Sunday, April 12, 2009

Going Through the Motions...

an Easter reflection on the song by Matthew West.

Ever feel like you’re going through the motions of life? You know – doing what is right, or at least trying to – but more because it’s the next thing on the list, some set expectation for your role, or chasing the insane caricature of the ‘good little boy’ or ‘good little girl’ that we’ve built up in our mind that we chase…all the while, losing this life… all the while not feeling much of anything… all the while making going through the motions what life is about – and forgetting (or not ever really knowing) how to live?

I’ve felt that way. I’ve had times when I sort of ‘woke up’ and asked myself what it was all about. To all external measures, I was being a ‘good little boy’ – I was doing it all fairly well. I was responsible, I was making the actions of caring and loving. I’ve ‘woke up’ before wondering what I was doing…going through the motions.

This morning at about 4:30am – an hour and a half into the Easter Vigil, I ‘woke up’ realizing that, again, I’d been somewhat going through the motions of this beautiful liturgy. My feet hurt – by back hurt – my legs hurt… I was tired. The readings & responses (all 7 of them) were beautiful and delivered beautifully…and as they were winding down, the words of this song by Matthew West came back to me. Here I was – if I wasn’t careful, I’d miss what was going on…by going through the motions.

Just like life…

This might hurt – its not safe.
But I know that I’ve gotta’ make a change.
I don’t care if I break – at least I’ll be feeling something.
‘Cause just OK is not enough.
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life.


It hurts to try to awaken – and stay awake – in life. It hurts to acknowledge that ‘going through the motions’ is sometimes all we can do. It is humbling to realize that we’ve been moving along, going through the motions, but missing it all. Yes, it hurts – but there’s hope in saying to ourselves “I’ve gotta’ make a change.” That voice that speaks within is a gift of God in us… is the Christ living in us, eager to break free yet again from the tomb and create again the resurrection joy of Easter in our lives.

And – on the BEST of days – on the BEST of my awakenings – in the moments of my BEST surrender, I say “I don’t care if I break…” at least I’ll be feeling something authentic, something REAL, something more than the actor on the stage… life – life within. No, in those moments, I refuse to surrender for “just OK”. The ‘Christ living within’ encourages me to see that life is NOT nothingness…if I can fight through, if I can touch the hem of His garment and be awakened to the ‘Easter-morning-of-every-day’ of life lived in Him.

It hurts sometimes – and it sure isn’t safe. It isn’t safe to break bread with sinners and outcasts and those on the fringes of society. It isn’t safe to offer my whole life to Christ – because when I offer it, He will take it (THANK YOU GOD!!!)…He will ALWAYS take it when we offer it, and break it…releasing the seed within…letting it fall into the ‘death’ of the soil, to mix with life giving water of our baptismal promises, and to grow new, and taller, and more beautiful…to once again seed itself and repeat the process… each time reaching just a little higher to the Son that warms it into growth.

No regrets, not this time. I’m gonna’ let my heart defeat my mind.
Let Your love make me whole – I think I’m finally feeling something.
‘Cause just OK is not enough.
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life.


No – regrets aren’t for this pilgrimage. If we are to be people of pilgrimage – prefigured by Israel in the desert following nothing but (nothing but!!! And yet everything there is!!) a pillar of cloud and fire wherever it leads. How can we ‘wander through this life’ with our hurts and pains and concerns and not drown in ‘the motions’? Only if we let our heart defeat our mind…the heart that burns within calling us to BE who we ARE (children of a Living God, Who knew us before we were knit together in our mother's womb, who are precious enough that God Himself became man - and died to destroy death forever so we might be with Him)… calling us to understand with our mind what we know to be true in our hearts, rather than explaining away with ‘pure reason’ the affections and movements of our hearts. Only then – only in these moments – can we see His love making us whole. Only in these moments do we begin to ‘finally feel something’.

But – rather than condemn the moments between these awakenings as ‘nothingness’ – perhaps ours is to see, rather, that they remind us who we are…beings dependant on the authenticity of Christ to escape the nothingness of life. We need not flog ourselves emotionally with the fragileness or dependence of our nature… we need not abandon our quest to fight through ‘the nothingness times of this life’ just because we so often ‘fall asleep’ going through the motions. We just once again surrender, and with humble confidence that we can, we reject ‘just OK’ yet again…and pray with all our heart:

I don’t wanna’ go through the motions…
I don’t wanna’ go one more day…
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me!
I don’t want to spend my whole life asking -
‘What if I had given everything?’


My God – I’m weak, and poor, and forgetful, and whiny, and fragile…
I too easily fail to pay attention – I far too often slip into going through the motions.

But with all that I am – I hunger for Your all consuming passion – Your all consuming Love. I REFUSE to spend the rest of my life asking ‘what if’! I REFUSE to spend any single moment more knowingly going through the motions.

Take me all the way! Take me all the way!
‘Cause I don’t wanna’ go through the motions…
I’m finally feeling something real!


Yes – take me all the way! Take all of me! I give to You as best I can all I have that You are entitled to…which leaves NOTHING for me to withhold from You. I even give You my failure – my utter dependence on You to ‘stay awake’ – I give to You even those times when I slip into ‘going through the motions’ because sometimes they're all I have to give. And, if I try to hide them from You, if I become too embarrassed to welcome You into them, I’ll never be able to cry out to You:

I don’t wanna’ go through the motions…
I don’t wanna’ go one more day…
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me!
Take me all the way! Take me all the way!
‘Cause I don’t wanna’ go through the motions…
I’m finally feeling something real!


