Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pitchers 23: Isaiah's Crèche


Every year we take about 30 minutes of the last class before Christmas to create a Nativity based on Isaiah's prophecies. Here's the text in case you want to do it in your class:

Class, what's 'Christmas' mean? It's when Jesus was born. Yes, good, that's what Christmas is...but what does 'Christmas' literally mean? Oh, Christ's Mass. Yes again. And you're right, it celebrates Jesus' birth. ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! ¿Cómo se llama Christmas en Español? How do you say Christmas in Spanish? Navidad. Yes [Navidad goes up on the board]. Does 'Navidad' mean 'Christ's Mass'?  No, it means the baby is born. Right. In English we say Nativity [on the board]. Somebody tell me, what's a Nativity scene? It's the little statues of baby Jesus and the 3 Kings and all. Yes...one reason I like the word Navidad is that it reminds me of Jesus being born in that little humble stable.

OK, here's the deal. I'm going to read Isaiah's Christmas prophecies one at a time. You tell me what part of the Nativity scene is prophesied and I'll draw it in. We're going to create a New Testament picture by using Old Testament prophecies. Here we go.

"Hear ye now, O house of David...the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (7:13-14) Mary and Jesus! Yes; they aren't all this easy, I'm just being nice to start.  [Mary (and Joseph) are drawn, but not baby Jesus, for reasons that will become apparent later....maybe you can guess.] 

Next: "O Jerusalem, you bring good tidings...be not afraid, say...Behold your God!" (40:9) Ha! I told you the first one was easy. What are good tidings? Good news? Yes. In Luke's Christmas Gospel, who borrowed from Isaiah and said, "..be not afraid...behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy"? No guesses yet? Look at this Greek word,evangelousios [on the board]; it means good news, glad tidings. In Isaiah's day how did the king get his news? From TV? Ha, no, from  messengers! Yes, messengers. So let's think of evangelousios as meaning "good message" instead of "good news." Tell me again, who brings the message? The messenger! Yes. Please observe the magic finger [I erase from evangelousios until I have angel]. If evangelousios means "good message," what does "angel" mean? Umm, messenger? Yes, genius! So at Christmas, who said, "..behold, I bring you a good message of great joy"? Oh, the angel! Yes, God's messenger. And since the message comes from heaven, the messenger should have......wings! Yes. [On the board goes a winged messenger.] Make a halo! OK...there ya go.

Next:  "Behold, the Lord GOD.....shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. (40:10-11)  All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee. (60:7) Shepherds and sheep! Yes. [I draw them.] That one looks like a dog instead of a sheep! Stop whining...pretend it's the best sheep you've ever seen.

And: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." (60:1-2)  No guesses...here's more: "the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." The star!Thank you [up it goes], and what else...? Listen again: "the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (60:3) The kings! Yes, both of them! There were three! Well, Luke doesn't say how many. For now I'm showing two.

"The multitude of camels shall come...(60:6)" The camels! Yes...see if you can tell me how many humps. Two! One! Y'all wait a second and listen to it all, don't just guess like monkeys: "The multitude of camels shall come, the Dromedaries of Midian and Ephah." So? Two? You're just guessing again. Does anyone know the main difference between the Dromedary camels in this passage, and Bactrian camels? One of them has two humps! Yes, the Bactrian, so I'm drawing one-hump Dromedaries. The camels should be spitting. Let's compromise- this one will spit....and this one has manners.

"....they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the LORD." The three kings brought gold and incense! Yes, two gifts...so I'm drawing only two kings, see? But there were three gifts! Well, if y'all can name the third gift that Isaiah left out I'll draw it and a third king. So? Umm...myrrh? Yes genius, myrrh! [3 kings and 3 gifts on the board] We'll look at the gifts again later on this year.

"I have nourished and brought up children; and they have rebelled against Me." Just like teenagers! "The ox knows its owner; and the ass its master’s manger. But Israel does not know; my people do not consider." (1:1-3) Tell me...the ox?  Yes, and? the...the donkey? [on the board] Yes, and what's a manger? Baby Jesus' crib. Yeah, sort of... "manger" is the French word that means "to eat," so...it's what the animals eat out of. Yes, the name tells us. [on the board] Listen again: "The ox knows its owner; and the ass its master’s manger." Whose manger is it?The master's? Yes, and who is the master? Jesus? Yes. [He goes in the manger]  "But Israel does not know; my people do not consider." This line doesn't give us anything to draw, but something to think about.

Notice that Isaiah says Israel doesn't know the master, but the dumb animals, the ox and ass do; maybe they aren't so 'dumb' after all,  and as we see from the picture, the humble, uneducated shepherds know who Jesus is, and so do the pagan Gentile Kings, who aren't even Jewish. So we see that Jesus will come for the Judeans, for non-Jews (that's us), the rich and the poor. Jesus will come for everyone, "all peoples," as Isaiah prophesied.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pitchers 22: Mary, Elizabeth & All That

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Board from tonight's class, about half was erased so this is a second go-around. I could really use a bigger board.

Stuff covered on the board: Old Ark, New Ark, overshadowing by the Most High, Ruth and Boaz (more overshadowing), Holy Spirit (more overshadowing), Glory Cloud & Meeting Tent (more overshadowing), Zechariah and Gabriel in the Temple, seasonal significance of conceptions of John & Jesus, Mary and Elizabeth, what Elizabeth means, Immaculate Conception, infinite God Himself growing inside little-bitty Mary's tummy, Mary the Mother of God, Council of Ephesus, Mary had no other children, the Trinity present at the Annunciation...maybe that's all for the board.

