I believe in personal liturgies. Instead of calling my repetitious activities routine, or even habit, by acknowledging the cycle of daily events to be a part of my personal liturgy, I believe I am making even the dirtiest diaper holy.
I first recognized my need for the grounding nature of liturgy when I was unable to return to my financial district apartment after September 11th , 2001. In the weeks that followed, I knew I needed something to make life appear normal again since even the therapist I visited confessed to being just as scared as I was. In the midst of my uncertainty and anxiety, I made a midmorning date with Barnes and Noble. Reading a few minutes each day may not have seemed significant, but carving out this bit of luxurious personal time gave me something to look forward to, and I am convinced that hope is the greatest remedy for fear.
Personal liturgies do not require extraordinary events to be effective in calming the soul. All my liturgy requires is a willingness to find the sacred in simple tasks. The classic Greek word meant an act of public good and though my morning cup of coffee does little to beautify our planet, it certainly makes me a more helpful and respectful member of society. By sanctifying the insignificant, I am looking beyond the individual action and transforming it into a thing of great value.
My liturgy these days is simple. I wake up, I feed our infant daughter, I introduce her to the world. She is learning to find comfort in predicting the rhythm of our hours. I’d like to believe that this helps her brain develop somehow, that our small traditions will make her into a better, more confident person. Honestly, I’m not sure how much our liturgy will really change her in the long run, but it’s evolution has kept me sane since she was born.
Just after the delivery, she was whisked out of my arms and into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was early, but not so much so to make me worry when the contractions started. For the next few weeks, my husband and I developed a new liturgy. It involved doctors and nurses and breast pumps and acronyms for conditions and treatments I could barely keep straight. Still, we looked to ground ourselves in the small, repetitive actions that both kept her alive and gave us the hope to return after spending another night at home without our baby.
Eventually she graduated out of her over-sized Tupperware container and I was faced with the equally daunting task of caring for a baby on my own. I’m slowly figuring everything out if only because I insist on sanctifying the most mundane of tasks. These bits of our daily liturgy keep me going until bedtime. Of course I wish she would sleep a little longer, but by embracing her daily liturgy I hope become a little more holy too.
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