The Theotokos


Introduction (Ages 7-9)

Christianity is unique in giving the world a true understanding of God as having humbled Himself, in the Person of Jesus Christ, so that He could share and redeem our life. No other faith teaches, in the same way that Christianity does, that God would "demean" Himself by becoming Man. No other faith gives humankind the joyful news that by undergoing and overcoming an excruciating death, Jesus Christ destroyed death's power over us forever.

But our loving God is so careful of our freedom that He did not come to us in a flashy and overwhelming miracle. He sought human cooperation, and that came in the person of a young woman who lived in worldly circumstances of poverty and powerlessness. The young woman faced the brutal possibility that she would be stoned to death for fornication.  Her willingness to face that hard reality, to cooperate with God's will, came from her faith.

This unit is intended to help students see why the Orthodox Church honors that young woman, the Holy Virgin Mary and Theotokos. She had faith that all would be as the angel Gabriel promised her it would. So she said to him, "Let it be." With those words, she consented to God's plan for our salvation. How could we not honor her, above all other saints, when it is her co-operation that puts God's plan into action?

That brings us to one of several things we want students to know: Mary was not forced or obligated to consent to God's plan. She could have said "no." She is our model, born with free will as we all are, of one who chose to say "yes" to God, as we can also do.

We also want students to be aware of the reason for the Church's emphasis on Mary's ever-virginity.   (This applies mostly to older students, who are dealing with questions of sexuality in their own lives.) The translation of the Hymn to the Theotokos ("More honorable...") most commonly used in our OCA churches states: "Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word; true Theotokos, we magnify you." Students will be learning this hymn as part of the unit, so it is important that they understand its meaning properly. The word "defilement" is not the only way to translate the original words, and should not lead students to think that normal human sexual intercourse is considered "dirty" or "defiling" by the Church. The word only points to the miracle of this birth: Jesus was born without a human father, by the power of God, while still taking flesh from His mother. This was the divine/human birth of the divine/human Son of God.

Overall Objectives of the Unit

  1. Understand the importance of the Theotokos as an intercessor in our relationship with Jesus Christ and
  2. Understand the importance of the Theotokos as a model for us today.

Keeping these two objectives in mind can help us, as teachers, focus on the important fact that every worship service in the Orthodox Church contains one or more references to Mary. She also is given the the title of honor, established at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus (451), of "Theotokos" or Birthgiver of God.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann describes Mary's place in our faith in this way:

The veneration of the Virgin Mary is a necessary component of our faith: The image of the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mother, stands [as] the image of infinite humility and purity, filled with beauty and strength; the image of love and the victory of love.  The Virgin Mary, the All-Pure Mother demands nothing and receives everything. She pursues nothing and possesses all. In the image of the Virgin Mary, we find compassion, tender-heartedness, care, trust, humility. We call her Our Lady and the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and yet she calls herself "the hand-maid of the Lord." ..  Christ said, 'Do not be anxious. Seek first the Kingdom of God' (see Mt 6:33). Beholding this woman - Virgin Mother, Intercessor - we begin to sense, to know not with our mind, but with our heart, what it means to seek the Kingdom, to find it, and to live by it.

THE VIRGIN MARY: THE CELEBRATION OF FAITH
by Alexander Schmemann, pages 21 - 22.

How the Unit is Arranged

The unit is comprised of five lessons of about 45-60 minutes each.  The first four each deal with a feast of Mary, and are presented in the order in which those feasts come in the Church calendar. This order also corresponds to the chronology of Mary's life. It's suggested that the Troparion and Kontakion for each feast be used as opening and closing prayers, respectively, of the sessions in which they are covered.  The fifth session deals with five icons of the Theotokos.

The lessons have each been written on five levels: ages 4-6, ages 7-9, ages 10-12, ages 13-17, and ages 18+.  The ages 13-17 may be split into two groups, older and younger, for discussions.  For each level in a session, there is a lesson plan. All the lesson plans contain the following parts:

  • The lesson theme
  • The age group for which the session is intended
  • The lesson title
  • A series of objectives 
    Objectives are things that the students should be able to do as a result of the session. Objectives should be things the teacher can measure.  Objectives contain verbs such as define, name, list, explain, tell, and other measurable actions. Through questions and discussion, teachers can ascertain whether students are able to fulfill these objectives. If they are not able to do so, teachers will know that review or repetition are necessary.
  • Resources and Materials Needed.
    These are the various materials the teacher will need to teach the session and meet the objectives. These include icons, art, photos, liturgical texts, Bible stories and passages, and craft materials that will be part of the session. 
  • Procedure This is a step-by step outline of how the session should go.

