Liturgy

Rev'd Sally Hitchiner reflects on liturgy after our community writing experiment...

Liturgy is like shoes… when you first put them on they can rub but soon they mould around your feet and sometimes your feet mould to them until they feel like they’re part of you. 

Like shoes liturgy carries us - it is a long term commitment to say certain truths week by week, year after year, no matter how we feel or what is going on in our lives. Like marriage vows are a commitment to say “I love you” and act as if it is true whether or not we feel it on a particular morning. When life throws things at us that we don’t have words for, we may have speaking in tongues, but we also have this commitment to say that God is here, his spirit is with us, God is worthy of all praise, God holds out his arms to us in love. 

Liturgy also carries us because we have committed to say it with a particular group of people in a particular place that is open to any who would like to join. If we say the Lord’s prayer alone we join with the thousands of others around the world saying it in every language on the planet at that moment. But liturgy takes on its deepest meaning when said regularly with a group of the same people. These are the faces I have glanced over at, the eyes I have caught as I have said these words every Sunday for the past 5 years. These are the voices I have heard a word leap out from the liturgy that, though familiar has struck me afresh and changed my perspective. These are the voices that have carried me through these words I have committed to say even when life is too painful and I can only falter out one in 3 of them. It brings a new gratitude for those we commit to this with, it brings a depth of relationship as we have this shared experience. 

Liturgy teaches us what is true about God. Lex orandi, lex credendi - what I pray is what I believe. We can grow up knowing more than we realise we know about the God we follow because we benefit from the guidance of the holy spirit illuminating the truth of God to others in the church not just from our own experience of God and our own reading of scripture. Good liturgy has depth that can be plumbed at the same time as surface that captures us on first reading. It should engage our imaginations and our will, and be open to scholars and toddlers to understand. It should journey with us as we grow.

“Liturgy is comfort for the disarrayed mind. We need not chose our thoughts. The words are aligned for us like a rope to cling to.” Sister Monica Joan.

Liturgy weaves itself into us until it becomes the augmented reality we see the world through. Lines pop into our vision and speak truth and faith where we were at risk of lies and hopelessness. It is an albatross that guides us to shore. When I visit older anglicans in nursing homes, lost in the mists of dementia, when they haven’t spoken a complete sentence in months. I take out my mini communion set in their bedroom and their eyes light up. I read familiar lines, psalm 23, the sermon on the mount and they grasp my hand as they realise that they are present in the same world I am in. I start the Lord’s prayer and their mouths find the words and for a brief moment they are here. These are the words that they have committed their lives to. These words, not others are the tracks they have driven down so often that the tyre marks are left on their soul and even when their steering isn’t clear, the landcover veers towards these words given half a chance. 

I want my life to be like that.