Tag Archives: Belief

On Acts 2:42: “They Continued Steadfastly in the Apostles’ Doctrine and Fellowship, in the Breaking of Bread, and in Prayers.”

Note: the Antiochian Archdiocese’s Creative Arts Festival 2018’s theme is the inspiration for this blog post. We will take a closer look at the theme, to help to prepare our students for the festival in case they will be participating. Whether or not they participate, what we can learn from this passage in the book of Acts is applicable to all of us, not just the children participating in the festival!

The 2018 Creative Arts Festival for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is focused on Acts 2:42, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” If our Sunday Church School class is participating in this festival, we need to understand what this verse means before we will be able to illustrate or write about it accurately. Actually, regardless of whether or not our students will participate in the festival, this passage is worth a look. It helps us to think about our roots as the Orthodox Christian Church, and gives us an idea of how the apostles lived, which can serve as an example to us today.

We will begin by looking at the verse itself. Our Sunday Church School students may need us to define some of the words in the verse before they can begin to understand it. The unfamiliar words in this verse can be explained in very simple terms like these:

“Continued” means they kept on doing something without stopping

“Steadfastly” means firmly, without turning away or quitting

“Doctrine” means a set of teachings or beliefs

“Fellowship” means friends spending time together, hanging out

So it could read something like this, “They kept on going firmly without stopping, following the teachings of the apostles and hanging out together, breaking bread and praying.” The simpler terminology might help our students understand the gist of the verse, but part of the verse has innuendos that our children will not catch unless we look at the verse through the eyes of experts.

So, let’s look at the verse as it is explained by trusted Orthodox scholars. The Orthodox Study Bible’s notes on this verse state that “Central elements of Orthodox worship—apostolic teaching, liturgical prayer and the Eucharist—are present from the very beginning of the Church.” It goes on to explain that the prayers referenced in the verse were the liturgical prayers of the Church, and that “the breaking of the bread” refers to the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. In other words, from the very beginning of the Church, the Christians stood firm in what the apostles taught, fellowshipped together, partook of the Eucharist and prayed the liturgical prayers of the Church.

The Orthodox Christian church, begun by the apostles themselves, has continued in this steadfastness and passed it along from generation to generation. We know that today we still have the opportunity to follow the apostles’ doctrine, while also experiencing the opportunity for fellowship, Communion, and prayers when we gather together. So, essentially, this verse gives us an idea of how our Faith should look: full of steadfast belief in the scriptures and traditions handed down by the apostles all the way to our current bishops and priests; hanging out with our Church family to encourage, challenge, and purify each other; and regularly partaking of the gifts offered to us in the Church: especially Holy Eucharist and prayers. The verse also reaffirms that our Faith is The Faith: for it is as old as the early Church! What a blessing it is to be part of that Church today!

Let us, therefore, have as our goal to also “continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Here are some ideas of ways to help our students (whether or not they will be participating in the aforementioned Creative Arts Festival) to learn about this passage:


If your parish will be participating in the Creative Arts Festival, you can find information about it here: http://www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf


Did you know that the Antiochian Orthodox Department of Christian Education has already provided a lesson plan about the Creative Arts Festival theme for your Sunday Church School students? Find lessons at all levels, which can be used for any age student who is elegible to participate in the festival, here: http://antiochian.org/festivals/cf/lesson-plans-2018


Find creative and fun suggestions of ways to help your students to think about the theme throughout the year here: http://www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf/using-the-theme-2018


There are a myriad of ways your students can interpret this year’s Creative Arts Festival theme. Find an inspiring list here: http://antiochian.org/festivals/cf/Interpretations-theme-2018

Suggestions include:
*Depictions of early Christians worshipping
* People worshipping during Divine Liturgy today
*Receiving Holy Communion
*Learning about things Jesus taught the Apostles by listening to the Epistle and Gospel readings
*Helping one another like the early Christians did by donating food or clothing, serving at a homeless shelter, etc.

