Lent in the Atrium

Today in the atrium we changed our prayer table cover from white for “ordinary time” to purple for Lent.

It is always a particularly poignant moment when we change the prayer table cloth together. Everything must first be gently removed from the table. The candles, the candlesticks, the cross, the icons, the Bible, the Bible stand, and the two  blocks we use to prop up our cross. Then our whole Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class processes around singing a liturgically appropriate song. For this prayer table change, we sing “40 Days and 40 Nights”:

Forty days and forty nights, Jesus fasted in the wild
Forty days and forty nights, Christ was tempted in the wild”

It’s interesting how many questions and discussions this simple song can encourage. Here’s just a sampling of the kind of meditations I’ve heard over the years.

“Why does Jesus get called Jesus and Christ?”
“Why forty days? That’s a long time!”

“What does fasted mean?”
“Why do we get tempted?”

And on and on the questions grow. They keep growing in part, because changing the prayer table also causes us to start meditating on the events leading up to the death of Christ. For our youngest ones, we listen and pray through the story of the Last Supper. We ponder the mystery of the Body and the Blood in the eucharist. We also wonder at the fact that the Good Shepherd would lay his life down for his sheep.

As a student grows in the atrium to be in Kindergarten, we move on to looking at the story of what led to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Students build the City of Jerusalem and trace the path Jesus walked on Holy Week. Questions begin to emerge, “Why didn’t Pilate stop them from killing Christ?” “How could a friend betray you?” “Why doesn’t Jesus stop them?”

In the Level Two atrium, (first and second grade), changing the prayer table cloth means a shift in focus toward repentance. In their atrium, level two students continue to pray and walk with Christ on his road of suffering, but they also begin to study the law of God and reflect inwardly on its application. During this time we study parables like “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector”. We focus on Lent being not only preparation for Pascha, but also the place the repentance holds in preparing us for Pascha.

This is deep, difficult, and profound work by our younger students. Please pray for us this Lenten season. Pray that we will see Christ, repent, and become more like Him.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.