2019 Lenten Retreat – Class 4

Objective The general objective will be understand and comprehend the importance of scriptures within our spiritual lives, especially during the Lenten season.

Specific Objectives

  1. Lesson Time 1: Students will be able to list 2-3 reasons why it is beneficial and important to read the scriptures. (keeps us fresh, helps us understand the church, shapes our hearts/minds)
  2. Lesson Time 2: Students will be able to list 2-3 ways on how to approach + study scripture. (prayer+humility, with commentaries from church fathers, looking for how it points to Christ)
  3. Students will be able to explain the how scriptures have helped give direction in their lives.
  4. Students will be able to discuss and self reflect on how various scriptures signify and effect them.

Memory Verse

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Introduction (for Teachers)

As children of Christ, we know that we need to lead a life worthy of the lord. To lead that life we need something that will guide us — thus the scriptures. Scriptures have withstood the test of time from generation to generation. Scriptures help us to stay rooted in Christ and in the Church.

This lesson is broken up into two session.  In the first session, it will focus on why we should read Scripture? The three concepts that will be highlighted are, first, that regular scripture reading keeps our faith fresh and lively. Second, knowledge of scripture helps us connect in depth with the liturgy of our Church.  Third, scripture can change us and shape us.

In the second session, the lesson will focus on ways to approach Scripture.  The first concept will be that Scripture study should be done with humility and prayer (in addition to effort.)  The second concept covered is that when Scripture is studied to use the commentaries and guidance of our church forefathers.  Third, Scripture is to be read with the mind to see how it points to Christ.

Although the lesson material is presented this way, this is only a recommendation.  Please adjust and use as fitting for your parish or region.

Session 1 (1-1.5 hours)

Opening Activity: Cell Phone Contacts (5 min)

Ask the students to look in their phone at the recent calls over the last month. Ask “Who are the top five people you talked to over the last month?” Get some responses and share yours too. Estimate how much time you spent talking/communicating with others this week.


  • Do you think that is a large amount of time or a short amount of time?
  • If you were to compare it to the amount of time spent listening to God – is it a short or long amount of time?

Alternate: Ask the students to share the first 5 thoughts that came into mind when they woke up this morning. Also share yours. After everyone has shared, ask how many of these were honoring to God.

Concept Activity 1: Consistency (15min)

Note for teachers – This section will focus on explaining the importance and benefit of regular scripture reading. This will be done through an activity comparing our spiritual life to a dried up sponge.

Items Needed:

  • Per Team: 1 Dried out/shriveled sponge, 1 Fresh new sponge, 1 Cup
    • Note: You’ll need to prepare much beforehand to get the dried up sponge!
  • Bucket of water
  • Paper towels
  • Ruler


Split the class up into teams. Give each team 2 sponges. One sponge has been used and left to dry out – so it is hard and inflexible. The other sponge is fresh. Each team has to choose 1 sponge, dip it in the bucket of water (max 5 secs), and squeeze it out into their cup. The team that has the most water wins.


  • Which sponge did your team use and why?
  • What was/would be difficult in using the dried out sponge?
  • Do you think if the dried out sponge had time to re-soak it would be as effective as the new sponge?

Tie in the following points:

  • We are like the sponges.  If we daily refresh ourselves in God’s word we remain “springy”.  Or, we can go through life not-refreshed, and eventually dry out.
  • Like the dried out sponge, we too can be renewed — even if it has been a while since we spent time in Scripture.
  • The sponge is meant to hold water, but also meant to “share” it.  Likewise the scripture we take in meant to be dispersed as needed.

Concept Activity 2 (15 minutes)

Note for teachers– This section will focus on one specific benefit of scripture reading: familiarity with scriptures helps us to appreciate the liturgy. The liturgy of the church presupposes our familiarity with the scripture. Often the liturgy may only hint at a particular Biblical reference and assume we understand the rest. By being familiar with scripture, helps us understand the liturgy and the church to a deeper level.

Materials Needed – Handout of the Songs/Event and associated passage. (click here)


Split the class into 3 groups. Assign to each group one of the songs / parts of the service listed below. Have them read the attached passages as well. Ask each group to prepare to present to the other group how understanding the background in the scripture, helps understand what is going on in that service or what is means.

1 – Song – procession hymn on Easter

O ! Mary, I - am - indeed garden keeper
Am indeed founder - great, noble of paradise,
O ! Mary, I - am - life of those who do live,
Am indeed life and - resurrection of all,
I was killed on cross - Was sealed inside tomb
You don’t touch me now - Not I ascended to - Fa-ther,
Faster proceed and you tell my disciples
I did rise indeed - from tomb in glory.

