Monday, January 30, 2012

Pitchers 9, Res Ipsa 11: Prior Knowledge

You feed 'em!

Partial board from the Jan 25, 2012 class. Lesson plan runs from Feeding the Multitudes to the Bread of Life Discourse, to Simon's name-change to Peter.

Now that Jesus is busy-busy with his ministry, the Gospels run thick and fast with references to the Old Testament. Loaves'n'Fishes is introduced by an edited version of 2Kings 4:42-44:

 "42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, "Give to the men, that they may eat." 43 But his servant said, "How am I to set this before a hundred men?" So he repeated, "Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and have some left.'" 44 So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD."

We also look at Matt 19:13-15 for reasons that become apparent as we get into the Loaves story:

"Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; 14 but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away."

During Peter-gets-the-Keys, the kids barely recalled Isaiah 22, which we acted out a couple of months ago:

"I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open."

Past classes needed little-to-no reminding about Isaiah 22, but this year I almost had to give them the answer, which is anathema to me. Anyway, they finally remembered the key business, but with such coaxing! But the 8 kids who came were tired; and they were guessing like monkeys, which means answering first, then thinking.

On the whole it was still a good class.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Snips & Snails & Kunarion Tales

Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough

During the Jan. 18 class on Jesus' intercessory miracles (Cana, Jairus' daughter, the Centurion's servant, etc.), a student asked about the miracle where Jesus calls a woman a dog. I gave an off-the-cuff answer I wasn't satisfied with, said I'd come back next week with something better.

Here's the story from Matt 15: 21-28:

"And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28* Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly."

Because she's a pagan Canaanite it's no surprise that she's indirectly compared to a dog. And not in a nice, faithful Fido way, but like this: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you." But as we'll see, sometimes a dog is not a dog.

 Here's how it worked in class:

"Hey, daughter, remember last week you asked about the woman that Jesus called a dog. That's a great story I've never covered in class before, but let's look at it now before we get into the lesson plan.

Here we go: "And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon." The story starts with Jesus getting out of Judea for a while because he had been aggravating the scribes and Pharisees. Sidon is also where Elijah fled after he aggravated King Ahab. You may remember he stayed in Zarephath. Tell me about it. He made food for the woman! Yes, her flour and oil didn't run out; why? Cause she was nice to him! Yes; God favored her with miracles because of her charity, even though she was a...pagan! Yes. And remember Jesus aggravated people at the synagogue in Nazareth when he reminded them about Elijah working miracles for the pagan widow in Zarephath instead of helping Chosen People during the drought.

"And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." They don't want a pagan woman hanging around. But Jesus says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Who are these lost sheep? Jews! Yes. But is Jesus telling her he won't help? No. Right. He's just saying that helping her isn't his job. At the wedding in Cana what did Mary tell Jesus? They have no wine. Yes, and Jesus said...why is that my problem? Yes, time has not yet come. Yes, good. Is Jesus saying he won't help? No. Right. He's not being mean or uncooperative in either case...I think he's just giving people a chance to show their faith more clearly for the benefit of the people around them.

"But [the Canaanite woman] came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." Is she giving up? No! Right. But Jesus said "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." Who are the children? Well...people's kids? Umm, that's not a bad guess; the children are God's sons and daughters...his family...the Jews! Yes. And the dogs? Pagans! Yes, like...the woman! Yes. If we say "throw it to the dogs" or "work like a dog" or "live like a dog" is it good? No it's bad. Yes, we don't mean a happy family dog, a pet. We mean a rough dog, one that has a hard life. As Jesus said on another occasion: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you." Yikes! So Jesus says the kids get the bread, not "the dogs."

Do y'all know what swine are? Pigs? Yes, just checking. Pigs and dogs were unclean, like pagans.