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!

The Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8) (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

Mary's humanity and God's Love - Mary's humanity and God's Love
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • At the end of the lesson, students should be able to briefly retell the story of Joachim and Anna and their daughter's birth
  • Give examples of how their own mothers care for them
  • Explain their understanding of the icons of the two Nativity Feasts (that of Jesus Christ,as well as that of His Mother)
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Materials

  • Icon of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos
  • The Icon Book (relevant text )
  • Texts of the Troparion and Kontakion for the Nativity of the Theotokos; text of the Hymn to the Theotokos ("Virginity is foreign to mothers...")
  • Text from Fr. Alexander Schmemann's book (available in the Lesson Resources). You, the teacher, can use this for theological insight into the meaning of Mary's birth
  • The story of the Nativity (birth) of Mary
  • Butcher paper and colored markers
  • A picture of you, the teacher, parents or grandparents, or a relative from a previous generation or more, to share with students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Troparion (Tone 4)

Your Nativity, O Virgin,
Has proclaimed joy to the whole universe!
The Sun of righteousness, Christ our God,
Has shone from you, O Theotokos.
By annuling the curse, He bestowed a blessing.
By destroying death, He has granted us eternal life.


2

Discuss the Prayer

After singing the Troparion, talk about the words. Point out that Jesus Christ is the "Sun" of righteousness because He is God's Son, but that He also gives light to the whole world, which makes us think of the sun.

Make sure students understand that the word "annul" means to abolish or do away with.  They should understand that the "curse" refers to our disobedience toward God, which leads to unhappiness and separation from Him. God in His love did away with that by sending His Son so that we could be with Him once again.


3

Story of Mary's Birth

Explain that you will now read a story that tells about the prayer that you just sang.

Tell the students the story of Joachim and Anna, and the birth of their daughter, from The Story of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the Resource Section. Emphasize that God's plan was at work from the earliest days of Mary's life. She was the one He wanted to be the mother of Jesus Christ, but it only happened with her agreement.


4

Review Christ's Nativity

Briefly review the story of the Nativity of Jesus Christ (see Resources section) which should be familiar to students.

Ask them:

  • What are some of the things that Anna did for her daughter Mary?
  • What are some of the things that Mary did for her Son Jesus Christ?
  • What are some things that mothers do for their children (students' mothers for them) today?

5

Discuss family ancestors

Talk for a few minutes about ancestors. Let students tell what they know about their grandparents, or generations farther back if they know something about them. (For example, studens might talk about what their ancestors did or do for a living, where they live or have lived, or stories the students have heard from them or about them concerning their lives when younger.) Show students the picture of your own ancestors, and point out that everyone has ancestors, including the Virgin Mary. Her father Joachim and her mother Anna were descended from groups that are mentioned in the very first books of the Bible. Tell students that God's plan was at work then, too. Joseph was the man who took care of Mary and Jesus. He is a great saint of the Church, and a very noble person. But Jesus' true Father was not Joseph. His Father is God, the Father in heaven. This is a miracle and a mystery. Read through the words of the "Hymn to the Theotokos" together. This is how the Church expresses the miracle and mystery of Jesus' birth.

6

Closing Prayer

Use the Kontakion of the Nativity of the Theotokos [Tone Four]

By your Nativity, O most pure Virgin,
Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness;
Adam and Eve, from the corruption of death.
And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin,
celebrate and sing to you:
"The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos,
the Nourisher of our Life."

 

Go through the words of the Kontakion of the Feast together, and sing it. Notice that three groups of people are "freed." Joachim and Anna, the old couple who so wanted a child, were freed from sadness when they had one--Mary. Adam and Eve are freed in that they will no longer be separated from God forever because they chose to disobey Him and put themselves far from Him. We--all of us--are freed in that we can now be with God forever because Jesus Christ was born and showed us how to live so that we can be with God in the Kingdom one day.

