Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I saw an article the other day about a situation that I had recently and it propelled me to write about my experience, I hope you enjoy (some of these words are the original authors).
Just as I placed my stole around my neck one morning before worship, I paused and kissed the nape of the neck where a cross is embroidered. This particular day a young parishioner noticed this from the hallway and told me she liked that I did it and then, in a moment, she departed. I was a little taken aback, maybe a little embarrassed...possibly, in reality, a little bit of both. Many of you have often heard me say that in our liturgy we all have little things that we do and we might not even know why we do them. I have shared with many of you as well that I believe that we do many things in our liturgy that many people do not understand as well. One of the most important aspects of liturgy and how we prepare for it is that if we follow the basic historical precedents and tenants we do not stray far. I have learned that we must first understand why we are doing what we do. I try to address some of these in my "Episcopal Minutes."
Augustine tells us that "habit not resisted becomes compulsion." This rings true of my bad habits, but I had never thought of it in terms of pious ones. My young parishioner's comment made me realize that kissing my stole has moved from an act into a habit and made me reflect on why I do it and what it really means to me.
I started kissing my stole immediately after being ordained. However, it really grew from being formed at seminary, and specifically, by one of the most faithful and spiritual priests I know; a woman who lives her faith, both publicly and privately, in a contemplative, spirit-filled way that I strive to reach, but routinely fall short of.
Watching Mother Julia prepare for Eucharist in the Sacristy was a graduate class in itself: respect, contemplation, quiet, prayer. The moment I saw her kiss her stole I knew it would be one of the rituals I would adopt. In that moment I saw the significance of something very different: being formed, over time, in reverence for handling the holy things our tradition closely associates with ordination. I realized that the power of meaning embedded in a reliably repeated action is stronger than anything on earth. For all of our former Roman Catholic members, ask yourself what action, ritual, or habit remain with you today because of a nuns or priests teaching or action? I think you understand my point.
Scholars tell us that ritual actions are generally older and less likely to change than the words that accompany them, the stories that explain them, or the meanings we take from them. Baptism is older than the trinitarian formula or the doctrine of original sin; Holy Communion was practiced long before the institution narrative became a part of the celebration. There are words that are repeated in such a way that they become ritual actions of their own. A table grace repeated by rote, the Lord's Prayer said at morning or night, the creed recited in church-all bring us comfort, familiarity, closer to the One whom we belong.
I started kissing my stole when I was moved and awed to be wearing it and blessed to inhabit the office it represents. I do it now as a sign of reverence for a task that must be faithfully and lovingly done no matter whether I feel awed by it at a given moment or not.
See ya Sunday
Blessings, Peace, Joy, & Hope,
All Saints Messenger >