Anything understood in isolation is not really understood. Knowledge exists as a continuum even though we may learn it a bit at a time. Even something as obvious as a fork isn’t fully understood without reference to knives, spoons, types of food, etiquette. Remember the blind men feeling the pachyderm: a rope! a treetrunk! a fan! That’s no way to learn faith, as a mere concatenation of facts. So a constant goal of Wednesday Sunday School is to show the kids broad relationships which connect small bits of what they mostly already know. They should learn to see the whole integrated Catholic Elephant.
Last week as part of the lesson plan we discussed the Monstrance (like Spanish mostrar, to show) and the Tabernacle (the little tavern, the little house). This week we started with some review which began with Noah, and ended back at the Tabernacle, like so:
Y’all remember last week we were talking about this thing [on the far right I draw a little house with a cross on top]…what is it? A tabernacle. Yes, a little tavern, a little house. Whose house is it? Jesus’ house. Yes. He has a house because he lives with us. I like tabernacles that look like houses, because that’s what they are: houses.
Hey, who was Noah? (this sort of abrupt change of subject always perks them up) Noah put all the animals in the Ark! Yes! And umm, how long did it rain? 40 days! Yep. Jesusinthedesert? 40 days! Israelitesinthedesert? 40 days…no 40 years! Ha, I almost got ya! Y’all are too smart! So, Noah put ’em all in what? The Ark! Which is? A big boat, a ship. Yes….is this an Old Testament or New Testament story? Old! Yes, how do you know? ‘Cause Jesus wasn’t born yet! Right. And the Old Testament was mostly written in Hebrew, which I bet ya’ll forgot. I remember! OK, good…I believe you. Well, the Hebrew word for ark doesn’t mean boat or ship, it means container, more or less. (תֵּבָה tebah: a chest, a coffer, a box, a vessel. I don’t mention the word to the kids; this is fyi, dear catechist.) How do we know this container was a boat? ‘Cause it had to float! Right. [I draw the Ark on the far left.]
Let’s see now…what did Moses’ momma do when he was born? Moses? Yeah, we’re talking about Moses now….well? She hid him! Yes, why? The king was killing all the babies. All the babies? The ones two years old, the boys. No wait, you’re talking about King Herod, that’s a good guess, but that’s when Jesus was a baby, not Moses. C’mon, where was Moses born? In Egypt. So the king was called? Pharaoh. Yes. The Israelites had moved to Egypt a long time before Moses because there was a drought…why would they think there would be food in Egypt in a drought? Because the Nile river is there. Yes. The Israelites stayed there after the drought and were fruitful & multiplied so much that Pharaoh got nervous and decided to kill all their firstborn boys. That’s why Moses’ momma hid him. But she couldn’t hide a growing baby forever, so what did she do? Put him a little boat and Pharoah’s daughter found him. Yes, Moses was put in an ark, a container made of reeds. [to the right of Noah’s Ark I draw a very bad reed boat with a baby in it] Of course the container floated on the Nile, so we know it was….a little boat! Yes. Hey, what did the Angel of Death do to the Egyptians on Passover? Kill all their firstborn sons! Yes…see, it was payback for Pharaoh killing the Israelite firstborns years before!
So Noah and Moses both used arks which happened to be boats. Their arks contained precious, valuable things. Noah’s contained what? All the people and animals! Yes, and Moses’ ark contained…? Just Moses. Yes, just the baby, but a baby is very precious thing.
After Pharaoh finally let Moses’ people go, they wandered in the desert for…40 years! Yes, and in the desert they made a box to hold their precious things. What do you suppose the box was called? Umm, an ark? Yes indeed, the Ark of the Covenant. [To the right of baby Moses I draw the Ark with the angels and the carrying poles] In that Ark they kept some miraculous food, manna; the Ten Commandments; and Aaron’s staff. (They are fine on the manna and commandments; Aaron’s staff is new to most of the kids.) The box, the Ark, held all their God Stuff. God the Father doesn’t have a body, but God’s spirit was in the box along with the Stuff. The Ark was so precious the average person couldn’t touch it, so they carried it with these poles.
While wandering around the desert, the Israelites’ houses were tents. Because God dwelled with his people, his family, they had a tent-house for him too: in English it’s called a tabernacle…imagine that. The Ark stayed in the tent unless the Israelites were on the move. Later on when King David made Jerusalem Israel’s capital, they built the Temple for the Ark to stay in. They always felt kind of bad that God had to live in a tent for so long.
By the way, the Ark disappeared shortly after the Ascension; nobody knows if it exists anymore.
All these Arks are in which Testament? The Old Testament! Yes, but now we’re going to learn about another Ark which has to do with Jesus; so it’ll be in…the New Testament! Yes, and if the Ark of the Old Covenant was in the…Old Testament, yes, then the Ark in the New Testament must be called…? Ummm, the Ark of the New Covenant? Yes genius, let’s look at the Ark of the New Covenant. [I pull out my plastic fetus.] This is Little Baby Jesus before he was born. He’s not God’s Stuff, like manna, he’s God. But he’s not born yet, kinda weird-looking…is he still God? Yes. Right…but how about when he was conceived and only the size of this dot, was he God then? Yes. Right, he was Jesus as soon as he was conceived. And so far we’ve seen that God’s Stuff, even God Himself, gets put in an Ark for safe keeping on Earth. Where’s Little Baby Jesus before he was born? What? C’mon, what was Jesus’ container before he was born? Where was He? Oh…in Mary? Yes, growing in Mary; what’s the Ark of the New Covenant then? Mary? Yes, we might say specifically Mary’s womb, where babies grow. [between the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle I draw Mary with a baby in her tummy] You know: “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Like baby Moses, baby Jesus was a precious, valuable thing.
After a while Jesus was born; he wasn’t in Mary anymore. And nowadays on Earth where is Jesus’ ark? Well…in the tabernacle? Yes, just like when God dwelled spiritually in the ark & tabernacle in the desert with his family, Jesus is physically with us in his little house, his tabernacle. Manna was in the old ark; Jesus in the Eucharist is in the new ark. So we see that after thousands of years God’s children, that’s us, still make arks and tabernacles for Him to live with us.
So why do we call the church God’s House? ‘Cause that’s where he lives. Yes, with his family.
Oh yeah, the image at the top: I couldn’t find a picture of integrated arks, so I used this image of integrated arcs instead.