On this, the greatest day – on this day when You once and for all overcame the powers of death that pull hard on our lives, let us know the Easter triumph… I am Yours. I give it all to You: Happy Easter.

---

Post Script:
The "Opening Prayer" that transitions the 'readings' part of the Easter Vigil to the 'mass' part. (OK - one day I'll know how to say that more refined like...) Whole-hearted service...'just OK is not enough'...

"Let us pray:
Lord God,
you have brightened this night
with the radiance of the risen Christ.
Quicken the spirit of sonship in your Church;
to give you whole-hearted service.

Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen

Friday, April 10, 2009

Were You There...?

There I lay on the floor - dressed in an alb - a hopeful prefigurement of where this journey may one day (Lord willing) pass from the "seminarian" phase into the "priesthood" phase - only unlike the ordination liturgy my soul seems so desperately to long for, here I lay in front of a tomb...

...no - I'm not in Jerusalem, not now & certainly not 2,000 years ago, not in front of THE tomb. But, based on what I can imagine reading through the lines of the Gospels, neither was anyone else lying prostrate in front of THE tomb. Scattered to the winds, fresh on the stings of their own denials, scared of what would happen to them if He could be cricified, or perhaps even utterly confused - unable to make any sense of how the Messiah could be dead... beaten, and mocked, and humiliated, and dead. That tomb, with its stone rolled over the entrance, wasn't venerated (that we know of) on that dark Good Friday evening. So why is it that a simple guy from the heart of Kentucky lies on a marble floor prostrate before a tomb built to resemble THE tomb?

Today's retreat - in the midst of the Triduum liturgies which make present the disjointedness of worshipping a Savior hung on a tree by lacking beginning or end, by having some of what should be there but missing so much as well... today's retreat paused to celebrate the 'Mystical Burial of Christ' - the Good Friday liturgy in the Byzentine tradition. There right before the altar is a tomb... a tomb that soon will hold the book of the Gospels just as THE tomb held the Word of God Incarnate...

Some things about this tomb are different - it is smaller, it is in the clean and safe-from-the-dirt-and-weather-environment of our chapel, there is no stone to roll in front of it to seal it... but in pertinent part, this tomb is EXACTLY the same. Earlier today, following the Solemn Liturgy for Good Friday in the Archabbey Church, my classmates and I gathered to complete the construction of this tomb. Recalling that Christ - beaten and worn and tired and abandoned - became 'aware that everything was now finished'. We recalled that He breathed his last, that His side was pierced, that a tomb was procured, His body was prepared...and he was laid in a tomb.

But most importantly, we recalled that it is us - you - me... my sin... that required such a tomb. Reminded that even today, it is our sin - it is my sin - that attempts to enclose and darken and hold captive the Light of Christ in the world, we one by one picked up a stone and as we confessed to one another the ways we entomb our Lord by our sins, we placed the stone...finishing its contstruction.

'For not being a good steward of the gift of my body...' I realize I bury Christ within... and for this, my brothers pray for me: Lord, have mercy. 'For those times when I consider my needs and concerns before those of this community and the Church...' I realize I bury Christ within... and for this, my brothers pray for me: Lord, have mercy. One by one, we acknowledge the ways we bury Christ in our lives...

...and so at the end of this day where we remember our Lord's death, we gather, and in the most ancient of ways, we process with incense, and candles, and we acknowledge our sin by liturgically placing the book of the Gospels into that tomb...

...and we process with a burial shroud...and with the death drum concludes its march, we release the shroud... it falls to the ground... and it is finished.

One by one, we take flowers and approach the tomb...
we cry (some of us)...
we kneel (most of us)...
we acknowledge the sin that brings this sad day to pass (all of us)...
and we sing:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?


I am there... building that tomb... in my sinfulness, I am there.

But... if that's all there was to the story, we wouldn't have been celebrating that liturgy where I lay face down before the tomb...

...if that's all there was to the story, there would be no such thing as an ordination liturgy where I again may one day be blessed to lay face down before my Lord pledging my life (scarred by sin as it is and will be) to His service...

...if that's all there was to the story, there would be no Good Friday commemoration, no hope that grows from the yearly remembrance of betrayal, abandonment, torture, and death...

...if that's all there was to the story, all would be hopeless.

But...there's more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There Will Be A Day....

I've been praying with and reflecting on this song a lot the last couple of days. Particularly as we move toward Easter, I'm reminded that 'the day to come' is already here! We just have to live it through faith - but right now, the burdens of this place vanish as we see Jesus face to face - in the Eucharist, in one another, in the community of faith... in our walk toward Easter.

...by Jeremy Camp.

I try to hold on to this world with everything I have -
But I feel the weight of what it brings,
and the hurt that trys to grab,
The many trials that seem to never end...
His word declares this truth,
that we will enter in this rest with wonders anew.

But I hold on to this hope
and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering!

There will be a day
with no more tears,
no more pain,
and no more fears.
There will be a day
when the burdens of this place,
will be no more,
we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day,
we’ll hold on to You always!

I know the journey seems so long -
You feel your walking on your own.
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone.

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart!
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting!

But I hold on to this hope
and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering!

There will be a day
with no more tears,
no more pain,
and no more fears.
There will be a day
when the burdens of this place,
will be no more,
we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day,
we’ll hold on to You always!


I can’t wait until that day
Where the very One I’ve lived for always
will wipe away the sorrow that I’ve faced.
To touch the scars that rescued me
from a life of shame and misery
this is why this is why I sing….

There will be a day
with no more tears,
no more pain,
and no more fears.
There will be a day
when the burdens of this place,
will be no more,
we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day,
we’ll hold on to You always...

There will be a day.