He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Love it to Death: Living the Liturgy

As my understanding of the liturgy is deepening through my choice to participate in it fully and make it a part of my life, I am finding that more and more it shapes my entire life in unexpected ways more wonderful than I could have imagined.  I am learning how to let the liturgy teach me how to live in my daily life.  Living the liturgy is so much more than attending a ceremony weekly; the two are not even remotely comparable experiences.  Make no mistake; we are called beyond spectating at a liturgy to live in the liturgy and venture deep into the divine life of love.

In the liturgy, we are present to the time-pervading sacrifice on the cross, the God who loved us in life and loved us unto death ever before us.  In the liturgy, every movement of our body is oriented toward God, giving Him praise and glory by our every act.  In the liturgy, our mind professes the Creed and appreciates the beauty of the Church, keeping our beliefs and the images that remind us to seek Heaven ever in our mind's eyes.  In the liturgy, our hearts cry out, "Lord have mercy!" as we acknowledge our weakness before God and before our brothers and sisters, and in our humility we are lifted up by the Lord so as to draw closer to Him.  In the liturgy, our will is directed toward reaching mystical union with Christ by obeying His commands and transforming our lives by the light of His example, keeping the movements of the body, the focus of the mind, and the desires of our heart rightly ordered toward God.

We are thus integrated, drawing away from the disintegrated life of the world in which the heart, the mind, the body, and the will often disagree; the liturgy helps us to transcend the daily disintegration of our being as our bodies are called to transient pleasures, our minds called to abstract rational ideals, our hearts called to puff themselves up in pride, and our wills called to herd them all without imposing any order.  When we begin to rightly order all the aspects of our being and live the integrated life, the acts of our bodies, minds, hearts, and will are able to work together to lift our souls to the Lord so that they might be cleansed as He says the word.  This state of being which transcends mere being that is offered to us in the liturgy is a gift that we can carry into the rest of our lives.

The liturgy develops in us the habits which allow us to live increasingly in our daily lives just as we live in the liturgy.  In each moment of the day, beginning with our morning prayer, continuing in our work, and permeating our studies, our will orders our the acts of our body, the focus of our mind, and the desires of our heart toward reaching God in Heaven.  The movements of our body are oriented toward God as we use our strength to reach out and help those who are most weak and vulnerable.  The focus of our mind remains on the good of others who are so beloved of Christ, keeping our mind's eye on the things of Heaven by delighting in the beauty of His creation.  The desires of our hearts are to love the Lord our God, acknowledging our weakness when we reach out to His least brothers and sisters to show them the love He showed to us.  This is the integrated life, the life of integrity in which like Christ we make all the moments of our life and our death into a sacrifice of love.

The liturgy forms us in the integrated life not so that we can remain in the church building at all times to seek holiness through mystical communion with God, but rather so that we have the strength of love and joy to transform our lives into a living sacrifice to bring the integrated life into the rest of the world which is so disintegrated, so very broken and torn and disordered.  Just as the liturgy helps us to become integrated, so we are to go forth and by our lives transform the world into one which is integrated, so very whole and seamless and rightly ordered.  Just as the liturgy lets us experience the heavenly life of divine love, so too are we called to let others experience a foretaste of the heavenly life of divine love when they encounter us.  Just as the liturgy directs our entire being toward Christ as the model of the fullness of the human participation in the divine life of love, we are also called to direct others to Christ so that they might fulfill their purpose as an imago dei and unite with Him who is the Deus

In living the liturgy, we love to death our self-centered focus on seeking only our own holiness and begin to seek the holiness of all; by building up our brothers and sisters in love, we build up their capacity for partaking in divine love so that they might also live in that divine life of love given to us by the Bride of Christ in the intimacy of the liturgy.


  1. How Can I contact you for permission to use portions of your blog for a ministry that I am involved in?

    1. Mary Lou, my apologies for not responding to your inquiry more promptly. You can reach me at samuel.c.bunch@gmail.com which is an email account I check daily. I would be happy to discuss your ministry and how my work might be useful for it. :-)