Lesson 3: Liturgy of the Word part I

Great job everyone! We got through the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, just before the readings. We’ve been covering a lot of material. As we go along, make sure to write down any questions you might have, and we can possibly have a Q&A session at some point to address them!

Here is a recap of our lesson:

Hymns – This time we went over the Hymn of the Intercessions. We sing this hymn as we ask the saints to intercede for us. What does “intercede” really mean? It means “intervene”, or having another person going to request something for you. Just as we ask our friends to pray for us, the saints are also our friends who pray for us as well. We do not pray TO the saints as if they are God, as some people may believe. We pray WITH the saints and request them to pray for us as we also pray for ourselves and others.

Praying for forgiveness of our sins is all about healing and preparation. Remember, in kyrie eleison, the word eleison comes from the Greek root eleios which means “oil”, and we use oil traditionally for healing. When we come to liturgy, we are asking God to bind our wounds and to heal us. Also this is part of preparing for the receiving of Communion, which is also for healing and eternal life. Any time we have, let’s say, a special guest come to our home, we always prepare our house, make it extra clean and presentable, and maybe plan our time with something fun or exciting. The same is with God, as we look with anticipation towards receiving Christ into the home of our hearts, we prepare and make everything look as pretty as possible as we receive such a special guest, and this Guest not only heals you but transforms you entirely. It’s all about how much we love God! And He shows us His overflowing love with offering His Body and Blood to us.

As we sing this hymn, the priest will walk around the church with the censer (we explain the censer below). The smoke that goes up lifts our prayers and requests to the saints up to the heavens. The priest should be praying for each one of us as he goes around the church!

This Hymn is found in the 1st Grade packet that you received on the first day, page 5. Here is an online link to the page: http://www.suscopts.org/ssc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/01st_Grade_Hymns_curriculum_2016.pdf

Look out for the hymn recording on SoundCloud soon!

Psalm 30 (or 29 in the Orthodox Study Bible) – This will be the next psalm we memorize. This one is said as we are putting on our vestments in the morning just before we start the Liturgy.

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Now in my prosperity I said,
“I shall never be moved.”
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

We can start with verses 1-6 (the first 14 lines) for next time. We will memorize the rest of it for the lesson after that.

For bonus points, memorize the following verse from psalm 5! This one is said when entering the church.

But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;
In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7)

Coptic letters – We’re going to keep rolling and learn 3 more letters! You’ve learned 9 letters now, which is AWESOME! We learned Zeta, Eeta, and Theta:

We used the words above for our memory words, except for Theta we learned theos which means “God”.

Liturgical rites – We learned about a few facts and spiritual topics about the Liturgy. We learned about absolution and forgiveness of sins, the Censer, and the Body of Christ:

  • Absolution/forgiveness of sins
    • The priest prays an “absolution” prayer for all of us participating in the Liturgy. The absolution is a prayer for forgiveness of sins or any mistakes or flaws we may make. Remember the prayer that the priest prays for you at the end of confession? That’s also an absolution! He does this at many times and occasions, during the Liturgy, confession, baptism, etc. Basically, God by His grace is providing the healing of us all, the restoration of ourselves into what we were all originally intended to be as children of the King of the Universe. When we prepare ourselves to receive communion, we are preparing for Christ to offer Himself to us all for healing, renewal, and eternal life. This means we are letting go of our past, turning away from any negative things that do not lead us to our goal which is Christ, and having a fresh start to life once again. This involves us thinking of the things we don’t feel so proud of doing, anything that misses the mark towards Christ as our goal, and ask that God purify us and keep us on track towards Him. We confess our sins to God during this part and the priest offers this grace from God to all of us. Remember, God is not a scary judge who we beg for mercy and forgiveness, but God is a merciful God whose goal is to restore and renew us with healing and transformation.
  • The Body of Christ
    • When we pray in the Liturgy, we are praying with everyone across time and space. We are not only praying with your friends standing next to you on either side, but you are also joined by the angels, the saints, martyrs, everyone! We pray with them and ask them to pray for us, just as we pray for others. And this is all as we journey to heaven during the Liturgy. We ask the saints to intercede for us, because we are right there with them! We later will reconcile with everyone as we are worshipping with them prior to receiving communion, we commemorate the saints since they are right there with us, we sing about the angels standing before God and worshipping Him because we are standing right with them worshipping Him as well. Get the picture? It’s not all imaginary or playing pretend, it’s REAL! Think about it, every time you’re in Liturgy, you are literally in heaven with everyone celebrating the Feast of the Lamb together!
  • The Censer
    • A Censer is a metallic object that we use to burn incense in. Incense has been used for thousands of years by lots of cultures/religions, and our roots date back to the Old Testament when the priests would offer incense just as we do today in the temple. We have continued this tradition and have applied not only Old Testament ideas but also Christian ideas and concepts with its use. Pay attention, because much of the purpose and spiritual contemplations on things in church, including the censer, are mentioned in hymns that we sing all the time (i.e. “Taishori”, which we will learn next time). In fact, it was through hymns and the Liturgy that the people learned theology in the Orthodox Church; you can learn it too! Everything we do has a purpose and a deep meaning behind it, and it’s easy to explore and know why!
    • The censer mostly represents St. Mary, and the incense/coal inside is Christ in her womb. St. Mary is sometimes also called theotokos, which means “God-bearer”, and similarly the censer bears the coal and incense within it. Remember Exodus chapter 3 when Moses meets God speaking from the burning bush? The bush that was “burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2)? Christ is the fire that is not consumed, within the womb of St. Mary, and often-times you will see icons with St. Mary with Jesus in the burning bush itself. Similarly, the incense is burning but is “not consumed”. Incense is also considered a form of sacrifice to God in the Old Testament, and Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our human race.

Well, that’s a wrap! Our next lesson will be 11/13 at 6:30 PM.

Remember to memorize the first 14 lines (verses 1-6) of psalm 30 as above, and memorize Psalm 5:7 for bonus points by the end of the month!

See you next time!

Love, in Christ,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

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