This post is part of a series about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church. In this post, we will look at the Orthodox Christian Sacrament of the eucharist.
Of the many sacraments of the Church, the Holy Eucharist is central. “Everything in the Church leads to the eucharist, and all things flow from it. It is the completion of all the Church’s sacraments—the source and the goal of all of the Church’s doctrines and institutions.” (1) If one takes a moment to think about the sacraments of the church, it is evident that this is true! Baptism, chrismation, and confession make us eligible and prepared to receive the eucharist. Ordination provides the blessed hands (and heart) to prepare and serve it. Marriage and unction flow from the abundant grace of the eucharist, and both of these sacraments can/should go on to become healing elements for members of the Church and society in general. So all of the mysteries of the Church have the eucharist at their heart.
But what does the word mean? And how did this sacrament begin? The Orthodox Study Bible’s definition of eucharist explains that the word is “taken from a Greek word [Ευχαριστία] meaning ‘thanksgiving.’”(2, p. 1779) It goes on to remind the reader that during the Last Supper, our Lord gave thanks, then it reminds us that “embodied in the communion service is our own thanksgiving.” (ibid)
How beautiful it is that this thanksgiving that we find in our communion service was actually begun by our Lord Himself when He gave thanks in the midst of the Last Supper (which was a celebration of the Jewish Passover meal). When Christ told His disciples to eat and drink the bread and wine as His Body and Blood, that action “became the center of the Christian life, the experience of the presence of the Risen Christ in the midst of His people.” (1) They did just that, and we continue to do it today. The eucharist has been practiced in the Holy Orthodox Church since the first century, according to the Didache!
The sacrament of eucharist is available to all members of the Orthodox Church, and is “strictly understood as being the real presence of Christ, His true Body and Blood mystically present in the bread and wine which are offered to the Father in His name and consecrated by the divine Spirit of God.” (1) Because of this, we take the eucharist very seriously, preparing our hearts and our bodies with prayer, confession, and fasting before communing, and reserving the act of communion for Orthodox Christians in good standing with the Church.
Glory to God for His gift of the sacrament of the eucharist! May He make us worthy to partake of it, and as we do, may He cleanse and purify us that we may become ever more like Him!
- Hopko, Fr. Thomas (2011, October 5). The Sacraments: Holy Eucharist. Retrieved from https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/holy-eucharist .
- Various editors. (2008). The Orthodox Study Bible. USA: St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. (available here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover )
Below, you will find ideas and lessons to help your students study the sacrament of the eucharist!
What resources have you found helpful? Comment below and share them with the community!
Teachers for students of all ages may find it helpful to read this “Raising Saints” blog post before teaching a lesson on the Eucharist: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/the-body-blood-and-what-kids-believe/
One of the Teaching Pics ( http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics) offers a picture and explanation that may be helpful as you teach a lesson about the Eucharist to any age group. Picture S11 is the one featuring Holy Communion, and the text explains the Eucharist in a way that even young children can understand. Find the teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf
Teachers of young students may want to pass along these activities for students and their families to do at home in order to continue learning about the Eucharist and Divine Liturgy: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/eucharistliturgy
Teachers of young students may find these printables (and a brief lesson plan) helpful in teaching a lesson on the Eucharist: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/006-EN-ed04_Holy-Communion.pdf
This site offers a young-child-leveled lesson plan on preparing the gifts, and how they play into the sacrament of the Eucharist: https://orthodoxpebbles.com/orthodox-basics/preparing-the-gifts/
The sacrament of the Eucharist is received in the context of the Divine Liturgy. Find lesson plans on the Liturgy (and the Eucharist) at every level, here:
This lesson on the Eucharist features a free printable zine! http://manymercies.blogspot.com/2015/06/teaching-eucharist-to-children.html?m=1
The Orthodox Christian Education Commission’s 5th grade text, “Our Life in the Church,” contains an entire unit dedicated to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Lessons 12-23 walk students through the Divine Liturgy. Lessons 18 and 21-23 are the most focused on the Eucharist. This text and teacher text can be found here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/1413/4503/0063/OCOC-Catalog.pdf
Teachers of older students will want to read pp. 74-86 of this book (https://www.orthodoxmarketplace.com/esss/product/the-orthodox-church-455-questions-and-answers) in order to be prepared for a class discussion on the Eucharist. Select a few of the questions to ask to your students during the discussion, then refer the students back to the book or other sources to find the answers.
Help each student create his or her own pocket prayer book with prayers for them to read before and after communion. You could type out and copy the prayers before class, and let them select and glue the ones they wish to use into a small handmade notebook, or let them hand copy the prayers they select. Find the prayers here: http://www.gometropolis.org/orthodox-faith/church-and-sacraments/holy-eucharist/prayers-before-and-after-communion/