Year 1, Week 4 (September 20 - 26)

Day 1 (Monday)

Genesis 1:20 - 2:3

At the beginning of the Bible is the book of Genesis, and it starts with God making the universe. On the first four days, God made light, and space, and earth, and plants, and stars & planets. We will start on day 5, verse 20.

Genesis 1:20 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. 24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Chapter 2
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

Discussion questions:

1) What did God make on the 5th day? (sea animals) What about the 6th day? (Land animals and human beings).

2) What did God say after each day’s work? (That what He had made was very good)

3) What did God do differently when He made humanity? (He made them in His own image and likeness)

4) What do you think it means that God made us in His image and likeness? (Answers may vary - we are rational/intelligent, we have free will, we are relational/communal creatures, we are capable of love, etc)

5) What job did God give humanity? (Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill and subdue the earth, and take care of everything else that God made)

6) Did God tell human beings to eat meat? (no…he gave them all the plants to eat. If anyone wonders when God told people to eat meat, that doesn’t happen until Noah, after the Flood)

7) What did God do on the 7th day? (He rested…anyone who makes the connection with Holy Friday and Holy Saturday, the 6th & 7th days of Holy Week, gets major bonus points).

5) What shape would Moses have been in with his hands held up? (A cross…here we see the Cross as a sign of victory)

Day 2 (Wednesday)

The Priest's Prayer during the Trisagion Hymn in the Divine Liturgy

This prayer is said by the Priest while the Trisagion Hymn is chanted during the Liturgy (sing in Greek & English briefly). The prayer is usually said quietly, but it is a good example of how to pray.

Holy God, You dwell among Your saints. You are praised by the Seraphim with the thrice holy hymn and glorified by the Cherubim and worshiped by all the heavenly powers. You have brought all things out of nothing into being. You have created man and woman in Your image and likeness and adorned them with all the gifts of Your grace. You give wisdom and understanding to the supplicant and do not overlook the sinner but have established repentance as the way of salvation. You have enabled us, Your lowly and unworthy servants, to stand at this hour before the glory of Your holy altar and to offer to You due worship and praise. Master, accept the thrice holy hymn also from the lips of us sinners and visit us in Your goodness. Forgive our voluntary and involuntary transgressions, sanctify our souls and bodies, and grant that we may worship and serve You in holiness all the days of our lives, by the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and of all the saints who have pleased You throughout the ages.
For You are holy, our God, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.

It can be helpful to re-state this prayer in your own words, to make sure we understand what we are saying to God. Here is my re-stated, simpler version of this prayer:
“God, You are with Your people, and are praised by all the angels with the thrice holy hymn. You made everything out of nothing, and created human beings in your image and likeness, and gave them good gifts. You give wisdom to those who ask you for it, and you listen to sinners, and gave them a way to be saved, through repentance. We are low and sinful people, but you allow us to stand before you now and worship You at this Altar. We sing this hymn to glorify you; accept it from us, and visit us in Your goodness. Forgive all our sins, make us holy in body and soul, and as all the saints pray to You for us, enable us to serve you all our lives, because You are holy, and we send up glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from now until eternity.”

Please feel free to try this yourselves. Then see if you can answer these questions. Try paying attention to some of the other prayers of the Church, and see whether they follow the same pattern.

Discussion questions:

1) What do we do 1st when we pray? (We remind ourselves Who God is - in this prayer, we remember that He is holy and that He made everything, including us).

2) What do we do 2nd when we pray? (We remind ourselves who we are - we are people that God has made, who are here to worship Him and ask Him for mercy and strength and everything that is truly good)

3) What do we do 3rd when we pray? (We actually ask him for these good things)

4) What do we ask God for in this prayer? (To accept us and to be with us, to forgive us, to make us holy, and to allow us to be with Him and worship Him always)

5) What is the last thing we do when we pray? (We conclude by reminding ourselves one more time Who God is, and giving Him glory.

6) Can you summarize what prayer looks like, then? (We have to look toward God, we have to be ourselves, and we ask God to be with us, even though we aren’t worthy to be with Him, and we give Him glory and worship, because that is the only thing that it makes sense to do when we see God for Who He is, and ourselves for who we are).

Day 3 (Friday)

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Discussion questions:

1) It says that Gabriel visited Mary in the 6th month. What 6th month are we talking about? (This is the 6th month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, which we talked about two weeks ago)

2) What did Gabriel say to Mary? (He told her that she would become pregnant).

