our bodies are only dust, the prayers and liturgies of this day remind us. But this year, as I prepare to go up to visit my dying grandfather, I’m struck by how precious dust is to us. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Liturgy
Liturgy: It’s not the Work of the People
“I hope and pray that those charged with being custodians of the Church’s worship will do so in a way that honors the gifts and talents of their congregations.” Words on liturgy by the Rev. Canon Robert Hendrickson
One of the more persistent phrases one hears in Episcopal Church circles is that the liturgy is “the work of the people” based on a translation of the Greek word Leitourgia. This translation of the word often is then used as a way to say that the liturgy should be more “participatory” or involve more lay people in planning or more responsive to the desires of laity. I would actually agree with all of these though I might quibble with what any of them actually means.
For example, if we say the liturgy should be more “participatory” this is often interpreted as meaning lay people say more or do more. Yet in a culture in which we are constantly pressured to do and say the actually challenging act of participation may be to simply adore – to learn to be present with our hearts opened to God’s.
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the longest night & St. Thomas Day
I’ve come to believe that there are no coincidences in the liturgical calendar.
I awoke early on 22 December, just as light was beginning to streak the sky, having completely forgotten that the night before was the longest span of darkness for the year before and the year to come. Something made me realize it as I came awake in bed, and I hoped it was a sign that light is starting to break into the ice jam of darkness in my own mind, bringing to an end the exhausting and isolating but yearly phase of grey. Continue reading
Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, are a time of expectation. I learned this firsthand when I spent a summer interning at a church whose pastor’s wife (a pastor herself) was due to have a baby boy in the middle of July. We watched our cell phones, we asked the mother how she was feeling, we hovered.
fake it until it makes you
– the point of liturgy.
I’ve heard worship in the Episcopal Church described as a method of “fake it till you make it.” I think this is close to right. There’s no requirement or expectation that a person will come every Sunday or walk through the church door and feeling something every single time; there’s no lofty ambition that every attendee will be bowled over by the mystical mind-body-soul connection and the deep meaning of what their bodies and voices are doing during the service. But there is a sort of trust that something profound and shaping is going on at an almost-imperceptible level when our voices are saying the psalms and when our bodies are bowing and folding our hands.
However, unlike the popular adage, it’s not about our own effort, or our feelings about the experience, or even about our own experience of the moments at all.
When learning to cook something new, or trying a new cleaning method for the bathtub, or working on a new regimen for exercise, the steps are clumsy and take a long time and feel foreign and unproductive. It’s frustrating and unfamiliar–sometimes we even give up, trying this new thing, because it feels so totally useless. Think of all the things you’ve tried, and worked for, and gained proficiency in, though–these have become second-nature. Maybe it’s cooking eggs, or swiffering the entire house in just a few minutes, but these things have had a real impact on your everyday life as they were practiced. They made you into a person who was a master omelette-maker, or a whiz with dusting. These skills might even prove useful in other realms of life, giving you an edge when volunteering in the soup kitchen or providing a subject of conversation when seated next to a fellow shedding-dog-owner.
How much more do we hope and intend for daily Scripture reading and repeated meditation on psalms to change the way we understand the world around us, make us more attentive to the God revealed in Scripture, realign our habits and instincts to be centered around the God who came to be with us.
What a comfort to trust that it’s not up to me to “make it,” but to show up, as willing as I can be–and sometimes it’s not willing at all–for the sake of being trained, habituated, realigned toward Hope.