Monday, July 26, 2010

Wonder, love, awe - the "spirit" of worship

Alexander Schmemann, in The Eucharist - Sacrament of the Kingdom, quoting Louis Bouyer:

"It is as though the liturgy alone knows the full meaning of this notion impenetrable to reason. In any event, the liturgy alone is able to transmit it and teach it . . . That religious trembling, that interior vertigo before the Pure, the Inaccessible, the wholly Other, and at the same time that sense of an invisible presence, the attraction of a love so infinite and yet so personal that, having tasted it, we know only that it surpasses all that we still call love: only the liturgy can communicate the unique and incommunicable experience of all this . . . In it, this experience somehow flows from every element - the words, the gestures, the lights, the perfume that fills the temple, as in the vision of Isaiah - coming from what is behind all this and yet not simply all this, but which communicates this, in the same way that the striking expression of a face permits us in an instant to discover a soul, without our knowing how."

Thus we have entered and stand now before the holy. We are sanctified by his presence, we are illumined by his light. And the trembling and the sweet feeling of the presence of God, the jou and peace, which has no equal on earth, is all expressed in the threefold, slow singing of the Trisagion: "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal" - the heavenly hymn, which is sung on earth but testifies to the accomplished reconciliation of earth and heaven, to the fact that God revealed himself to men and that it is given to us to "share in his holiness" (Heb 12:10).

And from Kenneth Graham's The Wind in the Willows:

Rat and Mole are rowing down the river and hear the sound of strange music. They follow the music to a place of "solemn stillness." Suddenly:

"Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror - indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy - but it was an awe that smote and held him, and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very very near. He raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness and incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper . . . Rat! He found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid? 'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. 'Afraid! of Him O, never never! And yet and yet - O Mole, I am afraid!' Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship."


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