3) Who did Gabriel say Mary’s baby was going to be? (The Son of God, and a king like David, but that He would rule forever)

4) What did she say in response? (She asked how she could be pregnant, because she was only engaged, and was dedicated to God for service in the temple, so she intended never to have children and only to serve God).

5) What did the angel say to her? (He told her that the Holy Spirit would do a miracle, and that her child would be the Son of God).

6) What did Mary say to this? (She said: I am the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word)

7) What is important about this? (This is the moment when Jesus came into the world - he wasn’t born for 9 months, but from this time God was physically present in the world, as a baby in His mother’s womb).

8) What day does the Church celebrate what happens in this reading? (On March 25th, which is nine months before Christmas, when Jesus was born).


Year 1, Week 3 (September 13 - 19)

Day 1 (Monday)

Exodus 7:1-16

17 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Amalek Attacks Israel and Is Defeated

8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. 16 He said, “A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Discussion questions:

1) There are two stories here - can you sum up what happens in the two stories?

2) Where did the water that the people needed come from in the first story?

3) What do you think Moses’ staff was made out of? (Can point out that the Cross is also made of wood, and is a source of life, like the staff was an instrument of life when God used it to bring water for the people)

4) Who came out to attack the people of Israel? (The people of Amalek is the answer - it is good to note that the Amalekites were distantly related to the people of Israel, and should have been their friends, but instead came and attacked them in the desert as they were traveling, when they were weak and vulnerable)

5) What shape would Moses have been in with his hands held up? (A cross…here we see the Cross as a sign of victory)

 

Day 2 (Wednesday)

The Conversion of Konstantinos to Christianity

We know that Greek people have been Christian since the Apostle Paul first crossed the Bosporus and went to Greece, but the majority of the Greek people entered into the Church as a direct result of the conversion of the Emperor Konstantinos in the year 312. The story of how the Emperor became a Christian is recorded by the Church historian Eusebius, who lived at the same time as St. Konstantinos, and heard the story of what had happened directly from the Emperor.
Konstantinos was in the middle of a war with another claimant to the Imperial throne at this time, and was traveling from the island of Britain, where he had been selected as Emperor by his troops, to the city of Rome in Italy, where his rival had his capital. His rival, Maxentius, was strongly opposed to Christianity already, while Konstantinos was already more friendly to the Faithful, as his mother was a Christian.
However, as he began his march on Rome, Konstantinos remained a worshipper of the pagan gods of Rome. Along the way, however, as he told Eusebius, he became convinced that the strength of his army was not enough to bring victory, and he began to inquire which god would be able to help him.
“The thought occurred to him that, of all the emperors who had gone before him, all those who had put their hope in the many gods of Rome… had all come to an unhappy end, and none of their gods had even warned them of this, much less protected them.”
He remembered, too, that his own father had paid some honor to the Christian God, perhaps due to the influence of St. Eleni, the mother of St. Konstantinos, and his rule had rather been one of safety and peace, and decided that he would seek the assistance of this same Christian God.
“Konstantinos therefore began to pray to the God of the Christians and to ask that He would reveal Himself to him, and help him in his present difficulties. And even while he was praying, he saw in the heavens a most marvelous sign. About noon, he said, as the sun had just begun to descend from its height in the sky, he saw with his own eyes the sign of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and written on the Cross were these words: ‘Ἐν τούτῳ νίκα.’ “In this, conquer!”

We know the rest of the story - he had his followers make a new standard for the army, with the sign of the Cross, and with the symbol of the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Chi-Rho symbol that reflects the first two letters of the name “Χριστός”, Christ, in Greek, and they continued their march to Rome under the Sign of the Cross. When he arrived at the city of Rome, although his army was heavily at a disadvantage, he nonetheless won a victory at the Milvian Bridge, and took control of the city of Rome, and therefore of the entire Western Roman Empire. He ended the persecution of Christians and established freedom of religious not only for the Christians, but for everyone within the Roman Empire, and in the years to come, the people of the Roman Empire flocked into the Church, and from this time, the Greek language was the language of Christian people.
Later on, he sent his mother, St. Eleni, to Jerusalem, where she found the Cross of the Lord buried deep under the ground; the place was marked by a basil plant flowering there. It is this finding of the Cross by St. Eleni that we celebrate on September 14th, but St. Konstantinos is always connected to this, because of this vision of the Cross that led to his victory, and to the conversion of the Greek and Roman people to Christ. It is not too much to say that all of us are Christian because of St. Konstantinos and his mother, and this vision of the Cross.