 


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The Entrance of the Theotokos (November 21) (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

Mary's holiness and purity
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Retell the events of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple by placing the pictures in order
  • Describe the importance of preparation for special times and events, as Mary was prepared to be the Theotokos
  • Compare the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple to the Presentation of the Lord
  • Enumerate some characteristics of the festal icon
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Materials

  • Icons of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple and of the Presentation of the Lord, and descriptions from The Icon Book
  • Story of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
  • Liturgical Texts of the Feast
  • Drawing paper
  • Colorful markers and/or crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Decorative materials such as stick-on stars or bits of vari-colored construction paper in pleasing shapes
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Troparion (Tone 4)

Today is the prelude of the good will of God,
of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
The Virgin appears in the Temple of God,
In anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice,
O Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation!

After reading the Troparion, and defining words in it as necessary--noting especially that "dispensation" means God's plan--use the following prayer or one of your own choosing:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Father, we thank You for bringing us together today. We thank you for Mary, the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We remember today that she came to the Temple to be prepared by holy people to be His Mother. Bless us as we learn and pray together. We ask in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


2

Review the prayer

Ask the class to notice especially one word in the prayer: PREPARED. Talk about how we prepare for special events, or for things we want to do. Let students suggest ways we prepare for:

  • going to a birthday party
  • being asked to sing a solo in a concert at school
  • a math or arithmetic test that the teacher has planned for tomorrow
  • staying overnight at a friend's house
  • being asked to present bread and salt to the bishop, who is going to visit your parish
When students have offered their ideas, tell them they are going to hear about a time when the Virgin Mary prepared for something very special that God had asked her to do.

3

The Story of the Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple

Tell the class that you are going to read about the event described in the opening prayer.

Read the story of the Feast found in the Resources.

Discuss to review the story:

  • Who went along with Joachim, Anna, and Mary to the Temple? (Friends and relatives.)
  • What did they do as they went along? (They carried lighted candles and sang.)
  • Why were the people surprised after Mary climbed the steps to the Temple? (Because Zechariah took her into the Holy of Holies.)
  • What do you think Zechariah might have said to the people? (Zechariah was a man who loved God and prayed, he understood what God wanted. He told the people that God wanted Mary to enter the holy place.)

4

Activity

Give students drawing and decorative materials. Let students choose to draw one or more of the following events (but make sure that at least one student is drawing each event so that the sequence will be complete):

  • Joachim and Anna pray for a child.
  • Mary is born. Joachim and Anna are happy parents!
  • Mary, her parents, and others walk to the Temple with songs and lighted candles.
  • Mary walks alone up the Temple steps as her parents and the other people watch her.
  • The priest Zechariah receives Mary at the top of the Temple steps.
  • Mary and Zechariah walk together into the Temple, where holy people are waiting for them.
Have students make a large title for the series of pictures: THE ENTRANCE OF THE THEOTOKOS INTO THE TEMPLE. They can decorate this, and make a border to go around the series. Then, as a review, have students put the pictures in the proper order. They can help you arrange the way you will display the series on a wall of the room.

5

Icons

Look at the two icons of the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple, and of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Using the descriptions in The Icon Book, let students compare the two.     

6

Closing Prayer (Sung together)

Use the Kontakion of the Feast

Kontakion - Tone 4

The most pure Temple of the Savior;
the Precious Chamber and Virgin;
the sacred Treasure of the Glory of God,
is presented today to the House of the Lord.
She brings with her the grace of the spirit,
which the angels of God do praise.
Truly this woman is the Abode of heaven!

If you have time, go over the meaning of the last line of the kontakion with your students: "Truly this woman is the abode of heaven." Make sure they understand that the word "abode" means a place where someone lives or stays. Ask them what it means to say Mary is the abode of heaven. (She carried Jesus Christ in her body as He was getting ready to be born. This is the same as what any mother does with her baby. But Jesus is God's only Son, who came from heaven. So we can say that Mary carried heaven in her body when carried Jesus Christ. She was His "abode.")