This non-Orthodox-but-helpful lesson that includes Acts 2:42 offers several wonderfully hands-on learning activities that you and your students can do to interact with this scripture. https://missionbibleclass.org/1b0-new-testament/new-testament-part-2/acts-the-church-begins/the-first-church/
Of course not all of the suggestions will work in an Orthodox context, so you will need to be selective or make adjustments. For example, the students can’t prepare the Eucharist, as suggested, but they could help prepare prosphora, and perhaps your priest would be willing to do a demonstration of how he prepares the Eucharist, or do a “teaching liturgy” so that they could learn how the Eucharist is prepared.)


Teach your students the Creative Festivals theme song (found here: http://antiochian.org/festivals/cf/theme-song-2018). After singing it a few times together, look closely at the words. Talk about them together, comparing the stanzas to see how the early Church and the Church today are alike. Ask your students to share other ways (not mentioned in the song) that we are like the early Christians. Are there any ways that we are different? If so, should we change any of those ways? Why or why not? Before dismissing the class, take a field trip to the fellowship hall or to find your priest and sing the song for them, encouraging the rest of your Church family to keep working towards living like the early Christians did, as well!


On Choosing to Live a Life of Joy

“Do what makes you happy” is a common thought in today’s world. Everyone wants to feel happy, to have that positive emotion in our lives. Because of this, we try all sorts of things in pursuit of the “happiness” we desire. Sometimes we succeed – at least for a little – and feel happy. But we learn quickly that happiness is temporal – a fleeting positive feeling. It is soon lost.

Joy, however, God’s joy, is eternal. It is a deep-set “nothing can shake this inner peace” reality. What we all are truly seeking is not happiness: rather, we are seeking joy. We long for the deep, inner joy that comes only from God which is experienced by walking in His ways. In Nehemiah 8:10 we read, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” If joy is our strength, we can work as hard as we want to try to be happy: but in reality, it is joy that will strengthen us. So instead of doing what makes us happy, we need to do what makes us joyful.

The scriptures, the saints, and Orthodox theologians have much to say about joy. Here is a taste:

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your guiding Spirit.” (Ps. 50:14)

“These things I have spoken to you that my joy remain in you and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

“…You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” (John 16:22) Find more scriptures referring to joy here: http://yourvibrantfamily.com/bible-verses-joy/#_a5y_p=4906869

“Joy is not one of the components of Christianity, it is the tonality…that penetrates everything.” ~ Alexander Schmemann

“You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it, we miss one of the reasons for our existence. In fact, the reason Jesus lived and died was to restore the joy we had lost.” ~ Fr. Anthony Coniaris, Holy Joy: the Heartbeat of Faith, p. 1

“In the beginning, there are a great many struggles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing  toward God. Afterward, however, there is ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first, the smoke chokes them, and they cry. Yet by this means, they obtain what they seek, as it is said, ‘Our God is a consuming fire!’ (Heb. 12:24) So we, too, must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work.” ~ Amma Syncletica

St. Nektarios once wrote to Abbess Xenia: “Realize that your cheerfulness gladdens the faces of the Sisters and renders the Convent a paradise. On the other hand, your depression and sullenness are transmitted to the other Sisters, and joyfulness is banished from that paradise. Learn, therefore that the joy and cheerfulness of the Sisters depend upon you, and it is your duty to preserve these in their hearts. Do this even at times by forcing yourself. I counsel you not to surrender yourself to sorrowful fantasies, because this greatly depresses the hearts of the Sisters. Your reward will be great if you become to them a cause for cheerfulness. I give you this advice because I myself have it as a principle. When you gladden the heart of your neighbor… you may be sure that you please God much more than when you occupy yourself with extreme forms of askesis (i.e. prostrations, prolonged prayer, and fasting).”

An elderly saint of the church once counseled a young priest who sought his advice on how to help a young mother in his parish. “Tell her God forgives her… Tell her He forgives her for being lonely and bored, for not being full of joy with a house full of children. That’s what sin really is, you know: not being full of joy.”

Fr. Anthony Coniaris tells the story of a 70- year-old Romanian Orthodox priest in his book Holy Joy: the Heartbeat of Faith (Light and Life Publishing, 2003). This priest had been thrown into prison by Communists in the Soviet Era. His son died in jail, his daughter was sentenced to 20 years, his sons-in-law were also jailed, and his grandchildren had no food and had to eat garbage. Yet, in spite of this, the priest greeted everyone with the words, “Always rejoice!”
“One day, he was asked, ‘Father how can you always say rejoice—you who passed through such terrible tragedy?’

