Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and author of “Faith in the Public Square,” (2012) points to interpretation of the creation story in the Old Testament as attributing a “distinctive vocation to the human person as the one who is specifically and uniquely given a fully intelligible language in which to speak of God’s gift and to celebrate it. Humanity, in the Genesis story, names the animals; the calling of the human person is to name the world aright: that is, to acknowledge it as God’s gift and to work so as to bring to light its character as reflecting God’s character, to manifest its true essence. Thus it is common to describe the vocation of human beings in this context as ‘liturgical.’ ”
Perhaps Williams is correct in that we have a vocation that runs deeper than our personally chosen vocation. Perhaps there is more to our story than we realize.
As Catholics, the Eucharist forms us in this understanding that all of creation is holy because the world and all that dwells within it are given by God and belong to God. As you may be aware, the word “liturgy” comes from two Greek words meaning “the work of the people.”
So, by Williams’ description, our work as people of God is to live liturgically — to work every day so as to bring to light the true essence of the world as reflecting God’s character. Williams goes on to say that “human beings orchestrate the reflection of God’s glory in the world by clothing material things with sacred meaning and presenting the world before God in prayer.” We can say, then, that to live liturgically is to clothe material things with sacred meaning. By living liturgically, everything we think, do and say allows the holiness of God to shine through in all the material world. Our lives are the work of bringing all things into the light of God.
This vocation of humanity to live liturgically is a daily process. It is not just for Sunday Mass. We gather weekly to be reminded of and formed by this vocation, but this vocation is so much more than just one hour on just one day. In a sense, we take the pattern we learn at Mass and we eucharistize the world. We take the ordinary stuff of life, clothe it with sacred meaning and raise it up so that we can see the extraordinary presence of God. With Christ’s eucharist as our guide, we live lives founded in gratitude to God.
Do we take seriously this vocation of living “liturgically” and apply it to our daily lives? How can we bring this holiness and gratitude into our homes, our places of work, our schools?
Here are a few simple examples of how to begin shaping a life of gratitude, clothing material things in our homes with sacred meaning. The possibilities are limitless!
- When you wake in the morning and daylight has returned, remember to thank God for the gift of life.
- Remember to acknowledge God’s goodness in the food that nourishes you by saying a simple “thank you” before you eat.
- When your hand touches an object in your home- a piece of furniture, a piece of clothing, a book, the refrigerator, a musical instrument, your car — thank God for the gift.
- Create a simple daily ritual for when you say goodbye to family members: trace a cross on their forehead or place your hands on their shoulders and say: “May God bless your day with love and goodness.”
- Each time you are attentive to a pet, or an animal in nature, thank God for the gift.
- When having dinner, light a candle and ask God to bless your days and your deeds with hope.
- If you have a bed to sleep in, thank God for the comfort of that bed and the blessing of restorative sleep.
- Each time you use your phone, your television, or your computer thank God for the wonder of technology.
- When maintaining your garden or yard or houseplants, thank God for the gift of nature.
- If you are employed, when you begin your day of work, ask God to guide you.
“The secret at the heart of all things is gift, and the purpose of God in so giving a share in his action…is that what is not God may be suffused with God’s joy. God’s self-forgetting and self-sharing love are what animates every object and structure and situation in the world… No response to the world that is not aware of this is either truthful or sustainable” (R. Williams, “Faith in the Public Square”).
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