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Download our printable packet containing a variety of teaching activities.
Downloadable drag-and-drop activities
Online crossword puzzle
[ANSWER KEY: 1. MEETING, 2. SAVIOR, 3. DOVES, 4. CHURCHING]
Fabric Learning Set
We have created a sensory teaching resource for young learners made out of soft fleece to complement this lesson, that can be used both in class and at home. It also includes the feast of the Annunciation.
TEACHING THE MEETING OF OUR LORD
Forty days after the Holy Nativity, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Great Feast of the Meeting (or Presentation) of the Lord in the Temple, on February 2 on the new calendar. The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord marks the end of the Nativity period, which starts with the beginning of the Nativity Fast (November 15) and concludes with the Apodosis of the Meeting (February 9).
The Meeting of our Lord is the last Great Feast of the Orthodox Church before the start of Great Lent. With its quiet tenderness and mystical joy, it helps us to reminisce about the extraordinary mystery of the Incarnation and subsequently to ponder over our personal meeting with our Lord.
- In faithful observance of the Law of Moses, the Theotokos went to the Temple for the purification rituals (Leviticus 12) forty days after the Birth of her divine Child. The Infant Christ was also presented to the Temple as a first-born boy (Exodus 13:1-2). The protector of the family, the Righteous Joseph the Betrothed, accompanied them carrying the sacrificial offering, a pair of turtle doves.
- An elderly and devout man, Righteous Simeon, having been informed by God, was waiting for them in front of the Temple. He received the Infant Christ recognizing Him as the Savior of Israel and all the peoples. An elderly woman, Righteous Anna the Prophetess, who was serving at the Temple, also recognized and proclaimed the Infant Christ as the Messiah.
- Simeon and Anna, both very advanced in age, represent the righteous people of the Old Testament. Their faithfulness, humility, and love of God earned them God’s promise to meet the Incarnate God and proclaim Him to the world. On the following day of the Feast, the Church celebrates the Synaxis of Simeon the God-receiver and Anna the Prophetess.
- The offering of the Infant Christ to the Jewish temple signifies the consecration of the Holy Gifts at the Holy Eucharist – an affirmation that the Eucharist is the true and glorified Body and Blood of Christ. This is made obvious in certain details of the Orthodox icon of the Feast, as discussed in the Background section below.
- The event of the Meeting of our Lord is imitated to this day with all Orthodox families in the Forty-day blessing of mother and infant.
- On the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, special honor goes to the All-Holy Theotokos, in whose person all mothers are honored. In 1929, the Church of Greece established the Feast of the Meeting as the Orthodox Mother’s Day, recognizing the most important role of mothers in the Christian upbringing of their children.
PLANNING THE LESSON
At the end of the lesson, younger children should be able to:
- Briefly retell the story of the Feast with the help of the icon.
- Point to the figures of the Theotokos, St. Joseph, Simeon, Anna, and the Infant Christ in the icon.
- Explain that, like baby Jesus, we all received a special blessing when we first entered the church as babies.
In addition to the above, older children should also be able to:
- Point out more details in the icon: The two turtle doves, the temple, the scroll of St. Anna the Prophetess.
- Mention that both St. Simeon and St. Anna the Prophetess recognized Christ as the anticipated Savior of the world.
- Explain in simple terms that, as Christ was offered to the temple then, He is being offered to the faithful now, every time we receive Holy Communion.
- Recite the troparion of the Feast or the Ode of Simeon, at least partly.
- Describe in more detail what happens at the Forty-day blessing and what it means for mother and baby.
Meeting/Presentation, temple, Messiah, prophecy, Churching, Forty-day blessing.
Possible lesson outline
Are you teaching remotely?
Visit our post on remote religious education for tips on how to use our material in an online session.
Using our resources, a lesson on the Meeting of our Lord could go as follows:
- Present the story using our paper puppets or our fabric learning set and/or digital activities. Follow by reading it from an Orthodox-approved children’s Bible. The children could then act out the story using the puppets.
