Let us be Radiant
Topic: To live a life that reflects the light of Christ in our daily lives.
Objective: To give the participants tangible examples and an understanding of what it means to live in the light instead of darkness, and to understand that Christ is the light we need to transform our lives.
Copies of the SCOBA Approved Nicene Creed for all participants
Candles for all participants
1 bigger candle
Spool of rope
2 Lamps- one in two corners of the room, without power outlet
Dry erase board/ large note pad and markers
Preparation/ For Consideration: Familiarize yourself with the Orthodox understanding of light as a symbol, and the gospel passage Matthew 25:31-46. For more information on this topic visit the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese a www.goarch.org.
Opening Prayer: You are the light of those in darkness; You are the Resurrection and the Life of all whom You have raised having destroyed the power of demons death, O Savior. Help us to live as children of Your light so that we might not walk in darkness, but always in Your love. Amen.
ACTIVITY: United in Belief through Light Game
Duration: 20 Minutes
Have participants pick up a copy of The Nicene Creed and form a circle as they enter a room that can be darkened. The large, unlit candle is in the center of the circle.
As you darken the room, say: Can you see okay?
Then light the candle in the middle of the circle. Select a quiet, shy person to hold the candle and stand in the middle of the circle.
Say: Gather closely so that you can see your papers and let us read The Creed together.
After reading The Creed, look for a person who appears to have not stepped as close to the light than the rest of the group.
Ask: Can we see everyone okay? Is there a face that cannot be seen because of the darkness?
Have the entire group take notice how much less his/her face can be seen. Ask that person, by name, to step forward to be a volunteer for the next part, causing them to step closer to the light. Be sure to call volunteer by his/her name through out the activity.
Ask this person: Would you like to live according to the beliefs in The Creed we just read?
If they answer yes, have him/her stand in the center of the circle and hold an end of a rope (that doesn't reach to the corner) while giving the other end to the Candle Holder. If the answer is no, send the person back to the circle and ask for another volunteer to step forward to do the same. Then, select a second person from the circle by name and do the same, giving him/her a shorter rope. And, finally, select a third person by name and give that person the only rope long enough to go everywhere in the room.
Say to each volunteer: In agreeing to live according to all that we state in The Creed, you are agreeing to live according to the Orthodox Faith. Doing so connects you to God. It draws you near to Him, and we can see that because you are filled with His Light. In return, God’s promise to you is that you can go anywhere you want and stay in His Light so long as you don’t want to go farther than this rope.
Have the remaining people sit in the circle.
Say to the First Volunteer: You have every freedom to choose go to the corner of the room where there is a lamp that you can turn on yourself and we can all get out of this darkness. Would you like to do that? Why don't you do that for us--we will watch what happens. (Quietly watch until you see rope pulled tighter. When he/she cannot go any further…
Say: Let me help you (…while cutting the rope!).
Ask: What’s it like over there? Can you see? Can you read The Creed for us now? Look for: No, it's too dark, or no, not enough light to see.
Say to the First Volunteer: Unfortunately now that you made your decision, you will have to stay there.
Say to the Second Volunteer: Do you think you can help him/her? Go over there, maybe your rope will reach.
(Again, quietly watch until you see rope pulled tighter. When he/she cannot go any further… )
Say: Let me help you (…while cutting the rope!).
Facilitator: It is important to let them, or the people seated in the circle, figure out that the lamp has no power. If either volunteer or anyone in the circle remembers that there was another lamp in the other corner, tell them they are free to go and try it.
Look at the third person and say: You also have every freedom to choose to go out there to help them. We'll watch what happens as you try. But hang on-- you will need this… (hand him/her a candle and have him/her light it from the Candle Holder.)
When all three are in the same corner, ask all three: What’s it like over there now? Can you read The Creed now? Look for: Yes, I believe…
Say: Now that you can see and read The Creed come back to your ropes so we can repair them.
Tie each rope back together making it a point to shorten their length. Then go to the Candle Holder and secretly ask him/her to gently pull them in and collect the ropes.
Have Light Source address the three volunteers by name saying: Take this candle.
Say to the group: Take a good look at these three and watch them freely walk around. Consider the Light Source and think of all that they were asked to do. We are passing you each a candle, and our Light Source will come and light it as you stand in the circle. Notice how light the room will get.
Wait 2 minutes. Did the lighting of our candles remind you of anything? (Look for Great and Holy Friday, Pascha) The idea of God as Light in the world is very important for us as Orthodox Christians. Take a good look at the lights we hold. On the count of three, for the Trinity, ask them to blow out their candles. Immediately ask them to close their eyes and remember what they see. Then, turn on the lights, tell them to open their eyes and gather the group around the white board so their ideas can be recorded.
