This has been a trying week for the Howard household. Ted got sick on Friday, the same day my father-in-law had a heart attack. On Monday he had open-heart triple bypass surgery. (He is doing just great now, by the way, way beyond how the average person recovers). On Tuesday, Henry got sick and the roofers came to our house to bang on it for several hours to replace our roof that was severely damaged in a hail storm this summer. Today, Friday, I am sick with whatever Henry had and a nice migraine on top of that.
Some weeks just suck.
But there is a way to see past that into the goodness and hope that belongs to a corner of every day. That way is liturgy. I don’t come from a high-church tradition, and frankly, was taught that we didn’t do liturgy because we want our words to come from the heart. But there are days when I have no words. Days like Monday when my husband was scared out of his mind that he might lose his father. Days like Tuesday when I wasn’t sure how I would make it through the day. All those days when depression takes my words away. Days when I know the words are somewhere in my heart, but I can’t reach them.
I have come to love liturgy because it puts those words in my mouth again. Sometimes, most times for me, when I don’t know what to say to God, I say what thousands of other Christians have said before me. I say the words of hope and love and goodness that have been passed up from the centuries. I say simple prayers: “Help me,” “Forgive me,” “Have Mercy on Me.” I say words from a book like Common Prayer (a version of The Book of Common Prayer that Ted and I like to use).
Or I say the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. I say it over and over again until the shapes of the words in my mouth become my mouth, and the sounds they make become my sound. I strive to let these be the words that rule my day, seeing the vision of hope that God whispers in my ear.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.