Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Meditating on God's gifts

During the fall, as the days end sooner, and the apples and pears are ripe for harvest, and the Church begins to reflect on the end of time, it is useful to meditate with children on the abundant gifts that God showers on us and on how these gifts are given to us within the context of time, the mystery of time.

Find a medium-sized wooden box and collect treasures to fill it. Following the first account of Genesis, begin by collecting objects that reflect the gifts contained in the heavens: clip photos of planets, stars, our sun, galaxies from magazines (old National Geographics are perfect for this). Place all of these photos into a folder. Then, in a smaller box, collect rocks, mineral, salts, and other non-living objects that come from the earth. In another box, place plant specimens and photos of flowers and fruit bearing plants. Then collect photos of animals into yet another folder; it is best to choose one example of a working animal (seeing-eye dogs, oxen), one example of an animal we use for transportation (horses, elephants), one example of an animal that is a companion to human beings, one example of an animal that gives us food or material for clothing (goats, chickens, sheep), one animal that is simply beautiful (peacocks, tropical fish), and one animal that serves as a companion to people. The next folder should contain photos of people: family members, friends, doctors, people making music, working, and playing. Then, in a special box or beautifully decorated folder, collect one beautiful depiction of Jesus (an icon is perfect for this), a small standing crucifix, two candles, and a small paten and chalice (or include a photo of these objects if it is hard to find them in miniature). Finally, in a small box of its own, include a photo of the earth from space with a golden cross imposed over it so that all four arms of the cross extend over the borders of the earth’s perimeter (to represent Parousia, when Christ will be all in all).

Then gather the children. Light a candle and read the first two verses of Genesis. Explain that all of history, from the deep past into the future, contains gifts, given by God to us. We learn about this history, of the gifts of God, through reading the Bible. Slowly open the first folder, which contains the images of objects in space, and meditate with the children about how each of these things is a gift for human beings. When examining the rocks and minerals, speak about how the earth was formed by God to contain all these elements: iron to build with, precious metals to create decorative items, stone to build with, etc. Next show the children the box with the plant specimens and pictures; discuss the ways in which each item represents a precious gift. Do the same with the images of animals. Before opening the folder that contains the images of people, announce to the children that after preparing the earth with everything that we would need to build, to eat, to survive, and also to enjoy life, human beings were created last, and arrived as guests at a banquet at which everything had already been prepared. And linger over what a gift it is for us to have one another for all the aspects of our lives. It is even possible to ask the children what would have happened if God had created human beings before plants or animals?

But, after preparing a beautiful world that contained all we need, and after giving us other persons like ourselves for companionship and to care for one another, God was not satisfied. He wanted to give us even more; he wanted to give us an even more wonderful gift. He wanted to give us his very self in the person of Jesus Christ. Bring out the special box and show the children the icon of Christ. Then ask the children to ponder how Christ gives himself to us. Show them the crucifix and the candles (which represent the Resurrection); then the paten and chalice. Linger over these objects and wonder together about how each thing represents an important of Christ’s gift of himself to us. Then explain that there is another gift we are still awaiting. Explain that the Bible also promises us that Christ will return to fill the entire world with his Light. On that day, God will be “all in all” and there will be no more tears and no more death.

Then, looking at all the objects that have been unpacked, meditate together on how all of history is a series of gifts, each more wonderful than the last, that God has given to us so that we can live lives of joy and fullness. You might want to end with a song of thanksgiving, such as “For the Beauty of the Earth” or a song about Parousia, perhaps “Soon and Very Soon.”

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."