Bringing the Liturgical Season Home

February 12, 2013

            There are many simple and lovely ways to connect the liturgical seasons of the year with our home lives. Following are some our family has practiced and some from other sources.

            Since we are about to enter the season of Lent, we will start there.

Some helpful instructions for parents:

            Although many of these ideas may seem focused on people who live with children they are adaptable to any living situation.

            Do not try to preach or force these times within your home. Let the idea or event carry the energy forward. Bring yourself as a participant to it. You do hold the leadership of the overarching activity and idea; but enter into it for yourself and be there with the others in your living situation. That keeps the space ‘open’ which helps others to be themselves in it.

Re-enacting Holy Week Experience

            A few years ago, our family decided to stay home through the Holy Week celebrations. On the evening of Good Friday, we still wanted to do something to mark the night. We began messing around with Legos and ended up wondering if we could build a Jesus that would fit on a cross our son and his friend had made. We got to work and figured it out.

            We placed the cross with Jesus on it in a prominent spot of the house and lived with it that evening until bedtime. At that time we took Jesus off the cross and wrapped him up in white flour sack towels. We laid him in our fireplace and closed the glass doors; signifying his burial in the tomb.

            Now, something I had not anticipated when we began our little adventure was that I was ‘aware’ of him in the ‘tomb’ all through Holy Saturday. We tend to make a fire each weekend night and we had to forgo one that night. It impacted and lent a weight to Holy Saturday that I, as an evangelical, had never experienced before. Even though not having a fire for one night is a small thing; because of the reason it felt weightier.

            Then, early Easter morning, my husband snuck downstairs and ‘remade’ Jesus. He was a standing, ‘whole’ man again. He placed him on our dining room hutch and we put chocolates at his feet. Craig also opened the tomb doors and you could see in to the messy white towels that he’d been wrapped in. He posted a sign above the fireplace doors that said, “He is not here! He is risen!”

            When the kids came down, they noticed the tomb and everyone jumped and began looking around for him; questioning what had happened.  We told them to look for him and the one who found him was the one who got to pass out the treats. As we ate our chocolates, we told each other, “He is risen!” and replied to each other, “He is risen indeed!”

Variations on the theme

          You could use your stove, microwave or other closeable item for the tomb if you do not have a fireplace.

          You could make your Jesus out of Sculpey (one in crucified position and one resurrected) or other malleable, dryable clay.

          This idea can become repeatable for every year. As our kids have grown, they are not so ‘in’ to making Jesus out of Lego; so we might make the Sculpey versions and then bring them out each year for this activity. As the kids get older, it might just be the parents entering in and making it happen; but even if it is quiet and a smaller circle, they may participate in their own ways.

Table Centerpieces

            The dinner table is a consistent place of incredible opportunity to stage the colors of the liturgical year. For Lent, the color is purple, and the images are ones of wilderness or desert.

            For my Lenten centerpiece this year I am going to use a beautiful and precious purple scarf laid directly upon the table. On that I will place a copper bowl with a large, squat, lavender scented, purple candle. Around the candle I’ll sprinkle sand, rocks and bits of twigs.

            Every time we sit down at the table for dinner, just the act of lighting the centerpiece becomes a moment of noticing and remembering the season of Lent. If more than one person lives in the home, it is amazing how each wants a turn to light it; it is an honor and a gift.

            During Lent we also read a book together after we are done eating; this year we will be reading, “Listen with your Heart” by M. Basil Pennington. This practice has created wonderful times of questioning and conversation around the table that sometimes deepens our experiences of the season.

Transition from Lent Table to Maundy Thursday Table

            On Maundy Thursday I will take my Lenten centerpiece, empty it and fill it again with water. I will place a small, white hand towel with it in the arrangement. We might wash each other’s feet or hands before or after Maundy Thursday dinner, or tell the story of the Last Supper. I’ve often found that just changing the centerpiece usually elicits questions and is the invitation to remember what happened that night. I have learned to not force things, but to let each year unfold our experience as a home community together. Even if we do not ‘do’ anything around the centerpiece; just the lighting of it may be enough.

Transition from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday

            For Good Friday, I will bring back the Lenten centerpiece and when we’re done with dinner ask everyone to remain at the table while we remove it completely. The table will remain bare all the way through Holy Saturday until Sunday morning.

