Liturgies of Love: The Essentials of Life

Updated: Aug 17



Well over a year ago, while I was intentionally listening to my body's hidden wisdom with the support of a friend, a powerful image emerged. I pictured myself in an encounter with a female ancestor of mine as I kept listening to my body and noticing hers. The encounter unfolded and I felt a strong desire to find a chair for this worn out, bent over old woman to rest on. To my surprise, it didn't end here, but another chair appeared and I heard a voice saying "This is for you." I sat down next to the unidentified woman in my family lineage with a sense of relief and compassion. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I shared how the experience felt like an invitation from God to enter motherhood (we were still waiting to bring our son home then) with a posture of rest and intimacy with God, honoring my own needs. My companion witnessed all this and said, "This sounds like a liturgical language and action to me."


Since then I have returned to this important memory and called its invitation "a liturgy of sitting down". However, recently I came across a phrase that seemed to describe it better. In her latest book, Waymaker, Ann Voskamp describes her daily practice of prayer as "liturgy of intimacy".[1] Whether it is a chair pulled out for you, a forest path, or a porch hammock, we are all called to cultivate personal liturgies of intimacy.


Now almost 18 months after the listening experience, I find my days spent mostly on my feet caring for a very curious and active little toddler. I hardly ever actually physically sit down, but instead I am learning to see my days as a flow from one simple liturgy of love to the next, while I feed, play, read, bathe and cradle my child. The Spirit whispers in the midst of the mundane through my precious son, and in our shared communion. However, it isn't often until I find a brief pause from the physical activity, and sit in solitude with Jesus who pulls the chair for me to rest and simply be with him, when I hear His familiar voice of love and compassion. These moments are special liturgies of intimacy when I share my heart's unspeakable gratitude, joys, hopes, tears and fears with the safest and kindest Person I know, Jesus. At times these liturgies include a pen and journal, a book or Scripture, a walk outside, a bath, a thread and needle, or a massage, but almost always a nice cup of tea.


This is not a new revelation, nor new practice. Rather it is the most elementary and the oldest of all Christian liturgy: Turning our attention to God with love and loving action.


The wonderful gift and grace of getting to spend my days with a young child is, that purely his sweet presence draws me to the essentials of life, the foundations of my faith and spirituality: What is true and necessary? The answer is always Love. Every human is born to be loved in a felt way. In early years of life, we yearn this desire to be met by our primary caregiver. And for the rest of our days we continue seek to experience ourselves loved. We cannot grow and flourish as human beings without this essential need being met. Our spirituality is included. Spirituality without genuine and regular experience of God's love is a betrayal to our very nature. The human spirit is awakened through an encounter with Love. The developmental need to experience ourselves immeasurably loved and soul securely attached to the One who loves us cannot be skipped or reversed with any other need.


We have an endless need to be seen, understood, cared for, secure in love, safe, enjoyed, valued, and never abandoned. This is why cultivating liturgies of intimate love are necessary for all stages of life. Religious educator Sofia Cavalletti [2] writes about the the necessity of staying rooted in the origins of our faith the following:


"Simplicity is found in the elementary and that the greatest of realities are simple and essential. ... It is through simplicity that we attain profundity."
"Working with the young child requires extremely demanding preparation in order to remain rooted in that level of essentiality that corresponds to the young child's own nature. It is not a case of trivializing matters: With the young child it is necessary to prune away those secondary elements and details that may represent as evasions."

Practicing a life of simple liturgies of love, attachment, intimacy and care takes time. It is slow and essential work. It is so simple that we too often run into a danger of dismissing it when bombarded by new ideas, shiny objects and other admirable pursuits. Yet, it is work worth returning to again and again. It is work worth cultivating, relearning, trying again and growing in. The work of practicing liturgies of intimacy expands us and heals us, and those around us.


Trish Harrison Warren writes in her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, [3] about our daily formative habits and practices as everyday liturgies. She challenges us to examine our days through the lens of liturgical action and worship to God when she writes,


"The question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, "What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?"

The fact that rituals, habits and liturgies shape the kind of people we are is most visible in young children. A child's receptivity and need for absorbing rituals is almost astounding when I pause to notice it. Again, Jesus' command to become like a little child rings through my soul as I consider the importance of simple, slow, attachment nurturing daily rhythms for my little one. The little walks in park, soaking the feet in a pool next to each other, sitting on the bedside a few extra minutes after a nap, all are a part of the canvas of our love liturgies. And when I forget how essential it is to live a life that is rooted in the liturgies of love, my son is quick to remind me by his frequent requests to be picked up and being held.


Can you, too, hear the Spirit's prompting, "Walk a little slower than you think you have time for. Look a little longer than you think you need to. Wait in silence a little longer than you think you are able." ?


Whether you are a parent of a young child yourself or not, what are the essential, simple liturgies of intimacy, love, healing, hope, joy, grief, trust, rest... like for you?


What is God's invitation to you now?


Also, if you are in a season of caring for a young child, I would love to hear from your daily liturgies of care and love together. What are your "zones of mutual enjoyment and holy wonder"? You can find some of mine on Instagram at @KutsuCompanions.


Sources:


[1] Ann Voskamp, Waymaker: Finding the Way to the Life You've Always Dreamed Of. 2022.

[2] Sofia Cavalletti, Living Liturgy: : Elementary Reflections. 1998

[3] Trish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. 2016


Find resources on listening to body in a prayerful, felt-way at Biospiritual Institute

Learn about simplicity parenting philosophy at Simplicity Parenting Community



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