This has been an interesting season for me. Because we are traveling over the holidays, I have not put up any decorations or a tree. I have only taken out our nativity and have made it the central focus of our time together. Though I enjoy seeing everyone else’s lights and trees, there is a freedom I have felt to focus solely on the coming of the Messiah. I have loved our times around the dinner table, telling the stories of Advent and participating in our evening prayer as a family! I have some beautiful little pictures of each of the stories we have read that adorn my windows or lay on the ground of our nativity stable. Our children have drawn the most amazing pictures – sometimes a literal representation of the scripture and sometimes more symbolic or metaphorical. It is my delight to hear them explain their picture when they are done drawing it!
This week our evening prayer concludes with the famous Magnificat, Mary’s song in response to Elizabeth’s joy and delight in being visited by Mary (and the Fruit of her womb). It is a lovely piece of poetry – so majestic and almost regal. Even our name for it, “Magnificat”, makes it sound so lofty and almost other worldly. But I was reminded today by a friend who emailed me that “Mary’s Magnificat is a beautiful illustration of her simple faith in a God she learned about from stories passed down through her family line and from others in her faith community”. In my mind, I got the picture of a family sitting around the dinner table telling the stories of what God had done and children drinking in the words and being formed by the narrative. (Hey! I am slightly familiar with that idea!!)
The importance of what happens around our dinner table hit home a couple of week ago when Luc, our son, came to me in a small panic. He wanted to know where our “prayer stuff” was. I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about so he reminded me of “that stuff we do after dinner at night”. (Doesn’t he say it so eloquently?)
(Let me take one more step back and say, in confession, that at the end of Ordinary Time we went through a super busy period in our family. I was too tired to try and pull everyone back into a rhythm of evening prayer, so we went without it for about 5 weeks. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone missed it and I was re-evaluating if it was worth the effort it takes to get everyone in sync.)
I asked him why he needed it and he was adamant that he just needed it! I found it for him, gave it to him and left it at that.
About 10 minutes later he came to me and announced with a huge smile that he had memorized Psalm 16. He let me know that he could remember most of it in his brain but he just needed to look at again for a few minutes! (Psalm 16 was part of our evening prayer reading during a part of Ordinary Time). He was so proud of himself!! I was so convicted and encouraged again that what we do around the dinner table DOES make a difference – that my kids are “getting it”. Mary’s Magnificat is full of phrases that she had heard over and over again from the book of Psalms and now those same words reside in the heart and mind of my children. My kids, like Mary, are learning about God from stories passed on and talked about in our family!
What they will do with their trust in God in the future I do not know, but I know that my job is to keep sharing the stories that will little-by-little form their faith and their lives. Who knows, maybe someday they will express their trust in God as eloquently as Mary!