This act reminds me of how the altar is stripped on Good Friday in many churches. Also, it echoes the removal of the light from the church that happens in a Tenebrae service. If you have never been to a Tenebrae service, I highly recommend it. It is a feast of story and image that can move God’s people into the darkness of presently remembering his death and, although long in duration, it is accessible for young elementary kids on up.

Transition from Holy Saturday to Easter Morning

            Easter morning I will bring back the Lenten centerpiece but changed, transformed! Everything that was purple will be white, the liturgical color of celebration. I will place a white cloth under the copper bowl with a big white candle in it. Then… then! Instead of filling the bowl with sand, rocks and sticks around the candle I will fill it with a favorite family candies and treats! It is a day of celebration, feasting and joy! I will probably scatter some candy pieces outside the bowl to signify the overflowing richness of God’s blessing and joy with and for us and for those around us.

A Twist on a Table Centerpiece

            Here is the link for a wooden ‘From the Cradle to the Cross’ wreath that is useful for Advent and Lent!

            http://adventtolenttoascensionwreath.blogspot.com/

            I am using it in our Kid’s Chapel at Abbey Way and it is a lovely and adaptable wreath to use.

Variations on the Theme:

          Works of Mercy Tree: Place rocks or sand (or other small weight producing items) into a vase or decorated tin can. Arrange dead branches so that they stick up out of the base resembling a bush or tree. Cut out paper stock ‘leaves’ (or any shapes you wish), punch a hole in the top of them, write an act of giving/mercy idea upon it. Thread yarn/ribbon/string/jute (you get the idea) through it and tie it in a loop to hang on the tree branches.

 

          Here is a great Lenten table idea: a sand meditation set. It is easily adaptable to the idea listed above.

http://fromthesheepfold.blogspot.com/2011/03/lent-at-home.html

          From the same blogger, here is a lovely idea of making a Lenten Garden centerpiece:

http://fromthesheepfold.blogspot.com/2012/04/try-this-easter-garden.html

Once again, I would stipulate that any of these ideas are very adaptable and are not dependent on whether you live with kids or not; for adults to revisit ways of expressing their spirituality that they experienced as children (or might have missed and can now experience) is important for continual spiritual freshness and growth.

Creating Prayerful Places

            Biblically, people went to the desert/wilderness to focus in on their prayer lives. It was often a time of self-examination and listening for God’s direction in their lives. Lent is a perfect time to explore new ways to practice prayer and integrate the fruits of prayer into our lives.

Prayer Altar

            You may take an area of your house; a closet, a small table, a corner in a room, and make a prayer table/altar there. Some ideas to include on it are: icons, candle, flowers or items from nature, fronts of greeting cards that create prayerful, meditative moods, a purple cloth, small bell or gong, prayer beads/rosary. Keep the altar simple, but place items upon it that have meaning for your household and help create a quiet, reflective space for yourself and others.

Make Prayer Beads

            Here is a great web resource for making a set of personal prayer beads. These are sometimes a tactile aid for prayer.

            http://thelittleways.com/how-to-make-sacrifice-beads

Make Pretzels

            Eastern Europe has a tradition of making pretzels for Lent because it is a bread item that does not contain the traditional Lenten abstaining food items. The shape of the pretzel is an image of arms in prayer and the word “pretzel” in German means “little arms.” Here is a great link that explains the tradition and has a recipe.

https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=2601

Variation on the Theme:

          Make a particularly large pretzel and create a table centerpiece around it.

Space for Confession

            Lent is a traditionally a time of self-examination and confession. You might take time as a household to have a time of confession together. Here is a process that works well and allows people to enter together into the vulnerability of confession without force or overexposure.

            Take a candle, bowl and slips of folded paper and have it located in the center of the group (if doing with others) or in front of you (if doing it by yourself). Explain to the group what is going to happen and how to engage with the activity.

          Everyone will use the slips of paper to record the confessions that they hear God leading them to in a quiet, prayerful time that will follow the instructions.

          Begin by lighting the candle and inviting God’s Presence among you. Then spend time through quiet music, scripture readings or silence to give people time to enter into self-reflective, listening for God’s Word, prayer.

          When they have written their confessions on their slips of paper they bring them, folded, and put them in the bowl.

          When everyone is done you may take the bowl of papers and light them on fire. Allow everyone to be present and see the ‘sins’ burn up. Often this concrete of an activity around sin can help people believe God when he says that He forgives our sins and that they are gone.

Variations on the Theme:

          If the bowl is fireproof, that is great, if not, you can place them in a fireplace, a pot on a stove or a pot in a sink.

 

 

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