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Jenna McDonald — Grace Is Waiting 

Beating heart of liturgy restores human heart

Voices May 18, 2017

It almost seems sacrilegious to pray the Stations of the Cross or the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary during the Easter season. We’re celebrating the empty tomb, so can’t we gloss over Jesus’ bloody suffering and death?

After all, it’s difficult to revisit, and it seems a little masochistic to get caught up in, the terrible details—especially in light of the happy ending. Essentially, “been there, done that,” we think.

Why can’t we just let ourselves revel in celebration mode until our years run out? Why must we revisit the pain of loss over and over again?

Simply said, we revisit out of need: our need to process; our need to mature in our understanding; our need to experience in an ever-deepening way the sheer power and force of Christ’s victory on Easter Sunday. Our flesh needs to re-experience the whole story; the stage needs to be set afresh constantly and sincerely played out in order for the repetition to do its job.

It is here where the Church, in her wisdom, has given us the liturgy as a walking companion. The beating heart of the liturgy knows what animates and restores the human heart. Like a mother, the Church takes us by the hand and walks around with us in concentric circles until we arrive where the view is best and we finally see what it is we are being shown.

T.S. Eliot writes, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

So it is with the liturgy. We walk our entire churchly lives through familiar land until one day that same land speaks to us only of newness and endless possibility.

British spiritual writer and mystic Caryll Houselander wrote, “we depend, perhaps more than we realize, on rhythm, on the circles flowing from darkness to light, from seeding to flowering, from death to birth, on the rhythm that is both outside us, all around us and within us.... It seems a law of fallen nature that life must always come to its being through darkness and this makes us even more aware of its beauty. Dawn is lovelier because it comes after night, spring because it follows winter.”

To rejoice in repetition is to be eternally youthful and fully alive. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton wrote that God must be younger than we because he does not grow tired of repetition. When something is extraordinarily beautiful, captivating, or just plain exhilarating, “do it again” is the default chorus sung by any children worthy of their titles.

As Chesterton said: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again;’ and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon.”

Could it be that in order to enter and embrace the simultaneous monotony and wonder (truly they are one and the same) we need more love? Elie Weisel, a famous Jewish writer and professor, once said the opposite of love is not hatred; it is indifference.

If we do not care for the repetition and soul-splitting monotony that loving God in our vocations can sometimes require of us, if we are indifferent toward the mystery of the cross and apathetic toward the story of our own salvation, we have only a lack of love to blame.

When one loves as children do, one cannot grow tired of beholding unfolding beauty.