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Introduction to Icons

Title: Introduction to Icons

Subject: Nomenclature for life in the Church

Age: 3 to 7 years

Liturgical Time: Near the beginning of the year

Prerequisite: Presentation of "The Sign of the Cross"

Doctrinal Content: "Icons bear witness to the reality of God's presence with us in the mystery of faith". In the Orthodox faith, icons are spiritually necessary because "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Christ is truly man and, as man, truly the "icon of the invisible God." (Colossian 1:15; I Corinthians 11:7; II Corinthians 4:4).

Direct Aim: Children will learn what an icon is and how to venerate them.

Indirect Aim: Children will gain greater participation in the life of the church and Kingdom of Heaven, they will foster reverence and preparation for prayer, and learn more about saints and feast days featured in icons.

Sources:
Level I, St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church; JoAnn Padgett-trainer; 2007
The Orthodox Faith, Volume II, pg 12-13.

Materials for the Lesson:
Icon stands (photo frame stands)
Shelf or box to store icons
Various sizes/shapes of icons (paper, wooden, etc)
Model size Lectern (on which to place the icons)
Pretty cloth (in various liturgical colors) to place on lectern

The Lesson Plan:
Gather and settle the children for a presentation. Say, "When you walk into an Orthodox Church you see a lot of special pictures, Holy pictures called icons. An icon is like a window that helps us look into heaven. It shows us the holy people or saints who lived before us. Icons also show us the miracles of Jesus and all He did for us. They depict scenes from the life of Jesus and from the life of saints."

Continue with, "Icons come in many different shapes and sizes. I'm going to show you some icons." Show different types, pass them around, and mention how to be very careful with icons. Prompt the children to not lay them on the floor, but rather place them somewhere special, such as a stand, etc. Show where to place icons after taking them out of the box: a shelf or icon stand. They may want to find a special place to put their icon.

Say, "When we see an icon, we may want to show our love. You can make the sign of the cross and kiss the icon to show your love." Demonstrate how to venerate an icon, explaining the difference between venerating and worshipping: we do not worship icons. Continue with, "Icons are beautiful pictures, aren't they? They are windows to heaven. Sometimes you may want to say a special prayer or sing a special song when you are in front of an icon. Is there anything you want to say?" Ask for responses from the children.

Optional: You can share with children a way to help remember what ICONS stands for:

  • "I" stands for image, that is what icon means in Greek;
  • "C" stands for Christ because we are made in his image;
  • "O" stands for Orthodox because Orthodox Christians use icons;
  • "N" stands for newness because though icons may be ‘old' Christ makes all things new (Rev 21:5);
  • "S" is for saints because they are all in icons too.


Close with a prayer.

Activities:
Show how to place icons on shelf and how to work with them.
Work with icons deciphering them and understanding what goes into icons and elements of iconography
Have the children copy an icon or "create" an icon.
Have children create a photo album of icons with prayers
Create and Icon Flip Chart:
Make an icon flip chart by folding a piece of construction paper in half, and cutting the front side into five equal strips. Have students write the letters "I-C-O-N-S", one letter on each strip, with the word each letter stands for on the inside of that strip (Image, Christ, Orthodox, Newness, Saints). When you open the flaps you will see an icon of Christ or Theotokos (they can color and glue the icons). Use thin strips of black to make a window frame around each icon to remind them they are windows to heaven. The students can glue on the back or above icon a label that reads "icons are windows to heaven."