Discussion questions:

1) Was St. Konstantinos always a Christian? (Answer: no, he changed)

2) Why did he change? (There will probably be a lot of answers…try to draw them toward the point that Konstantinos realized that he needed help, he prayed and asked for help, and then he received the vision to answer his prayer)

3) Did St. Konstantinos require everyone to be a Christian? (Answer: he did not. He encouraged the Church, and by the support he gave to the Church, he made an example for everyone else. But he left everyone free to practice their religion as they chose in a way that no one before him had done)

4) How did St. Eleni find the Cross? What marked the spot? (There was a basil plant on the spot where they dug down and found the Cross. This is why Vasiliko is used so much in the Church, especially on the Feast of the Cross, and is the special plant of Orthodox Christians)

5) What day is the Feast of the Cross? (Answer: September 14th is the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, but we also celebrate the Cross on the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent)

Quotations are adapted from Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, Book 1, Chapters 27 & 28, as published in the Nicene Fathers series, translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson.

 

Day 3 (Friday)

Luke 9:18-27

18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" 19 They answered, "John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen." 20 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "The Messiah of God." 21 He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22 saying, "The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." 23 Then he said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

Discussion questions:

1) What question did Jesus ask his disciples? (Answer: “Who do you say that I am?”

2) What does Messiah mean? (Answer: Anointed One. The Greek for this word is Christos, or Christ, in English)

3) What do you think Jesus was anointed to do? (Anointing means to have oil poured or dabbed on one’s head. It was a sign that God had called and given authority and responsibility to a person, like a king or a priest)

4) What do you think it means to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus? (Answers may vary…this is a point for discussion)

5) What do you think Jesus means when He says that whoever tries to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for His sake will save it? (Discussion question, once again - see what everyone has to say about this, maybe consider some examples)


Year 1, Week 2 (September 6 - September 12)

Day 1 (Monday)

1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms) 1:9-23; 2:1-10

9 After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”
21 The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.” 23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him.

Hannah’s Prayer
(Cp Lk 1:46–55)
2 Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
2 “There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Discussion questions:

1) Why is Hannah sad? (because she doesn't have any children)

2) What does she do when she is sad? (she prays to God)

3) What does she promise to do if God answers her prayer? (she promises to give her baby back to God, to serve Him all his life)

4) Does God answer her prayer?

5) Where does Hannah go when she makes her prayer? (she goes to the house of the Lord to make sacrifice to God there)

6) What did you notice about Hannah's prayer? (it might be worth reading it again - see what phrase sticks in the memory. Maybe: "There is no Rock like our God," or "those were were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat")

7) Do you know what a nazarite is? If not, try seeing what Wikipedia has to say about it, and who else in the Bible was a nazarite.

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Hymns from the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary

Dismissal Hymn (Apolytikion in Greek - is the "theme song" of the day)

Your Nativity, O Theotokos, imparted joy to the entire earth, for out of you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God. He nullified the curse and instead gave His blessing; and causing death to be neutralized, He granted us eternal life.

Kathisma Hymns (from the Orthros/Sunrise Service)

Shout, O David, and declare, * what oath did God swear to you? * And he answers, "What He swore, behold, He also has fulfilled, * for He has given the Virgin as the fruit of my loins. * From her has Christ the new Adam and Fashioner * been born, as it is written, to be King on my throne. * And He whose reign is unshakable is reigning today and forevermore. * The barren woman bears the Theotokos, * the nourisher of our Life."

Unto us is born today Mary the child of God, * as the branch from Jesse's root, and as the fruit of David's loins, * and all creation is re-created and deified. * O heaven and the earth, rejoice in unison. * Sing praises unto her, O all you Gentile clans. * Joachim is exultant, and Anna is keeping festival, crying out: * "The barren woman bears the Theotokos, * the nourisher of our Life."

Exult, O Heaven, and you also, Earth, be joyful. * Because the very Bride of God and God's own heaven * has been born on the earth fulfilling thus the promise. * The barren woman is nursing Mary the babe, * and joyous is righteous Joachim at the birth, * and he says, From the root of David unto me is born a Rod, * from which has bloomed the flower Christ. * Truly wondrous the miracle!

