I've put this photo on the blog before but I have to admit, it's my favorite! That beautiful little girl is my daughter, many years ago! I love this photo too, because it conveys the sense of peace I often notice children experiencing at the model altar. The very first altar presentation is given to children at age three, and it is usually the first presentation that they see in the atrium (after practical life). They love the model altar and return to it again and again.
The Altar I presentation teaches the children the names of the objects they see at communion and invites them to set the altar themselves. A catechist lights the candles and sits and enjoys the beauty of the altar with the child, often singing a song or reading from a little book of prayers at the child's request. When the child is ready, he or she extinguishes the candles and puts all of the altar pieces away in the Sacristy Cabinet (the white cabinet to the right in the picture above. It is named after the Sacristy - the room where all the altar pieces are kept).
If you don't know the names of the altar pieces you are not alone -- keep reading! For the altar presentations, we use child-sized pieces like the ones you see in the photo above. For the blog, I thought it would be helpful to see the actual items we use in Church.
We begin the presentation gathered around the model altar. We talk with the children about their table at home. What do they do there? They often tell us about family dinners!
The fair linen is the beautiful white cloth that covers the altar.
The paten is the special plate that holds the bread.
The chalice is the beautiful cup that holds the wine for communion.
Now the meal is ready. Who invites us to this table? It is Jesus.
The cross reminds us that Jesus died.
The candles remind us that Jesus rose again, and that Jesus is the light of the world.
Over time, I will share other altar presentations with you, and also tell you about some of the moments in the service that we present to the children for their meditation.