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Teaching with the Eucharistic Prayer  
Suzanne M. Lewis  
   

One method to approach the Old Testament with children is to follow the prayers of the liturgy.

For example, in Eucharistic Prayer I, we pray, "Look with favor on these offerings / and accept them as once you accepted / the gifts of your servant Abel, / the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, / and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchisedek."

To help the children begin to grapple with the theology contained in this prayer, provide a Bible for each child. Place the above prayer in context, reminding the children what comes before and after this prayer in the Mass. Ask the children what it means that we want God to "look with favor on these offerings." What are we offering to God? How do we make this offering? Point out that three men are named in this prayer. Each one of them made offerings to God.

Ask them to search in the early portion of the book of Genesis for the place where it records Abel's offering to God. Once they have all found the place, ask for a volunteer to read the passage (Genesis 4:1-7). Ask the children what "one of the best firstlings" means. If they have trouble, explain that a "firstling" is a young animal, perhaps a lamb. How is what we offer like a "best firstling"? Why do we call Jesus "the Lamb of God"? Ask the children why Cain's offering wasn't accepted. Suggest that while the Bible uses the word "best" to describe Abel's offering, Cain's offering was perhaps not the best of what he had grown.

Next, point the children to Genesis 2:1-12 in which the sacrifice of Abraham is recounted. Have one of the children read the passage. Ask what God requested that Abraham sacrifice. How does Abraham's sacrifice compare to what we are offering to God, in this prayer of the Mass. Is our offering also an "only" and "beloved son"? Did God ask Abraham to carry through with the sacrifice? Did he spare his Son from being sacrificed?

Finally, encourage the children to find the biblical passage that mentions Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18 - 20). Invite a child to volunteer to read the passage aloud, and then ask the children if any details strike them. Remind them that this episode occurs long before the birth of Jesus. Why would this priest of "God Most High" offer bread and wine? Why does the prayer we are examining ask us to remember this event in the life of Abraham during this moment of the Mass? You may wish to point out that, for the people of Abraham's time, food was gathered and made by hand. The ancient Jewish people viewed the land as a gift of the covenant relationship with God. To eat and drink its fruits meant to accept God's gifts and to give a conscious "yes" to God's covenant.

After the liturgical prayer is read again, ask the children to reflect on the biblical figures that the liturgy asks us to remember as we ask God to accept our offering. How is Christ, present in the Eucharist, a gift from us in the same way that Abel's "best firstling" was a gift to God? How do we sacrifice, as Abraham was asked to sacrifice, when we enter into the Eucharist? With what attitude of spirit is the liturgy asking us to approach the table of the Lord? And why are bread and wine so significant? Why did Jesus choose to be present to us, to be offered up to the Father, in this way?

Choose songs of offering to sing with the children at the end of your meditation. "All That We Have," "Take This Moment," and "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus" are all good choices. You may ask the children to copy out the prayer into their prayer journals and to spend a few minutes of silence journaling about what it means that we offer Christ to the Father during the Mass and what it means that we also offer ourselves during the Mass. Ask them to consider whether these things, Christ and ourselves, are related to one another as we offer them.

Suzanne M. Lewis
is a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation leader and the author of Children's Daily Prayer, 2007-2008.
 
         
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