Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, “because I said so!” was arguably my least favorite response from a grown-up. My need for a rhyme and reason for everything only increased with age, a trait I suspect many of you share with me. As Episcopalians, we are called not only by the church but by scripture itself to use our heads as well as hearts when we worship. The Royal School of Church Music, source of the Voice for Life program that will serve as the educational foundation of our choirs, has as its motto this:
Psallam spiritu et mente, or
I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also. ~1 Corinthians 14:15
For us Episcopalians, “because I said so!” just won’t do, nor should it. When Joshua told representatives from the twelve tribes of Israel to pull stones from the river (Joshua 4), he did not do so in an authoritarian manner, without giving the people the rationale behind this unusual liturgy. Instead, he explained as he directed, “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua explicitly stated that when children asked “why?” they were to be given a thoughtful and complete answer. We are all God’s children. We are meant to be mindful of the sights and sounds around us, to stay curious about them, and to encourage one other to ask and answer questions. In striving to worship with the spirit and the understanding also, we shall be drawn into a deeper understanding of the divine as we wonder together about the great mysteries that all of us now see only dimly, but will grow to understand more fully through the universal language of liturgy.
~ Krista Mays, Director of Music and Liturgical Arts