"Doing Justice to Advent"
The Season of Advent is so rich in justice themes that we may want to try new or extra ways to celebrate it with our students ... as further opportunities to bring social justice into our Catholic classrooms.
Perhaps many catechists already mark the season with Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, and even Jesse Trees or other activities which help students wait meaningfully for Jesus' coming at Christmas (while the world tells us to "wait for Santa!"). There are other simple ways to help put our students in touch with the expectant waiting of the people of God for the Peaceable Kingdom promised by Isaiah in the Scripture readings for Advent. These include art projects, charity-and-justice-oriented Advent calendars, and others:
1) The Advent readings from Isaiah are so vivid in describing the vision of "the days to come," in which God's promises of a world filled with peace and justice will be fulfilled. Some of these passages can be easily tapped for a student art project. Students can be asked to read one of these (Is. 1:1-10 and Is. 35:1-10 may work best), and then choose one of the images described to draw in full color. You can then display these in your classroom to fill it with visions of "the wolf lying down with the lamb" and "the desert bursting into bloom," among many others -- God's "Peaceable Kingdom," for which we long each Advent as we wait for the celebration of Jesus' birth at Christmas!
2) Two new Advent Calendars challenge us to live out, each day, Isaiah's visions of the compassion, peacefulness and solidarity embodied in Jesus' coming. Both can be accessed from the Internet (and reproduced as long as credit is given to the creators). The first is from Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Erie (www.eriercd.org/charities.asp), and the second is from the U.S. Bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development (www.usccb.org/cchd/education.htm). You may want to post enlarged versions of one of these, perhaps a week at a time for easier focus, or even to create your own "charity-and-justice" Advent calendar with your class, connecting to special needs and concerns in your parish or area.
3) The "O" Antiphons are one of the Church's richest prayer customs for Advent, but are generally little-known or -used in many parishes today. These seven antiphons are the refrains sung o recited at the Church's "Evening Prayer" (Vespers) during the week before Christmas Eve. Each of them calls upon Jesus under a different title, which together trace God's saving plan for us, and speak of the liberation and justice promised for all of God's creation. The seven titles for Jesus ("O Wisdom," "O Sacred Lord," "O Root of Jesse," "O Key of David," "O Radiant Dawn," "O King of Nations," and "O Emmanuel") can be placed on small poster boards for Advent classroom decoration, or in a more involved Advent craft with students, "O" Antiphon Cinnamon Dough Ornaments. This project comes from Page Zyromski in the Nov./Dec. 1995 issue of Catechist magazine:
Recipe for (Inedible) Cinnamon Dough Ornaments
Ingredients: 1 c. ground cinnamon, 3/4-to-1 c. applesauce.
Directions: Mix cinnamon with enough applesauce to form a stiff dough that cleans surface of bowl. Roll out on lightly cinnamon-powdered surface to about 1/4-inch thickness. If dough is too dry (cracking) or too moist (sticky), add more applesauce or cinnamon one tablespoon at a time. Cut with circular cookie cutters (about 2-1/2-inch diameter; wide-mouth canning jars are a good substitute). Use a drinking straw to punch a hole near the top of each ornament. Carefully place on rack to dry. Let ornaments air-dry for several days, turning occasionally. Makes 12 large room freshener ornaments. Write one of the seven "O" Antiphon titles on an ornament using squeeze tubes of puff-paint.
We hope you enjoy one or more of these Advent ideas, as we aim to "rescue Advent" from commercial interests learning to secularize it. Let's keep our sights set on the Prince of Peace, who so needs to be reborn in our hearts and troubled world these days!
Prayerfully for the Peace and Justice Office staff,
Mary Jeanne Lindinger-Olsen