The word dog shows up 41 times in the English Bible; pretty often. And what language was the New Testament written in? Greek! Yes. The Greek word for dog is kuon [on the board] (κυων). English gets canine from kuon. Almost every time an English Bible says dog, the Greeks say kuon. But when Jesus says "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs," the Greek word is kunarion [on the board] (κυναριον). Now in English if we want to call a dog [otb], we'd say, "here, dog." But if it were a little dog, we'd, doggie! Yes, doggie [otb]. To add an -ie or a -y does what to an English word? It makes it little! Yes. Well in Greek, -arion does the same thing. So if kuon, yes, then kunarion means...doggie!  Yes. Can it mean puppy? Yes, puppy is ok too. We might also say lapdog. What's that? A little dog that sits on your lap? Yes. Hey somebody dígame, cómo se llama "dog" en español? Perro [otb]. Yes. Some Spanish Bibles say perrillo [otb] in this story, what that mean? Puppy! Yes. the -illo suffix means...little! Yes. This story is the only time in the whole Bible that 'kunarion' is used, so it's not just some accident.

So what Jesus says to the woman is, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the doggies, the pups." I think the apostles expected Jesus to refer to the woman as a kuon, a dog. That was a common way for Jews to describe pagans. But instead, Jesus says "doggie," which is kind of affectionate; how you'd call a pet. Children are members of a family, and the pets are too. Jesus is letting the woman know he doesn't regard her as a stray dog that's not his problem, but something nicer. Jesus is also showing the apostles that even though he was sent to the Jews, he can include "all peoples" in his mission, as Isaiah used to say.

Now, has Jesus rejected the woman this time? I don't think so. Right. The woman now says, "even the doggies eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." What's she mean? That she just wants a little bit of help? Yes. She's not a greedy dog, but a harmless little...puppy!  Yes, who's happy to have what the children leave behind. She knows "the Master" will give them more food than they can eat. And how many times has she asked Jesus for a little help? Umm...three times!'s a contract! Good thinking; in this case it's not so much a contract as it is her firm demonstration of faith. How many times do you think she's willing to ask Jesus to heal her daughter? As many times as it takes! Yes, but three times is enough. And Jesus says, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. I bet the apostles were thinking, "Wow, this is like when Elijah fled to Sidon and brought the pagan widow's dead son back to life."

Tell me: did the Canaanite woman's daughter have faith? We don't know. Jairus' daughter? Don't know! Centurion's servant? Don't know! Paralyzed man? Don't know! The wedding party at Cana? Don't know! Right. Jesus did those people a favor because other people of faith asked for them. What's that called? Intercession! Yes. And remind me who intercedes when a baby is baptized? The parents! And does Jesus do the parents a favor? Yes! Right!

Y'all are smart children!

For those who must know: Greek kuon κυων is related to the Latin canis via the Indo-European stem kwon. And a quick tour of other Bibles show the "dogs" to be catelli (Latin), cagnolini (Italian), cachorrinhos (Portuguese), petits chiens (French), små hunder (Norwegian), and щенята (Ukranian): not dogs, but doggies. And the Douay-Reims says whelps.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pitchers 8, Res Ipsa 10: Tebow & Tassels

...and zap! Jesus' power flowed through his body to his cloak to the tassel to the woman...

Edited recap of the January 18, 2012 class.

This bit by Joyce Donahue motivated me to work Tebowing into Wednesday Night Sunday School: "Hey I gotta question for y'all. Don't answer, just raise your hand: who knows how to Tebow...y'all come up here. Nobody else knows? That's OK. You two, when I count to three, do it...1, 2, 3, TEBOW!" And the two sporting boys execute perfect, simultaneous Tebows, rivaling the Master.

"None of y'all know what this is? Oh yeah, that's the football player who prays all the time! Right, they're praying. If you're gonna pray for just a few seconds it's simpler to get down and up on one knee instead of two. When do we do that in a Catholic Church? When do we Tebow? No...I mean when do we go down on one knee instead of two. Genuflecting! Umm, yes, that's what we call it. But when do you do it? When you're about to sit down. Yes. Have any of y'all been to a church that isn't Catholic? too. OK, do y'all genuflect in those churches? No. Anybody know why not? 'Cause they don't have a tabernacle! Yes, genius, like so...altar...tabernacle.

