“I’m trying to sell people on routine,” Fr. Walter told a group of lay Dominicans a few weeks before Easter. I asked him to explain, later, what he meant by that. “I don’t want you to get addicted to the highs and lows of spiritual life. When prayer becomes routine, dry, that’s when it becomes work–and prayer is work, most of the time.”
Routine–my third Triduum at my parish. All of the songs were familiar, the preaching somewhat predictable. I didn’t experience highs or lows (aside from missing Hyacinth, whom I always miss this time of year), and I tried not to be annoyed by that. I remembered my first Holy Thursday overnight vigil, waking up at 5 a.m. on Good Friday morning and running up Morningside Drive four blocks to the church to sit longer with my friends, and then drink coffee together in the rectory and look for excuses not to leave until Tenebrae began.
“These are my best memories now,” Hyacinth wrote to me, and I wrote back, “They are mine too! I want to cry!”
“Remember, and don’t cry!” he replied.
Remember. Relive in your body what the Lord has done for you–literally, put the members, the pieces, back together, reanimate what was scattered. There’s a reason God prescribes repetition–for the Israelites in the desert, at the Last Supper, do this again every year and remember. As I took part in the most dramatic liturgies of the year, I was forced to recall the other times I’ve participated in them, perhaps with greater emotion, but also with greater turmoil. Do I want to return to the girl running up Morningside Drive? Maybe for a fleeting moment, but no longer. It’s with the repetition that I’ve learned some of the hardest lessons of my faith, and I see now that having the pristine image of a newly beloved religion shattered is the only way to grow closer to God, as strange as that sounds. For, though our earthly ideals might seem perfect, though the past may seem like a paradise, now we only “know partially and prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (1 Cor 13:9-10).
The painful reality of growing up in our faith allows us to recognize that, while what we have here is beautiful, it cannot satisfy. And perhaps that is what Fr. Walter wanted to emphasize as well–that we repeat to learn, we repeat to find truth, to discover the core of the mystery of faith and wonder at it while realizing that there is still much more we can’t yet see.