I was interested to hear the leader on my silent retreat say that different approaches to prayer or the spiritual life are like food. Different people like different things.
Such a simple way of expressing a new thought for me. (I had a mental gradation of superior and less-evolved spiritual practices.)
* * *
I intensely dislike liturgy. It triggers memories of the boredom-that –made-me-long-to-scream during the Catholic masses of my childhood; the continual looking at my watch; each part, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei , being accompanied with precise mental calculations of the number of minutes left before I left church and walked into fresh-aired rosy dawn.
* * *
For me, liturgy is noise and distraction—more noise and distraction in an already noisy, distracting world. I don’t see the point of repetitively reading out words other men and women have written; (I guess liturgy was written by men.)
I would rather express a halting, impoverished sentiment of my own than a fluent, winged thought someone else has penned. Because that emerged from his heart, not mine. Better a heart-felt stutter than lyricism recited from a printed page.
Also, though I think fast, and talk fast and write fast, and sometimes read fast– I am slow spiritually.
The liturgy has raced on and covered paragraphs while I am still meditating on the first sentence, and applying the airy words and ideas to my own earthbound life. Only connecting.
Nah, not for me.
* * *
It has its uses though. I’ve read that the liturgy was composed to provide a way for men and women who were barely literate to rehearse the bases of the faith in every communal encounter with God, and remind the heart of 360 degrees of truth.
And when my heart is bored, sullen, lumpen, or distracted, stray phrases from the liturgy does awaken and tune it. It expands the emotional range of my heart. Reminds it of things it would not have thought of, and rouses slumbering things in it.
And some liturgies are beautiful. I loved the sung liturgy of the Northumbria community. Yeah, sung liturgy is certainly more bearable. Like Gregorian chant. Or Celtic liturgies.
* * *
However, there are people who love liturgy. I have been in small groups with people who wanted to read out pages and pages of Compline. Oh Lord, have mercy on this poor restless woman’s soul. And it’s rude to whip out your iPhone during small group liturgy. Oh yes, it is!
I used to think that the liturgy was for those at a less advanced stage of the spiritual life. Who needed Cyrano de Bergerac to write their love poetry for them.
But no, I realized each heart is tuned in different ways. Different strokes for different folks. Some like turnips; some like chocolate. Me, I love Green and Black’s Chocolate.
And that must explain why something I find so exasperating speaks to other people. Who even love it.
But liturgy or heart-grunts, either way, oh Lord, tune my heart to sing thy praise.
So do you like liturgy? Which spiritual disciplines work for you? And which do not?