The Feast of the Annunciation is a very important feast of the Faith. Did you ever stop and think about why that is true? Why is the Annunciation one of the twelve great feasts of the Church? Let us take a moment to think about what happened at the Annunciation, so that we can be better prepared to teach our students about this great feast.
When we stop and think about it, we can see that each part of this event is notable of its own accord, and together, all are essential for our salvation. It began when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son.The fact that this angel appeared shows that the event was significant, for he is sent whenever God has an important message to convey. God’s selection of Mary to become the Theotokos is a critical part of the event, since she was a holy young lady who had consecrated her life to God’s service. Her agreement, “Let it be to me as you say,” is a vitally important piece as well, because it simultaneously demonstrates Mary’s humility before God and her willingness to obey. Also noteworthy is the fact that this event marks the moment in history when a person became the first Christian, for after the Annunciation, the Theotokos truly had Christ living within her. But the most significant aspect of the Annunciation is in what it announces; what came about as a result of both the announcement and the ensuing humble submission to God’s will. And that is this; at the Annunciation, God Himself became human. This mystery is both mind-boggling and crucial. Christ’s taking on flesh and dwelling among us was necessary so that He could die, break the power of death over us, and rise again, raising us to life as well. What humility! What love!
After giving it a little thought, we can see that the Feast of the Annunciation is truly a big deal for so many reasons! Even the other feasts of the church year would not exist without it! In addition, March 25 falls exactly nine months before Christmas, and is therefore is the date of the Annunciation. How wonderfully not-so-coincidental it is that the date of this Feast falls right in the midst of Great Lent each year, for it reminds us of Christ’s humility and the Theotokos’ obedience. Both humility and obedience are things that we are working on in our own lives, especially during Great Lent! The Annunciation reminds us of what God can do when both are exercised perfectly. Let us teach our Sunday Church School students about this great feast, so that they can celebrate it with joy!
“Today is the beginning of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery from the ages;
for the Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaimeth grace.
Wherefore, do we shout with him to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O full of grace! The Lord is with thee.” ~ Apolytikion of the Annunciation
Blessed Feast of the Annunciation!
Here are a few ideas of ways to help your Sunday Church School students learn about the Annunciation:
Read Luke 1:26-39 together. Encourage your students to act out the story of the Annunciation. After they act it out, encourage them to think about the story. Help them to think about how the Theotokos must have felt when she was working and suddenly there was an angel there with her. How might she have felt about what He had to say to her? How did she respond, even though she must have been feeling all of those things? What can we learn from her and her response?
The OCA’s Department of Christian Education offers a complete, leveled series of lessons on the Theotokos at http://dce.oca.org/focus/theotokos. Lesson 3 focuses on the Annunciation, and can help parents and teachers of all ages find ways to help children learn about the Feast of the Annunciation.
Find ideas for hosting a retreat that helps children learn about the Annunciation here: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/AnnunciationRetreat-Project.pdf
Here is a lesson plan on the Annunciation intended for use with older children (13+): http://www.orthodoxcatechismproject.org/the-great-feasts/-/asset_publisher/IXn2ObwXr9vq/content/the-twelve-great-feasts-2-the-annunciation?inheritRedirect=false
Invite older students to delve into St. Gregory the Wonderworker’s homily on the Annunciation. An English translation of the homily is found here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/22550. Divide the class and the homily into sections and have each group focus on one section for a few minutes. Ask each student to find their favorite part of their group’s section and be prepared to explain why it stands out to them. Then, slowly read over the homily together, discussing the parts that “stood out” along the way. Invite insights and/or connections that the students make along the way.
Here are a variety of things to do with children to help them celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation: http://myocn.net/teaching-annunciation/