- Explain the icon. Our material can be useful again, as it includes all the details we want the children to observe in the icon.
- Discuss the deeper meaning of the Feast.
- Discuss the Forty-day blessing of mother and child emphasizing the students’ own Churching as babies.
- Do some reinforcement work utilizing our printable packet and/or our interactive activities.
Printable activity options
Our printable packet contains a variety of activities for different ages. They are:
- Icon worksheets, for younger and older children.
- A cut-and-glue activity to work on the Ode of Simeon.
- A crossword puzzle on basic concepts of the lesson.
- A cut-and-glue scene based on the icon.
- Two cut-and-glue activities for the Forty-day blessing of mother and child.
Digital activity options
- Drag-and-drop activities to work on the story and icon of the feast and on the Forty-day blessing.
- Online crossword puzzle to review the main concepts and vocabulary of the lesson.
According to the Mosaic Law, after their childbirth the Israelite women were considered ‘unclean’ and had to stay at home for a prescribed period of time. At the end of that period the mother would have to take an offering to the Temple in order to confirm her purification and receive the blessing of the priest. Additionally, when God told Moses how He would save the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt, He asked that the firstborn baby boy would be consecrated to Him.
In faithful observance of the Law, the Theotokos with her forty-day-old Infant Christ and Righteous Joseph, went to the Temple in Jerusalem. Their sacrificial offering was a pair of turtledoves, since they were poor and could not offer a spotless lamb, which was the offering of the rich. At the entrance of the Temple they were greeted by Simeon, a righteous elder, who was of great age and to whom God had promised that he would not die until he saw the Messiah.
Elder Simeon received the Infant Christ in his arms and said, “Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according to Your promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel.” Simeon also prophesied to the Theotokos about what was to come in her life on account of the Infant Who would not be accepted by the Jewish people. Shortly after his meeting with the Lord, Simeon died peacefully.
At the Temple there was also an elderly woman, Anna the Prophetess, who was serving there almost her whole life, after losing her husband at a young age. By divine revelation Anna also realized that the Infant Christ was the Messiah of Israel, and started proclaiming Him with exaltation to everyone who came to the Temple.
After the meeting, the Mother and Child performed all needed rituals and went back to Nazareth, their hometown.
Celebration of the Feast
Since the liturgical day begins in the evening of the previous day, on February 1 a Great Vespers service is celebrated where several excerpts of the Old Testament are read: Exodus 12:15-13:16; Leviticus 12 and Numbers 8; Isaiah 6:1-12, and 19:1,3-5,12,16,19-21. In the morning of the feast, there is a Matins (Orthros) service with a Gospel reading from Luke 2:25-32, followed by the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, with the Epistle reading from Hebrews 7:7-17 and the Gospel reading from Luke 2:22-40.
Icon of the Feast
There are two main iconographic depictions of the feast. In both types, the same figures are pictured: the Theotokos with the Infant Christ, the Righteous Simeon the God-receiver, Anna the Prophetess, and Righteous Joseph the Betrothed. In the first type, developed up until the 11th century, we see the Theotokos holding the Infant Christ, presenting Him to the Righteous Simeon the God-receiver. In the second, which became typical from the 14th century and on, we see the Righteous Simeon already holding the Infant Christ in his arms.
Simeon’s proclamation of the Infant Christ as the Savior is shown in his deep reverence; he is bowing low and holding the baby with hands covered by a part of his garment. Likewise, when the Theotokos is depicted holding the Infant Christ, her arms are covered by her cloak. Christ Himself is often shown as a young boy rather than a helpless baby, dressed in regular clothes and barefoot, sitting up and actively blessing those present. Anna the Prophetess is depicted pointing at baby Jesus, and holding an open scroll that reads: “This child made firm heaven and earth.”
