Monthly letters to help put the work of the catechist of the Good Shepherd into the context of the larger world · from the archives
by Catherine Maresca
Late this spring, after a long study of the Exodus and celebration with a Seder, a 9-12-year-old group began to explore the meaning of the signs of the book of Exodus.
Lifting a significant person, place, or object out of its literal context frees it to work in our own time and place as sign of the presence of God.
One of the places they chose to consider was the Tent of Meeting, which the Israelites set up in the middle of their camp during their 40 years in the desert. This was holy place the community gathered to be with God; it housed the Ark of the Covenant.
Brigid clearly had a sense of the meaning of the Tent of the Meeting but was struggling for words to express it. She finally said, “It’s sounds funny, but it’s kind of like a holy telephone booth!”
In this age a telephone booth is almost as rare as a Tent of Meeting. But one enters it for the purpose of communicating with someone who is distant, closing out the rest of the world so the sound of the other’s voice can be heard and given attention, and then bridging the distance with the help of a phone.
Brigid’s words made me want to enter the Tent of Meeting immediately. To shut out the world and with the help of the Scripture, or the Eucharist, or even a candle, be attentive only to God, speaking and listening heart to heart. Advent is perhaps the best of times to seek this focus on the voice of God.
During Advent we simultaneously prepare for a renewed sense of “God with us” –Emmanuel – in our own hearts, for Christmas celebrations with our beloved friends and family, and for the fullness of the kindom of God proclaimed and developed in the Messianic Age in which we live. Brigid reminds us that these preparations begin in intimacy with God that settles our hearts, opens us to those we are with, and informs and empowers our work for God’s kingdom.
Advent is also a time to take a look at our atriums as a Tent of Meeting. Do the physical space, materials and community life make it possible for the children to rest in God’s loving presence? Can we dim the lights, lower the volume or reduce the busy-ness to make space for God’s Word to be heard?