Category Archives: Pentecost

On Pentecost and Missions

We often remember Pentecost as being the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit. We remember the tongues of fire and wonder what that experience would have been like. Perhaps we also limit the important events of that day to the room in which the Apostles were waiting as Christ had commanded them to do when he ascended into heaven. We may not think about the rest of that day, or what happened beyond the room.

Pentecost is considered to be the birthday of the Church. After all, it was on this day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. That, in itself, was an event worth celebrating, but it did not just happen for the Apostles’ edification. When He descended upon the Apostles, the Holy Spirit enabled them to fulfill Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. We don’t always ponder that connection when we celebrate Pentecost.

So, let’s take a moment to think together about what actually happened that day. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, He gave them the ability to speak in other languages. And they didn’t just sit there and marvel at what had happened. Instead, they immediately put that ability to use. They left their secluded room and went right out into the world around them where many people of different languages were gathered. The Apostles began to speak to these others, sharing with them the good news about Christ. Miraculously, because of the Holy Spirit, they could speak to these strangers in their very own languages! And what happened? Acts 2 tells us that more than 3,000 people became part of the Church on that day! That’s quite a birthday celebration!

The icon of Pentecost shows the Apostles in their room, with the tongues of fire over their heads, but it also speaks to the rest of the day’s events. If you look closely at the icon, you see an old crowned man at the bottom of the icon. He is called “Cosmos” and represents the people of the world. He’s crowned to show that people rule over the world itself, but he’s in the dark to remind us of the darkness that everyone is in without Christ. Cosmos is holding 12 scrolls, representing the 12 Apostles who left the safety and blessing of the Spirit-filled upper room to carry the good news of the Gospel to all corners of the world. So, right there in the festal icon, we see this link between Pentecost and missions.

So, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us not just focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yes, His descent upon the Apostles (and on us) is hugely important! We need Him just to breathe and live! But let’s also remember that Cosmos is still in the dark, whether “he” is down the hall, across the street, in another corner of our country, or another part of the world. Just like the Apostles, we must take this gift of the Holy Spirit, which we were given at baptism and Chrismation, and share the good news of the Gospel to every part of the world where we find ourselves. We don’t need to fear not being able to speak the right words: the Holy Spirit will provide (Luke 12:12), just as He did for the Apostles on Pentecost.

Let us celebrate the birthday of the Church with joy. But let us also continue to do our part to accomplish the purpose for Pentecost: that is, to fulfill Christ’s command of going into all the world and preaching the Gospel! May the holy Apostles intercede for us as we go.

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God,

who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise

by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit:

through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net.

O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee

(Troparion for the Feast of Pentecost).

Here are some lesson plans about Pentecost and Missions that may be helpful as you plan to teach your Sunday Church School students about the link between them:
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Here are lesson plans about missions at a variety of levels: https://oca.org/the-hub/study-guides/sharing-the-good-news-orthodox-christian-mission-educational-materials-in-c

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This lesson about Pentecost for younger children includes a beautiful icon of the feast, and an explanation that includes Cosmos (at the bottom of the icon). https://orthodoxpebbles.com/new-testament/holy-pentecost/

Find a printable line art version of the icon of Pentecost here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2015/06/pentecost-coloring-icon.html

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“To be a Christian is to be on a mission. And this mission isn’t just something that happened in the past. At this very moment there are missionaries traveling all over the world, preaching the Gospel… And we should remember that this missionary life doesn’t simply belong in faraway places. It belongs in our cities, our neighborhoods, in the everyday life of our parishes.” ~ Steve Christoforou, “Be the Bee” episode 73, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nkLcoeCEl0&feature=youtu.be

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Hear “Lord have mercy” in many of the languages of Orthodoxy in the video found here (which also shows images of Orthodox Christians around the world) http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2008/06/languages-of-orthodoxy.html

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This lesson plan about missions and ideas of ways to raise money to support it includes a story from Kenya: https://www.goarch.org/-/missions

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Here’s a missions-focused lesson plan for elementary/middle school: https://www.ocmc.org/images/PDFs/2018_lesson_plan(elementary%20middle%20school).pdf

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Here’s a missions-focused lesson plan for high school students: https://www.ocmc.org/images/PDFs/2017_lesson_plan(high%20school).pdf

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Here’s a missions-focused lesson plan for high school/adults: https://www.ocmc.org/images/PDFs/2018_lesson_plan(high%20school%20adult).pdf

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This series of lessons (available at all age levels) includes this: “As God’s children we are called to witness our faith.   We are called to understand who we are as Orthodox Christians, and to bear witness to God with our families and friends by being good neighbors, reaching out to help others, and standing up and protecting those who are being mistreated, or are victims of discrimination or prejudice.” Find the series (6 lessons at each level) here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/orthodox/