Kontakion for the Feastday

Both Joachim and Anna from their sterility's stigma, and Adam and Eve from their mortality's ruin have been set free, O immaculate Maid, by your holy nativity. For this do your people hold celebration, redeemed from the guilt of transgression as they cry to you, "The barren one bears the Theotokos, the nourisher of our Life."

Discussion questions:

1)  What are these hymns talking about? (barrenness, salvation, the birth of the Virgin Mary, how her birth starts to fix everything that had gone wrong, both for her parents and for Adam and Eve and all of creation)

2) What words in these hymns don't you understand? (define some words for them, or look them up together)

3) Do you see the connection between the birth of the Virgin Mary and the birth of Samuel that we talked about on Monday? (hopefully they do - childlessness followed by prayer followed by childbirth and dedication to God)


Day 3 (Friday)

Luke 1:5-25

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Discussion questions:

1) What was the job of Zechariah? (he was a priest - he offered incense)

2) What happened to him in this story? (an angel appeared to him while he was offering incense)

3) What did the angel say to him? (he told him that his wife was going to have a baby)

4) What did Zechariah think about this? (he thought it was crazy, and he told the angel so)

5) What did the angel think of Zechariah's response? (he wasn't happy about it at all)

6) What was Zechariah's punishment for doubting? (he wasn't able to speak until the baby was born)

Scripture passages from the NRSV. Hymn on Day 2 from http://www.agesinitiatives.com


Year 1, Week 1 (August 30 - September 5)

Day 1 (Monday)

Psalm 118 (119): 105-112

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to observe your righteous ordinances.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
and teach me your ordinances.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.

 

Discussion questions:

1) Who is talking? (if there is no answer, you can ask: Is it God talking here? Or is it some person, some human being, like us?   (It's a human being talking, probably King David)

2) Who are they talking to?

3) How do we know who is talking, and who they are talking to? (answers might be: because they are in trouble, because they are asking God for help, etc)

4) Do any of these prayers seem like something we might want to say to God? What kind of things do you like to say to God when you pray?

5) What does the person praying here say is a source of strength and comfort to him? (Answer: God's word, law, ordinances, etc)

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Hymn from the Orthros (sunrise) Service for September 1st, the Feast of Indiction (the Church New Year)

O Provider of seasons producing fruit * and of rains from the heavens for those on earth, * accept now the fervent prayers that Your servants present to You, * and deliver Your City from every necessity. * And may Your tender mercies be lavished on all Your works. * Therefore we entreat You, bless our comings and goings, * guiding aright the works of our hands for our benefit, * O our God, and bestow on us * forgiveness of our every offence. * For You are the One who brought the universe * from nonexistence into being, as the One who can.

Discussion questions:

1) What do you hear this hymn talking about? (Answers: seasons, crops/fruits, work, comings & goings, forgiveness, God's creation of the world)

2) This is a prayer for starting the new Church year. Does it seem like a good prayer for starting a new School Year too?

3) Did you notice why the hymn says it makes sense to ask God for help when we start a new year and new tasks? (answer: because God provides the seasons that we move through in life, and the rain and crops that nourish us as we live, and because He made everything, even the universe itself - so it makes good sense to ask Him to help us as we move through these things)

Day 3 (Friday)

Luke 1:57

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior[g] for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon[h] us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Discussion questions:

1) What happens in this story? (a baby is born; neighbors argue with parents about what the baby should be named;  a man talks after being unable to talk for awhile, and boy does he try to make up for all that silence!)

2) Do you know who this baby grows up to be? (answer: John the Baptist - see if they know where his icon is inside the Church. If not, tell them that he's next to Jesus on the Iconostasis/Icon Screen)

3) What is strange about the baby being named John? (usually babies were named after their father or mother, or some other close relative. If you like, you can read the beginning of the Gospel of Luke and see why they named the baby John. Long story short - an angel told them to)

4) What does Zachariah say about God in his prophecy (verses 68-80)? (God takes care of His people; the Lord is coming to them; He is sending a prophet to prepare the way for the Lord; He is giving light and peace to people sitting in darkness and death).

Scripture passages from the NRSV. Hymn on Day 2 from http://www.agesinitiatives.com