle-piece matching and scripture-reading activity (activity #2) at http://ministry-to-children.com/finding-him-holy-spirit-lesson/.

The Creed: And I Believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord

This part of the Creed was added in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. Even though the Church had been baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for centuries, the statement was necessary to counter the false teaching that the Holy Spirit was not God.

The Holy Spirit is an important Person of the Trinity, Who helps us live our faith every day. Our faith journey can be challenging. We face many temptations, and it would be impossible to successfully make this journey alone. Jesus, at His ascension, promised help to His disciples: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples was the fulfillment of this promise, and also marked the earthly beginning of the Church. We celebrate this beginning (and the descent of the Holy Spirit) every year at the Feast of Pentecost.

Without the Holy Spirit, where would we be? The Holy Spirit within us is our connection to God. He enables us to live courageously. The Holy Spirit inspires us to love and forgive. The Holy Spirit also makes the mysteries possible and unites us to one another during the Eucharist. United as a eucharistic community, we exist within the Kingdom – the Church – while on earth. The Holy Spirit guides the Church.

“In the Bible the term ‘God…’ is used primarily as a name for the Father. Thus, the Son is the ‘Son of God,’ and the Spirit is the ‘Spirit of God.’ The Son is born from the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father — both in the same timeless and eternal action of the Father’s own being. In this view, the Son and the Spirit are both one with God and in no way separated from Him. Thus, the divine Unity consists of the Father, with His Son and His Spirit distinct from Himself and yet perfectly united together in Him.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 139)

Salvation is the work of the Trinity: the Father created us with a desire for union with Him. When union was lost, Christ opened the path of salvation and reunion. It is the Holy Spirit Who enables us to walk the path.

Try this:

Discuss these common phrases: “school spirit” and “spirit of liberty.” Ask what each phrase means. Then, look at the word “inspiration,” which comes from the root word “spirit.” Talk about “spirit” – is it real? How so? Talk about the word “inspiration” itself: It is a part of our life that we cannot see, but we know is real. Ask, “What does it mean to be inspired? Who inspires you?” Talk together about possible comparisons that could complete this statement: “Spirit is to inspiration as ________ is to __________!”

As Orthodox Christians, we are inspired by a Person. This Person’s role is exactly that – to inspire! The Person is the Holy Spirit, Who has been inspiring people for as long as there have been people living on earth! Talk together about how He inspires you and how to be more aware of His presence in your life.

Find a myriad of inspiring stories and quotes at http://inspiremykids.com/.

The Creed: And Was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and Became Man

From early times in the Church, there have always been people who questioned Our Lord’s humanity. Which words of the Creed begin the passage that tells us that Jesus is truly Man? What does the word incarnation actually mean?

That Christ became human is essential to our salvation. The words of the Creed tell us that Christ was not only completely God, but also completely man because He took flesh from the Virgin Mary. That is what incarnation means: “to take on flesh.” In the Creed, the Church Fathers wrote, “…and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man…” to attest to the true humanity of Jesus. Jesus, however, was not a mere mortal; He was, and is, the man whom the Son of God has become.

As Jesus was both God and Man, He achieved reunion with God for us in His very Being. He continued the act of salvation by His life, death, and Resurrection. In the early centuries, whether Jesus truly suffered and died was a matter of dispute. Hence the need to state in the Creed that indeed, as truly Man, He suffered and died, as anyone would, on the cross.

While it may seem odd to place the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Crucifixion so close together (as they are in the Creed), they teach a lesson beyond that of Jesus’ true humanity. Namely they all show the “pouring out” or kenosis of Our Lord. Jesus poured out His being first into flesh, when He became Man, and then on the cross. As He did, so we are to do – we are to “pour out,” or sacrifice, ourselves for others.

Try this: Together as a family, discuss Christ’s humanity vs. His divinity as shown in scriptures. Divide into teams and have each person try to win a point for their team by identifying a scripture as demonstrating His humanity or His divinity as suggested in this activity: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/Jesus-Humanity-Divinity-Preteens.pdf

Families with teens can watch this explanation of the Incarnation and discuss it together: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YIKXJxcDU0

Find age-leveled ideas for discussing the incarnation with your children here: http://www.thrivingfamily.com/Family/Faith/2009/god-with-us.aspx

Want to learn more about the incarnation? Download St. Athanasius’ book “On the Incarnation” and study it! http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/incarnation

The Creed: One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God

What is the first thing that the Creed states about Our Lord Jesus Christ? Why is it important that Christ is the Son of God? What does that mean for all of humanity?

Adam, who was made in God’s image and likeness, walked with God in the evenings right after the world was created. “Walking with God” is a metaphor that describes the union that first existed between God and man. Humanity was created for that kind of union with God. Unfortunately, very soon that union was broken. Adam and Eve’s sin disrupted it. Since that time, God has worked to reunite mankind with Himself. Jesus Christ, the true God and true man, achieved that reunion.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect human being. He is all God intended for each of us to be. He is Love personified. He lived his life on earth without sin and in complete union with God. His life, death, and Resurrection achieved salvation for the world. Jesus was truly God and truly man.

“Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten, and power; and, becoming man according to His will, He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race” (Justin Martyr, “First Apology 23,” 150 AD).

Try this: use a cup of water and a bowl of (frozen water) ice cubes for an object lesson that helps children think about Christ, who is God, taking on human form. (See page 5-6 of http://www.powermarkcomics.com/comics/pdf/Lesson%207%20-%20Seeker%20Series%20Curriculum.pdf for a detailed description of how to do so, complete with discussion suggestions.)