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These three Grade 6-leveled lessons on missions could be adapted for use with older and/or younger students: https://www.orthodoxcatechismproject.org/grade-6/-/asset_publisher/sVl6TXix4npP/content/missions

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Perhaps your entire parish would like to spend a retreat day focusing on missions/evangelism. Here’s what one parish did: http://dce.oca.org/mini/evangelism/

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Your students may wonder what is it like to begin a mission in another part of the world. Share this article about a new mission in Kenya, and encourage your class to remember these brothers and sisters of ours in your prayers: https://www.ocmc.org/resources/view_article.aspx?ArticleId=2411

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On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: Pentecost and the Time After Pentecost (part 7 of 7)

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book “The Year of Grace of the Lord: a Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church” by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!

Our final installment in this series on the liturgical year for teachers focuses on Pentecost and the time immediately following Pentecost. The time of Pentecost is a fitting “end” to the liturgical year, for Pentecost marked “both a culmination and a start. A new way was opening to the disciples, but they had prepared themselves for it.” (1, p. 213) The monk continues, “…we cannot enter into Pentecost without preparation. We need first to have assimilated the whole spiritual substance that the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost have offered us. Before that, we need to have experienced the risen Christ: the days of the Passion, too, need to have been lived through. In short, one must have matured.” (1, p. 213) So, in many ways, Pentecost is the logical ending to the spiritual work we have done throughout the liturgical year. And when we join together with the apostles and the Theotokos in prayer and expectation, the Holy Spirit is able to move in our lives just as He did at Pentecost. The author goes on to talk about how the theme of light in the liturgical year comes to its fulfillment at Pentecost: “this divine light first appears with the birth of Christ; it grows with Him; on Easter night it triumphs over the darkness; at Pentecost it reaches its full zenith… The riches and symbolism of the liturgical year are worth nothing if they do not help this ‘inner light’ to guide our life.” (1, p. 217)

Historically, pentecost was an Old Testament feast, celebrated 50 days after Passover, and it celebrated the 10 Commandments being given to the Israelites. At Pentecost, “…the pentecostal feast is fulfilled and made new by the coming of the ‘new law,’ the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples… This moment has traditionally been called the birthday of the Church.” (2, p. 113) The feast of Pentecost “is the celebration of what must happen and does happen to us in the church today. We have all died and risen with the Messiah-King, and we have all received his Most Holy Spirit. We are the ‘temples of the Holy Spirit.’ God’s Spirit dwells in us… We… have received ‘the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit’ in the sacrament of chrismation. Pentecost has happened to us.” (2, pp. 115-116)

And the Church year does not stop with Pentecost! A few more important feasts remain for us to note after Pentecost and before the beginning of the new Church year. Among them are the Feast of the Transfiguration, the feast celebrating the event which confirmed for His disciples the divinity of Christ. “Next to Jesus appear Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the law. Elijah the prophets. Jesus is the fulfilment of all law and of all prophecy. He is the final completion of the whole of the Old Covenant; He is the fulness of all divine revelation.” (1, p. 240)

The Feast of the Dormition also falls during this final portion of the Church year. The monk who wrote “The Year of the Grace of Our Lord” offers this thought about the importance of the placement of this feast, calling it a feast “not only of Mary, but of all human nature. For, in Mary, human nature reached its goal. One week after the start of the liturgical year, we celebrate the birth of the most Holy Virgin. Two weeks before the end of the liturgical year, we celebrate the death and glorification of Mary. Thus, associated with and subordinate to the cycle of Jesus’ life, the cycle of Mary’s life manifests the destiny and development of a human nature which is entirely faithful to God. It is the human race which is carried up and received into heaven with her… the perfect flowering of grace that we marvel at in mary on August 15th suggests what the line of development could be in a soul which applied itself to making the great gifts received during the liturgical year  — the gift of Christmas, the gift of Easter and the gift of Pentecost — bear their fruit.” (1, p. 244).

Of the liturgical year as a whole, the monk writes, “This cycle never repeats itself; each one of its aspects reflects the inexhaustible depth and fullness of Christ, and, as a result, becomes new for us to the extent that we understand it better. The liturgical year is a prism which receives the white light of Christ and splits it into different colours. Christ is the year.” (1, p. 246) As we live live each liturgical year that our Lord bestows upon us, may we continually grow to understand the liturgical cycle better. May we also help our Sunday Church School students to do the same.

Footnotes:

1. A monk of the Eastern Church. The Year of Grace of the Lord. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press; 2001.

