The Story We Live and Celebrate, Part I

A Personal Review and Reflection on Liturgy and Sacraments

Awakened by a gloomy morning and feeling of restlessness, I sat at the last row of Liturgy and Sacraments class hoping secretly that the session would be soon over. While Fr. Peter, my professor, seemed to be very busy writing something on the board, I curiously peeped over my seatmate’s heads and read a one-line statement in bold letters that said:


This is one of the topics Tad Guzie wrote and discussed in his book, The Sacramental Basics (1981).

I started to wonder what this could mean. “The rhythm that makes life human,” I repeatedly said to myself until I was totally captured by it—my attention, my intellect, my being. The way it was stated was very simple yet deep and striking. I knew then that I would never forget this line.

As I rethink of the statement now after a few months, it seemed old yet new. Memories of the Liturgy and Sacraments class flooded my mind – the words pregnant with meanings, the laughter, interactions, struggles, resistance and tensions, the creativity and flexibility of each one, the insights and expertise of my mentors. Each succeeded to make me feel the certain concreteness and uniqueness of a day from the other. This led me to an experience of learning, relearning, and unlearning; of review and reflection; of joy and struggles to understand; and of discovering new perspective and insights. These opposing categories made the class a meaningful and colorful journey. Let me now use the concept of the statement The Rhythm That Makes Life Human in the succeeding paragraphs.

It becomes clearer for me that we, more often than not, have the tendency to be trapped in the ordinariness and business of life day after day. We are caught up working for security and stability. Things and events get routinary, structured, and raw. The world for the majority becomes an enemy to wrestle with. The time becomes short. We succumb to fear, insecurity, and anger – unable to make sense of and come to grips with the fact that we are living in a symbolic and resurrection world full of vitality, activity, and meaning. It is in this world where every experience of dark and light, abundance and poverty, pain and comfort, sorrow and joy, as well as life and death count and is significant when lived.

We need to be fully aware or reminded that in our day-to-day experiences we neither hold stories of fairy tale nor fantasy but stories significant to ourselves, to others, to the world and the whole creation, to history, and to God. Stories which create, perpetuate, and touch life in its fullness. Our life is a story [of becoming] within and into that bigger story [which has already become]. We are real, living, walking stories… God’s masterpieces in time. Altogether we hold dearly the whole story and history of Jesus which enable us to go beyond every story to far bigger reality and live fully as humans. Or rather do we?

These stories cannot be mere backgrounds and products of our multiple experiences. They call for endless celebration where they are retold and remembered. A celebration, as my mentor Fr. Brendan Lovett emphasized in one of our classes, which makes us in touch of the newness of life, lifts us up, deepens the meaning of the stories that we bring and believe in as well as our day-to-day life. The celebration also brings us deeper and closer to the Ground of our being. Tad Guzie (1981) mentioned in his book that the retelling and remembering in turn help us to re-enter everyday lived experience with a sense of refreshment and a new sense of purpose. In simpler terms, it rescues us to the rigidity and monotony of life and allows us to walk with the One who shows us how to become by living fully and who says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Moreover our every celebration -- our liturgy, rituals, and sacraments -- (must) take on new meaning, creativity, and depth. Not only does it help us to celebrate but also to be rooted again and again to our tradition and original story in a newer and more meaningful way. As Tad Guzie beautifully puts it, it restores us to our proper relationship to history and history-making… reminds us that we are fully within history but that history is also within something else. Yes, when we live our experience, we should remember and celebrate them as individuals and one people who Jesus gathered and freed once and for all. As we are brought in communion to the Father, we are becoming in history of God, people, and creation open to God’s mercy and graces -- living everything, life as pure gift.

As McKenna in the book Rites of Justice (1997) have emphasized, it is important that in our liturgy everything becomes and is connected and form intimate relationships: the people or assembly, the leaders, their work, the words and actions, the space and environment (art, music, building, furnishings and objects, hospitality, appropriateness, etc..), the unity and harmony, the silence. The liturgy (must) capture the whole of human experience, nothing excluded, blending all our stories into the one Story we all honor and remember every celebration – that story of God, who makes all things new for us. McKenna added that the story sings of only the best for God and only the best for the poor, saying the way we work, spend money, and worship, as well as do justice and charity, is all one piece. Like Joseph in a Jewish story McKenna related, we work hard all week preparing and waiting for the Sunday celebration, and after the celebration off we go refreshed and renewed to the world.

Our celebration does not end here. We are Easter people and therefore must become human mediation of God’s presence and marvel for all. Like the journeyers of Emmaus we are called to bring and share the joy we experience and like what McKenna wrote to seep out into the world like heaven in bread, like balm for all pain and sorrow, like abiding peace with justice, like glory’s radiant reflection.

This is the reason why we are being sent at the end of the celebration. As McKenna says, “it is service, another way of washing feet, of bending before one another, of committing ourselves to the practice of the corporal works of mercy, of suffering with and for one another”. We must become what we celebrate, honor, and worship.

Gonzales, L.J. The Artist of Nazareth. Mexico: Editorial Font S.A., 1996.
Guzie, T. The Sacramental Basics. NY: Paulist Press, 1981.
McKenna, M. Rites of Justice. NY: Orbis Books, 1997.


Martin LaBar said...

Interesting reading. I found this through the Christian Carnival.