Religion

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)