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Altar I Introduction to the Altar Table

Title: Altar I: Introduction to the Altar Table

Subject: Nomenclature for Life in the Church

Age: 3+ years

Liturgical Time: Non-Specific; typically in the beginning of the church/school year

Doctrinal Content: Christ has died, Christ is Risen. He invites us to his table to participate in the gift of Himself, in His life in the bread, His Body, and in the wine, His Blood.

Direct Aim: Direct aims of this lesson include to name and make accessible the basic/essential articles of the altar table used in celebrating the Eucharist; focusing on the items that the child actually sees during the Divine Liturgy.

Indirect Aim: The indirect aims are for the youth to achieve greater participation in the life of the Church/Kingdom of Heaven; to foster reverence for Eucharist; to enhance preparation for prayer; and to further prepare for future Altar presentations.

Description of Materials:
(All materials should be small beautiful models similar in appearance to what is used in our Church).
Altar Table (free standing; not against a wall)
Altar cloth (white)
Shelf to store altar items
3 candles/oil lamps (depends on what is on your church's altar)
Crucifix: painted figure of Christ that is removable (for the stand)
Cross stand (to stand away from table)
Bowl for spent matches
Antiminsion: a silk or linen cloth, with a picture of Our Lord's Burial; Divine Liturgy cannot be celebrated without it; it means "instead of the table"
Gospel (Just 4 Gospels)
Small Blessing cross
1 vigil candle

Lesson Plan:
The most important place in the Orthodox Church is the Altar or Holy Table. This is where we celebrate with Christ, his special gift of Holy Communion; the Eucharist.

When you walk into church you see the altar. Jesus invites us to His special table when we receive Holy Communion. There are beautiful items on the altar table. These are very special things that the priest uses during the Divine Liturgy. I am going to show you some of those special items on this altar table. (Show model of altar table). The altar table.

On the altar table we place this altar cloth. (Carefully and solemnly lay the cloth on the table, smoothing out the wrinkles, lining it up evenly). The altar cloth.

This is the antiminsion. This special cloth has a picture on it. The priest needs the antiminsion to do the liturgy. It is folded and kept on the altar table. (Carefully and solemnly lay the folded antiminsion cloth on the altar table, making it straight and parallel to the table). The antiminsion. The altar cloth.

This is the Gospel Book. It has the Word of God in it. The Gospel is placed on top of the folded antiminsion. (Showing the children, carefully place the Gospel book on top of the antiminsion). The Gospel Book. (Reinforce: the antiminsion; the altar cloth.)

This is a blessing cross. This lovely cross is used by the priest to bless us. It goes on the right side of the Gospel and the antiminsion. The blessing cross.

This is a cross. (Place free-standing cross behind center of altar table). The cross.

(Show image of the crucified Lord and place behind the altar table on free standing cross). This is an image of the crucified Jesus. It reminds us that Jesus died. The crucifix.

This is the paten. It holds the bread, the Body of Jesus. (Place the paten on the altar on the left side). The paten.

(Show model of chalice)This is the chalice. This beautiful cup holds the wine, the Blood of Jesus. (Place it on the altar table on the right-hand side of the paten). The chalice.

These are candles. They go on the altar table. The candles remind us that Jesus is Risen. (Carefully, slowly, place 2 larger candles on either side of the altar table). The candles.

Solemnly light the candles and say: Christ has died, but He is risen and he invites us to this wonderful meal, the Eucharist.

This is the tabernacle. (Solemnly, carefully show tabernacle and place in middle of table). Tabernacle means a place where God lives. In our church it is the Lord Jesus Himself who is present in the tabernacle. His Body and Blood are always kept in the tabernacle on the holy altar table. The church is really the house of God. He is always here in a special way.

This is a vigil candle. (Place it in front of the tabernacle on the table or if your church has it hanging from the ceiling do that). It is very special. It always stays lit, everyday. This is to show us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the "light of the world".

Let's light the candle to remind us that Jesus is with us all the time.

A way to show that we love Jesus and that we are so happy He is always with us during church is to make a bow and make the sign of the cross whenever we pass before the tabernacle.

Demonstrate to the children how to do this and have each child do this.

Discussion Questions:
Isn't this a beautiful altar table? Sometimes we might want to say some words to Jesus, say a prayer, or sing a song. Is there something you would like to say?

Invitation to Prayer
Possible Songs:  Sing "Alleluias" or "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal"

Level I, St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church; JoAnn Padgett-trainer; 2007
Religious Potential of the Child, Chapter 4
The Good Shepherd and Child,, pp 68-69
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Manual for Construction of the 3-6 year materials, 2001, pp 18-52
Listening to God with Children, pp 59-61
The Orthodox Faith, Volume ii-Worship, by: Fr. Thomas Hopko, pg 6-8
We Worship God, Edited by: Rev. John Kivko
Byzantine Coloring Book, Sketches by Fr. John Matusiak
Let's Take A Walk through our Orthodox Church, By Anthony Coniaris, pg 22.

See below to continue to Altar II.

Notice: This lesson plan utilizes training and the general philosophy/method of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. Materials found in this document, however, have been created specifically to incorporate the theology and dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church. The author of this lesson offers special recognition to Mrs. JoAnne Padget, CGS Instructor, who provided instruction and guidance in the CGS method. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program requires intensive study and strongly recommends that teachers using their program enroll in and complete coursework through an authorized CGS instructor. More information about CGS is available at