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Weekly Resources, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts

May 24, 2020

A Note from the Director

This is the final installment of Religious Education at Home from the Department of Religious Education. Around this time of year, most Sunday Church schools are ending their programs and taking their summer break. Parishes would usually be organizing their graduation or end-of-year programs for young people to show off what they have learned, so we felt that this was a good time for us to do the same.

As a department, we are changing gears. Our plan over the next few weeks is to share ideas for Vacation Church School programs and how to keep the learning going at home. We also need to focus our energies on creating new resources for programs. The St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival will resume, with the 2021 topics to be released in September. Like everyone else, we don’t yet know what our parish programs will look like in late August or September, when they would usually resume.

We hope that you have found Religious Education at Home helpful to you and your family to learn more about our Orthodox Christian Faith, encouraging you during these difficult days. We hope that you will continue your journey in faith, to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

— V. Rev. Anton C. Vrame, PhD, Director of the Department of Religious Education

Sunday of the Blind Man

Below, you’ll find a variety of discussion questions, activities, lessons, and crafts arranged by age group.

Start your study by reading the Gospel for Sunday’s Divine Liturgy: John 9:1–38

At that time, as Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet."

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be Christ he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him."

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.

Discussion Questions, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts

For the entire family

Music at home:

For children of all ages

Lesson and craft: “Sunday of the Blind Man,” from Let Us Live Orthodoxy, Volume 3 by Fr. Dean and Pres. Georget Photos

Preschool

Activity: “Blindfold, Please” from the Center for Family Care

  • Take turns blindfolding different members of your family and have another family member guide them around the house or yard. After everyone has had a turn with the blindfold and as a guide, discuss what it was like not being able to see. Discuss how we can be spiritually blind and how we can work to see properly as Orthodox Christians.
  • For activity ideas and dinner discussion topics in your inbox weekly, subscribe to the Family Ministry List at family.goarch.org.

Coloring sheet: Healing the Blind Man on the Sabbath by Fr. John Matusiak

Elementary school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • How did Jesus heal the man who was born blind? (He spit on the ground and made clay to put on the man’s eyes)
  • Why did the Pharisees talk to his parents? (They did not believe that he had been blind since birth and then healed)
  • Why was the healed man cast out? (Because he proclaimed that Jesus was a prophet)

Craft & activity: Decorate a planter and grow basil or other herbs

  • Let each child take a small clay or plastic flower pot and decorate the exterior as they want, with paints, markers, stickers, glitter.
  • Fill the pot with potting soil and plant a seedling of basil or other summer herb (parsley, thyme, mint, etc.). Flowers (annuals) are good options, too.
  • Tell the child that it’s their job to care for the plant through the summer, just as God cares for us and our natural world.
  • Options: some parishes sell the plants when they are mature as a small fund-raiser. The children can also bring the plants to church, especially basil and flowers, for the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross on September 14.

Middle school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • How did Jesus heal the man who was born blind? (He spit on the ground and made clay to put on the man’s eyes)
  • Why did the Pharisees talk to his parents? (They did not believe that he had been blind since birth and then healed)
  • Why did his parents not want to answer the questions? (They feared the Jews)
  • Why was the healed man cast out? (Because he proclaimed that Jesus was a prophet)
  • The man asked the Pharisees if they were a disciple of Jesus. What does it mean to be a disciple? Are you a disciple of Jesus? (Answers will vary)

Action item for the week:

  • This week, notice the many ways we use water in our daily lives, often without even thinking about it (having a drink, bathing, watering plants, washing clothes, etc.). What do our physical uses of water make you think about the spiritual use of water in this Gospel as well as our baptism? How are they different?
  • It may be helpful to consider this portion from the baptismal service, when the priest blesses the waters: “But do You, O Master of All, declare this water to be water of redemption, water of sanctification, a cleansing of flesh and spirit, a loosing of bonds, a forgiveness of sins, an illumination of soul, a laver of regeneration, a renewal of the spirit, a gift of sonship, a garment of incorruption, a fountain of life. For You have said, O Lord: ‘Wash, and be clean; put away evil from your souls.’"

High school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • Jesus says in this Gospel that it was not due to sin that the man was blind, but so that God’s works may be made manifest through him. During this current period of suffering under the pandemic, have you noticed anything that may be an opportunity to see God at work?
  • In the service for the Sacrament of Baptism, there is much language referring to light and illumination. How does this Gospel account relate to baptism? What does it teach us about the connection between baptism and light or (spiritual) vision?
  • At the end of the Gospel, the man proclaims his belief in Jesus and immediately begins to worship him. What is the relationship between faith and worship? Why is worship an important aspect of faith?

Journal topic:

  • In this Gospel, Jesus renews the blind man’s sight using saliva and dirt. The words “humble” and “humility” come from the Latin humus, meaning “earth.” Consider the connection between humility and creation or renewal. What does this tell you about Jesus’s death and resurrection? What does it say about our own spiritual life and renewal by God’s hands?