2. Fr. Thomas Hopko. The Orthodox Faith volume ii: Worship. Syosset, NY: OCA, 1972. Fifth printing, 1997.

Here are some related links, including ideas for teaching students about Pentecost and the time after Pentecost:

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The book featured in this blog post offers a plethora of information about each of the feasts, and can help you to prepare to teach your students about Pentecost! https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/gleanings-from-a-book-heaven-meets-earth-celebrating-pascha-and-the-twelve-feasts-by-john-skinas/

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Find ideas for helping your students learn about Pentecost here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/teaching-children-about-the-feast-of-pentecost/

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This blog post about teaching children about Pentecost looks at light and its involvement in the feast: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/on-light-and-the-feast-of-pentecost/

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Share this book with younger students. http://www.stbarbaramonastery.org/product/TGF-PENT Listen to Dr. Chrissi Hart’s reading of the book at the beginning of this podcast: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/readings_from_under_the_grapevine_program_7

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Find a short lesson on Pentecost here: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/023-EN-ed02_Pentecost.pdf

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Find printable activities about Pentecost for use with students in the middle years here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/Pentecost-Activities.pdf

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Find out about the Serbian tradition of strewing grass on the floor of the church in the Pentecost portion of the article “How Orthodox People Celebrate the Feasts” in the Little Falcons Magazine “Feasts.” (back issue #31, available here: http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2016_Backissues.pdf)

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Begin a discussion about Pentecost with your students by looking at the icon of the feast. Perhaps you could also share with them one of these children’s homilies about the icon:
Fr. Noah Buschelli’s children’s homily on the icon of Pentecost can be found here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letthechildren/pentecost

Fr. Seraphim Holland’s homily includes enthusiastic answers from children: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/redeemingtime/childrens_sermon_on_pentecost

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Discuss with your older students the “kneeling prayers” before the service itself. Read slowly through the prayers, thoughtfully wondering about each part and allowing students to make connections as they are able. This post summarizes and offers some of the scriptures behind each prayer, and could be a helpful starting place: http://stgeorgegoc.org/pastors-corner/fr-ricks-sermons/why-kneel-before-god-purposemeaning-of-kneeling-prayers-of-pentecost (Find the text to the service here: https://www.goarch.org/-/the-great-vespers-of-pentecost)
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Listen to St. Romanos’ words on Pentecost, read here by Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frederica/on_pentecost   

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You and your students can prepare for the Feast of the Transfiguration by studying the homilies about the feast found in this blog post: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/preparing-for-the-transfiguration-of-christ-august-6/

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Here are some ideas of ways to help your students learn about the Feast of the Transfiguration:
https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/on-the-feast-of-the-transfiguration-of-christ-august-6-or-19/

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Learn together about the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos with some of the ideas found in this blog: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/on-the-feast-of-the-dormition-of-the-theotokos-august-15-or-28/

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Help your students to make these (free!) printable centerpieces for their prayer table or dinner table, for each feast: http://www.antiochian.org/1127698508

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On Light and the Feast of Pentecost

A brief look at light (and, thus, at Pentecost):

The early story on light/the Light : The universe as we know it began with a simple command: “Let there be light!” Even before there was earth, there was light. God has provided light to our world through the sun ever since He created the earth. In His great mercy, God extended His kindness beyond our physical need for light and has provided The Light of the World! Even before there were humans, there was the Light of the World. God sent us His Son, Jesus Christ,  to illuminate our souls as well!

Significant appearances of light/the Light: Light continues to appear as the earth rotates around its axis, around the sun. The Light of Christ continues on, as well: every Pascha the Holy Fire comes to the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. At our Paschal Feast every year, we sing, “Come, receive the light,” lighting candles as we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death. It makes sense to celebrate Christ, the Light of the World, and His Resurrection (His moment of greatest triumph) with light. Actually, Christ appearing as light is nothing new: remember the Transfiguration, when “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2)? What about when He appeared to Saul of Tarsus who was travelling to Damascus when “suddenly a light (bright enough to blind him) shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:3) and the voice of Christ spoke to him? The Light of Christ truly illumines all, and has been doing so since He was on earth.

Pentecost and light/the Light: How fitting, then, that when Christ, the Light of the World, ascended to His Father and sent help (the Holy Spirit) to His followers, the event was marked with the appearance of flames of fire over their heads! As He illumined the heads of the disciples, the Holy Spirit also enabled them to speak in other languages, thus illuminating the souls of all around through the truths about Christ that were spoken (in a way that the visiting foreigners could understand)!