“He replied, ‘Rejoicing is very easy. If we fulfill at least one word from the Bible, it is written ‘rejoice with all those who rejoice!’ Now if one rejoices with all those who rejoice, he always has plenty of motivation for rejoicing. I sit in jail, and I rejoice that so many are free. I can’t go to church, but I rejoice with all those who can go to church. I can’t take Holy Communion, but I rejoice for all those who an. I can’t read the Bible or any other holy book, but I rejoice for those who do. I can’t see flowers, we never saw a tree or a flower during those years. We were under the earth, in a subterranean prison. We never saw the sun, the moon, the stars. Many times we forgot that these things existed. We never saw a color, only the gray walls of the cell and our gray uniforms. But we knew that such a world existed, a world with multi-colored butterflies and with rainbows, but I can rejoice for those who see the rainbows and who see the multi-colored butterflies. In prison, the smell was horrible… Others have the perfume of flowers around them, and girls wearing perfume. And others have pictures, and others have their families of children around them. I cannot see my children but others can. And he who can rejoice with all those who rejoice can always rejoice. I can always be glad.’” (pp. 67-69)

“A choir director once asked his choir after they sang a jubilant Easter hymn, ‘Are you happy?’

‘Yes!’ they said.

Then he said, ‘I suggest you notify your faces!’

“My face, your face, the face of every Christian should be notified to reflect the joy of forgiveness; the joy of repentance; the joy of the good news of Jesus; the joy of the resurrection; the joy of God’s steadfast love; the joy of the Kingdom; the joy of eternal life with God.

“How can this happen? It can happen through prayer. If there is any power that can transform our face, it is the power of prayer.” ~ Fr. Anthony Coniaris, Holy Joy: the Heartbeat of Faith, p. 113


Teaching your Sunday Church School students about joy:

“When you teach children, you convey to them not only certain knowledge but the spirit which is behind this knowledge. And you know that the one thing that the child accepts easily is precisely joy. But we’ve made our Christianity so adult, so serious, so sad, so solemn, that we virtually have emptied it of that joy. And yet Christ said whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it.” Listen to the rest of the podcast here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/wardrobe/joy_orthodox_style

Start a discussion on joy with older students by watching this “Be the Bee” episode: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/bethebee/prayer_and_joy


On the Lord’s Prayer: “But Deliver Us From Evil.”


This short phrase in the Lord’s Prayer serves several purposes. It recognizes that there is evil pursuing us. It acknowledges that we cannot deliver ourselves from that evil. It affirms that God can deliver us from it. It implies that we want to be delivered from evil. It combines all of those truths into one short request. That request is one which Our Lord’s entire life on earth answers immutably with “Yes! I can and I will!”


Read more about this phrase:


“I have always been bothered by the ‘but’ in the Lord’s Prayer. I have wanted to say, ‘and deliver us from the evil one.’ However, the ‘but’ is firmly fixed in the original. We are told to pray this way, to ask the Father not to lead us into temptation–with one exception. Temptation might be necessary to deliver us from the evil one.” ~ read the rest of the article here: http://holynativity.blogspot.com/2013/07/lead-us-not-into-temptation-but.html

We ask deliverance from the Evil One or from all evil — in both cases, recognizing that Satan and his demons do attack us, and that persons who have willingly given themselves over to evil will cooperate with them and will hope for our destruction.  We ask for God’s protection, recognizing both His strength and our own weakness.” ~ https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-lords-prayer/


“We pray also that God would deliver us from the evil one, and here we are given not an explanation but one more revelation, this time about the personal nature of evil, about the person as the bearer and source of evil. …There exists no concrete reality that we could call hatred, but it appears in all its awesome power when there is one who hates; there’s no suffering as such, but there is the sufferer; everything in this world, everything in this life is personal.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 81


