The thing about liturgy is that it has the capacity to teach us the fundamental skill for a healthy spiritual life.

Liturgy is training in just being with whatever is going on.

Liturgy moves according to a schedule we do not control. We are not in charge of the sequence of events in liturgy. Liturgy does not consult us about how we are feeling, what we like or do not like. We do not form our liturgy by popular opinion or democratic election. Liturgy moves along a contour that does not necessarily conform to our sensibility.

We may encounter moments of ecstasy and joy in liturgy, moments we want to capture and prolong. But, obeying a pattern of its own, the liturgy moves on to the next thing and then the next thing after that. It does not stop for the moment of fleeting appreciation we may experience. It does not allow us to build a little shrine to our momentary pleasure.

At times liturgy may seem unrelenting, dull, and interminable. The instruction is always the same – show up; be present to whatever is going on. This too will pass. Something always comes after the hard, the painful, or the dreary.

Liturgy works like the labyrinth. We walk within the lines. We follow the intricate pattern traced by words and music we did not write. We follow the spirit of prayer that embraces concerns, needs, desires, and longings that sometimes may reflect our own, but just as often are born in conflicts that do not seem to touch our lives. We let go of our need to control the outcome and simply follow the pattern as it draws us to the centre.

We move, not according to the choreography we choose but that which is given. So, we remember that, in truth, all life is gift. All life comes to us from a Source we do not comprehend or understand. We surrender ourselves again and again to the abundance of this Source.

In that process of letting go of our determination to be in control of our lives, we encounter unexpected moments of beauty and truth. A word touches us in a new way. A familiar tune opens up a world of gentleness.

We kneel at the holy table. A tiny flat white piece of bread is laid in our hands signifying betrayal, death, and brokenness. It touches our need to be nourished in that deep place where all our loneliness, sadness and pain reside.

As we follow the person ahead of us back to our pew, we know that we have been met by a reality greater and more enduring than all the suffering that has ever afflicted this world.  We have passed through that empty dark place and emerged for a moment into the light that no darkness can overcome. We know again that, no matter how painful, this too can be endured.

We have been nourished for the journey. Our spiritual body has been fed with the bread of life which will sustain us beyond the failings of this physical realm into that realm we call “eternity,” the place of depth and mystery to which liturgy opens our heart.

Liturgy may not make sense. It does not function on the level of reason and logic. Liturgy only functions in the dimension of depth where everything can be held and all of life finds its resting place.