The presence of light/the Light in our lives: God continues to send His Holy Spirit to light the world. At our chrismation, we received “the seal of the Holy Spirit,” and He is at work to illumine our hearts, and through us, the hearts of those around us, as well. May we all be enlightened, both physically (by the sun) and spiritually (by the Son) as we continue to live the Faith! And may we live in such a way that all those around us (especially our children) are brightened by the light of Christ in our lives through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, “the Light of Christ illumines all,” and that illumination is greatly assisted when we cooperate with Christ and His Spirit’s work in our life!

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Thanks to tinyurl.com/phsnt93 and Jesse Brandow for this illustration!

With these thoughts in mind, work together on a simple craft to help your family think about light/the Light and Pentecost as you celebrate the feast. Create individual “flames of fire” (with led candles and tissue paper) as suggested here: http://www.inkandglue.com/home/tissue-paper-votive-flame. Place one “flaming votive” at each person’s place at the dinner table, to remind you that the Light of Christ illumines each of us! During the meal, talk about light, The Light, and Pentecost. Brainstorm ideas of ways to live illumined lives, showing those around you that the Holy Spirit is living within you!

Here are a few other ideas of ways to learn about and celebrate the Feast of Pentecost:


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Here is a blog post we wrote a few years ago about the Feast of Pentecost. It offers ideas of fun ways to celebrate the feast with children. It features links to great ways to learn about Pentecost, as well as ideas for celebrating the feast with our children!

https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/teaching-children-about-the-feast-of-pentecost/

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Print this pop-up centerpiece about Pentecost to add to your Sunday Church School classroom table: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/aa2cecccf942072bd7af8ff6fbfcd23b.pdf

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Watch this short animation of Pentecost: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqG_lvZhU-A

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Find coloring pages about Pentecost here: http://www.biblekids.eu/new_testament/pentecost/pentecost_index.html, and a memory verse coloring page here: http://www.biblekids.eu/bible_memory_verse_2016/pentecost.html

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Here’s a printable word search about Pentecost: http://www.biblekids.eu/bible_word_search_puzzles/bible_word_search_puzzles/pentecost_wordsearch_puzzle.JPG

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This helpful blog offers ways to live our Faith in an illumined manner: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2016/05/25/igniting-the-spark-living-our-orthodox-christian-faith/

 

Teaching Children About the Feast of Pentecost

50 days after Great and Holy Pascha, we celebrate another wonderful feast: the feast of Pentecost. This important feast commemorates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to his disciples: the descent of the Holy Spirit on them. The apostles were then able to go out into Jerusalem and speak to all the people there about Christ: even though they did not speak the people’s languages! Because of that, this day is often called “the birthday of the Church.” This feast is special for several reasons, including the reaffirmation of the Holy Trinity as an entity and the opportunity that Christians have to be unify the world, “undoing” of the separation of languages that happened at Babel, and beginning the Church.

Here are some resources to help us learn more about Pentecost, so that we can teach our Sunday Church School children about it, as well:

  1. In order to better teach about Pentecost, we must first understand the feast. These articles are very helpful, and full of information about Pentecost. Check them out at http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/pentecost/index_html ; http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/pentecost-the-descent-of-the-holy-spirit; and http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0906.html. Fr. Alexander Schmemann has written about the feast, as well: read his article at http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0906.html. Praxis magazine devoted an entire issue to Pentecost, which can serve as a resource, as well: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis/Praxis-1999-1-1/issuu
  2. “The Feast of Pentecost” from the 12 Feasts series by Mother Melania, is a children’s book about the feast that can be found at http://www.orthodoxmarketplace.com/childrens-products/9782888212433-mother-melania-pentecost-the-feast-of-twelve-great-feasts-for-children.html. Dr. Chrissi Hart reads the book in her podcast “Under the Grapevine,” at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/readings_from_under_the_grapevine_program_7. Either way would be one way to introduce our Sunday Church School students to the feast. Or, we can simply describe it in our own words, at their level.
  3. The icon of the feast is a wonderful teaching tool. We can study the icon of the feast http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/pentecost-icon-as-an-icon-of-the-church/ and read about it at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/livingfaith/the_feast_of_pentecost. Fr. Noah Buschelli has recorded a child-friendly explanation of the icon at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letthechildren/pentecost.
  4. We can help our students learn about the feast and to celebrate it in a variety of ways. Here are a few sources for lesson ideas. For example, there is a preK-2 lesson with suggested activities at http://www.antiochian.org/1120536370. There are lesson ideas and a printable companion sheet for older students at http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/05/preparing-for-pentecost.html.

Since Pentecost is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church, let us do what we can to help our students learn about it, and then celebrate the feast together!