Teaching unit on the Holy Mysteries
This page is part of a teaching unit on the Holy Mysteries.
For an introductory lesson and links to the other Mysteries, please visit our page: The Holy Mysteries
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ADDITIONAL LESSON PLAN
More free material to teach this lesson can be found on our page: Preparing the Gifts.
FABRIC LEARNING SET
We have created a hands-on fabric learning set out of soft fleece to accompany this lesson. The child can interact with the pieces to reinforce the concepts learned and to better understand how to actively participate in the service.
TEACHING ABOUT HOLY COMMUNION
Holy Communion is offered during the service of the Divine Liturgy. On this page, we are concentrating specifically on the Holy Eucharist. In due time, we plan on devoting a separate page to the Divine Liturgy itself.
At the end of the lesson, the students should be able to:
- Say the words “Holy Communion” and “Holy Eucharist”.
- Explain that, when partaking of the Holy Eucharist, we are united with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Act out what we do when we receive Holy Communion, placing an emphasis on: waiting solemnly and quietly, having our arms crossed in front of us, being careful so that not a drop will be spilled, walking away reverently.
- Mention how we prepare for Holy Communion: We fast, we pray, we make sure to have a clear conscience.
- Mention some of the objects used for the Holy Eucharist: holy chalice, paten, bread, wine.
In addition to the above, the older children should also be able to:
- Explain that the bread and the wine truly become our Lord’s Body and Blood.
- Name the service where Holy Communion is offered as the Divine Liturgy.
- Mention more objects relevant to Holy Communion: asterisc, prosphoron, spear, holy spoon.
- Briefly explain the three icon types associated with Holy Communion.
- Say or chant a phrase from a relative hymn.
Planning the lesson
Using our material, a lesson on Holy Communion could go as follows:
- Introduce the Mystery by acting it out using simple props (a child can be dressed as a priest using an Altar Boy robe and a beard, a plastic wine cup and spoon can be used for a chalice, optionally decorated with golden paper. If you wish, add bread and grape juice to the cup. Please note: Such enactments can be very useful when teaching young children, as they help make abstract concepts more concrete; however, care should be taken that they are always done in a reverent way.)
- Use our additional resources from the page Preparing the Gifts to discuss details of the preparation of the Gifts.
- Work on the relevant icons.
- For older children, work on the worksheet and fact sheet on the Holy Eucharist we are offering in the printable packet above.
- Work on reinforcement activities.
Our printable packet above contains the following activities:
- Worksheet and fact sheet about Holy Confession
- An activity to work on the icons
- Crossword puzzle
- Word puzzles
- An activity to discuss the preparation for Holy Communion
- Board game
* Printable activities from our page Preparing the Gifts can also be used in this lesson.
Holy Communion or the Eucharist is the fundamental mystery of the Church, often called “the Mystery of Mysteries”. In the Eucharist, the real, physical parts of creation – the bread and the wine offered in thanksgiving on behalf of the faithful – mystically and truly become the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The faithful, together with the whole creation, are lifted up in prayer and thanksgiving, coming together in Christ, becoming one with Him.
As a true mystery, Holy Communion cannot be explained nor comprehended. The Orthodox Christian has to keep a firm belief that everything Christ taught about it is true, and that the faithful really do unite with Him every time they receive His Body and Blood. As Fr. Thomas Hopko writes: “The mystery of the holy eucharist defies analysis and explanation in purely rational and logical terms. For the eucharist — and Christ Himself — is indeed a mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven which, as Jesus has told us, is “not of this world.”
The service where the Eucharist is offered is the Divine Liturgy. During the Liturgy, we participate with our whole body, mind, and soul, in the life of our Lord – from His birth to His Death and Resurrection.
The faithful are not to partake of the Holy Eucharist lightly. They have a duty to prepare for it mentally, bodily, and spiritually by:
- Participating in the mystery of Holy Confession on a regular basis.
- Reciting the prayers of preparation, usually the night before.
- Fasting on the previous day(s) according to the guidance of their spiritual father. A strict fast must be kept, including abstaining from water, from the night before until the Eucharist is received.
Following the dismissal prayers, the faithful are encouraged to break the fast in community, and carry Christ within themselves throughout the week, until the following Divine Liturgy.
Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:14-20, John 6:53-59, Acts 2:42-46, Corinthians 11:23-25, Acts 20:7
The following icon types can be explored when teaching about the Holy Eucharist.
1. The Mystical Supper
For details about this icon, please visit our page The icon of the Mystical Supper.
2. Christ communing the Apostles
Photo by Fr. Ted Bobosh via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
(CC BY-SA 2.0)
This icon type is also called “Take, Eat” or “Drink of this all of you”. We can see the Altar Table enclosed in a ciborium (a four-pillared dome). On the table, there are a paten containing pieces of Bread and a chalice containing the Wine. Cherubim are pictured over the ciborium.
In this icon type, Christ is depicted standing behind the Altar table, exactly below the ciborium, handing the Bread to the Apostles with one hand, and offering the Wine with His other hand. In another variation, Christ is depicted twice, handing the Bread to the Apostles on the left side of the icon, and offering the Wine to the Apostles on the right side.
3. Melismos or The Lamb of God
Christ is pictured as a baby, laying upon the paten or chalice. He can be naked, covered with a plain covering, or with the Aer (as shown in the example above), and possibly also with the asterisk. The inscription on the icon reads: “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). This icon type is a clear affirmation that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ.
- Holy Eucharist, Orthodox Church in America
- The Holy Eucharist, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- Receiving Communion, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- Be the Bee video series, Episode #125: You are what you eat, Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America