|familly altar. Advent 2009
Four days in to my second year of paying attention to the rhythm of Advent, I'm getting an epiphany (a little liturgy humor for you, there).
I like the idea of Advent far more than its invitation to discipline.
This thought occurred right about the moment today's rowdy rainstorm stopped slapping windows and gutters along the backside of the house. The moment that I became aware of the quiet. That's when light began to dawn on my darkness.
In the quiet, my first reflex was not to wonder what marvel had muffled the storm, not run to the window to discover snowflakes swallowing raindrops. My first reflex was to be bothered by the quiet, to instinctively consider a variety of noise-making options at my disposal. Music? Television?
This was not a conscious thought-process, mind you. Eventually, reason caught up with reflex and begged to question: Wait just a minute....why do I feel the need for noise?
Because without it, I get cranky. My minds fills up full of thoughts that pester my brain and dent my sense of security in my place in this world. I think noise is kind of like the fluffy socks I wear all winter to keep my feet and legs from aching with cold air seeping up through the floors. Noise distracts me from the insecurity of silence.
|The paper Christmas angel on our mantel is the only decoration we saved after our 2002 New Year's Eve house fire. If you could see her in person you'd notice all the black singing her gown.
In the context of my attempt to notice Advent, I've concluded that maybe I've learned some of this aversion to silence in my low-Church, non-denominational tradition. After all, we all but form cheers to ourselves for our independence from the ancient bonds of liturgy and structure. Maybe occasionally we nod in the spiritual father's general direction during our high seasons of Christmas and Easter. But, let's face it, during the quiet seasons of Advent, Lent -- even Pentecost -- we basically thumb our noses at them.
So, today I decided that, possibly, it all boils down to the fact that we really just don't like to wait. And we certainly don't like to wait in silence. After all, we've got bible studies to read and ministry needs to fix and, anyway, who needs silence, now that we've been liberated to rock out our worship services? We're so free! Free to pray whatever we want, whenever we want; to sing whatever we want, however we want. Really, why would anyone who's tasted this kind of uninhibited freedom in worship want to go backwards into structure, form, and - gasp!- repetition?
And today, like almost every day, I sort of wished that I didn't care. Caring about liturgy of our church family makes me feel lonely most of the time. Sometimes, even a little crazy. And I'd like to just not care anymore. But then I get a flier in the mail like the one I received today from our local "Christian bookstore". Right about page two, a beautifully-bound book touting the benefits of liturgy. Should have made me glad, yes?
Well, no. Not really. In fact, everything about the sales-pitch -- the well-placed stock photo, the carefully-selected blurb of text, even the all-new sale price -- felt like an almost-too-perfect example of what is most wrong with all of us free-wheeling non-denominational types. In the absence of a historical framework, we end up waiting for some publishing (or music industry) trend-setter to market our spiritual disciplines to us. We take our cues from packaging and promotion, from the advertising sound-bites features and benefit to our latest felt need. And without noticing, we play the role of consumer in the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Worst of all, we are lulled into believing that we were the ones smart enough to come up with the latest idea in the first place.
You're educated about that most harmful of marketing strategies, right? The part where mass-marketing cultivates and reinforces the mindset that the consumers are the ones in charge. That we the consumers are forming the world around us instead of it forming us. And playing our role, we tirelessly consider our purchasing options, select them as accessories to our desired image, then shell out the cash necessary for that particular lifestyle. But we conveniently forget how little control we have of the messages coming to us from the marketing gurus in the first place. Wait a minute, why do we need [fill in the blank]??
In other words, what I'm trying to say is that you can't purchase your spiritual discipline off the pages of a glossy catalog -- as if you ingeniously stumbled across an idea that no one else had thought of yet. To put it bluntly: there's no such thing as a liturgical trend-setter which is a problem since the mother's milk of marketing, "Christian" or otherwise, is trend-setting.
That, friends, is why I was dis-couraged instead of en - couraged when I opened the catalog from the Christian bookstore today. I'm not distraught that someone is making a profit off a prayer book. I'm distraught that a prayer book is being sold with no historical, educational, familial context, leaving the consumer to believe: Do I have an eye for a good find, or what?!
The liturgical rhythms of the ancient Church calendar resist our marketing-crazed, top-40 worship hits-listening, I'm-a-happy-hip-liberated-Christian, goshdarnit! mindset. And, today, I realized that if I'm really going to live in the reality that I did not make it, but it is making me, I've got to be willing to sit in the uncomfortable insecurity of the quiet seasons of the liturgy.
The waiting. The pregnant pauses between festal muchness and cleansing simplicity. Awkward and achy with hope as a nine-month-stretched uterus creaking along a donkey's back.
Quiet and uneasy, waiting for the unknown moment of birth.