Associated Passages:

  • John 20:11-18
  • Genesis 2:8-9
  • John 11:25

For Teachers: This song is sung on Easter.  The song should remind us of the encounter of Mary with the resurrected Christ in the garden — when she was asking who she thought was a gardener, “Where is Christ?”  The song can been seen as Jesus’ figurative answer – He is indeed The Garden Keeper.  

Likewise the song may remind us of the Garden of Eden or when Jesus tell Mary (another Mary) that He is the Resurrection.

Audio (English):  https://goo.gl/vbHzp2
Audio (Syriac):  www.facebook.com/watch/?v=499677886800845

The point to bring out here is how knowing the Biblical background helps us to appreciate our liturgy more.

2 – Song – Qurbono song

Paul the blessed – 
Saint, the Lord’s Apostle, said
If one come to preach to you
Other doctrine than we knew,
Be he man or angel bright,
Cursed be he in Church’s sight;
Doctrines all diverse arise,
Shooting up with many lies;
Blest is he who first and last
Trusts God’s truth and holds it fast.

Associated passages:

  • Galatians 1:6-9
  • Revelations 3:11

For Teachers: This song is part of Holy Qurbono. It sung before the reading of Pauline Epistle for the day. Hopefully it brings into mind the teaching of Paul to watch out for false teaching and to remain true to what we were first taught.
The point to bring out here is how knowing the Biblical background helps us to appreciate our liturgy more.

3 – Event – Mid-lent service

 The 25th day of the the Great Lent is known as Mid-Lent. 
On that day, there is a procession around the church carrying
the cross. This is followed by “Exaltation of the Cross” in the
altar to each direction (East, West, North, South.) Finally the
cross is placed on a big decorated cross-stand in the middle
of the Church. (It is called the “Golgotha”) The cross stands in
the middle of the church for the rest of Lent.

Associated passages

  • John 3:13-14
  • Numbers 21:4-9

For Teachers: The mid-lent service points back to the Old Testament, where Moses lifts up a serpent as a cure for the people who were being bitten by snakes during the travel in the wilderness.  The reading from Numbers is this story from OT. The reading from John is where Jesus refers to that – saying He too will be lifted up.

Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the middle of the desert (wilderness) around the middle of the Exodus, the journey of the Israelites from slavery to their promised land. He lifted up the serpent so that those who are bitten by the snake might look at it and have life. Similarly the cross (Jesus) is lifted up in the middle of the church so that we are reminded that those who are bitten by sin can look at Jesus and gain eternal life by the Him.

The point to bring out here is how knowing the Biblical background helps us to appreciate our liturgy more


  • The 3 selection assigned in class are just samples. The orthodox liturgy assumes the individual already has a familiarity with the scriptures and the images in there.
  • Do you feel lost in the service?  The more familiar with scripture the more meaningful the service can be.

Concept Activity 3 – Mold (10 minutes)

Note for teachers – In this section, we will emphasize how scripture is meant to shape us and change us. The lesson will go about this by literally shaping something with our hands (ie. clay.) Then we will look at a passage from St. John Chrysostom.

Materials Needed – 

  • Play dough / clay
  • Printout of the quote from St. John Chrysostom (click here)


Ask the students to take a lump of clay and shape it into:

  • an image of themselves
  • or something that is symbolic of them
  • or something they care about

Go around and ask why they chose that shape/etc.  

Hand out the printout of the quote from St. John Chrysostom:

“I exhort you, and I will not cease to exhort you to pay heed not only to what is said here, but when you are home also you should occupy yourselves attentively with the reading of Holy Scripture. Let no one say to me such cold words-worthy of judgment—as these: ‘I am occupied with a trial, I have obligations in the city, I have a wife, I have to feed my children, and it is not my duty to read the Scripture but the duty of those who have renounced everything.’ What are you saying?! It is not your duty to read Scripture because you are distracted by innumerable cares? On the contrary, it is your duty more than those others, more than the monks; they do not have such need of help as do you who live in the midst of such cares. You need treatment all the more, because you are constantly under such blows and are wounded so often. The reading of Scripture is a great defense against sin. Ignorance of the Scripture is a great misfortune, a great abyss. Not to know anything from the word of God is a disaster. This is what has given rise to heresies, to immorality; it has turned everything upside down.”

Seraphim of Sarov: “We should swim in the words of the holy Scripture, like a fish is swimming in the water.”


