Finding the Sacred in Our Daily Practices
This week at Theology on Tap one of the young adults brought up manual acts, and their significance, or lack thereof, in our church experience. These manual acts include things such as crossing oneself, bowing at the passing of the cross, and kneeling during the prayers. The discussion surrounded the issue of whether or not we should be enacting these acts if we are not even sure what they mean, particularly when these practices feel foreign or even awkward. But, those of us who participated in the acts week after week (or even on a daily basis) had to admit that many of us ourselves did not know what they meant, or at least didn’t know when we first began practicing them.
As the conversation went on I had to recall when and why it was I began crossing myself, or bowing at the passing of the cross. I was quickly taken back my first seminary Eucharist where I witnessed everyone around me crossing their forehead, mouth, and heart before the reading of the Gospel. I had no idea why they were doing it, I certainly didn't feel comfortable myself taking on a manual act I was not familiar with. But, soon I found myself practicing this act week after week. But, it was not until about a year later that I truly began to understand it’s meaning, when a parishioner told me the prayer her father taught her surrounding the act. “May thy Word be embedded in my mind (cross forehead), spoken through my lips (cross lips), and remain in my heart (cross heart).” With this prayer I began to truly embody the practice, and feel it’s significance mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is not to say that it’s meaning was lost to me before, only that the significance and meaning of the practice was evolving.
As we move into the program year we are taking on the study of “Sacred Rhythms.” And, as we begin to study those sacred rhythms that can impact and improve our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives I believe it is also important that we note those sacred practices that already exist in our daily lives. Practices such as manual acts can become rote and monotonous when practiced day after day, week after week, year after year. Therefore, it becomes important for us, every once in a while, to take a step back and examine those practices and acts that have shaped and formed who we are as spiritual people. They can be as simple and easy as bowing at the passing of the cross or kneeling during the prayers. Or, as elaborate and skilled as practicing an instrument, physical activity, or artistic skill. These everyday experiences and routines often hold great meaning and sacredness within our lives, sometimes we just have to step back and re-examine where we have found meaning and encountered the sacred within these practices.
The manual act I came to take on may not have held significance in the beginning, it may have just been a repeated movement, but as time went on my own faith and practices developed the act became a sacred rhythm. Many of us have sacred rhythms within our lives, and many of those rhythms can lose their beat as times moves on. It is important for us to reexamine where we have encountered the sacred in our daily practices and routines, and how it is that we can return to those sacred in those practices and routines. As we enter into another year of busy rhythms and sacred routines let us re-identify those practices that reveal the Holy and center our souls in the midst of our daily lives.