“The source of evil is in the evil person, and this means in the person in whom paradoxically and horribly evil has replaced good, and who lives by evil. It is perhaps here, in these words about the evil one, that we are given the one possible explanation of evil, for here we discover that it is not some kind of impersonal force spread throughout the world, but rather as the tragedy of a personal choice, personal responsibility, personal decision. And therefore only in the person, and not in abstract theories and arrangements, is evil defeated and goodness triumphs; which is why we pray first of all for ourselves, for each time that we overcome temptation, it is because we choose faith, hope, and love and to not the gloom of evil.”~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” p. 82


Idea: This activity mimics a lighthouse’s importance to a ship in safely maneuvering trouble spots. It would be fun to do with your Sunday Church School students, and is a great beginning place for a discussion on how God, our Light, delivers us from evil. http://www.christianitycove.com/bible-lesson-god-is-like-a-lighthouse/7259/

On The Lord’s Prayer: On Earth As It Is In Heaven


“On earth as it is in heaven” is so easy to pray. But how easy is it to live? In heaven, God’s will is perfectly carried out everywhere, by everyone. How are we doing with that on earth?!? So often we allow petty little things to cloud our minds and affect our obedience, or we just flat out refuse to do – or even go against – what God has asked of us. Regardless of the “size” of our sins, each is a step away from “as it is in heaven.” May we keep this phrase ever in our minds and pray that God will help us to live our life in such a way that reflects our desire for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Here are a few related quotes and an idea that you can use as you discuss this phrase with your Sunday Church School students:


“There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say ‘Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,’ than to ask that people may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will?” ~ St. John Cassian


“Grant that we might imitate the way of life in heaven, so that we would will what Thou Thyself dost will” ( St. John Chrysostom, On living in a godly way, PG 51.45).


“…In all the trials and tribulations that we all face or will face in life, there is perhaps no prayer that can bring us the peace of acceptance and the resolution to forge on than this petition in the Lord’s Prayer. In the midst of circumstances that we don’t understand and that cause us suffering, we nevertheless say with faith and with humility, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And then for a moment, it takes us up out of our small world into the expanses of heaven, we leave behind those who surround us, but don’t understand us, and enter into the presence of God’s faithful ministers who are as ‘a flame of fire’ (Hebrews 1:7), and there, lifted up on angels’ wings, we find that ‘peace which passeth all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7) in the will of God. We may not understand it; we don’t need to. We just need to accept it, to embrace it, and to make it our own, and then we return to our surrounding with a resolve to continue to ‘fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith’ (2 Timothy 4:7) even as the angels do in heaven. Yes, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” ~ http://ancientchristianwisdom.com/2015/04/19/thy-will-be-done-in-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven/


Idea: This lesson plan on the phrase “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” can easily be adapted and used in an Orthodox setting: http://www.calvarymv.com/childrensresources/childrensministry/topical-teachings/LordsPrayer/05Prayer_May_Your_Will_Be_Done_On_Earth.pdf

On The Lord’s Prayer: an Introduction

The Lord’s Prayer is an integral part of an Orthodox Christian’s life. Our Lord Himself taught us to pray this prayer, so we know that it is both important and right for us to pray in this way. We find this prayer in the Holy Scriptures in Luke 11:1-4 and also in Matthew 6:7-14. We pray this prayer daily at home. This prayer is also an important part of our church services. It is important that we teach our children how to pray the Lord’s Prayer so that they can participate with the family at home and also with the church family during the Divine services.

But is it enough for the children to learn the words to the prayer? Is it not much more important for them to pray the words with cognizance of their meaning? How can we help our children to understand what they are saying when they pray this wonderful prayer? Over the next few weeks our blog posts will focus on the Lord’s Prayer, looking at the prayer piece by piece, and delving into its meaning and importance. We will share quotes from Alexander Schmemann’s book, Our Father, and include ideas of ways to help our students to learn the prayer.

Our goal is to learn to better pray the Lord’s Prayer, and to help our Sunday Church School students to do so as well.

Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13, cf Luke 11:2-4)


Order the booklet on the Lord’s Prayer that was written by Mother Alexandra (formerly Princess Ileana of Romania), from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery which she founded. The booklet features a brief meditation/prayer based on each part of the Lord’s Prayer, one for the morning and another for the evening, for every day of the week. This booklet is a wonderful tool for your own spiritual growth. It would also make a great gift. It costs only $1 plus shipping. Inquire at: omtstore@gmail.com


“This prayer has been said without interruption for two thousand years. At every moment somewhere on the globe people are saying those very words which were once uttered by Christ himself. This is why we have no better path to the very heart of Christianity than by this short, and on first observation simple, prayer.” ~ Schmemann, p. 16, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/


Idea: Find ideas for creating a “Lord’s Prayer in a Bag” activity to use in introducing the prayer here: http://www.buildfaith.org/2013/02/21/the-lords-prayer-in-a-bag/


“Let me begin this explanation by saying directly that its meaning is inexhaustible, that it is impossible to give this prayer one final and conclusive explanation. As with the Gospels, The Lord’s Prayer is always addressed to each of us personally anew, in a way which makes it seem to have been composed specifically for me, for my needs, for my questions, for my pilgrimage. Yet, at the same time it remains eternal and unchanging in its essence, always calling us to what is most important, to the ultimate, to the highest.” ~ Schmemann, p. 17, http://www.svspress.com/our-father/


The Creed: I Look for the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Life of the World to Come. Amen.

The union that we experience with God, “theosis,” will continue after our death and resurrection. We believe that we will have a glorified body, as Jesus Christ did after His Resurrection. We believe that all people will be raised from the dead and that creation will be transformed. At the end of time God will reveal His presence and will fill all creation with Himself. For those who begin theosis now, this experience will be eternal joy and beauty. But for those who turn from God in this life, His presence will be eternal hell.

Orthodoxy does not teach that we can judge the destiny of OTHERS. We do not say that someone is damned because he or she is not Orthodox. We know the Truth and we have been shown the Way. It is for us to live the Life. So WE OURSELVES will be judged as to whether or not we were faithful Orthodox Christians!


Try this: Use a soccer ball to introduce a discussion about goals.

  1. Show the ball, and ask, “What is this? What it it used for? In the game of soccer, what is it that soccer players really want? What is their ultimate goal? To win, right? To kick in more goals than the other team. And how do they do that? It doesn’t just happen on game day, they show up and can win… What has to happen for weeks, months, even years before a team is consistently successful?!?” (discipline, practice, teamwork, more practice, etc.)
  1. Turn the discussion to life goals: What do the children want to be when they grow up? What is their plan for how to do that? Will they go to school? Find work in the field? Learn from a master? Life goals, like soccer goals, will take discipline, practice, teamwork, and more practice!
  1. Direct the discussion to beyond-life goals: “What is our spiritual aim, our final goal that goes beyond this life? What do we want to have achieved to the best of our ability by the time we depart this life? Theosis!” Brainstorm ideas of how to achieve theosis.* Theosis, too, takes discipline, practice, and teamwork! Commit to working together to become more like God. Create specific, attainable goals (ie: “We will take a deep breath and say a prayer before responding to someone when we are angry;” “We will attend one service each month that we have not attended before;” “We will go together to the local soup kitchen and serve the poor of our community;” etc.). Revisit these goals from time to time, and, at each visit, “kick them up a notch” to help each of you become closer to God.

You may also want to incorporate these quotes from the Church fathers if you are having this discussion with older children:

  • “True, one may know man’s final goal: communion with God. And one may describe the path to it: faith, and walking in the commandments, with the aid of divine grace. One need only say in addition: here is the path-start walking!” ~ St. Theophan The Recluse
  • “The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.” ~ St. Simeon the New Theologian
  • “A man in this world must solve a problem: to be with Christ, or to be against Him. And every man decides this, whether he wants to or not. He will either be a lover of Christ or a fighter of Christ. There is no third option.” ~ St. Justin Popovich

The Creed: And I Believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

The Church is One: Just as God is One, the Church which belongs to Him is one, meaning unbroken and undivided. The Orthodox Church has preserved the fullness of the Faith since the time of the apostles. Since the Church began, there is still only one Orthodox Church.