  • Who does Chrysostom say needs the scripture the most?  Why?
  • What do you think is meant by “Ignorance of the Scripture is a great misfortune, a great abyss.”?
  • What “shapes” us in the world?
  • What excuses does Chrysostom list that people often say for not reading the scripture? What are our modern day equivalents?

Things to highlight:

  • “abyss” ⇒ Abyss of worldliness
  • the orthodox way of life is mean to shape us / mold us. scripture is part of that way…
    • liturgical prayer → teaches us to pray “like this”
    • pray 7 times → keep God in the forefront
    • community → encourage us & keep us accountablethe orthodox way of life is mean to shape us / mold us.  scripture is part of that way…
  • are we being shaped … or are we conforming to what is comfortable?

Lesson 1 Conclusion

Review 3 concepts

  • Scripture keeps us fresh
  • Scripture helps us understand & connect with the church
  • Scripture shape us

Use the following game to review the concepts talked about during the past hour.

  • Split the class into teams (max 4-5 kids per team)
  • Give each team paper / pen.
  • Start a 5 min timer.
  • During that time have the teams write down as many things as they can remember we covered in this past lesson time.
  • Afterwards compare among the teams who has the most unique items (1 point for a non-unique item, 5 points for a unique item.)
    • As you go through the item highlight / reinforce / review any important topics

Session 2 (1-1.5 hours)

Note for teachers: This lesson time will focus on how to approach scripture.

Opening Activity: Shakespeare? (5 min)

Note for teachers: This opening activity is tied with the next lesson concept activity.  The goal is for the students to appreciate that when we go to scripture it isn’t the same as when we study literature.  We approach scripture with humility and prayer – things we wouldn’t do when learning in school. But, we also approach it will all our effort and intellect – which we do when learning in school. This can be summarized by a quota from a priest (Fr. Hopko): “We’re not judging it (scripture); we’re trying to let it judge us

Description Ask the students how they approach studying Shakespeare (or any other literature) in their English classes in school.  Wait for responses and write them down. Sample responses:

  • Try to understand the author’s purpose
  • Debate the validity of the author’s point of view
  • Read between the lines
  • Understand context of the time
  • etc…

Ask: Do you think these are valid approaches also in reading Scripture?

Note for teachers: Yes and no – scripture is not simply literature to be scrutinized and picked apart.  But understanding and using our full mind is also needed.

Concept Activity 1: With Humility & Prayer (10min)

Continuing with the opening activity. Bring up 3 ways to approach scripture:

  • With Humility
    • willing to be changed
    • a teachable heart is a humble heart
    • ask
      • What is God trying to tell me through this?
      • What is God trying to tell me through this as a Christian?
      • What is God trying to tell me through this as an Orthodox Christian?
      • What is God trying to tell me through this as a _______?
  • With Prayer
    • related with humility (require divine illumination to understand scripture)
  • With Effort
    • not half hearted
    • with all our intellect


  • Why or why not is this appropriate way to approach scripture?
  • Why is it so different than the way we approach literature in school?
    • In school we are learning to be “critical” thinkers
    • In scripture we are hoping to be changed
      • Fr. Hopko: “We’re not judging it; we’re trying to let it judge us

Concept Activity 2: With a Guide (15 min)

Note for teachers: This activity / lesson is about helping the students appreciate the need to look to the church fathers for wisdom and guidance in interpreting and studying the scriptures. The handout of possible commentaries is not an exhaustive list, rather a starting point. Many of the references are to a series of public books from a Coptic priest, in those commentaries he often references many of the ancient church fathers writings.

Items Needed:

  • 4 button down shirts
  • 4 pairs of winter gloves
  • 4 note cards – each card has one of the phrases below
    • 1 “no advantage”
    • 2 “some else can do the buttoning they can use 2 hands”
    • 3 “some else can help buttoning – but they can only use one hand”
    • 4 “practice run”
  • Commentary Handout (https://goo.gl/u9GRRv)


Split the class up into 4 teams.  Tell them this is a going to be a relay race… but it isn’t going to be fair.  Each team member it supposed to button up shirt and then un-button it and pass to the next team member.  BUT – the person needs to be wearing winter gloves! But it isn’t going to be fair – each team can should draw one of the “Advantage” cards. The card lists a particular advantage that team can do.  

