Irving, Texas

Worship is language

This is Canon Victoria’s letter in our weekly Parish News email.  To sign up for our newsletter, please visit: Constant Contact. To see the full weekly Parish News email from May 5th, please visit:

Recently I was in an elevator. I saw the Braille markings next to the Arabic numbers on the buttons.   I had taught myself the Braille alphabet as a child.  So, I closed my eyes and tried to read with my fingers. I could not feel four dots from three dots nor which way they were arranged!  In the world of the blind, I could not feel to see.

Learning Braille or another language is not difficult.   Most people, even with significant disabilities can speak and understand one language.   To learn a new language one just has to practice voraciously.  Saying or writing or reading the same pattern over and over again becomes second nature.

Worship is a language.  Worshipping every day makes it easier and often, second nature.  We speak the language, and know the pattern and turn to God without thinking. Since our liturgy is saturated in the Scriptures, we absorb both how to pray as the church has prayed for centuries, and absorb a lot of the Bible besides.

I remember my first Sunday in an Episcopal Church.  Like Redeemer, the windows were blue glass.  It felt holy. My teenage friend and her family rose and fell with the words, and answered without reading the bulletin or book.  I felt awkward and unsure.   Although I believed in Christ, I had never worshipped in church.  I was two beats behind and the last to kneel or stand.   It took several years of worship before it felt ‘natural’.

To be comfortable in worship, practice.  St. Paul uses the images of athletics to talk about moving forward in life with God:  he talks about running the race, or stripping to wrestle.  A man I know began to run so he could try out for the Marines.  He made the Marines, and now again is again a civilian.  He still runs though, for the love of it and for how it makes him feel.   I don’t think I am going to go back to Braille, but Sundays and other days when I pray, I am exercising in my spirit.  Some days it feels like jogging up hill in raw weather.  On others, everything comes together for a perfect walk with Christ.   For that matter, like an elevator, riding on the prayers of the church, I suddenly find that I am up on a different floor, and I can walk out of my prayers.  I have a new horizon, and God is there with me and I can see my world and how it connects with wider world.

Thirty years ago, a priest I knew confided that he never worshipped on Sunday, with the liturgy and the music.  He said he could say the words correctly, but he did not worship God, because he had to watch the details.  He said that he could pray by himself, but not in community.  I to myself wondered why and how he continued to be an Episcopal priest, but determined to learn to pray within the liturgy.


–Victoria Heard

One Comment

  1. Jacqueline R. Maki

    I am gradually adding to my spiritual vocabulary through silence, spoken liturgy, music, solo prayer, communal prayer, community engagement, solitude, and study — one spiritual word at a time. Thanks you, Victoria, for letting us know that the language of the soul doesn’t always come easily for you, either. ??

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