Prayers & Festivals
Prayer is a private matter, not something to show off about. Christians pray privately as it is important to them to have a private relationship between them and God – after all we are all different!
When you pray you should go into a room on your own and the prayer should just be between you and God.
Don’t use meaningless words – long prayers do not impress God.
Some people like to use aids to prayer such as rosary beads, crosses or crucifixes, icons or votive candles.
Prayer sometimes uses words and sometimes involves meditation or contemplation.
The Lord’s Prayer
- This is seen as a model for all Christian prayers.
- It contains many different types of prayer, of praise to God, of asking for forgiveness, and so on.
- It is the prayer Jesus gave us so is special to Christians.
- It contains many key Christian beliefs – such as God as our Father (caring for us), God provides for our needs, we can turn to God for forgiveness.
- All this is just as relevant as it was in Jesus’ timeThis is the only prayer that is used by all Christians in common.
It is found in the Bible as an example of how to pray.
- It thanks God for all he has done
- it praises his holy name
- it acknowledges that we are sinners and asks for forgiveness
- it asks for God to help us in our daily lives, and give us what we need, including protection.
Advent is the beginning of the Church’s year and is the time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. It starts four Sundays before Christmas.
Advent means ‘coming’.
Christians think about the coming of Jesus, past, present and future.
- The past: Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem
- The present: Jesus’ coming into our lives this year
- The future: Jesus’ coming at the end of time.
Often churches are made to look slightly more simple – for example, flowers are taken away. When priests wear coloured vestments for services, the colour of Advent is purple – symbolising preparation and saying sorry.
Churches and homes often have an Advent wreath. It is a ring of greenery with five candles – four purple ones and one white one. One extra purple candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent and the white one is for Christmas Day.
Other people have Advent candles marked with the numbers from 1 to 24 and burned each day or Advent calendars with different pictures behind each of 24 doors.
The emphasis is on counting down, waiting and preparation.
- Christmas (or the Nativity of Jesus) is a celebration of the Incarnation – the birth of God as a human being.
- The key celebration takes place in most churches at Midnight when a Communion Service is held (Midnight Mass).
- Churches are decorated and many people go to church once only during this year at this time.
- On Christmas Day, there will be family services, and services around the crib.
- Prayers are often said for those for whom Christmas is not a time of celebration.
- The stories in the Bible of the birth of Jesus are read.
- Often churches have wonderful cribs and some of the more home-based ways of celebrating are starting to be found in churches, for example, Christmas trees.
- Christmas carols are joyful ways of telling the world about the Good news – that Jesus has been born for us all.
- Nativity plays are ways that all people – even those who do not usually go to church can remember the true meaning of Christmas.
- Christmas presents remind us that God gave us the ultimate present – his only Son.
- The week before Easter is called ‘Holy Week’.
- On the Thursday, Christians remember the Last Supper with a Communion Service in the evening.
- Just before the Last Supper, Jesus showed his service of his disciples by washing their feet.
- Many churches have this or a similar gesture take place.
- At the end of the service, the altar might be stripped and then there might be a vigil in the church until midnight.
- This brings to mind the waiting in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus was arrested.
- On Good Friday Christians remember Jesus’ death.
- It is called ‘Good’ because it was the day that sin was defeated.
- In many villages, Christians from all denominations get together and hold a walk of witness through the town.
- In some churches there are three hour services – this is how long Jesus was on the cross for.
- Other churches celebrate the stations of the cross – remembering the long walk from the trial to the site of crucifixion which Jesus had to make.
- During the main service, people are shown a cross which they kiss to show they are thankful for what Jesus did.
- Holy Communion is usually not celebrated on Good Friday as it is too much of a celebration for such a solemn day.
- Many churches keep everything stripped and bare remembering the waiting while Jesus was in the tomb.
- There are usually no services on the day.
- However, during the night, Christians gather together for the Easter vigil.
- Many Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by going to an Easter vigil.
- They light a fire outside the church remembering new life.
- The special Easter (Paschal) candle is lit and carried into the darkened church.
- The candles of the congregation are lit – the darkness begins to become light.
- After this there are readings from the Bible telling the story of the history of the world.
- The emphasis is on new life – so this is an appropriate time to celebrate baptisms.
- All people tend to renew the promises that were made at their baptisms to believe in God and turn away from sin.
- Some churches have an Easter garden to remember the place where Jesus was buried.
- Easter eggs are symbols of new life. Chocolate is a symbol of celebration.
- The word on the lips of all Christians is ‘alleluia’ – a word of great joy found in many Easter hymns and songs.
- Easter is the key day in the Church’s year.
- Jesus is risen from the dead and the world has been saved.
Question 1 - Prayer
Why do some people think that the Lord’s Prayer is the only prayer you need?
- Contains different types of prayer
- Leaves yourself to last
- Contains key Christian beliefs (e.g. that God forgives sins).
Question 2 - Christmas
Describe how Christians celebrate Christmas (8 marks)
In order to get full marks you need to give details, not just a list.
- Midnight Mass/Communion – or morning family services – people gather together as a church community
- Singing of carols – makes the important message of Christmas easy to remember.
- Christingle services – tells the story from Christmas to Easter – sets the birth of Jesus in context.
- Presents and cards exchanged – reminds people of God’s ultimate gift of Jesus (and of the gifts of the wise men at Epiphany).
2 marks per example with description
Question 4 - Easter
‘Easter is the most important festival in the Church’s year.’ - Do you agree?
Give reasons for your answer, showing that you have thought about different points of view.
Tip: ‘this event’ means the event you mentioned in the question 3a!
- Washing of the Feet – priest washes the feet of some from the congregation
- Last Supper – Special celebration Eucharist
- Praying in Gethsemane – Watching in a special chapel made up to look like a garden
Betrayal/Arrest – altars stripped to show that Jesus has been left alone