Thursday, November 18, 2021

Life As Liturgy
- The Spiritual Awakening of A Protestant Girl

Some of you who have followed me here for awhile or at my previous blog, Life in the Little Nest, may be aware that I was not raised in a liturgical church. In fact, even as an adult the church bodies I was a part of were as far removed from liturgy and tradition as one could get. And yet, as a family, in the privacy of our "domestic church", we celebrate and observe the liturgy, and it has become an integral part of my personal faith, so much a part of my life now I can't imagine living without it.

My introduction to the liturgy came unexpectedly. It was right about the time we had begun homeschooling our youngest daughter, and the world of the internet provided a treasure trove of inspiration and resources to aide me. It was then that I first came to know several Catholic and Orthodox bloggers, such as Dawn from By Sun and Candlelight, Jennifer Mackintosh from Wildflowers and Marbles, Jessica Gordon from A Shower of Roses, and Emily Parsells from Charming The Birds From The Trees. In perusing their blogs for homeschooling inspiration, I began to realize that they lived out their faith very differently from the way I had been taught and I was instantly intrigued.

It was mid-winter, in the days prior to Lent that I first came to the knowledge of the liturgy. I read through each of these blogs voraciously, pen in hand and taking notes like a mad woman. That led me to other websites, and to purchasing my own copy of The Book of Common Prayer, I simply could not get enough!  When I think back on that time it is profound to me. I know of no other way to explain it other than from the moment I discovered it, it changed everything. I even briefly considered converting to Catholicism, but in spite of my love for the liturgy, there were other things that I found did not align with my personal beliefs, and so for the past sixteen years I suppose you could say I've teetered in limbo. Too protestant to be Catholic, and too Catholic to be protestant, and all the while growing increasingly frustrated with the modern day church as a whole. With its bent to appeal to "seekers", what was once reverent worship today resembles more of a rock concert. People come to church, not to be changed, but entertained. And in their efforts to heal those who were hurt by the "traditional church", I fear they have committed a greater offense, but I'm getting off track here. That's a post for another day and probably not even one I will expand upon in this space. A. W. Tozer said it best, and put words to my longing with this;

“I want the presence of God Himself, or I don't want anything at all to do with religion... 
I want all that God has or I don't want any.” 


That being said, the most important thing I learned from the liturgy is that my personal life and my spiritual life are, or should be, equally woven. Growing up, my family went to church on Sunday, and while my parents were good people, I seldom recall hearing about God at any other time. I'm not implying that it never happened, but it was so seldom I have difficulty conjuring a single memory. We said a prayer before every meal and at bed time, attended services every time the doors were open, but sadly I don't once recall seeing my parents reading their bible or praying. This left me with the belief that God was someone you visited on Sunday, and while I always recall being aware of His presence beyond the church doors, I just assumed that He had no interest in my day to day life. That only marginally changed when I "accepted Christ as my personal Savior", which in all honesty I did the first time to insure that I would not go to hell, which I later learned, isn't the reason at all. But after accepting Christ and being baptized I was admonished to establish " a slot and a spot" to read the word and pray, which OCD little me attended to immediately. And yet, over time even this began to feel rote. Without further direction or example, I wasn't connecting and I sensed that there had to be more.  It is perhaps truly by the grace of God, that I have always been a person with a deep need to understand not only how to do something, but the reason behind why it is done in the first place. I've always believed that there was so much more to life than what my limited senses could fathom, and discovering the liturgy was that first break of light. It set me on the path of fully integrating my life and into establishing a deep, personal relationship with God and my Savior.

Now, after sixteen years of studying and living the liturgy, what I have come to believe, among other things, is this. That all of life, as our act of service and worship, is liturgy and is not relegated to only specific, formal “spiritual” moments. Whenever, and wherever I am in service to God, I am living out an everyday liturgy of deliberate worship. If we wait until we are at church, or until the time is convenient to commune with God, we’ll miss most of the opportunities before us. The majority of our chances are found in life’s everyday moments –at the grocery store, walking outside to get the mail, feeding our kids breakfast, or driving down the highway. It’s in these moments that we find ourselves reaching out to God.

"Liturgy is our daily, vibrant dance with God Himself... through the reading, memorization, and meditating on Scripture, the singing of hymns, the lighting of a candle, through the signs of the cup and the bread... Liturgy is our pressing into the heart of God and moving with Him. Days, wild and crazy days of  family life, need order, scaffolding, sacred rhythms. If we say God is at the center, so we order the tangle of our days around Him: we commune with Him through the liturgical, sacred everyday rhythms of our public work, our daily service, our vocation. And He untangles us." 


The observation and celebration of the Liturgical Year has brought new meaning and richness into my life. It has sanctified the senseless and turned holidays into holy days filled with deeper meaning. These are not senseless acts or rote rituals. This is not food offered to demi-gods in hopes of securing our place in the heavenly realms. This is, as Ann Voskamp has one again surpassed me in expressing, "our everyday liturgy, a quotidian dance of worship, we may grow stiff, spiritually awkward, lukewarm. As the trees of the field perform their praise in the beauty of daily, quotidian rhythms, we too may enter into the quotidian liturgy of sacred rhythms, hallowed habits ... a sacrificed life which is our spiritual act of worship".

Living the liturgy is the laying down of our lives, our schedules, and all that "must be done", and remembering what He has done for us. Jesus came into the world that we may not only have life, but have it abundantly. By observing the liturgical year, we open ourselves up to experience and live in that abundance. We step into the world of "I am", where we "move and live and have our being". In the liturgy of life, the present moment IS eternity.

"Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." 


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