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The Annunciation (March 25) (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

Mary's obedience and humility - Mary's obedience and humility
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • At the end of the session students should be able to briefly retell the story of the Annunciation and the Virgin Mary's later meeting with her cousin Elizabeth
  • Relate the term "Annunciation" to the concept of announcing important events
  • Tell how Mary's response to the angel's announcement showed faith and humility
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the icon of the feast
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Materials

  • Festal icon of The Annunciation 
  • Festal Troparion & Kontakion
  • Story of the Annunciation
  • Heavy banner-sized sheets of paper for each student
  • Colorful markers/crayons
  • Decorative bits of paper or other things to put on banners
  •  Glue
  •  Scissors
  • To display the banners, you may want to attach the top of each one to a thin dowel with tape, and tie a long string to the two ends of the dowel. The banner can be displayed by suspending the middle of the tied string from wall hooks
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Troparion of the Annunciation

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry out to the Theotokos!
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you.

The hymn says that today is the "beginning" of our salvation because it is the beginning of Jesus Christ's birth as our Savior. Nine months after this feast, which comes in March, we will celebrate the birth of Our Lord in December. Our "salvation" means our being saved from something. We are saved from the final power of death. Now, with the coming of Jesus Christ as our Savior, we have the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ into the Kingdom and to be with Him there always.

This announcement reveals, or lets us see, something that God has planned forever, which is what "eternal" means. That "something" is the coming of the Savior.

"Grace" is the gift God gives to those who love Him and want to live as He calls them to live. Grace enables people to live in God's way.


2

The Story of the Annunciation

Tell students you are going to read a story from the New Testament about an announcement that was made to only one person. Yet it was the most important announcement ever for each and every person in the world.

With the class, read Luke 1:36.  Ask students:

  • "What other good news did the angel Gabriel give to Mary?" (That her older cousin Elizabeth would also have a child.)

Read Luke 1:39-45.  Ask students,

  • "What was the first thing Mary did after speaking with angel?" (She went to share joy with Elizabeth.) 
  • "What did Elizabeth say to her?" (Elizabeth called her "blessed" and referred to her as "the mother of my Lord," which is what the Church still calls Mary today.)
  • "What unusual thing happened to Elizabeth?" (Mary's wonderful news made the baby in Elizabeth's body leap for joy. The baby, though not yet born, already knew that Jesus would be the Savior! Make sure students know that Elizabeth's baby was John the Baptist.)

3

Announcements

Ask students to think about announcements.

  • What kinds of things do we announce? (Important things.) 
  • How do we announce them? (Let students come up with many responses: TV and radio, e-mail, websites, billboards, newspapers, word of mouth, invitations or fliers sent through the mail, etc.)
  • What are some important announcements students have heard in their own lives? (Such things as the impending birth of a new baby in the family, a move, a new job for a parent, a special visit from a beloved relative, a family trip or vacation, a death of someone close to the family might be occasions of announcements.)
Allow the students to create individual announcements

 

 


4

Annunciation Banners

Look together again at the words of the troparion. Point out that the first words, "Today is the beginning of our salvation" are really an announcement to the whole world. The last words, "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you" are an announcement to Mary (who is the one described by the words "full of grace.")

Let students choose one or the other phrase and make a banner. Have the festal icon in sight as they work. They can decorate the banners, write the words in fancy letters, and put details from the festal icon on the banners as well. Plan to display the banners under a title strip: The Annunciation to the Theotokos.


5

Icon of the Feast

Look together at the icon of the feast. Use the description in The Icon Book to talk about some of the details. Remind students of something you talked about in an earlier session: Mary is called the "new Eve." Just as the first Eve chose to disobey God, Mary chose to obey His will and be part of His divine plan. She had faith that God would be with her in everything that happened. She was willing to let God be "the boss" in her life. We sometimes call this kind of willingness humility. A person who has humility isn't someone who lets everyone else make fun of them or order them around. A person who has humility doesn't think of herself or himself as being no good. A person who has humility isn't fearful all the time. (Remember that Mary stood firmly and questioned the angel--she did not simply tremble in front of him and silently hear his words.) Humility means recognizing God as the loving Father and Maker of the universe, who will always lead us in good paths if we let Him. This is what Mary did. Let students talk about this for a few more minutes if they wish to. Then review: Ask students to identify Gabriel, Elizabeth, and Joseph.

