Liturgies and Shopping Carts

Many people are arranging for groceries to be delivered to their homes rather than venture out to a supermarket.  I am among those who shop in person, bedecked in a mask.  Yesterday, I entered my local supermarket just behind a mother and her young daughter, perhaps three years old.  The little girl was eager to sit in the child seat in the cart her mother was using.  The woman picked her daughter up and sought to guide her child’s legs through the openings in the cart.  As is sometimes the way with young children, the little girl was making it difficult for her mother by inadvertently kicking the cart, moving it every time her mother tried to place her daughter in the seat.  I reached out to stabilize the cart, preventing it from moving.  With a stationary target, mother and daughter were able successfully to achieve their objective.  The woman thanked me and we went about our separate shopping expeditions.

I wondered about parallels between this experience and the experience of liturgy.  In order to get her daughter into the cart, the woman at the supermarket needed the cart to be predictable, reliable, unchanging.  With the cart not moving, the woman succeeded in her quest and then navigated the supermarket’s aisles.  Do we (do *I*) look to liturgy to be predicable, reliable, unchanging?  Do we (do I) look to liturgy to be a North Star, providing steady guidance and orientation in a turbulent world made more so by a virus beyond our control?  Is that North Star veiled behind a cloud of virtual liturgies on computer screens and televisions?  Is its light obscured by limits on the size of assemblies?

When we come to liturgy looking for stability, in what ways are we more or less unintentionally kicking the shopping cart and thus hindering the Spirit’s work of putting us in tune with the worship that the assembled Body of Christ offers to the Father?

When we come to liturgy looking for stability, are we doing so in order simply to withdraw from the world?  Or are we looking for the stability that characterizes God’s steadfast love, a love that always goes forth?  This love stands firm in the face of the chaos and disorder of sin.  It denounces racism.  It calls out sexism.  It seeks to trouble the waters of unequal access to healthcare.

Polaris, the North Star, is always blazing even when our hemisphere does not face it.  Good liturgies likewise shine even when we kick our own shopping carts.  What are we doing to keep our liturgies shining and to extend the light of God’s love to the world?

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