When the Theotokos is not holding Christ, she is standing a short distance away from Him, her hands raised in humility but also waiting to receive Him back. Her expression is calm with a slight sorrow after hearing Simeon’s prophecy for both her and her Child. Righteous Joseph follows the Theotokos holding a pair of turtle doves as a sacrificial offering.
The event is taking place in the Temple of Jerusalem, but, as usual in Orthodox icons, it appears as if it is taking place outside. We see buildings in the background connected with a red cloth, which means that the scene actually occurs indoors.
An interesting detail with great theological meaning is the depiction of the ciborium behind Simeon. The ciborium was a four-pillared dome, a common feature of first millennium churches. It used to cover the altar and it also had curtains to veil the consecrated host at particular times of the Liturgy. In the icon of the Meeting, the tabernacle of the Temple of Solomon is anachronistically depicted as an Orthodox ciborium. It usually has two front gates representing the Royal Doors, it can be decorated with crosses, and it contains the Altar Table upon which a Gospel book is resting. The Infant Christ is offered to the hands of Simeon right over the Altar Table, clearly alluding to Christ as the life-giving, sacrificial offering at the Christian liturgy.
Hymns of the Feast
Hail, Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.
Your birth sanctified a Virgin’s womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us, O Christ our God, give peace to Your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom You love, as only the loving One.
The Ode of Simeon (or Simeon’s prayer)
The following excerpt of the Gospel reading, the Ode of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32), is worth special mention. It describes the Person of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, Who was Incarnate and revealed to both Jews and Gentiles.
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
The Ode of Simeon is the dismissal prayer at the end of the Forty-day blessing service of a mother and her child, and also the dismissal hymn of the Vespers service.
The Churching of Mother and child (Forty-Day Blessing)
Following the example of the Theotokos, all Orthodox Christian mothers ask the Church for Her special prayers and blessings, in all stages of pregnancy and childbirth. [Note: The Church officially offers special blessings for a newborn child on days 1, 8 (when the name of the child is also given), and 40 after the birth. In Greece, a priest will usually visit the mother and child in the hospital and at home for the blessings of days 1 and 8.]
According to a Church tradition that was established for the protection and bonding of mother and infant, mother and child should not leave the house for forty days after the birth. The fortieth day marks the time when the mother and child are allowed to leave their home and formally present themselves to the Church, re-entering Church life. This is considered the official welcoming of the child into the Church, preparing him/her to become a full member later on, with the mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation.
In Greece, this special ceremony is called “Sarandismόs” (Forty-day blessing), and it is usually celebrated after dismissal of the Church services on the fortieth day of the child’s life (any day of the week). In the U.S.A., where few parishes offer daily services, the Forty-day blessing is usually celebrated after the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday closest to the fortieth day of the child’s life.
The mother and child, accompanied by the father, come to church and wait in the narthex until the priest comes out to greet them. The priest receives the child in his arms and reads special prayers for both mother and child. Then a solemn and joyous procession with prayers and blessings takes place in the central aisle of the nave, finally arriving at the iconostasis. If a baby girl, the priest carries her in front of the icon of the Theotokos and offers prayers before handing the child back to her parents. If a baby boy, the priest carries him inside the Altar, and walks around the Holy Altar Table offering prayers. Then he gives the child back to the parents.
- Presentation of Christ to the Temple, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- The Meeting of the Lord, Orthodox Church in America.
- Meeting of Christ in the Temple, +Fr. Thomas Hopko, podcast on Ancient Faith radio.
- Presentation of Christ, “A reader’s guide to Orthodox icons” blog.
- Holy Righteous Simeon the God-receiver, Orthodox Church in America, Lives of Saints.
- Holy Righteous Anna the Prophetess, Orthodox Church in America, Lives of Saints.
- The Historical and Personal meaning of the 40-day Blessing (printable pamphlet), Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- Prayers for the Churching of the Mother and Child after forty days, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- The Churching, Fr. Lawrence Farley, Orthodox Christian Network.
- The Churching of Women, Kathryn Wehr, OrthodoxyToday.org.