May 26, 2011
Celebrating Mass today at La Divina Providencia evoked an incredibly intense and intricate knot of emotions and thoughts. Here, in this very spot one of God’s saints (though officially titled “servant of God”) offered a most full imitation of Christ when he was martyred for his identification with “the least of these,” God’s beloved children the poor. Three weeks out from my own commissioning (for higher church folks, that’s roughly akin to a transitional diaconate- we call it commissioned elder) I couldn’t help but think of Romero, himself a young priest once, coming home to El Salvador without any thought of what might be asked of him as he shepherded God’s people. He knew only the “little way” of Love and yet offered so great a gift not only to El Savadorians but all God’s people with his self sacrifice of poverty and life itself.
In such a holy place, full and running over with memories of pain and joy, love and fear, the most profound sense of the mass was for me its very ordinariness opening a door through which the most extra-ordinary events of Romero’s death, and ultimately the mystery of our Lord Christ’s death and resurrection, could be encountered, engaged, and emulated. Daily Mass follows its own almost unchanging rhythm, day in and day out, from one season to another. It makes the alleluias disappearance at Lent and reappearance at Easter really pop. When we say some parts in latin we are reminded of the solemnity of the season. The celebration of the Lord’s Word, spoken and poured out needs no added gravitas, but speaks with its own voice through out time, steady and constant. Indeed, the very constancy of the liturgy provides the solid ground to stand upon while each experience of worship offers us new insights in the few changes made to the rhythm or the changing cycle of scripture read.
I thanked God for that consistency today, some solid ground upon which to stand in God’s grace. The sacredness of the place, so overwhelming, could only be encountered, at least for me, through the steady rhythm of the ordinary worship of God, the same daily pattern followed by the Archbishop, God’s grace manifested itself in an encounter with the truly extraordinary love of God. Each movement and word could take on new life not because an insatiable human need to pour words into a holy silence by “saying something” or making the moment solemn. The very ordinariness of the liturgy opened human eyes and ears, tongues and hands to receive the blinding, deafening, dumbfounding grace of God.
A malleable worship certainly offers strengths for engaging an ever changing world. But we must be mindful of our quick changes, lest we loose the ground upon which we must stand if we genuinely desire to offer the constancy of God’s love to a people always facing new moments. I fear that if we forget to train our tongues, hands, and spirits in a search for malleability, we may find ourself dumbstruck, pitifully unable to receive the wild holiness with which God sometimes speaks.