Catholic Activity: Christ the Sower: Lenten Seed Sowing
A way to encourage sacrifice and show the relationship between springtime and resurrection is to plant seeds for sacrifices and good deeds. This is an explanation of the richness behind the practice and some ideas on how to incorporate it in your own home.
Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it shall remain alone. But if it die, it brings forth fruit (John 12:24-25).The words of our Lord refer to wheat as seed. The symbolism is very evident, but having no source of seed wheat in Lent, we use larger seeds such as beans or peas. These serve equally well for the purpose of encouraging sacrifice and to denote the relationship between the springtime of nature and of spiritual resurrection. One procedure was as follows.
Each night our little ones drew seeds not only for things they had given up, but for acts performed perfectly for Christ and for additional kindnesses done in his name. The seeds were buried in the earth in flower pots, died and before long had new life as tiny growing green shoots. These sacrifices were placed at the foot of the crucifix used for family Lenten devotions.
As the children grew, the practice also matured. Lily-of-the-valley pips or narcissus bulbs, or similar early spring plants, replaced bean kernels. More importantly the emphasis on motivation and self-giving increased — a sprouting stem needs its spiritual corollary. Our teenagers have learned through this childhood practice, we hope, to plant in their hearts each Lent the seeds of deeper union with God.
Little children walk easily in "the newness of life" (Romans 6:4). The teenager has to learn that nature does not rise in a day, nor does the Christian have perfect "newness of life" after one Lent. The death from which he (and we, his parents) must rise to the full Christ-life is a slow mortifying struggle, so that "our old self becomes crucified with him in order that we may no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6).
As a child plants his sacrifices and joyfully watches them grow, he gradually learns the meaning and difficulty of mortification. This word comes, we tell him, from a Latin word, mors, meaning death. It is usually at this point that he sees what makes a sin mortal, namely, whatever brings death to the soul. For older children mortification takes on a new meaning. "Mortify your members" (Colossians 3:5), St. Paul tells them. And again "If by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Romans 8:13).
The sole object of mortification, as the planting of Lenten seeds shows, is that we may have life. Constantly holy Mother Church teaches us, and we must re-echo it to our children:
We die, but we live! We renounce, but we gain. We deny, but we have.Christ came that we might "have life and have it more abundantly." This life which he came to give will show itself, through the mortifications of Lent, in greater love of God, in the goodness of living, in unselfishness, kindness, loyalty, gentleness, patience.
Growing seeds or bulbs to represent Lenten sacrifices can become a matter of pride; therefore we remind our children of St. Paul's words: "Neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but only God who gives growth.... Each will receive reward according to his labors...for we are God's tillage" (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
Holy Church has other symbols too which parents can cull from the liturgy and utilize in their family. For a house full of boys the symbolism of Lent as with Christ the Divine Hero has immediate appeal. Perhaps this is the reason why the Readings on the First Sunday of Lent describe the victory of Jesus over Satan; and with this vision of inevitable triumph the Church continues on through Lent: "Put on the armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our forces of wickedness on high" (Eph. 6:11). We tried this idea on our boys, and it failed. But the liturgy provides so many alternatives.
Families in the country may prefer the theme of light and darkness dramatized throughout the liturgy. They will devise a Lenten response to concretize this theme. But for those under skeins of neon tubes, in cities that never go to sleep, the symbolism of light and darkness is foreign and meaningless.
So we use the divine seed, with Christ the Sower, as our sign in Lent, sparing no pains to become the good ground which not only receives the seed, but brings forth a hundredfold for the Easter harvest. With God's help, of course, and that of our Lady.
Children need to "do things" as a tree needs to root. By selecting and nurturing home practices, parents can teach children how to participate in the liturgy. Such adjustment is excellent preparation for the plunge into the "public mission of Christ," into participation in the liturgy at one's parish church.
Material for implementing family observances may be found in Father Francis X. Weiser's The Easter Book.
Activity Source: Holy Lent by Eileen O'Callaghan, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1975