The Church is Holy: Because God is present in the Church, and He is holy, the Church is also holy, or “set apart for God.” We take part in God’s holiness when we receive the Sacraments and live in communion with Him.

The Church is Catholic: The word “catholic” is best understood as “whole, complete, and lacking nothing.” The Church is what it is because God is who He is—whole and complete and lacking nothing!

The Church is Apostolic: An apostle is one who is sent or has a mission. Jesus Christ had a mission to bring salvation to the world. Jesus chose his disciples, and after his Resurrection, sent these disciples to preach the Good News to the world. We continue the same mission. We say the Orthodox Church is apostolic for two reasons: first, because its mission is to preach the Good News of salvation, and second, because it is directly connected to, and built upon, the teaching of the apostles.

“There can only be one Church and not many. And this one Church, because its unity depends on God, Christ and the Spirit, may never be broken. Thus, according to Orthodox doctrine, the Church is indivisible; men may be in it or out of it, but they may not divide it.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 123)

“The holiness of the Church comes from God. The members of the Church are holy to the extent that they live in communion with God.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 124)

“To believe in the Church as catholic… is to express the conviction that the fullness of God is present in the Church and that nothing of the “abundant life” that Christ gives to the world in the Spirit is lacking to it. It is to confess exactly that the Church is indeed ‘the fullness of Him who fills all in all.’ (Eph. 1:23 and Coloss. 2:10)” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 126)

“The last attribute of the Church is apostolicity. [The Church] has retained the apostolic faith through the apostolic suggestion of her officers and through the tradition of the Church, which has maintained her unity with the ancient church, a unity in spirit, faith, and in truth.” (Constantelos, “Understanding the Greek Orthodox Church,” p. 73)

There is an old saying: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So it is for Christian. The step into the baptismal font is more of a “leap” than a step. Immersed in the water three times, unable to breathe, we symbolically die with Christ. When we rise from the water, we have life anew. We have “put on Christ.” We can begin our walk in His ways. We have begun our life’s journey, and our destination is union with God, or “theosis.” We were created for this union—to live united with God now and forever. We experience union with God most profoundly in the Mystery of the Eucharist. In receiving Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy, we identify ourselves completely with the Church: its teachings, images, hierarchy, and history.

Try this: Talk with your Sunday Church School students about the Church. (Before you do, gather: a picture of your church building; grapes and/or a grapevine; a shepherd and/or sheep or picture of them; a doll or picture of a head and a body; a partially constructed lego building or picture of a building under construction; a photo of a home or a family; and a Bible.)
Look at the picture of your church building. Have a conversation that includes the following: “When we say, ‘I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church,’ are we talking about this place? What if our church building was suddenly gone, as happens in some parts of the world where Christians are being persecuted? Could we still believe in one holy catholic, and apostolic church? Why or why not?” Go on to discuss what the Church really is. In Greek, the literal meaning of the word church, or ekklesia, is the ‘assembly.’ We get a more full understanding of what the Church is if we look at the word pictures in the scriptures. On a table, spread out all of the items you have gathered (except the church building picture which you have already used). Look up the following scriptures, read them aloud together, and then have the children select the item(s) from the collection which are described in that scriptural word picture. Remind the children that this word picture is describing the Church. Here are the scripture “word picture” passages:

John 15:1-8 (grapevine and branches)

John 10:1-16 (shepherd and flock)

Ephesians 1:22-23 (head and body)

Ephesians 2:19-22 (building under construction)

1 Timothy 3:15 followed by Hebrews 3:6 (home or family photo)

Talk about each word picture and how it relates to the Church. There are also other ways in which the Church is described both in scripture and by the Church Fathers, but this is a good starting point. (You could challenge older students to search the scriptures and come up with additional word pictures related to the Church!) Return to the picture of your church building. Ask again, “Is this what we are talking about when we say, ‘I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church?’ If not, what ARE we talking about?” Challenge each other to think about these word pictures the next time you say this part of the Creed!

Check out http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/pomaz_church.aspx for more on each of the word pictures listed above, as well as much more on the “holy, catholic, and apostolic church” in which we believe!

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/.