The Atrium in the early church was the place near the church entrance where new believers prepared to be received into the church through the sacraments of initiation.
The atrium in the context of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is the gathering place; a place to prepare to become full members of the church; the place where the children come to develop a personal relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
The season of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. With the children this is celebrated by a procession and a changing of the colours of the prayer table cloth from green to purple. Purple is the colour used in the church for this season. We talk to the children about preparing our hearts to receive Jesus at the great feast of the Nativity.
We often reflect on the sensorial symbols used in the church to alert the children to what they will encounter at Mass; the priest will wear purple as a sign of preparation for the coming of Jesus.
During advent we seek out the signs to help us recognize this coming. We read the prophecies of Isaiah and wonder who is this one who is coming? This child who is called Immanuel – God with us, this child who has been given authority and will be called Mighty God, Wonderful Counsellor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We ponder about what the great light is that the people who walk in darkness will see.
We then look at the coming of Jesus, how his birth was announced to a young girl in Nazareth. We wonder at how the spirit came upon her and how she was able to respond with a yes to the call to become the tabernacle of the Lord.
We ponder how the secret was passed from God, through an angel first to Mary then to Elizabeth and her unborn child, who recognized Immanuel still being knitted in his mother’s womb.
We imagine how the shepherds felt when the angels told them that the savior had been born. That Mighty God born in a lowly stable, what does this mean? Who will he become??
But Advent is more than reliving the memories of the birth of Christ. It is not a memorial celebration. The word advent comes from the Latin adventus which is the translation of the Greek word Parousia, when Christ will come again.
Are we looking for the signs that the prophets foretold? Are we the people now walking in darkness, will we see the great light? Will we recognize the child born in a stable if he came to our world today? Will he come in power or will he come as before, as one who is little and humble? Are we looking and searching? Are we prepared?
The gospel reading for the first Sunday in advent is taken from Mark 13:33-37 where we are called to keep awake because we do not know the day or the hour of the master’s return. I invite you to read and reflect on these words.
33 Beware, keep alert;[a] for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Footnotes: Mark 13:33 Other ancient authorities add and pray
Are you ready?