Hey, what's a tavern? A bar! Yes, a place to have a beer, but it comes from this word, taberna, which means house in Latin. Our word tabernacle comes from the Latin word tabernaculum, which means little house. So...tell me something. It's Jesus' house! Yes, so when Jesus is in his house...we genuflect. Yes. Tell me a day that we don't genuflect. Christmas! No! Easter! No! Stop guessing like monkeys! Good Friday! Yes, why? Cause Jesus isn't in his house. So where is he? On the cross. Yes. Usually on Good Friday we kneel to venerate the crucifix. It's a bit more intense than a genuflection. By the way, what's that mean: to genuflect? Bow down! Close...pray! Also close...if something is flexible it can...bend! Yes, so if -flect- means bend, means bend your knee! Yes. Genua is Latin for...knee! Yes. The G-N is related to the K-N from before there was English or Latin; "-kn-" and "-gn-" sounds are very close to each other. Yes? Why don't we say the k? Well, we stopped saying those k's centuries ago, but we used to say them. Germans still do, they say "k'nee." That sounds weird. Yes, but it sounds normal to Germans. Historically speaking, people were genuflecting long before Jesus was born...why? For an emperor! Yes, or...a king! Yes, people genuflected before people who had authority over them. We still do that when Jesus is in his little house."

The lesson plan includes discussing and acting out miracles, many of them intercessory. Some people, including the pagan Centurion (who commands how many men? 100! Yes!) and the pagan Canaanite woman, are ok with miracles-at-a-distance. But Jairus wants Jesus to come to his house, the Paralytic's friends dropped him through the roof onto Jesus' head, and the Woman with the Hemorrhage tries to grab Jesus. Maybe they lack the faith of the pagan Roman; but then again, maybe they intuit something important about Jesus' body. "Yes? What's intuit? To know something or figure it out without knowing exactly why."

"OK, let's draw...the Gingerbread Man! Uh-huh, which shows we are a...body'n'soul!  Yes. Now over here to the left let's draw...another Gingerbread Man! Yes, but this one is's a J. Jesus also has a...body'n'soul. Yes. He's like us in that he's both stuff'n'spirit; 'cause our bodies are just...stuff! Yes, like...dirt! Yes. 

Now tell me what this is...a soul...yes. But let's say spirit in this case. And this is...another spirit! Yes. So? So what? Well, what's odd about these spirits? They don't have bodies. Yes. So? They're angels! Ooh, great guess honorary son, but no. They're God! Genius, yes, but what flavors? God the Father and the Holy Spirit! Yes. Do y'all get that? No? Explain it, please. Jesus has a body but they don't.  Yes, and those three persons make...the Trinity. Yes, exactly so, one God, three Persons.

Now before Jesus, which Person could you have a relationship with? The Father? Yes (arrow). How? By praying & stuff. Yes, spirit-to-spirit. And how does it work with the Holy Spirit? Umm, spirits, too? Yes. But I thought the Holy Spirit was a dove. That's a good question. The Holy Spirit may appear as a dove but isn't one. Like angels: did Gabriel appear to Mary? Yes. Are angels made with bodies? No. Right.

Now tell me about people having an encounter with Jesus instead of the Father or Holy Spirit. It would be with both parts. Yes...stuff''n'spirit. Because the people and Jesus all were stuff''n'spirit,  they wanted to have not just a spiritual encounter, but..a physical encounter! (two arrows) Yes, genius! So they naturally wanted Jesus to touch them, or their friends, or their children. They wanted the whole deal. Yes? But the soldier didn't. Yes. Partly because he was a commander and used to knowing things would be done if he said so. But he still went to talk to Jesus. He saw him and heard him and smelled him even if he didn't grab a hold of him. Eww, gross! Hey now, people don't necessarily stink. Y'all know I'm married; am I married to my wife just soul-to-soul? No, both parts! Yes. Well, when I go home tonight she'll be sitting at her desk, and I'll come hug her and smell her neck. If she were out of town I couldn't do that. I'd miss the physical encounter with her and how nice she smells. So people would want to have that full encounter with Jesus...just like I want to have with my wife.

