As I was sitting in worship recently, listening to the droning recitation of a portion of the liturgy, and I was thinking I'd rather be somewhere else. Like here. Ahhh.
The droning continued and I felt, well, void of passion. Then I was reminded of something I had read long ago by Nikos Kazantzakis.
“My prayer is not the whimpering of a beggar nor a confession of love. Nor is it the trivial reckoning of a small tradesman: Give me and I shall give you.
My prayer is the report of a soldier to his general: This is what I did today, this is how I fought to save the entire battle in my own sector, these are the obstacles I found, this is how I plan to fight tomorrow… ‘Leader!’ I cry. He turns his face towards me, and I shudder to confront his anguish.
Our love for each other is rough and ready, we sit at the same table, we drink the same wine in this low tavern of life.”
--“The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises” by Nikos Kazantzakis
What a contrast to rote prayer and preaching rhetoric. There seems to be some urgency missing.
I am truly a fan of Tolken’s "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy. I remember spending hours upon hours tucked quietly in my college dorm room, devouring words upon words, page after page as the fantastic saga unfolded and I journeyed with the heroes of Middle Earth in their quests for victory. In the films of the past two years, we have seen the cinematic adaptation of this tale, and I find myself equally enthralled again with Tolken’s message.
Be it the battles of Elves and Orcs, the magical sparring of light wielding Wizards, or the inner struggle of Hobbits and Golum, the quest and it’s urgency is the same: Avoid the malformed power of the ring until it can be destroyed, at all costs. The heroes know the importance of that last phrase, ‘at all costs.’ Each is willing to, and some in turn do, give their very life for this cause. It is a wonderful drama of the high cost of noble victory.
It is this urgency that I hear preached in the words of Nikos Kazantzakis quoted above. If indeed, as I believe is the case, we humans are in need of help beyond ourselves in order to fulfill the beauty of the human drama, and if we are destined to suffer and fail along the way without this help, then there is an equal sense of urgency about our quest as is that of the soldier and the heroes of Tolken’s tale. All the more, if the quest for this assistance is a path that is known by some and open to others, and yet is never made clear, how can the battle be won?
How tempting it is to sneak away into the safety of Bilbo Baggins’ shire (for ‘Adventures make one late for dinner”) or to hide in the security of the comfortable worship, for there we feel safe. Might we be missing the more important call for action?
I am committed to the journey toward The Divine and it is often too easy to pace through the routine of worship rather than be about the journey of faith. I suspect I am not the only one aware of the common droning of our prayers and the lack of dimension to our faith. Do I travel in too scarce a number today? Should we not pause by the road, and share a bit of the tale that has brought us thus far, the tale of passion and promise that drew us here long ago? Can we not beckon others onward to their journey as well? I am made to ask of myself today, “What report can I give to God, today?”