Action item for the week:

  • Jesus says in this Gospel, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Look for ways to keep the light of Jesus and the Gospel in your world this week, perhaps through acts of kindness or humility, letting someone know you are thinking of and praying for them, etc.

Young adult

Bible study: Sunday of the Blind Man & Feast of the Ascension

Video: Live the Word #34: “Seeing the Light” 

  • In this episode, Steve talks about spiritual blindness and physical blindness.
  • After watching the video, think about Steve’s questions:
    1. Where in your life is God waiting to make His glory known?
    2. How have you already experienced the Lord making you new?
    3. How have you closed your heart to the truth of God?

Video Bible study & chat: “Sunday of the Blind Man” from Y2AM’s 3 Men & a Bible 

  • Join Fr. Panagiotis Boznos, Nick Lionas, and Steve Christoforou for their new weekly video Bible study & chat.
  • And join the guys live on Zoom every Thursday at 4 pm Eastern here: y2am.org/3MenAndABible

Adult

Readings and resources:

The Sunday of Blind Man (as well as the Sunday of the Paralytic) reminds us of the need to minister to people with all types of disabilities. Here are some ideas to get you thinking for your own parish:

Exploring the Iconography of the Paschal Season

Bible Study: John 9:1–38

Introduction

Like the preceding Gospel lessons, this is not a resurrection story, but one that involves water. Therefore it is also teaching us something about the power of baptism.

Our understanding of vision is very different from that of the ancients. We understand that our vision depends on the light entering our eyes. The ancients believed that the light of vision emitted from our eyes (like a flashlight) onto an object.

The ancient name for baptism was “holy illumination,” a term still present in the sacrament today.

Studying the Text

Christ makes mud or clay from saliva and dirt. To us, this might seem a bit strange, but in those days, saliva was believed to have medicinal purposes.

The place where the man went to wash—Siloam—was a pool at the end of a tunnel in Jerusalem that provided water to the city.

Now we see a purpose of baptism: “I was blind and now I see.” Prior to baptism, we lived in darkness; we were blind. Baptism brings us into the light

Note how similar the piece by Duccio and the icon are to one another.

On the holy water basin outside the Great Church of Christ, the Hagia Sophia, there was the famous palindrome (reads the same backwards and forwards), Νίψον ἀνομήματα, μὴ μόναν ὄψιν (ΝΙΨΟΝ ΑΝΟΜΗΜΑΤΑ ΜΗ ΜΟΝΑΝ ΟΨΙΝ), which means “Wash your sins, not only your face.” This phrase is often seen on baptismal fonts.  What are the effects of Holy Water, of the waters of baptism, on us?

Discussion Questions

  • The man born blind probably experienced a roller-coaster day in this story. Most likely, our current pandemic has led many of us to feel like some days we are riding a roller coaster. How have you handled those days?
  • Have you ever been excluded from a group because of your Christianity (as the man was cast out from the synagogue, verse 34)? How did you respond?
  • For us, this miracle of Jesus involves healing from physical disability. As you have experienced people with various disabilities (physical and others), how may they have become opportunities to see God at work?

From the Fathers

Ambrose of Milan: “There is, indeed, a kind of blindness, usually brought on by serious illness, which obscures one’s vision but that can be cured, given time; and there is another sort of blindness, caused by cataract, that can be remedied by a surgeon: he can remove the cause, and so the blindness is dispelled. Draw your own conclusion: this man, who was actually born blind, was not cured by surgical skill but by the power of God.”

Cyril of Alexandria: “We should piously acknowledge that there are certain wondrous things that God alone understands. At the same time, we should maintain and believe that since God is the fountain of all righteousness, God will neither do nor determine anything whatsoever in human affairs or those of the rest of creation that is unbecoming of God or differs at all from the true righteousness of justice.”

Irenaeus: “The Lord bestowed sight on the one who was blind from birth—not by a word, but by an outward action. He did this neither casually nor simply because this was how it happened. He did it this way in order to show it was the same hand of God here that had also formed man at the beginning…. Scripture says, ‘And the Lord took clay from earth and formed man’ (Genesis 2:7). Notice here, too, how the Lord spit on the earth, and made clay and smeared it on his eyes, showing how the ancient creation was made. He was making clear to those who can understand, that this was the [same] hand of God through which man was formed from clay.”

John Chrysostom: “Why didn’t he have him wash immediately instead of sending him to Siloam? … For one thing, everyone would probably see him as he was leaving, having the clay spread upon his eyes. The strangeness of this spectacle would most likely focus the attention of everyone on him—both those who knew him and those who did not. Everyone would be watching him closely. And because it is not easy to recognize a blind man who has recovered his sight, Jesus first of all sends him this long distance so that he can be seen by many witnesses. This bizarre spectacle of a man walking with mud on his eyes would make these witnesses even more attentive so that no one could any longer say, ‘This is not he.’”

Basil the Great: “Worship follows faith, and faith is confirmed by power. But if you say that believers also know, they know from what they believe, and vice versa, they believe from what they know. We know God from his power. We, therefore, believe in him who is known, and we worship him who is believed.”


Resources for next week:

Corresponding items that can be purchased on Orthodox Marketplace: