What is Lent?
Lent begins this year on February 25, 2009 and lasts until Easter. Lent is a Catholic tradition of fasting and becoming closer to God before Easter. Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word for the season of spring. It is a time to remember what we truly believe, it is a time to listen in awe to God's promises. Lent is first and foremost about baptism. Baptism is about going down with Christ unto death and being raised up with Him to glory. This death and rising can be celebrated only after it has been experienced and lived in the daily fabric of human life. Lent is about dying to all human supports which blind us from seeing that true life is in God alone.
Fasting is only to be observed by Catholics who are between the ages of 18 and 59. Nowadays, fasting is only required by the church on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but many catholics (myself included) still practice fasting on Friday's through lent as well as abstaining from meat on Fridays. Fasting means you should only take one full meal that day. Two small meals are permitted only if necessary to maintain strength according to medical needs, but eating sold foods between those two meals is not permitted.
My daughter's Sunday School teacher had a neat idea. Since kids can't fast and not everyone gives things up much anymore, she re-explained it as giving up a toy to symbolize the fasting. To explain it to the preschoolers, they are doing a "Toy Time Out" each week. They pick one toy, give it to mom and dad and then at the end of the week, they get to talk about it at Sunday School.
Ashes and palms are a sign of continuity in the church. The ashes for this year come from the last year's palm branches.
Crown of Thorns.
I take frozen bread dough (saves time) and twist it into a braid and then into a circle making sure the ends are together.Then after it has risen the last time the children and I place the sharp round toothpicks all over the braid. Then we bake. Don't stick them in too far as you want it to look like a crown with thorns sticking out.
As the children are caught being good, carrying out a work of mercy, or other good works they are allowed to pull a thorn out of Jesus' crown and place it in their jar. I remind them that every time we do these things we are truly aiding him but when we do the opposite we are wounding Him again so they usually try a little harder so as to be able to remove thorns from His "crown".
At the end of Lent I count the "thorns" in each of their jars and last year we gave a dime for each thorn. Ten percent of this money goes to the support of our parish. They are then encouraged to use the rest for a good purpose such as sending a portion of it for rosaries for those who do not have them in foreign missions/countries. But they are allowed to use it as they decide.
Make mosaic crosses by gluing colored foam shapes to a foam cross.
EASTER STORY COOKIES
To be made the evening before Easter.
1 c. whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
1 c. sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested the Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19:1-3.
Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1-tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30
Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1-c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16.
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read ISA.1: 18 and John 3:1-3.
Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matt. 27:57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matt. 27:65-66.
GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9.
HE HAS RISEN!
The Jelly Bean Prayer
Red is for the blood He gave.
Green is for the grass He made.
Yellow is for the sun so bright.
Orange is for the edge of night.
Blue is for the sins we made.
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for His hour of sorrow.
Pink is for our new tomorrow.
A bag full of jelly beans colorful and sweet,
Is a prayer, is a promise, is a special treat.
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