Say: Describe what you just saw when you closed your eyes. (Look for: glowing shapes that looked like the flames of the candles, shapes of people around us…)
Say: Even in darkness, God, Who is Light, will shine. Let's share what else we saw in that activity. What did the action that we just witnessed represent? Look for:
Light=His Grace/His Life/Christ
Rope=life/ability/gifts/safety he gives us
Leader encouraging volunteers to go further than rope=temptation
Powerless lamps=false gods
Darkness=anywhere God is not
Candles=enlightenment of the Faithful
Calling by name=God knowing and calling each of us by name
Cut ropes= choosing to go away from God/life of sin
Shorter ropes=nearness to God
The pulling in and lighting of the candles of the first two=illumination
The Knot=the more we repent and confess the closer we are to God
Blowing of the candle=power we give to sin
Say: We have on the board a summary of our relationship with God. He is our Light Source, yet we struggle to be radiant in Him. There is a limit on our behalf, because of our free will. If we choose to go too far from Him, we “cut" ourselves off and are no longer radiant in Him. But we don’t have to be stuck in sin and darkness. We can again be radiant if we truly change our minds and heart--if we truly repent. Through Confession of our sins, we are reunited with God and live in His light, becoming even more radiant than before. The entire activity was about this. I want to ask some questions and give everyone a chance to give the answers that come quickly or first in your mind.
Use one word that tells what it was like for you to be in a dark room with only one candle. Look for: dark, gloomy, scary
Use one word to describe the volunteers who chose to be radiant and near the candle? Look for: brave, smart, opportunists
What did you think about the person who was out in the corner? Look for: cocky, lost, helpless, made a bad decision
Tell me about the image of the rope being cut and then tied. Were you surprised to see that confession, like tying the rope, brings you closer to God and more radiant? Look for: yes.
Are there times you’d rather be in the dark where no one can see you? Look for: yes, when doing something I shouldn’t be doing. When I am lying, mean, gossiping, entertained by vulgar, evil or pornographic images, jealous,
Are you ever out of God’s vision? Look for: no
Does being Radiant separate you from your friends at times? Look for: yes, when they want to do things I don’t, shouldn’t or can’t
Does God want us to be popular at the risk of not being radiant? Look for: no. He would rather have us radiant than doing something that would leave us in the dark.
Say: Being radiant is our way to reflect that we have a relationship with God. We strive to be closer to Him at all times and reflect His light. Let's talk about how God wants us to live in His radiance, by reading a passage from the Gospel of Matthew that teaches what we ought to be doing if we truly reflect Him. It is the reading we heard on the Sunday of Judgement, two Sundays before Great Lent began.
Ask for a volunteer to read the following passage. You can break it up into parts so more people can participate as volunteers.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Say: Most of you have probably thought about what you want to be when you grow up. Some here may even be in the process of making the life-changing decision concerning which college to go to, and are already thinking what classes you may take. You are probably asking yourself and praying to God, wondering what He wants you to do, which choices He wants you to make. Can that choice help you be a good Christian who is filled with light?
As we look at this Gospel passage, we see that it is very clear what God wants us to do. According to what we just read, can someone tell me the 6 things God wants us to do?
Look for and write the following on the board:
Feed those who are hungry,
Give drink to those who are thirsty,
Welcome those who are a stranger,
Dress the naked
Take care of those who are sick
Visit those who are in prison.
This is a very interesting list. In the light activity, we saw how the beliefs we share bring us closer to God, and closer to each other. But, in this passage God doesn’t say that we are judged by what we say we believe. Here, He says that we are judged by what we do, because what we do is how we express what we believe. Our faith must be put into action and we must take our lights out into the world, so that people may see our Radiance and come to know God.
How can you do these things? It is important to first realize that what we do--whether we feed the hungry, visit the sick and so forth, shouldn’t be only done to those who can do us favors in return. He says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” The LEAST OF THESE--those who can’t repay you, make you more popular, or have anything to offer in return. Jesus, who can do everything and is the most powerful person EVER, served and associated with those who have nothing, ”the least of these.” In your life you may have already experienced that it is easy to love God, but it is not so easy to love “the least of these.” Yet God tells us that this is how we are to love Him.
