Monday, January 31, 2011

Feast of the Presentation in the Temple

In the United States, February 2 is known as "Groundhog's Dog." According to Wikipedia, this tradition began in the 18th and 19th centuries in southwestern and central Pennsylvania. Germans living in the area borrowed the European custom of predicting the weather by using an animal like a badger or a bear. The Pennsylvanian town of Punxsutawney is especially famous on this day, thanks to its famous groundhog Phil, who predicts the remaining length of winter in the United States. If he sees his shadow on that morning, tradition says that we will have six more weeks of winter.

This whimsical holiday falls on the same day as a much older holiday in the Christian church -- the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple. We remember the day that the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, who were following Mosaic law, took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and dedicated him to the Lord. 

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, we give a special presentation to the children about this feast.  We read Luke 2:22-39, which describes this event, then meditate on how Mary and Joseph might have felt when they heard the prophecies and words of Simeon and Anna.  After a candle-lit meditation, we use a diorama and figures to make the scene come alive to the children.

Here is the very simple diorama and figures I made for my children's at-home use:

 The temple diorama itself is very simple to make.  I used two wooden plaques, one slightly smaller than the other.  I stacked the smaller one on top of the larger one then used wood glue to hold them together, creating a "step" effect.  The top of the  temple is another wooden plaque.  I spray painted the pieces with "stone effect" spray paint to create the textured look. The pillars are plastic cake pillars usually used for wedding cakes.  I found mine at a garage sale for pennies, but they are also available in many hobby and craft stores that sell cake decorating supplies.
My figures are simple wooden dowels with a round wooden ball glue to the top of them.  I used an air-dry clay to create the arms on the figures, in addition to Baby Jesus (in Mary's arms) and the basket of doves (in Joseph's arms).  The Baby Jesus is a separate piece because Simeon holds Baby Jesus during part of the presentation. Oh, the women's veils are sculpted with a plastic type clay.  

My figures are very simple (some of the first ones I ever made) but the kids love using them.  As I was taught in my Catechesis training, often the most rustic and simple materials speak most to the children.  I've found this to be true even as my children get older.

After the presentation, the children are invited to work with the materials or trace some simple figures depicting the story. This year, I also gave them the option of making a collage: 

I love the fact that Baby Jesus can be moved from Mary to Simeon's arms in this collage.  You can find the collage and directions here (scroll down to page 10 for the reproducible collage pieces.) 

You can find out more about this feast and its association with candles on the New Advent website  

1 comment:

  1. what wonderful activities you all did to celebrate the Feast of the presentation.