But after Jesus went to Heaven he still left us with ways to have a physical encounter with him through stuff; what are those ways? Sacraments? Yes, genius! Tell us the stuff. Water? Yes in...baptism. Yes, more stuff please. Bread & wine? Yes. How about confession? Is the priest the stuff? Yes, good. So we are spirit'n'stuff; Jesus is also...spirit'n'stuff; yes, and Sacraments are...spirit'n'stuff. Yes, all similar but not exactly the same. We'll learn more about this stuff business later this year."

Class finished with a discussion of Jairus' daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage. You may notice that in answering a question on the fly, I conflated the Samaritan woman with the Canaanite woman. I'll sort that out next week.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Greenville Ephrathah 2

Putatively unrelated data which nonetheless incrementally reveal little Ephrathah's veiled future:

From St. Mary's January 15 Sunday bulletin:

"Father Jon Chalmers is a priest of the Episcopal Church (the main American branch of the Anglican Communion), and for the past two years he has been on the staff at Christ Church here in Greenville. On Sunday 22 January 2012 during the 11 am Mass, Jon Chalmers will be received into full communion with the Catholic Church and confirmed by Bishop Guglielmone, and the following week he will begin his formation for priestly ordination in the Catholic Church in Houston, Texas — the seat of the new Ordinariate. In the coming months, if sufficient numbers of Anglicans desire to be joined to the Ordinariate here in Greenville, Jon will be responsible for their pastoral care, and after his ordination as a Catholic priest, he will celebrate the Anglican Use liturgy as well as be available to assist local Roman Rite parishes."

(It's likely that St. Mary's Parish would host any local Anglican congregation until it gets its own facility, as happened with St. Rafka's Maronite Catholic congregation.)

From Our Lady of the Rosary Parish:

Fr. Longenecker's 12 Days of Christmas

And: "Join EWTN personalities and authors Joanna Bogle, Joseph Pearce, and Fr. Dwight Longenecker on Saturday, January 21 from 8:30am-3:30pm at OLR Church for "A Day Conference on English Catholicism Then & Now."

From the diocesan newspaper:

"Father Christopher Smith, who is studying at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, will become the administrator of Prince of Peace Church...effective Dec. 15."  Fr. Smith, a product of both St. Mary's and Our Lady of the Rosary, has returned to Ephrathah. I should mention that My Mother the English Teacher taught young Chris Smith everything he knows except for what he learned at the seminary. And Pamplona. And Rome.

This article reacquaints us with the diocese's 10 seminarians. Two of them, like Father Smith, are Sons of Ephrathah.

And yet:  Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dog Miracles

Remind me please, who's this? A king! Yeah, which one? Herod! Try again. David! No, good guess. Solomon! Yes...who's this queen...she was taking a bath- Bathsheba! Yes- Solomon's wife? No, his Mom! Yes, this sort of queen is called...she's his mom...Queen Mother! Yes. Who's this? The guy who wanted something!

The Jan 11, 2012 class ran from Jesus completing 40 days in the desert through the Healing of the Paralytic. A few points:

1. I attended a Rick Santorum event last weekend. I described what his advance team did to prepare the way for him, and compared their work to John the Baptist's. Like John, the advance team faded into the background once Santorum arrived. This leads into John 1:35 "The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus." John is letting go of his followers and directing them to Jesus.

Then from John 3: "Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized."  John continues to baptize, and Jesus baptizes in the company of his disciples.

"25 Now a discussion arose between John's disciples and a Jew over purifying. 26 And they came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him."  Why is John ok with his ministry winding down?

 "27 John answered, "I am not the Christ/ Anointed/ Mashiah, but I have been sent before him." I get three volunteers up to the front, and we act this next bit out as I read, "29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full." Once the best man has given the groom the ring, he's done, and all attention goes to the wedding couple. The best man is ok with that.

