Monday, March 25, 2013

Meditation for Holy Week: Liturgy as Theatre

Phil. 3:1 To write the same things to you is not irksome to me.

Until Holy Week, I'd had mixed feelings about Episcopal liturgy. The routines were more comforting than "irksome," but I was new to the church, and her traditions did seem to lack spontaneity. 

Then, one Palm Sunday, I understood how all that repetition amplified the impact of small changes. We waved palms, processed to music with bells, chanted prayers, and hissed, "Crucify him!" on cue. The rest of Holy Week brought changes to setting, lighting, and vestments. We re-enacted the Last Supper and sang more austere music.  It hit me then that liturgy is a year-long drama. In fact, it's a musical!  But we're not the audience: we're the actors.  

That doesn't mean we're faking anything.  When I was a sullen teenager, mom used my membership in the drama club to correct my attitude towards my father. "You like to act. You owe it to your father to act as if you can stand to be around him!"  To make my performance convincing to Dad took the effort to ask about his work, to listen to his music, to appreciate the things he did for me.  No surprise:  Acting led to actuality.

In the same way, in church, we recite eloquent prayers even when we don't feel them, we repeat the Creed even though we doubt, and we line up for Eucharist no matter what. Disciplines of Lent and rich drama of Holy Week add emphasis to a year's liturgy.  Taking time to worship as if it's important makes it so.

Other readings for today:  Psalms 51:1-18(19-20) 69:1-23 Jer. 12:1-16 Phil. 3:1-14 John 12:9-19

(Reflection for the Lent Meditation booklet published privately by "The Pilgrimage," a spiritual formation resource at St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta.)

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