6

Closing Prayer

Troparion of the Annunciation

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry out to the Theotokos!
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you.


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The Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15) (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

Our Salvation and Christ's perfect love - Our Salvation and Christ's perfect love
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • At the end of the session students should be able to Briefly retell the story of the Dormition, including the apostles' eagerness to be with the Theotokos as she was dying
  • Tell how the Theotokos served as a mother to all the Apostles after her Son's Ascension
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the icon of the feast
  • State that the Theotokos can be an intercessor for us
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Materials

  • Icon of the Dormition
  • The Icon Book
  • Liturgical texts of the Feast
  • Story of the Dormition of the Theotokos based on traditional sources
  • Strips of card stock for bookmarks
  • Small dried or silk flower petals
  • Markers
  • Tweezers
  • Glue
  • Clear contact paper
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Troparion (Tone 1)

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Discuss unfamiliar words (preserved, forsake, translated, deliver) with the students Note that the word "translated" here means taken to another state of being--in Mary's case, from death to life.  Emphasize that the hymns for  the feast help us to understand that we are celebrating that Mary is living forever with God, just as we hope to.

 


2

Story of the Dormition of the Theotokos

THE DORMITION (OR "FALLING ASLEEP") OF THE THEOTOKOS (15 minutes) Say to the class: We have studied three other major feast days of the Theotokos. Today we are going to study her Dormition. Sometimes we hear this feast referred to as the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos, or the Assumption.

After reading the story in the Resources section, look again at the troparion. Point out to the class that two miracles about the Theotokos are compared. First, she gave birth to a child even though there was no human father--she "preserved her virginity." Second, though she "fell asleep" or died, she lives in the Kingdom of God. Both of these show us God's greatness and His love for us.

3

Icon of the Dormition

Show the icon of the Dormition and read together the explanation from the Icon Book. If possible, have a color icon of the Dormition. Pay specific attention to the presence of Christ, carrying the soul of the Theotokos. She is already in heaven, with God. It's very important that we understand that she is there already, and that she is able to be with God and is able to pray to God for us. Tell the class: When we celebrate the feast of the Dormition we celebrate the funeral of the Theotokos and her presence in heaven with Christ. Discuss how sad the Apostles must have been when the Theotokos died. Recall how sad anyone in the class has been when someone close to them has died. Remind the students that the Theotokos is now in heaven, having been saved, as each one of us hopes to be


4

Create a Bookmark

Bookmark Activity - In many Orthodox Churches it is customary to bless flowers on the feast of the Dormition.
Using the card stock, with tweezers have the students place, and then glue down, the dried or silk flowers to decorate a bookmark for their Bibles. They might want to write a few words of the Troparion or make a cross on it first. Have them try to make the petals flat and then cover the bookmark with clear contact paper to preserve it.

5

Kontakion for the Dormition of the Theotokos

Read together 
Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions?
For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life
By the One who dwelt in her virginal womb!

Discuss how the Kontakion tells the story of the Dormition. (Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos) What do we mean by "our firm hope in her intercessions"? (We can count on her.) Mother of Life? (The Theotokos is the mother of Jesus Christ, who died and rose so that we could have eternal life.) The Theotokos is still very concerned about the world and involved in our lives.

 


6

Wedding at Cana

Read together the folowing story of the wedding at Cana:
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what has that to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days. (John 2:1-12)

This story shows us that Christ and the Theotokos have a wonderful relationship. In this story she asks Him to help these people involved in the wedding. She can also ask Him to help us. She is confident that He loves her and that He loves us. When we pray to the Theotokos we can ask her help, because she is "our firm hope in her intercessions."


7

Closing Prayer

Use the Kontakion as a closing prayer.