"30 He must increase, but I must decrease." Remember, the daylight decreases after John's birthday on June 24; and daylight increases after Jesus' birthday on December 25. Are those really their birthdays? I think so; if not, they are very close. Calendars aren't perfect. But I believe God coordinated their birthdays with the natural cycle of the Sun. You know: we say Jesus is the Light of the World, like...the Sun! Yes.

A mere two paragraphs later in John 4: "Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples, he left Judea and departed again to Galilee."  A big deal in our class, this passage shows that Jesus has already stopped baptizing. He has handed that authority over to his disciples. That is, Jesus is starting to set up his Church. If you want Christ's baptism, you get it through his intermediaries.

2.  The kids explain the top picture and the idea of intercession, which leads into the Wedding at Cana. They can tell the whole story and I just have to direct the discussion and read only a couple of lines from John 2. I add a J(esus) & M(ary) over Solomon and Bathsheba. The kids explain how both Mary and Bathsheba interceded; but like all intercessors they didn't demand, they just asked. We connect the abundance of wine to the abundance of Peter's catch after he meets Jesus.

Then I read, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now," and the kids figure out the wine had alcohol in it (In the Bible Belt this datum matters).

And, "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him." Oh well, even a dog could taste and see that water went in and wine came out. People will always believe what they see with their own two eyes (well, most of the time). People love visible miracles...they don't require much faith.

3. Between John the Baptist making a fuss over him, and this wine miracle, people are getting fired-up about Jesus. He visits the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4), and reads from Isaiah; then: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." The men puff up with pride at the local boy made good: "And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" Good times a-comin' for the Sons of Abraham! But I read this bit: "I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." The kids remind me that both the widow and Naaman were pagans who did God's will. Jesus means that being a Son of Abraham is no guarantee of receiving God's blessings: in fact, sometimes the whole lot of Chosen People are left out. Maybe everyone in the synagogue should get busy repenting and doing good works as John the Baptist told the know-it-alls at the Jordan.

Then, "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away." Jesus has barely started his ministry and his own people find him so aggravating that one minute everybody loves Jesus, and the next minute they are ready to kill him. As he said, "no prophet is acceptable in his own country." Just like Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, he says things people don't want to hear. It's a dangerous habit.

4. With five volunteers we act out the Healing of the Paralytic. This story is thematically very dense, but one thread that's emphasized is that the Paralytic's friends intercede for his healing. Also, Jesus pairs a dog miracle, one that even a dog can perceive (Imagine if the paralytic had a dog all these years...he'd freak out when his master started walking around.) with an invisible miracle, forgiving sin. If the crowd sees Jesus do A, can they take on faith he also did B? Apparently so.

Class ends two minutes late. If the kids are engaged in the material they won't look at the clock.

Some observations:

Reading aloud is done in short bits, and each bit is always followed by questions and discussion.

Old info illuminates new info. Secular info illuminates religious info.

Old Testament bits such as Zarephath and Naaman have to be taught earlier so the kids can figure out the point of what Jesus is saying when he refers to them now.

Physical variety: reading, questions, answers, discussion, acting, drawing.

No dead time.

P.S. Here's a terrific post by a priest on Catechesis.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pitchers 7, Res Ipsa 9: John da Baptis'

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

John was clothed with camel's hair, had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey.

Drawing from Jan 4, 2012 class; comments limited to what's on the board.

1. Most of our New Testament classes are about the Gospels, but I treat them collectively, not separately. I mention to the kids that Matthew, Mark and Luke's Gospels have a common point of view (syn-optic); and John's is different.

2. Sorting out the conceptions and births of John the Baptist and Jesus.

3. After Jesus' birth, a "messenger of the Lord" tells Joseph to flee to Egypt. A quick map shows the Med, Jerusalem, the Tigris & Euphrates, the Nile, and the city founded by that Greek guy...Alexander! Jesus and his family may have lived among Alexandria's large Jewish community.

4. The round calendar leads into discussion of art handouts depicting the Annunciation and the Platytera. This is a basic Platytera with two houseflies seraphim in attendance.

