By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
ST. JOSEPH — Imagine life as Jesus might have known it: no cars, computers or cell phones. Let’s take a walk through a typical Jewish town, kind of like Jesus would have known, 2,000 years ago. The Temple, the music, the food, shelter, clothing and don’t forget the goats at A Day in the Life of Jesus as presented at St. Francis Xavier School in St. Joseph, Feb. 3.
The students came to the Parish Center to experience first century life. Two grades at a time, the kids strolled from station to station, learning about Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem; the Temple; the music; carpentry, the trade of Joseph and his foster son Jesus; fishing, the trade of James, Peter and John; the tax collector, as Matthew was; the home; games, pottery and the food. And the goats.
The town timekeeper tolled a bell every six or seven minutes to alert students that it was time to go to the next station.
Each station was manned by parents, grandparents, teachers or other volunteers, dressed in the style of the era, women veiled to cover their hair. Station #1 displayed “ancient” maps of Palestine, hanks of wool, fabrics, platters, coins, drinking vessels and building materials. When asked where the “artifacts” were obtained, one of the mothers laughed and said, “My backyard,” pointing out several rocks that 2,000 years ago might have been used in building.
Each student was supplied with a number of toy “gold” coins to satisfy the demands of the tax collector.
Station #2 featured the music and dancing of the time. St. Francis Xavier’s music teacher Leslie Gossen had constructed rattling instruments from paper plates, and explained the differences between tambourines and timbrels. The timbrel was the principal percussion instrument of the ancient Hebrews, similar to the modern tambourine except ribbons were tied around the timbrel and used in dancing. It was a woman’s instrument, Gossen said. She also taught the students a dance with the paper plate rattles and timbrels, and accompanied them on the flute.
Father, er Rabbi, Mark Yates stood outside Station #3, the Temple. Built of wooden slats, it was laid out as the Temple would have been in Jesus’ time, including a table with the Bread of Presence, the Menorah, lampstand, incense and tapestries. The Menorah has seven candles — the top central stands for God, the next two for Justice and Love, the center candle on each side stands for Truth and Brotherhood, and the outer candles for Philanthropy and Peace. The Menorah’s base stands for Hope.
The Bread of Presence, shewbread, was the 12 loaves of bread placed every Sabbath on a table in the sanctuary of the Biblical tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem: an offering by the priests to recall the unleavened bread eaten by Aaron and the Israelites in their escape from Egypt at the Passover. Pieces of shewbread were passed around for the students to try and many wrinkled their noses at the slightly sour taste.
Only the priests and male citizens were allowed in the Temple. Women and children under 12 were restricted to the Gallery.
After visiting Station #4, the carpenter’s shop, the children approached the Tax Collector with trepidation. He was known to take their shoes if they couldn’t or wouldn’t hand over the coins he demanded. A row of shoes stood by the wall, attesting to the fact that he wouldn’t listen to excuses.
The Tax Collector, also known as the PE teacher, explained that as taxes were not regulated in the first century, he could demand whatever amount he wanted and took goods from a person if his demands weren’t met. Normally he demanded two coins. Those unable to pay lost their shoes. Of course they got them back at the end of the tour, he said.
“I try to be like Matthew,” the Tax Collector said. “Matthew was a tax collector, but he was forgiven. That’s why I give the kids back their shoes.” That and it was simply too cold outside to go barefoot!
The next stations were the home, the shepherd and her goat, water and net fishing, and the potters.
The last station, the marketplace, displayed foods and drinks the people of Nazareth would have enjoyed in the first century. Bread, butter, goat cheese, olives and red grapes. Wine and goat’s milk. The moms at the station demonstrated how to make butter out of heavy cream, then served it on pita bread pieces, along with a piece of goat cheese, a grape and an olive. The butter was very fresh and sweet.
“This day was something our students will remember for the rest of their lives!” Principal Pollard said.