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Icons of the Theotokos (Ages 7-9)

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Overview

The Theotokos: compassion and protection
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Objectives

By the end of this Lesson, learners should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a recognition of various iconographic images of the Theotokos 
  • Compare the various iconographic representations of the Theotokos
  • Describe the emotions each icon portrays
  • Retell main points of the story of the Tikhvin Icon
  • Recite the Hymn to the Theotokos
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Materials

  • Copies of the feast day icons of the Theotokos that have been studied in previous lessons
  • Copies of the Troparia from the feast days (available in Sessions 1-4)
  • Copies of the following icons and troparia:
    • The Tikhvin Icon
    • The Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir:
    • Our Lady of the Sign
    • The Icon of the Protection
  • The Icon Book
  • Any available icons of the Theotokos, on cards, in books or photographs, etc
  • Laminated copies of the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir or the Tikhvin Icon or any of the others (particularly the Loving Kindness icons), one for each student
  • Copies of the Hymn to the Theotokos printed the same size as the icon
  • Card stock or heavy construction paper, slightly larger than the icon and prayer when folded over, to be a "frame" for an icon to be mounted on the right and the prayer next to it on the left
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Procedure

1

Opening Prayer

Hymn to the Theotokos

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos
ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!

Make certain the students understand that the Cherubim and Seraphim are ranks of angels. See the Introduction to this unit for guidance on discussing the word "defilement."


2

Icons of the Theotokos

Remind students that we have talked about how important the Theotokos is in our lives and in the life of the Church. We remember her frequently in our own prayers and in the services of the Church, and ask her to pray for us and to help us. In these sessions we learned about how the icons of the Theotokos teach us about important events. We are grateful to be able to have icons, because they help make present Christ and the saints. Orthodox Churches are filled with icons. There are many different types of icons of the Theotokos. The icon of the Theotokos holding the Christ child is on the iconostasis of every Orthodox Church.

Read the page from THE ICON BOOK (page 2) about the icons of the Theotokos. Discuss icons of the Theotokos with which the students might be familiar, in their homes, in the church, from other lessons.


3

Icon Identification

Put up copies of the 4 icons (all available on www.oca.org ) Give each student a piece of paper and a pencil Have them observe all four icons Ask them to write down 3 things about each of the icons that are unique to that icon Have students share their written ideas. Identify the icons and talk a little about them.

The Tikhvin Icon - This is a type of icon called the Hodigitria, or Pointer of the Way. In it the Theotokos is holding Christ upright. She is gesturing with her right hand, "presenting" Him, as if she were saying to us, as she did to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5.) Over some icons a riza, a decorative cover, was put to protect them, and as time went on people added precious jewels to some. In this icon you can see that Christ is blessing with his right hand and with his left he is holding a rolled up scroll.

The Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir This is a type of icon called Loving Kindness or Compassion. You can see how Christ and the Theotokos are touching each other more closely. It reminds us of their love for each other and their love for us. There are many miraculous icons of this type and many people have a copy of this type of icon in their own prayer corner. Our Lady of the Sign In this type of icon the Theotokos has her arms upraised in prayer. This is called the Orans position.


Sometimes we see this icon in the domes of Orthodox Churches or behind the altar table in the sanctuary. Christ is shown inside the Theotokos, as he was before he was born. It reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) The Icon of the Protection This type of icon recalls an event, like the festal icons we looked at during the other sessions. This one is the icon of the Protection. In the icon the Theotokos is in the Orans position of prayer, but above her you can see the angels holding a cloth. This icon commemorates the Theotokos' protection of the city of Constantinople.

Show the class any additional icons of these types or other feasts. Identify the icons of the Theotokos in Orthodox churches that the students are familiar with. Share the icons in the books or photos if any are available. Discuss if any are of these types.

 


4

Icon Card Activity

 Icon Card activity (10 minutes) Using card stock, fold it in half. Have the students choose one of the copies of an icon of the Theotokos. Glue it to the right side of the card, and the copy of the Hymn to the Theotokos on the left side. This can be taken home and put on their night table or in their icon corner, to help them remember the Theotokos and ask her to pray for them.  Using card stock, fold it in half. Have the students choose one of the copies of an icon of the Theotokos. Glue it to the right side of the card, and the copy of the Hymn to the Theotokos on the left side. This can be taken home and put on their night table or in their icon corner, to help them remember the Theotokos and ask her to pray for them.

5

Story of the Tikhvin Icon

For many years this icon was in North America for safekeeping. Read the story of the Tikhvin Icon found in the Resource Section together, or read it beforehand and summarize it for students.

6

Closing Prayer

Hymn to the Theotokos

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos
ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!


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