Stuff covered by skits: Annunciation, desert life w/ umbrella (more overshadowing), a Jewish wedding w/ beachtowels (more overshadowing), Elijah & Elisha w/ beachtowel (more overshadowing), Ruth and Boaz w/ beachtowel (more overshadowing), the Visitation replete with a leaping rubber fetus.

Stuff otherwise treated, including some review on the fly: Bible as iceberg, couple of Isaiah's prophecies, Malachi's Elijah prophecy, Zechariah smartmouthing to Gabriel, Zechariah's spectacular prophecy, marriage, making babies, not being able to make babies, adopting babies, women making baby deals with God, Nazirites, Samuel, Samson, cousins, my wife when she was pregnant, what Joseph must have thought, Uzziah & Joseph, what if my wife had been pregnant with God the Father's baby, fetal alcohol syndrome, baby birds and momma birds, spreading your wing (more overshadowing), David's Psalms about seeking God's protection from Saul, the mystery of women growing other people inside them, seeing my kids be born, terms of endearment for my wife.

Filling an hour with compelling Christian witness is easy if there's a Bible handy and a classful of terrific children.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Glory Cloud

This post links to Sunday Snippets

This year so far is the best year I've had catechizing 6th grade, which is saying a lot, since even the worst year (which I clearly remember) was still a good year. It takes a couple of months for the children to adjust to how class works, but lately we've become quite the little family, laughing, learning, anticipating, finishing each other's sentences. It's like sitting around the dinner table and the topic of lively conversation is always Jesus and his Church. The last two classes were like group flow-states, if that's possible. The kids believe in themselves, partly because they know I believe in them and love them like my own children. Every Wednesday night we hit the ground running, and they are fearless thinkers, knowing that even a fabulously wrong answer can still be a good answer.

Last class we were discussing this Annunciation, and how aspects of both Church and Temple are present in the building.

 Panel from the Isenheim Altarpiece

The kids can relate new stuff to old stuff on the fly, and one of them asked if there had been a Shekhinah cloud over the Temple, as there had been over the Meeting Tent. "Huh...maybe as long as it contained the Ark; y'all may remember that the Ark was gone by the time Mary was born. But there's a Glory Cloud in the painting. I see it! Yes! And in the cloud? The dove, the Holy Spirit! Yes! But is it overshadowing the Ark? No, Mary! Yes, because...Jesus is in her? Yes, as of that very moment when both Holy Spirit and Glory Cloud overshadow her. Yes, what? Is there a Shekhinah in church? Uhh...never thought about it. I guess not. Well, maybe it's there but we can't see it because of sin (being blinded or veiled by sin is a standard idea). Wow, you could be right! There's all sorts of glory and saints and angels at Mass with us, so I wouldn't be surprised if the whole church (arms waving around) might be lit like the sun with God's presence. It might be like visions Isaiah and Daniel had (they know them). Wow. We'll get to some of that later this year." And then we continued to discuss the painting.

I know this vignette is a small thing, but for that weekly hour of class we hover on the cusp of Heaven. This is my life. As the song says, God Has Been So Good to Me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Res Ipsa Loquitur 16: Mass Density

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
James Tissot Strikes Again

Six minutes on a Scripturally-packed part of the Mass, in this podcast at Source and Summit; and a winsome conversion story by host Marvin Max.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pitchers 21: Uzziah and Mary

This post and the next link to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
"What animal is that? That's an ox. Doesn't look like an ox. Well, two oxen then. It looks like just one. OK, it looks like one ox, thanks for agreeing with me. Now stop whining and look at Uzziah."

Read and draw: "And they carried the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzziah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzziah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God."

We discuss how the Ark was too pure to be touched by sinful humans, which of course is why it had carrying poles. One of the kids asks, Do you think Mary could touch it? "Wow, I don't know. I suppose; although I don't think she would have presumed to do so. And the Ark was gone by the time Mary was alive. Good question."

I was tempted right then to digress a bit about Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant, but decided to let it go. But next month when we get to the Annunciation, I'll introduce the New Ark concept by starting with this Old Ark scene from 2Samuel. I'll ask who remembers the question someone asked about who might have been able to touch the Ark and live. That'll be the jumping-off point for talking about Mary the New Ark containing sinless baby Jesus inside her for nine months.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pitchers 20: Qodesh Qodesh

This post links to Convert Journal
From the Nov. 5 Catechism class

Drawing and reading about the Holy of Holies*  in Solomon's temple: "The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; and he overlaid it with pure gold.  In the most holy place he made two cherubim of wood and overlaid them with gold. The wings of the cherubim together extended twenty cubits: one wing of the one, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, of five cubits, touched the wing of the other cherub; and of this cherub, one wing, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and the other wing, also of five cubits, was joined to the wing of the first cherub. The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits; the cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles." Not included in the text is the High Priest at lower right, and the LORD's presence hovering over the Mercy Seat. Cherubim's swords are my addition based on Genesis.

I first drew the 30 x 30 x 30 shape of the space, and the kids recognized it as a cube. Then the other details were added on the fly as they came up while reading. The cube will matter this spring when we draw and read about a much larger one described in Revelations: "The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its breadth; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and breadth and height are equal." The other bits will matter when we transition from God's Old Covenant dwelling to his New Covenant dwelling.

When teaching adults, a picture is worth a thousand words. A live drawing is worth five thousand words. And with kids, a live drawing is worth ten thousand words. When I get to Revelations in April, will they remember the shape and stuff of the Holy of Holies? You bet they will.

*Qodesh Qodesh, קדש  קדש, Holy (of) Holies.