Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Celtic Devotions

Liturgy. Reading about it in Galli’s book Beyond Smells and Bells.

Struggling with quotes like this one…

The liturgy comes to us in many forms. There are liturgies for Sunday worship, and liturgies for special days, like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. There are also daily liturgies that one can pray with others or alone. The paradox with these daily liturgies is that we never pray alone despite praying by ourselves. In saying the prayers of the Book of Common Prayer’s service of Morning Prayer, I’m praying with all who that morning are also praying it. And I’m praying prayers crafted not by my lonely piety, but by the church. I’m praying prayers that have their origin in another time and place… and thus I find myself mysteriously connected with believers that have gone before me.

Understand, yes, I understand the spirit of these thoughts. Am even drawn to them. And yet. This morning I sit with my “liturgy”…drinking Earl Grey in the sun, listening to bird calls and rustle of hemlocks and maples…hymns of nature that others have heard before me. I read not from the Book of Common Prayer but from Miller’s Celtic Devotions, songs from an ancient time and Psalms and the poetic thoughts of a modern Christian.

I do not feel a sense of lonely piety in this, nor in my own unique prayers, born of evenings and mornings and afternoons that I have seen, touched, felt. It is enough that I am human, imbued with Spirit and Word, set in time and sacred space on this hill…near these trees…under this sky… watching silken threads shining in the sun, spun last night by some small spider. It is enough.

Celtic Devotions on My Porch photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Christianne's My Space
LL's What's Your Meal Story?
Nikki's Extempory on Liturgy
A. Anjeanette's Clay as Liturgy


Ted's Holding Pfaltzgraff: Inclusion

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Blogger Christine A. Scheller said...

I'm so glad you said this, L.L. You've echoed my own thoughts and experience. blessings~

10:59 AM  
Blogger christianne said...

. . . because even the Spirit inside you is the same Spirit who has lived in all of us who believe, now and in ancient days past.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

due to remorse, l.l., i trailed off after "earl grey." there is a piece of my own non-traditional liturgy that disappears every summer when i close the tea drawer. it's too hot for me to enjoy tea in these warm months, and a cold-brewed version just won't do.

but as it is with lenten fasts, there is consolation in waiting. a cup of lady grey or supreme earl grey with cream and a half-teaspoon of sugar (and two lemon icing-drizzled scones) will be relished all the more when that first, cool, jacket-necessary, fall day arrives.

(and from past experience, i think my Scripture reading is richer on that morning!)

11:58 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Perhaps I misunderstand Mark Galli's phrase. Before I believed, my parents brought us up in a liturgical tradition. The words of common prayers may be good, and I like to occasionally pray in agreement with someone else's words, but usually I prefer phrasing things in my own words. I don't consider that lonely piety. There is real community with the Father when I pray. The connection with other believers is not at that same level. I just don't see this the same as some of my Anglican and Catholic friends.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

imho...communion or relationship with God in and by the Holy Spirit connects us with God and with all other believers of all time. there is one Spirit that unites all of us in all time and space through Jesus the Christ. i think that this is in place no matter how we choose to talk, relate, commune, pray, or worship God.

it is a wonderful and Spiritual realtionship.

5:05 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christine... I am enjoying the book, and I find that it makes me consider both the value of structure and the value of creativity when it comes to spiritual life. I think I've probably had good experiences with the kind of liturgy Galli discusses, but I do see it as just one way to approach this Christian life.

Christianne... yes. Funny, I hadn't started out with that thought; it just sort of arose as I went along. The Spirit testifying to the Spirit, as you say!

Sam... you made me laugh regarding the tea. And I like how you related the waiting to the time of Lent. I think liturgy can be powerful in its ability to provide just such language and context. But then I like to go forward, with my tea and such.

Craver... interesting that you should mention this. As you know, I have a whole blog dedicated to original prayers. But just today I was feeling a sense of needing to borrow someone else's prayer; thus, the liturgy can provide a place of comfort when we have no words of our own. Today, I kind of landed on the "Our Father" prayer. I hadn't the mind for anything else. So I guess I see a place for both traditional liturgy and creativity; I suppose the trouble comes when we impose one or the other as the "answer" to all our spiritual needs.

Nancy... one Spirit, definitely. I found myself thinking, after I wrote the post, that perhaps sometimes this Spirit connects through common experience forged in time, history, space. And yet, as you suggest, there is also a mystical, inexplicable aspect of spiritual connection we have a hard time truly explaining with words.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I think right now would be a good time in my life for liturgy. I find that I have a difficult time of really praying and end up just "thinking", which I'm not really sure counts as prayer. And yet, my heart longs to pray deeply and well, but there's just nothing there.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting point...

"...that perhaps sometimes this Spirit connects through common experience forged in time, history, space."

i believe that this was, is and will be possible.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

hmm. Fascinating topic. I think rather than commenting here, I may just respond to your post in my own blog. It seems more polite in any event. :D


2:17 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Susan... yes, that's exactly in line with what I was thinking in my previous comment. There is a time for "borrowed prayer", if you will. And this can be precisely what is needed.

Nancy... it's always interesting to consider how Spirit and flesh interact!

Nikki.... even as I wrote this post, I thought of you... how your faith is very grounded and lovely, in a church background that draws upon liturgy, embodies Spirit in beautiful ways. I hope I didn't somehow seem to dismiss that (see my previous comment too if there are doubts as to my intentions). I look forward to reading your post.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Lauren Martin said...

