It was booked three months ago as a routine follow-up appointment.

Who could have predicted then what that appointment with my GP would look like this week?

The appointment is for noon, but I am not in the waiting room at the clinic where my doctor has her office. Instead, I am sitting at home.

The phone rings and I am greeted by the cheery voice of my GP. I do not know where she is phoning from, my hunch is likely her home. We chat amicably about things in general. She asks a few questions. We end with her agreeing to send a prescription to our local pharmacy who will call us when we should come and pick it up.

Life has changed since the beginning of March 2020.

A visit to the doctor is a ritual liturgical observance. There is a certain reassuring rhythm about going to the office, checking in with the familiar receptionist, sitting in the waiting room, being shown to the examining room until I hear the doctor coming down the hall. She enters the room, sits down, flips on her computer, turns to me on her swivel chair and asks, “So, how are things today?”

All that is gone now. I know there is nothing anyone can do about this, but the comforting reassurance of habit and physical presence are missing when the appointment is reduced to a call on my phone.

Liturgy in life is important. You can see the urge for liturgy in the practice every evening now of people where I live going outside and clanging pots and pans in gratitude to all those who are continuing to work on the frontlines in the face of potential infection. We all have liturgies we follow, whether or not we acknowledge them overtly. They are an important part of the infrastructure of life.

Liturgy in church is important. All churches have them, no matter how informal the worship may be. There are patterns, traditions, and routines we follow Sunday after Sunday that remind us that something important is happening as we gather. The shape of our morning conforms to a rhythm that different from the routines of the other days of the week. We know our way around Sunday mornings. We hear familiar sounds, see well known faces and share in words and music that, in many cases, we have known our entire lives.

These traditions are not dead rituals. They are the reassuring patterns of a life-force that transcends our immediate circumstances. They help us open to the possibility of another realm, a deeper more subtle reality just beneath the surface of our usual hectic and sometimes chaotic lives.

It is certainly ironic and somewhat sad that, at a time when we need these familiar patterns and reliable rituals most of all, they are least available. In the midst of a full-blown pandemic, nothing is predictable. The order of the day is the unexpected.

The other day in the grocery story I was lamenting to the cashier that, just when I had finally accustomed myself to bringing them, I am suddenly am no longer allowed to provide my own grocery bags. She replied, “Oh you can bring your own bags now as longs as you bag your groceries for yourself.” And so, a ritual that had finally become habitual was lost and is now returned. I will go back to the regular call and response of getting out of the car with my wife calling out: “Did you get the bags?” Response: “No I’ll get them.”

In this time when we have been forced to surrender so many predictable patterns, it is important that we try to build into our lives reassuring rhythms. We need to find ways to embody the reality that life is fundamentally faithful. Chaos does not rule the day. There are dependable patterns at the heart of life. It makes sense to trust life and to persevere on this journey even in the face of so much loss and confusion.

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A few hours after I posted “COVID Diary #16 Liturgy” a reader forwarded to me Richard Rohr’s daily reflection for today. It amplifies my thoughts with Rohr’s characteristic insight and thoughtfulness: https://cac.org/seeing-beyond-ourselves-2020-05-01/