Things Inside Out, Upside Down

Glimmers of Understanding

I have begun work on my first goal, the one that underpins the rest.

Jesus at once crucified and glorified both contains the liturgy of the world and presides over it. Here he makes his Real Presence visible and redemptive beyond the limits of space and time.

I am called to the service of “the liturgy of the world” in my time and circumstances.

  • Jesus is the one and only Priest.  Whether “ordained” or not, my ministry is “special” insofar as he has called me with love by name to this service.
  • “What I am for” is to lovingly intersect with our suffering world and the daily lives of ordinary people, and in the doing, remember him and make his presence known. The liturgy of the world takes place where the margins become the center, most often in the world’s pain. To serve I must first attend.*
  • Jesus asks me to prepare his guest room both in my own heart and in the world to whom he longs to reveal himself.  If he is to celebrate Pesach, deliverance from Mitzrayim (the narrow place) with his disciples now, this room must be swept and made ready. That includes action for justice.

*“Attend” – Verb: To be present, take part in, pay attention, notice, listen, take into consideration. Also: to deal with, see to, care for, tend to, minister to, assist. Additonally: to accompany, guide, shepherd, serve, wait on. Roots: In Middle English, it conveys ‘applying one’s mind or energies to.’ In the Old French atendre and from Latin attendere – ad meaning to + tendere meaning stretch.

Advice to Myself About Boxes

Up and out of the box, Suz!  The old box cannot contain you!  Jesus is out-of-the-box and out of the-tomb. He is totally inside all our human experience and quintessentially outside the world’s self-serving values, aims and power structures. This is the Holy One who played and rejoiced in what emerged from the disruption of the Big Bang! Let him lead you out to play!

Little kids almost always prefer the boxes to the gifts that come in them.  Remember the child you once were. “Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kin-dom of God.” If you prepare an upper room, everyone will bring their boxes.  Make them backdrops for storytelling, for presiding, preaching, praying, blessing, giving thanks, making music, dancing, shouting, dining.  Let the boxes be containers for paints and brushes to illuminate messy lives and messier circumstances with the colors of the Spirit. Make the box of the upper room a strong yet open framework for imaginative play, a chuppah for covenant encounter before the guests go out to make of the world a home. 

Listen to your resistance, Suz. You feel profoundly alone and inadequate in digging deep into the liturgy of the world and finding a place in it? Don’t pull the covers over your head. Instead, “Do this and remember me.” You wonder if anyone “gets” this and “gets” you? Name who you are and ask . . . then reach for the wounded hand of Jesus. His cross is the heart of the matter. Not so long ago you were plunged into unimaginable loss, only to discover surprising grace and joy in surrender amid the wreckage. Why are you afraid now?

Adding to My Cloud of Witnesses

To Mary of Magdala and Thérèse of Lisieux, from where I stand now I call on three more.

Frank Houdek, S.J., esteemed teacher at JST and spiritual director to hundreds within and outside the Society who mentored, supported, and encouraged me for 25 years. With delight he presided at our wedding and instructed my new husband, “Once in a while, mess up her hair!” While in residence at my parish, he proclaimed the Gospel from memory and preached from the aisles with incisiveness, brevity and wit. In public he named himself a “recovering sexist” and “privileged;” in private, he allowed women to stretch and challenge him. In every Eucharistic prayer he prayed that we be delivered from “any fear about the past or useless anxiety about the future.” My prayer now and always. How I treasure our shared journey.

Karl Rahner, S.J., renowned theologian, whose term “liturgy of the world” offers me a conceptual ground to stand on in exploring a “special ministry” closer to the heart of Jesus than I (or the structure?) imagine. In using the image, I went where my prayer took me. It comes from a book I have not yet read but just ordered. (The Liturgy of the World: Karl Rahner’s Theology of Worship, Pueblo Press, 1991.)

Marc Chagall, renowned and prolific Jewish artist of the twentieth century whose images of the Crucified embedded in Jewish suffering can illuminate our current events. These express more powerfully than any words how Jesus on the cross is planted at the heart of the liturgy of the world. If that is the worship I am called to serve, I am meant, in some small measure, to bear and offer the emotional burden of the world’s pain, even when I cannot alleviate it. How grateful I am for the Jewish strands interweaving in my life and history.

Exodus by Marc Chagall, 1952-1966
White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall, 1938
Tree of Jesse by Marc Chagall, 1975

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