5. Explaining the Greek abbreviation for Mother of God.

6. The calendar leads to a quick review of John the Baptist's conception and later presentation at the Temple.

7. John the Baptist's ministry. Upper right shows John baptizing Jesus while the Holy Spirit hovers, and the Father riffs on Isaiah: the Trinity.

8. John tells the Pharisees and Levites who come to quiz him, "Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." That is, being one of the Chosen People isn't enough; each believer must also bear good fruit, which means...doing good stuff! Yes, as the Bible would say, doing good works."

9. A couple of the Spanish-speakers explain a Quinceañera; I extend that concept to young women who are debutantes. I compare these coming-out events to Jesus' debut at the Jordan river: he will now be a much-talked-about public figure for the next three years.

Audio from the Flight to Egypt to John at the Jordan.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fine Art 6: More Spacious than a Tea Party

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

The January 4 class included a review of the Hail Mary prayer via the Annunciation, the Visitation, and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. We had already treated the Annunciation and Visitation in the December 14 class, but without a couple of instructive artworks. [The class calendar is deliberately scheduled to finish the Old Testament in time to coordinate Mary Stuff with the Church feasts of Dec 8, Dec 25, and Jan 1.]

First I showed the kids this miniature of the Isenheim Altarpiece, explained how big it really is (about 9' x 16') how the panels work, etc. My sister got this for me as a Christmas gift when she was in Colmar, France last summer. Which was way before my wife told me a few weeks ago that the Annunciation I liked so much but couldn't name was the Isenheim Annunciation. More than coincidence?

We then focused on the Annuciation panel, which isn't visible in the photo above, using this color handout:

 Our discussion was very close to what I anticipated in an earlier post. The kids recalled Gabriel's greeting to Mary, and saw that it was directly quoted in the Hail Mary. The kids then recounted the Visitation, and recognized Elizabeth's greeting in next bit of the prayer.

I then asked the kids to guess the Catholic significance of January 1. None could, but that was OK. I told them it was the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. To add dimension to this feastday, we reviewed a handout of this ikon:

The common name for this ikon type is Platytera, Πλατυτέρα, meaning more ample, broader. That's short for "more ample than heaven." [Plat- is related to English flat, German platt, and French platte, as in the Platte (broad) River] It means that Mary, by containing the Creator of the Universe in her womb, was figuratively larger than infinity. Or as an old Greek hymn puts it, "He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained within your womb, O Theotokos (God-birther).” It's a terrific teaching tool that illustrates an aspect of Jesus' humility, and that Mary was the mother of not only Jesus' human nature, but of his entire person, comprising both his human and divine natures. That is, Mary is the Mother of God- just as the Hail Mary says. That literal womb makes this a very unusual Platytera, which was completed in January 2011 by the ikonographer Tom Athanasios Clark in the apse of St. George's Orthodox Church in Shreveport, La.

Most Platyteras look like this one:

Which is fine as far as it goes...whose lap is Jesus sitting on- his babysitter's? Just kidding, but sitting on a lap isn't what I'd call compelling visual testimony to the intimate prenatal relationship between God the Son and his momma. By the way, the Greek is Πλατυτέρα των Ουρανών, Platytera ton Ouranon, Wider than Heaven.

Or they're like this one:

This Platytera's better because it's a bit more expressive (although in an abstract sense) of Jesus being physically inside Mary. But neither of these is as effective as that cutaway pink uterus in the first example. The kids get that one right away: Mary's tummy, her womb.

We may as well learn some more Greek while we're at it:  those letters in the above ikon are M-R and Th-U. The squiggies above the letters mean those are abbreviations. They're short for Μητηρ Θεού/ Mitir Theou/ Mother of God. I always wonder: if you're going to spend a couple thousand hours or so on a mosaic, why cut corners with abbreviations?

To finish our Marian train of thought, I bring out a chair that my kids sat on when they were practically toddlers- a chair like one of these...

...and demonstrate how Mary was more spacious than a tea party.