Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Liturgical Time

In a book I am reading called "Among the Copts" the author tells a story about liturgical time.

A Coptic priest is performing the Liturgy. When it is time for him to raise the host, he does so and raises his eyes to heaven. Moments pass...they turn to minutes. Some people are wondering what is happening. After a long time he lowers his eyes and continues. After the liturgy a deacon asks him what happened. The priest is confused; he says that he had only raised his eyes for a moment. When he did he saw, not the dome of the church, but the clear sky and a ladder stretching to heaven. Still, to him, only a brief moment had passed.

This story illustrates what Liturgy should be, touching the infinite of God if only for a moment. Sometimes, time no longer applies.

I have my own experience with Liturgical time. It was at my wedding.

My wife and I had just received the Eucharist. I put my hand over hers’ and bowed my head in prayer. I looked at her and thanked God for the moment. I thanked Him for this life, and how it was going. Even with all of the ups and downs...this was a moment of perfection. I thought of children we may have and prayed for them. I prayed for their health and their grades in school. I prayed that they would choose a good college. I prayed for our whole life together. I thanked God again for all His gifts. I prayed for my wife and I as we grew old together. Growing old never seemed so perfect.

I realized that with the Eucharist, Christ had come to our wedding; small and insignificant us, to our wedding. But we are made so significant by His love for us, and that love makes possible our love for each other. Love was all around me and gave me meaning. The true bridegroom had come to the Liturgy. It was the longest and deepest prayer I have ever prayed. I can remember every word of it. As I remember every word, I think now what I thought then:'s been a while. But when I looked up from my prayer, the priest had only moved three steps and was passing me on my right to give communion to my best man. I had entered Liturgical time. In my love, I had grasped a deeper connection to the infinity of Christ's love.

It also happened, though not as pronounced, when we put the rose at Mary's feet. My mother died when I was ten and I have had a deep devotion to the Mother of God since childhood, time went a bit strange there as I thought of the Mother of God and my parents watching the wedding together. My wife says this is when it happened for her. In her prayer and conversation with Mary, she thought that a long time had passed but the Ave Maria had only just begun.

The Liturgy lets us grasp infinite love. The sacrifice of Christ is made manifest, His love tangible. Sometimes even the best of us let it fall into habit. But sometimes, even the worst of us see eternity in the heartbeat of Christ's love for us.

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