By Marilena Berardinelli
I recently visited a JK/SK classroom in the context of our parish’s mission of evangelization in the spirit of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. To begin our “wondering” together about the seasons of the church, I asked the children what I thought was a simple question: “What is a calendar?”
Firstly, who knew that these paper organizers strung on walls and littered on desks are relics of things past. Since none of the 4, 5 or 6 year olds were familiar with Google Calendar or iCal only a handful of the 140 JK/SK students could share that: calendars told us the days of the weeks, the days we go to soccer or to ballet class, when vacations start or how many “sleeps” until their birthday. One student figuring I was the “religion lady” (as he endearingly refers to me) chimed in about his special Christmas calendar that gave him chocolate one year or toys another year. So, after much debate on whether all calendars provide “surprises” the children finally (phew!) concluded that calendars mark time.
Last Sunday the church began to mark time, not with bright lights, tinsel or chocolate(!), but with a simple wreath and the lighting of the first of four candles that mark our journey together toward the celebration of Christmas; when we remember that Jesus was born and that one day He will come again. With the JK/SK students, as well as the children who attend the Atrium, the Advent wreath is a visual reminder on what we are called to focus our attention during this time of preparation. This Advent symbol that marks time for us, helps us fix our gaze on the journey we have embarked on rather than the destination before us- on the present rather than on the celebrations, the culinary feasts, and the gift exchanges ahead.
Today’s Gospel readings reminds us that this four-week journey is meant to be a time to “Prepare a way for the Lord.” With this in mind, let us mark our calendars (paper or otherwise). If we haven’t already done so, let us commit to preparing the way, to repenting and acknowledging our failings, to committing to bearing good fruits. Let us mark this time with concrete actions that prepare our very souls for the celebration ahead.
May these remaining weeks of Advent be a time marked by interior preparations to receive and celebrate the gift of the Word made flesh.