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Advent with the Prophets  
Suzanne M. Lewis  
   

The prophets are a rich source for catechesis. It is best, when introducing a study of the prophets to children ages nine and older, to begin by looking together at the Rite of Baptism. Draw their attention to the Rite of Anointing with Chrism, when the celebrant prays over the person being baptized: "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life."

Explain that in the Old Testament, anointing was used to consecrate priests, prophets, and kings. Explore the role of the prophet as one whose task is, above all, to listen to God. Prophets live in close relationship with God, heeding the Lord with their ears and hearts. Prophets are consumed with love for God, and their function in the community is to communicate the fruit of this deep listening, to ignite the hearts of the people with the same love. Reminding the community of God's saving actions throughout history, prophets inspire people to certain faith and hope that God will perform even mightier deeds in the future.

Consider what the prayer from the Rite Of Anointing could mean: How was Christ anointed? Consider the account of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River (Mark 1:9-11). With what sort of oil was Jesus anointed? Explain the meaning of the title, "Christ" and of the word, "Messiah." Read together Luke 4:16-21.

Rereading the prayer from the Rite of Anointing, remind the children that, at their Baptism, they were anointed with sacred chrism. Point out the similarities between the words "chrism" and "Christ." If Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, what does that have to do with us? How are we "members of his body"? What does this unity with Christ mean? What are we being called to at Baptism?

Choose one or two of the First Readings of the liturgies during Advent. Exploring the imagery they contain, ask: What is a "shoot" and have we ever seen one sprout from a stump? What does Isaiah wish us to understand with this image? What is dead and chopped down in us? What is the bud that the Lord will cause to blossom from the roots of this dead stump? Why do we think of new shoots and blossoming buds during Advent, the darkest, and coldest time of the year?

Why do the prophets speak of God's mountain? What does a high mountain make us think about? What are swords and ploughshares? What are they used for? What is the difference between them? What is the garden or farm that the Lord wishes us to plow and prune? What is the Light that the prophets tell us that we should walk in? What can we see in this Light?

What is this "desert" that the prophets describe? Do we know of anything in our neighborhood that is like a desert? What would it mean for this desert to bloom? What sort of water will make something grow in this desert?

When the prophet says, "we are the clay and you the potter," what is he trying to express about our relationship to God? Reflect on Isaiah 11:1 - 10 (the First Reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A): How can the wolf be the guest of the lamb? What do wolves usually eat? What is like a wolf in our experience? What does it eat? How could this wolf change its diet? Who is this little child?

Explore the reading for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year B), Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11. Who is Jerusalem? By referencing the new Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, you can help the children see that while Jerusalem is a reference to the Church, it is also a name for the Church of the future, the heavenly Church of the Parousia. Look together at the image: "Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low." What are these valleys and mountains? What purpose does it serve to make the earth flat? If the surrounding country were flat, would that make it easier to see the mountain of the Lord? Finally, take some time to examine the image of the shepherd that appears in the final verses of the reading. Why does the prophet describe the Lord as a shepherd? Who are these lambs and ewes he speaks of? What other scriptures do these verses call to mind? If time permits, examine the parable of the Good Shepherd from Luke 15 and John 10.

In all of these reflections, be sure that the children recognize the overwhelming images of joy and new birth that run through the passages like a golden thread. To conclude the meditation, ask why, during Advent, we should be invited to look ahead, to these joyful realities that have been promised. Ask them to consider what this may mean for the season of Advent.

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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