You can never read the same thing twice.

Posted by on 02.24.10 | 5 Comments
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At church, where on the mornings I relinquish Sunday sleep and make it to early morning choir rehearsal – I spend the service, then, sitting up in the choir loft (so churchy; itchy white robes and all); and there’s a great view of the entire sanctuary.

Our church (Lutheran, for those who care) heavily involves children of different ages in roles within the liturgy – and the youngest group, those just entering the system, are the 6-7 year olds. They are the “bell ringers”. The main job here is to, at the Proper Time, during the Proper Words, firmly grasp the ringing bells, and shake them firmly and briefly. Not too much show, not too little respect. Inevitably, there is an older server, usually around the age of 8-11, standing at the side of the bell ringer and coaching them, with the authority of the Liturgical necessities placed fully upon their shoulders, and their shoulders alone, at getting the bell rung. Sometimes, you can even hear the loud whisper, “NOW!” startling the Bell Ringer into a bright ringing immediacy of action.

A few weeks back, the bell ringer was particularly short. And this, her second time as a ringer. Her coach was ready. She, instead of getting up, leaned sideways almost entirely over the bench she sat on, and (NOW!) rang vigorously. Successfully. And then she looked to her coach, the acolyte (I think. Don’t quiz me), who beamed at her and they high fived. Should I maybe mention here, too, that the Bell Ringer was wearing her most favorite Dorothy Got Them In A Storm red sequined shoes?

And in my lofty state, fully ignoring the I’m-sure-it-was-great-but-I-missed-it sermon – I fell in love again with the breath of the liturgy. I’m not a liturgical scholar. I’m not a theologian. I show up sometimes. I’m not sure there’s a full title for that. She That Loved Her Last Church So Much Before She Moved that She Will Never Be a Member Here. She That Sometimes Lets Sleep Win. She That Is Annoyed That the Leaders Aren’t As Progressive As She Wishes In Her Perfect Church Fantasy.

But, back to the breath of the Liturgy – as I saw it in the high five and shoes from the feet of witches: It struck me -

Liturgy isn’t a prescription of rules to be followed as much as a framework into which we enter,
and bring ourselves, as we are -
making it of the most intricate and infinite variety.
The words bigger than anyone reading them.
No time ever shared the same.
No words uttered exactly into the same moment.
But the repetition of so many of the actions and the words allows for the eyes to see and the brain to notice the anomalies -
the “other” that is introduced, may it be the thunderstorm, or the child’s cry, or the itchy pants, or the particular reflection of the candle.
All is part and all is made new. Like the cycle of days. Each the same; each very very different.
Sure, it’s a ritual. And rituals can be as dead as the participants.

Or they can be as alive and changing -
as a book is never read by the same person twice. That person has changed between readings.
You can never read the same thing twice. Because it is you that changes.

Every time through the ritual a different snowflake. If, it turns out, you’re still a snowflake.

I know that so many are turned off, or away from Liturgy. I sort of get that. I know that scads of new rituals have been tried, formed, embraced, cherished. I love many of those too. I have found myself in so many conversations with friends who think I’m a bit odd to want this in my life. Well, I’m not full sure how conversational they are – there are some things that end up being so very hard to express. At least for now, I see that one of the reasons it may be harder and harder to embrace and even hard to converse about – is that it’s subtle. The inner movements are subtle. And for right now – for me to hear the subtle rustle, it takes a framework that I can enter. And bring myself. As I am. The words bigger than anyone reading them.



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