Lately I have been in a mode of searching for clarity, understanding, and the Lord's direction regarding various aspects of my life. I am thrilled to say that the Lord does not disappoint those who seek after Him. This has really been an adventure in prayer for me.
For one thing, I find myself called back to the "places" where my attraction to the Catholic Faith first sparked. By this, I don't mean geographical places so much, but people and internal places. One of these significant "places" is the lives of saints like St. John of the Cross and St. Bernard of Clairvaux: the mystics. I first met them while working on a research project for a philosophy class as an undergrad. I vividly remember looking up from my books in my college library, my heart overheating from the beauty I was witnessing, and fervently praying, "Lord.... if there are any people left like this on the face of the earth... any people who live like this, those are the people I want to be with."
Another significant "place" that the Lord has led me back to is the ministry of John Michael Talbot. Both his music and he personally had a significant impact on my early conversion to Catholicism. Then I went to the Holy Land on pilgrimage with him and Dan O'Neill of Mercy Corps in 1993 just after I entered the Church. I hovered as close to him as I dared during this trip, watching him, listening, conversing at times. There was one very significant, life-changing Mass I experienced at the Tomb of Lazarus where his prophetic gift truly helped me, and I believe the rest of the congregation gathered, to understand what had transpired. (I wrote about that here.) Later that year I even spent time at Little Portion Hermitage discerning a vocation to his order (which obviously I didn't have, despite the powerful sense of drawing I experienced).
So, largely led by my good ol' Facebook friends, I found myself several weeks ago drawn back to these two places. I began to feel the "click" when I started reading a book of John Michael's entitled The Joy of Music Ministry. Given my experiences with parish music ministry of late, I thought this would simply be a nice read from an old friend. Then I realized that he was talking about music ministry in the parish as a function of the mystical experience of Christ in His Church. Oh... My... It made me remember the first time I visited the Retreat Center associated with JMT's order. The retreat I was scheduled for had actually been cancelled, but I drove the 11 hours to Arkansas, anyway. Someone else who had turned out gave me his copy of the book the retreat was to be based on: The Lover and the Beloved. As I was reading outside on the silent hilltop, I remember suddenly gasping and saying out loud: "Oh... My..." because it suddenly hit me. There were people left on the face of this earth who lived and believed like the mystics of old, and the very spot on which I sat proved it. Well, that was that book. With this book, The Joy of Music Ministry, I realized that this "Oh.... My...." was the realization that within that prayer I prayed in my college library was something of a nascent call that I can now recognize as having sprouted in my life.
So, that's where it comes back to being about the heart of worship, as the video says that I posted yesterday. As I look around the basement room where I am currently typing, I see a tremendous amount of clutter, stacks of papers, toys strewn everywhere, and lots and lots of things that violate my grandmother's rule: a place for everything and everything in its place. I'd like to think that my soul is not as cluttered as my basement, but I know that I can cling to things in my spiritual life and the life of my soul that I think I truly need to live. The truth of the matter is, sometimes I can start to choke on these things, and I need a re-ordering. I need spring cleaning. The song I posted says "I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about You, Jesus." Ok, that's not lofty Gregorian chant. Doesn't have to be. But the truth is, I am compelled within myself to respond when Jesus calls me: Yes, Lord. Your way, Lord.
This took on an interesting incarnation for me last Saturday at the School of Community meeting I attended. I was sort of a backhanded moment of realization for me, because as we talked about "where have we experienced the gratuitous love of God," I suddenly felt I could not for another minute bear talking about Jesus as if I were looking through my wedding photo album but ignoring my husband who was right next to me. I can't enter into an intimate relationship with a photo of my husband! And if Jesus is present, the call to my heart says "Fall down on your face and worship Him!" To paraphrase the Blind Boys of Alabama, I don't want to walk and talk about Jesus, and I'm seeing His face, so let's get on with this program and worship!
Which of course begs the question of what worship is. There is worship in the formal sense, in the liturgical sense, in the personal sense, in the action sense. It is offering our lives, in union with Christ, to the Father. Worship is something we do that springs forth what what we are, in our new life in Christ. It is our lives lived sacrificially unto God. (See Romans 12.) Then, there’s the amazing reality that worship is a gift of God that brings healing and the graces of God into this world.
This one big, broad, brush stroke of a blog post (let alone my entire lifetime -- or eternity -- of contemplation) cannot capture even the smallest fraction of the beauty of the mystery of God as it unfolds before me. The only way I can fathom to take in this reality is like the two-year-old who plays "Daddy's helper" by carrying one small tool (and creating an incredible need for caregiving) out onto the building site where Daddy and the other grown-ups are building a fantastic house. Our Father and all of heaven works, and I carry a tool, and try to stay out of the way as best I can, and stay somewhat attentive for when He calls. What a life! What a beautiful life!