My Church, Our Home: Session IV: Our Path to Salvation
This session is to help the participants make the direct connection between church and their path to salvation. The gifts of the sacraments, the guide to the way we must live as Christians, and the participation in the fullness of parish life are all explored.
These are the understandings we will teach in this session.
- Our parish is our “heaven on earth” and we need to participate in the fullness and the wholeness of the church of the living God.
- God has established certain “house rules” by which we should live (laws, commandments) to lead us on the path to our salvation.
- God gives us the sacraments as gifts to connect us with Him, to bring us closer to Him, and to give us what we need to do His Will and live forever.
These questions, when answered and discussed will lead back to the understandings for this session.
- What would our lives be like without rules and regulations to follow? How would our lives be different? Would this have a positive or negative effect on our lives?
- What are the “rules” that God expects us to live by? What are the two greatest “rules?”
- How does the teaching of St. Paul, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” direct us toward following these rules?
- Can we have a spiritual life in the church without participating in the sacraments?
- Which sacrament is “the completion of all of the church’s sacraments? Is the term, there are seven sacraments offered to us by the church, correct?
- How do we prepare for Holy Communion? What do we do? What should we be thinking and feeling?
- Why are the sacraments referred to as “holy mysteries?”
- If the sacrament of penance is so difficult for many people, why is it considered a gift from God? Are gifts usually hard to deal with?
- Can prayer be considered a sacrament? Why or why not?
The introduction to this session will include the beginning paragraphs of the activity session. Begin with the question what are the sacraments of the church, and if possible, have an icon depicting as many of the sacraments as possible. The Last Supper, The Wedding in Cana, The Baptism of Christ, etc. Let the participants explore them and identify what each icon is showing.
Creating tableaus for the study of the sacraments.
- Begin by asking the question: What are the sacraments of the Orthodox Church? Write the sacraments sheets on butcher paper/white board. In the discussion, mention that the sacraments are sometimes also called Holy Mysteries. You can use the icons when reading the biblical texts. (please see the following page with a brief description of each sacrament.)
- Tell the students
that they will be broken into seven groups. Each group will be responsible
for creating 3 freeze-frame tableaus about their assigned sacrament. A tableau
is creating a still picture with your bodies using simple props to explain
the most important parts of the story. Use the story of The Three Bears to
explain a tableau.
- The three bears leave the house.
- Goldilocks comes in and does her damage.
- The bears confront Goldilocks and she realizes that she should not have intruded in their home.
- In our case the
students will show 1) the sacrament done liturgically, 2) the story from the
life of Christ which applies to the sacrament, and 3) an instance where the
fact that we have these sacraments can affect the outcome of a situation*.
*Example for teacher clarification only. Do not give more than one example to children since you want them to be as creative as possible. This could be one example for the sacrament of Penance: 1) A child going to confession 2) Christ forgives His disciple Peter for denying Him 3) a friend promises you he will play with you after school and he breaks his promise. You get angry, realize the anger is not right, and confess it. Then you are able to forgive your friend.
*Note: If you anticipate the participants having difficulty with this activity you can put the following on note cards. This will include the Biblical reference as well as related themes and give the appropriate card to each group with a copy of the Bible. Having the participants use the bible to look up the passages is always recommended when time permits.
Baptism - Theophany. Remember the Exodus.
Our birth into the family of God through our baptism. Read the story of Theophany Matt. 3:13-1 7. Include ideas about the properties of water: cleanses, maintains life but also destroys. In Baptism water destroys the old man in each of us, cleanses us and gives us the possibility of eternal life with Christ.
Chrismation - Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit.
We become truly what God intended us to be as human beings. We are full and complete when we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. Act 2. Some of us come to the Orthodox Church through Chrismation. This anointing sets us apart. In the Old Testament only the great prophets, judges and kings were anointed, but in the Church we are all anointed giving us the opportunity to be apostles. In this story the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is fulfilled. We are empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit: to teach, preach, prophesy, (I Cor. 12:4-12)
Eucharist - The Last Supper. The center of the Church’s life.
It is at this banquet that we are reunited with Christ in the Church and that we give thanks to God. Christ is the food that nourishes us. Here bread and wine are transformed into the living body and blood of Christ. We are invited to draw near in faith and love. I Cor. 11:23-26.
- Christ forgives His disciple Peter who betrayed Him and puts Him as the
leader of the apostles.
(Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75, John 21:9-15). We sin, we are sorrowful, we confess , we repent, we are forgiven. We take responsibility for our sins. We are capable of change in our lives. God recognizes this.
Unction - The Commission of the Twelve Disciples
(Mark 6:7-13) Healing - spiritually, physically mentally. We participate in the wounds of Christ by carrying our own cross in the form of illness, sadness or pain. We can be healed by our faith and action and God’s will and action in cooperation.
- The Wedding at Cana.
John 2:1-11. A relationship can change your life. We bring all aspects of our life to the Church, to be blessed by God. This includes our love for a husband or wife. We begin this bond in the midst of the Church, surrounded by the Church, consecrating this new life to God in the Church.
Orders - Christ teaches the elders in the temple at 12.
Luke 2: 41-52. Our clergy carry on the work of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, in God. They preach, teach, pray, and work among us, keeping order in the Church and our lives.
Split the students into seven groups. Place pieces of paper with the name of each sacrament into a bowl/hat. Have someone from each group pick one paper and NOT TELL THE OTHER GROUPS WHAT THEY HAVE CHOSEN! Send each group to different locations with an adult to prepare their tableaus. This should be done by looking up the bible passages, understanding the three pieces that need to be reflected, ( liturgical, life of Christ, and practical application) and then deciding, in the group, how to set it up. Remember, there is going to be NO talking during the tableau. The groups will have to show what they learned by using their bodies, some props and maybe some hand written signs if applicable. After about 20 minutes, bring them back together. Give each child a scorecard (piece of paper) and pencil and have them guess the sacrament as described by the tableau. After each group has had the opportunity to perform their tableau, and everyone has guessed them correctly, review with the students what these sacraments mean to us as Orthodox Christians. How are they gifts from God given to us by the church? Why are they important to us? How do they help us be prepared for our journey toward salvation?
- Interview a Bishop, a Priest, a Deacon, a lay church leader, a married couple, someone who has experienced recovery from a serious illness, an adult convert, a cradle Orthodox Christian, etc. about how the sacraments have affected their lives, and for those who perform the sacraments, how they have seen the sacramental life of the Church affect others. These interviews may be compiled into a book similar to the CHICKEN SOUP Books found in print today. This will be the Chicken Soup Book for Orthodox Christian life. Interview sheets (see attached) and willing candidate assignments will be made available. Teachers should try to make themselves available for their students whenever possible. Please encourage the participants to interview their parents, friends etc. if time is short.
I Cor 11:27-32: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world