Have the “practice run” team get a chance to try buttoning with the gloves. After they got a chance, have each of the teams start.  Likely the team that drew “card 2” will win


  • Was it hard to button the shirt with gloves on?
  • Which team had the easiest time?  
  • Do you think it was fair?  If you had your choice of which “advantage” card you could pick which would you choose?  
  • What would you think if some team didn’t choose “card 2”?
    • Sometimes in our study of scripture we are like those that don’t choose card 2.  What is meant by this is the church has a treasury of resources in understanding and applying the scriptures…but sometimes we choose not to use it.
    • Talking about the studies and words from the saints.  Often time scripture is hard to parse and understand…so we often look at and understand scripture from the point of view of the church saints.  We have a guide…
  • What are the advantages of having a guide?
  • What is difficult about using commentaries from the saints in reading scripture?
    • access to commentaries may not be straightforward
    • have to go find it
    • can I trust this commentary?
  • Pass out the Commentary List Handout.  In it are some commentaries on some of the books of the Bible.  It may be a good starting point. Most of these commentaries are basically repeating what was said by ancient church fathers about particular verses.

Concept Activity 3: It points to Christ (5min)

Note for teachers: In this final lesson, we study the “Road to Emmaus” passage. In the passage, 2 disciples are traveling and Jesus walks along with them. (The disciples do not know it is Jesus.) Want to emphasize, that in the passage, Jesus uses the Scriptures to point to Himself. This is the goal of the lesson: to understand we read the scripture looking for how it points to Christ.

Read Luke 24:13-35 together.


  • Who is in this story?
  • What happened?
  • What is ironic about the question they ask in v18?
    • Jesus was really the only person who knew what has happened.
  • What did Jesus use to talk about himself – v27?
  • What did the disciples feel as Jesus explained the scriptures – v32?
  • When did the disciples “see” – v30?
  • What does that remind you of?
    • ans: Holy Qurbono
      • St. Augustine says “When did the Lord manifest Himself? When He broke the bread…. This is why when we break the bread, we come to know the Lord; for He did not declare Himself except at the table, to us who were unable to see Him physically, but he gave us His body to eat. Therefore, if you believe this, come, whatever state you may be in. if you are confident, then be restful when the bread is broken.”

Discussion points:

  • When reading scripture it is important to look and see how it points to Christ.
  • Even (especially) the Old Testament
    • St. Cyril the great says, “The Lord presented to the two disciples Moses and the prophets. He revealed to them what they could not understand, for the old law is a paving to the road, and the service of the prophets is to prepare the people so they receive the faith. God did not send anything that is of no use, rather, for everything there is usefulness at the right time. The prophets are actually the servants the Lord has sent before Him, so that their prophecies are a preparation for His coming. It is as if these prophecies are a royal and sealed treasure, that has to be opened at the right time to interpret the symbols inside.”

Lesson 2 Conclusion

Fr. Lawrence (an Eastern Orthodox Priest) tells the story of an certain individual:

Perhaps the most important words he ever heard came from the mouth a little kid playing a game. The child kept repeating in childish imitation of a teacher, “Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!” “Take up, and read!” On impulse, he took up the nearest book and began to read the words of St. Paul from Romans 13: “Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” It was all over for him. These words of Scripture provided the internal shove necessary for him to commit his life to Christ. Even in the days before Gideon Bibles, Augustine owed his conversion to reading the Scriptures.

St. Augustine was one of the great figures of the early Church.  He wasn’t a committed Christian early in life, but his life was changed and made many contributions to the growth of the Church.  Scripture can change our lives! Augstine would end up spending much of his life delving into the Holy Scriptures.

In the past couple of hours, we spent some time looking at why and how we can study scripture.  Can you some of you share some of the things we covered?


  1. Farley, Fr. Lawrence. (2017, Jan 04) “Take Up and Read”: the Importance of Reading the Scriptures http://www.pravmir.com/take-read-importance-reading-scriptures/
  2. Farley, Fr. Lawrence. (2017, Jan 09) “Take Up and Read” Part 2: the Importance of Reading the Scriptures http://www.pravmir.com/take-read-part-2-read-scriptures/
  3. Breck, Fr. John. (2015, July 11) “Take Up and Read!”
  4. Hopko, Fr. Thomas. (2015, Oct 22) “How to Read the Bible” http://www.pravmir.com/how-to-read-the-bible/
  5. Rose, Monk Seraphim (2008, July 19 – Lecture given 1979) “How to Read the Holy Scriptures” http://www.pravmir.com/how-to-read-the-holy-scriptures/
  6. Lindstrom, Amy. (2012, May 7) “Doing our Dailies” Teaching the effects of daily scripture study http://yourlifeuncommon.blogspot.com/2012/05/fhe-doing-our-dailies-teaching-effects.html

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