Having been raised in a non-denominational church, liturgy has always been a foreign experience to me, beyond the Doxology that was recited at the end of each service. And even that was abandoned when a new pastor came, during the tenth year of my life.

Prayer has always been personal and individual. Several years ago however, I came across a book which you may know of: The Valley of Vision: a collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. These church fathers managed time and again to record thoughts that echoed what rang in my own heart, and they wrote in achingly lyrical language.

It's interesting to me how I feel connected to the vast crowd of witnesses that have gone before me when I read these prayers.

And, when I'm in a church service where the Doxology is said, I'm filled with a similar feeling of fullness as my spirit joins with those around me, as if our overlapping words link our souls.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

I used to associate the term "liturgy" with old, staid, dead? (sorry - I was arrogantly judgmental)

I've since realize liturgy as simply the "order" of how we engage our spiritual disciplines. I've also realize that God can be at work in formality as well as informality...in original prayers as well as well-worn, battle tested, traditional prayers of Christians who have gone before us.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few years ago I was in the wedding of a friend who is Episcopalian. The prayers that were read over that couple were so beautiful and inspired that I wept. Who knew that written prayers could be the real deal? Strange not to know considering the Bible itself. I very much agree that creative and diverse liturgy is not just OK, but is necessary and good. Nikki's right, this post warrants a blog response. :-)

11:30 PM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

Laura, love the post and the commentary & discussion, especially: "...in the sun, listening to bird calls and rustle of hemlocks and maples…hymns of nature that others have heard before me."

Not being raised in a liturgical tradition I can only reference the Psalms as liturgy, and remember a summer where Psalm 13 was my hearts cry—and was thankful to have it.

Footnote: I met Calvin years ago (very nice fellow) and illustrated one of his articles for CT (also years ago). If you haven't found his book "Walking with the Saints" let me know and I will send you my copy—I think you would like it a lot.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Wonderful words. This is a new world to me which I love but still need to be more and more acclimated to, an acquired taste as is true of most all of the best things in life.

I love these prayers, and enjoy posting one on my blog from BCP usually, each Sunday.

6:37 AM  
Blogger kirsten said...

i was just going to say what christianne already did ... that it's the same Spirit now as with the ancients. ;o)

a wonder, isn't it? that even alone, we are connected. by the spirit in us, by the Word, & by the One to whom our prayers are offered.

and yes, it is enough.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Michelle Van Loon said...

I'm grateful for all of it - the ordered discipline of well-done liturgy (Galli's book is a user-friendly explanation), the free-form prayer you describe, silence, tears, laughter, off-the-hook charismatic prayer meetings...

Blessings on your sacred time with the Lover of your soul.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you and most here - there's a balance in both sides: liturgy without relationship is empty; complete lack of liturgy can lead to disconnection. Sometimes I prefer one or the other. Being of a more non-liturgical background, I find a certain sense of comfort and connection when I attend services which are more liturgical from time to time. Both have value and meaning in the Christian walk. As with everything, I guess it comes down to a heart issue rather than just the actions.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Thinking more about this, and I think there are times in our lives especially when these borrowed prayers can help us. I know this has been true in my own case. True right now, as I was praying the "Our Father" prayer recently, repeatedly, and it was real praying for me, however weak it was.

I agree that we need liturgy, and spontaneity, both.

6:13 AM  
Blogger nannykim said...

Ha, I just finished drinking some Earl Grey as I went to this post! Funny.

I find a richness in the liturgy. I feel a direct link with all of those who have gone on before me --Kind of like Hebrews expresses it in the crowd of witnesses. I find an immense beauty in the Lord's Prayer which is part of the anglican liturgy (of course). The more I pray that prayer the more I feel how perfectly it expresses things (of course it is perfect because it was given to us by Christ). But there is always a fulness in the meaning as I pray it alone or with others. I find the confession of sin (and all of the liturgy for that matter)not only being a link to the past and those in the past,and not only being a rich meaning for me now in the present,but it is an active response of our congregation together. I love the aspect of our church actively worshipping together.

I feel the liturgy is God-centered and keeps the focus where it should be. It keeps the worship from being centered on man .

I find it expresses so much of what we all feel in our hearts.

But I do agree that we are not limited to these in our personal prayers. And I love to just take scripture and pray it back to the Lord (so to speak). I think any prayers by other Christians are a uniting of us in Christ. I think your poetry type prayers at times state things just as I have felt them. HEy, isn't life full of beauty and as others have said the Spirit of God is working in and through us and He touches our lives through others like you. Thanks.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Llama Momma said...

I'm afraid he lost me with his lonely piety comment.

On one hand, I have recently discovered liturgical prayer to be extremely life-giving during this season of my life, when I can't seem to keep track of my own thoughts. I can pray these prayers, believe them, and it frees up my mind to not think so much; I don't have to work so hard at it. And there's freedom in that.

But I would never classify the other prayers, bubbling up from my own soul, as lonely piety. Indeed, that too is communion with God.

There's room for many expressions.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why I fell in love with our Anglican church--the communal aspect of liturgy both with those around me and the saints that have gone before. And, now that I think about it, the saints that will follow me. As Paul says in Ephesians, we're one because there's one Lord and one Spirit.
By the way, I read your book in Jersey and loved it! I'll be posting much about it next week. Lots of thoughts and dog-eared pages.

11:03 AM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

Just sitting enjoying His creation around us makes it a wonderful devotional time...As for 'ancient' liturgy - it is rich in its teachings - sometimes it is missed by the 'modern' Christians. Like old hymns have a 'substance' to them - now being picked-up by Christians musicians to revive them.

12:30 PM  

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