Friday, October 17, 2008

Liturgy of Life

“The first thing that you have to do, before you ever start thinking about such a thing as contemplation, is to try to recover your basic natural unity, to reintegrate your compartmentalized being into a coordinated and simple whole and learn to live as a unified human person. This means that you have to bring back together the fragments of your distracted existence so that when you say ‘I,’ there is really someone present to support the pronoun you have uttered.”[1]

The liturgy of life, the way we live in the world and influence its environment, will always be a reflection of our depth, or shallowness for that matter, in prayer. Our inner experience, whatever that experience may be, will always overflow into and give dimension to the exterior form that we live, our style of life that is seen and read by others.[2]

Our interior experience, the discovery and development of our unified human person, the realization of the genuine “I,” has nothing to do with modern trends or schools of thought regarding self-awareness and self-justification. It has everything to do with realizing this “I” in the context formed by the revealed truths contained within the mysteries of God. I have to remember that Merton, although he found many parallels between contemplative prayer in the Catholic faith and the devotion of other mystical traditions, lived and wrote out of the rich well of his own Catholic contemplative experience. His own liturgy of life was an essentially Catholic one, a liturgy that, without being offensive, gently and quietly speaks through and between the lines that he penned.

“The word ‘liturgy’ originally meant a ‘public work’ or a ‘service in the name of/on behalf of the people.’ In the Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in ‘the work of God.’ Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church.”[3] Viewing life as a liturgy is to view it as a privileged participation in Christ’s redemptive purpose in an intimately personal way.

I cannot speak or answer in reply for anyone else. I can only do the best that I can in becoming the best version of the pronoun “I” as I possibly can. I do though find it interesting how this “I” has changed over what is now nearly a decade from the time when I literally ran out of myself as I had become, as I had made of myself, and had allowed others, even well-intentioned others, to make of me.

The changes are so significant that I hardly recognize myself. I know the integral role that prayer, particularly the prayers of the Rosary, has taken and continues to take in these changes. It assists me in praying in a way that helps me avoid getting lost in the vast desert of my own deceptive will and emotions. The same is true concerning the scriptural and scripture based prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours. Through it all, my only hope and prayer is that this liturgy of my own life, replete with fruit that is bittersweet, is an unfolding life-prayer more pleasing to the Lord than any course of life I’ve previously known.[4]

[1] Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience, p. 3-4
[2] 2 Corinthians 3:2
[3] CCC, #1069
[4] Matthew 10:38