Monday, November 29, 2010
The Value of Sameness
New! Improved! Revised! The constant flux of our society...nothing remains static in this world of ours. We seek out new experiences, new places, new thrills. The very notion of "exotic", so highly desirable to us thrill-seeking 21st century nomads, means nothing more or less than "unfamiliar". Yet, to understand our lives, to be fully human, we must have sameness. The day must have its routines or it degenerates into a stressful random walk. The year must have its seasons, its times of rest and renewal. And we must have the anchor of the familiar, too. Our repetitive moments fasten us securely to our own lives and thus to God as we travel through time.
A young child sits through Mass. He learns the always-the-same order of the liturgy. Sometimes he sleeps, at peace with God. Sometimes he sings or prays. Week after week the routine begins to plow deep furrows in the soil of his heart. The words of consecration and prayer are breathed in as naturally as the air around him. Phrases of Scripture are planted within. The sameness becomes a part of him, as much as his arms or legs. It is ingrained not only in his soul, but in the very biology of the neural contacts of his mind.
As a young man, he rebels. He wanders into a far country, partying and carousing, forgetting his heritage of faith. But one day, he walks into a Church. Mass is being prayed, and he remembers the flow of it, the words of consecration, the prayers to the "Almighty and Ever-living God." The sameness calls to itself within him, to someone he was and is and is to become. He is drawn back to understand himself, his past, his God.
He becomes old. His life is passing away, but the steady song of the liturgy remains the same. In the heart of its faithfulness, old yet ever new, he more and more deeply comprehends his God. The same words that spoke peace to him as a child and repentance to him as a young man, speak strength to him now. Because he knows the form of worship as he knows his own image, the deep meaning under the form is revealed to him. He does not need to wonder what will be said or when. He is not constantly distracted by variety and novelty. He can plunge beneath the form to the level of meaning. The silence of sameness allows him to enter into his own life at all ages-- child, youth, man-- identifying and remembering vividly his own reactions, feelings, and hopes. The silence of sameness allows him, too, to enter the presence of God in a profound and simple way.
We clamor for change; we demand excitement. We are no longer at peace with either God or ourselves. Perhaps if we could reclaim the value of sameness, we would have enough silence in our lives to find that peace.