And there is more! Have you ever been hungry? Think for a minute about when you were hungry. Maybe you feel hungry on Sundays after Liturgy, after fasting and preparing to receive Holy Communion. You may even be hungry now. Think of the feeling you get when you see a table full of food and you are first in line. Think of coffee hour at your parishes. Now, I’m not talking about just donuts. I mean cold cuts, fruit, veggies, chips, maybe a macaroni dish, cookies, cakes, muffins, and even bagels. Is that a great feeling, or what?
Imagine now someone who is hungry, so hungry they haven’t eaten for days. Do you think they are feeling the same way you did when you were first in line at coffee hour? Probably not. They are probably wondering why God hasn’t helped them yet. Maybe they are even feeling anger and resentment, or despair. But if someone were to feed them, they are more likely to be thankful, happy, joyful, full of energy, and feeling God’s love. And if you were the one to feed them, you’d be the one who brought God to them.
Say: Think now about the person who is also thirsty, lonely, sick, in need of clothing, or in prison. Use describing words or phrases to tell the difference between being hungry, thirsty, sick, a stranger, needing clothes, or in prison? (On a white board, write down words that the group uses to describe these attributes.) Look for:
Hungry= needing nourishment, food
Thirsty= needing refreshment, parched
Stranger= lonely, lost, not familiar with surroundings, vulnerable
Naked or Needing Clothes=vulnerable, cold, embarrassed
Sick=weak, vulnerable, in pain, nauseous, fear of death
In Prison= held against their will, contained, guilty or not
God doesn’t want anyone to feel these things. We as Orthodox Christians, living in the Light of God through baptism have a responsibility to be lights for these people and to radiate God’s love for them. Yes, we--me, them (other adults), and you! God didn’t say that he was judging only the priests to these criteria, but each and every one of us.
Call some of the participants by name to strengthen the image of being called as individuals.
Say: How can you do anything about these things? After all you are just a kid, right? Wrong!
Say: Now is the time to break up into smaller groups of 8-10 people.
Duration: 10 Minutes
Ask the groups to share their answers to the following questions:
What are the six things God wants us to do? Look for: Feed those who are hungry, Give drink to those who are thirsty, Welcome those who are a stranger, Clothes the naked, Take care of those who are sick, Visit those who are in prison.
Are there more than just these six? Look for: Love your neighbor as yourself, Love one another, Follow The Ten Commandments…
Since you are not adults yet, how can you do these things now? Take notes for wrap-up Look for: Go to the soup kitchens, welcome the new students, Offer someone a drink, Volunteer in a hospital, Give blood, Send Get Well cards to people from your community who are in the hospital, Visit the shut-ins with your priest,
As you get older and continue in your education or are employed, you will have more resources at hand. What could you do then to be a light to the world so they can see your radiance? I want you all to think for a minute and dream big, as though there was nothing stopping you. What would you do? Take notes for wrap-upLook for: start food pantries, be trained to volunteer in hospital or prison ministry, chair the welcome committee at your parish or community, be a doctor and open a free clinic once a week…
Even though our Godparents spoke for us at our baptisms, we are now in a position to make the choice to live according to God’s creed and by His will. This decision isn't made just once, but everyday, every second even. What can help us make the decisions that keep our “ropes” from being cut? Look for: Support from friends, less distractions, Keeping busy taking care of people to avoid temptations,
Gather small groups together around the board to recap.
Say: We all discussed ways that we can live a radiant life reflecting God’s love for us. What were some of the ways your group thought they could live according to God’s will now, today?
Write ways to serve on the board. When every group had a turn…
Say: On a scale of 1-5, 5 being the most likely, which of these are you more likely to do for The LEAST OF THESE when you go home? Rate each activity.
Say: These are wonderful things to do now. I hope you do. What about later when you have more resources? What are some ways we can live a radiant life reflecting God’s love for us. What were some of the ways your group thought they could live according to God’s will in the future?
Write ways to serve on the board. When every group had a turn…
Say: We pray that this light, your ideas on how to serve the LEAST OF THESE, do not get blown out like a candle can when you have the resources. May the light be protected and always shine through each of us, and our actions. We want each of you to be radiant, like a city on a hill, so that people will come to know God by knowing you.
Gather for Closing Prayer: You are the light of those in darkness; You are the resurrection and the life of all whom you have raised having destroyed the power of death, O Savior. Help us to live as children of Your light so that we might not walk in darkness, but always in Your love. Amen.
About the Authors: Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Having served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Metropolis of Detroit and the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, Vassi offers a depth of experience as Session Writer for the Archdiocese. Additions to Vassi's work have been made beyond the editing process by Margo NT Kelley, of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.