In the atrium we introduce
the children to the liturgical year firstly by looking at the colours of the
liturgical seasons. Children in level 1 are introduced to the colours for
Preparation (purple), getting ready for a feast. The feasts of Christmas and
Easter and their seasons are white. Ordinary time (green) is introduced as the
growing time, a time to allow the “food of the feast” to nurture our growing
relationship with God. The other colour (red) is for the Holy Spirit and the feast
As children progress
through the atrium we look at a circular liturgical calendar. This highlights
the cyclical nature of the liturgical year. The calendar has a small prism for
each Sunday of the year (ours also includes an extra prism to represent
Christmas Day as that does not always fall on a Sunday). Essentially this work
is a puzzle that the children pull apart and reconstruct. However, this
provides time for the children to reflect and notice different elements of our
liturgical cycle. Little facts such as Easter is longer than Lent. Ordinary Time
is very long, why would that be?
There are also things
to research further such as Easter is not always on the same date so how do we
know when it will happen? The numbers of the Sundays in Ordinary Time don’t
match the number of prisms, why would that be? When we attend daily Mass the
priest sometimes wears other colours, why?
The calendar is just a
starting point for discoveries about life in the church.
Many adults make
observations too such as the calendar does not progress in a clockwise
direction. Why would we have it going counter-clockwise? Could it be that God’s
time is different to our time?
As we approach the
three main feasts of our church year, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost, we celebrate
with the children. These celebrations are not just parties with gifts and food.
They are solemn celebrations looking at what the event is. With the children we
enter into the special time that we are celebrating. At Easter, this may take the
form of a re-enactment of the Last Supper and/or a Liturgy of Light
celebration. Prior to that, during Lent, we bury the “Alleluia” and save the
word for the special day when we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. During
Pentecost we meditate on the gift of the Holy Spirit and consider what those
gifts mean for us in our lives and how we can call on those gifts to help us
build God’s kingdom. During the Christmas Celebration we often have a lead up
during advent culminating in recalling Jesus being incarnate and also longing
for him to come again. Due to our long Summer break, this often happens a few
weeks prior to Christmas Day. Our CGS friends living in the Northern Hemisphere
will also celebrate the feast of Epiphany, recognising the gift given for all
Parents may be able to
foster a sense of the liturgical year in their homes by preparing for the
children a small table for prayer. Provide cloths in each of the 4 liturgical
colours that the children can place on the table according to the season. Add a
candle and perhaps a small statue of the Good Shepherd, the Holy Family etc.
Children enjoy spending time in quiet prayer or communal prayer, including
songs and hand made prayer cards. Ideas for short phrases can be taken from
words used in the Mass such as “Amen”, “Alleluia”, “Thanks be to God”, “Holy,
holy, holy”, “Thy kingdom come”. Other ideas can be found in the book “The Good
Shepherd and the Child a Joyful Journey”.
Our liturgical cycle refers to the readings and celebrations we have throughout the church year. The word Liturgy means the work of the people. This is the work we do as a community when we come together to celebrate the Mass.
Did you know that prior to the second Vatican Council the Church had only two readings for each Mass (these were a reading from the Epistles and the Gospel, readings from the Old Testament were rarely used), on a one year cycle? The same readings were used each year. Since Vatican II, each Sunday Mass has three readings have been used, one from the Old Testament (except after Easter where NT readings are used), the Second from the New Testament Epistles and the Gospel. These were used over a three year cycle. The intention was to expose the congregation to more of the Biblical texts. The weekday readings would also be expanded to a two year cycle with two readings at each Mass.
To figure out which year we are in, here’s a little trick; if the year is divisible by 3 then you are in year C. The years cycle alphabetically. In Year A the primary Gospel is that of Matthew, year B the Gospel is primarily Mark and year C it is Luke. The Gospel of John is proclaimed on particular Sundays in each of the three years. For the weekdays Year 1 are the odd years, Year 2 the even.
The Liturgical Year begins with the First Sunday of Advent and concludes with the Feast of Christ the King. Like any calendar it celebrates special occasions or feasts and has seasons. The six seasons emphasis different parts of the life of Jesus. They are: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter Triduum (three events – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday), Easter, Ordinary Time. Each season is highlighted by using particular colours.
In the atrium of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd we highlight for the children three major feasts: Easter, Christmas and Pentecost. We celebrate the way God interacts with people through these great events.
We mark the passing of seasons through the use of liturgical colours on our prayer table and in some of the atrium works. We talk about the seasons through the liturgical colours. Purple (used in lent and advent) is for preparing for the feast to come. White, the colour we use at Baptism, the colour of the light, is for the great feasts of celebration (Easter and Christmas). Green, the colour of new leaves of growing things, is for the Ordinary Time, that long time between feasts where thewoders of Jesus sit within us and grow and form us. And red the colour of fire, the flame of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. One of the songs the children love to sing to hep them remember the colours and what they mean has these words:
We meditate specifically on the church liturgical cycle using the Liturgical Calendar. The calendar is circular, as it represents that the years continue in a pattern that repeats. The calendar is read in an anticlockwise direction, to remind us that this is not the same time we live in, it is not like a clock, but it is different. It is God’s time.
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.
Mark 13:33-37 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
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