Monday, October 31, 2016

The abandonment of ego

Today we pick up reading the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians with chapter 2. There St. Paul puts forward what may well be the most difficult challenge in living the Christian life. Each of us is to avoid all selfishness or the search for what he calls empty praise. And we are always supposed to act not looking toward our own interests but the interest of others.

The surrender of self and self interest is a constant struggle for all of us. Two places where we can easily see it are when we drive and even more when we are on the phone and put on hold. In those moments how many of us can hear St. Paul's admonition to think of others as more important than yourself?

The Church provides us a place to practice selflessness in her liturgy. In liturgical prayer we are called to abandon ourselves to the prayer of the Church. The presider is called on to use not their own words or gestures but those of the Church. Every aspect of the liturgy (words, postures, vessels, vestments) belongs to the Church and not to any individual or community. Even the homily is not about whatever the priest or deacon chooses but is limited to those topics listed in the General Instruction.

To celebrate the liturgy in this selfless way requires tremendous discipline. All of us at times feel the urge to deviate. Those on the right want to import from previous forms of liturgy. Those on the left want to be creative. Both are manifestations of the same ego that says, "I know better."We practice selflessness in liturgical prayer in the hope that it will help us to live it in our daily lives.

Every time we walk through the doors of a Church we should remind ourselves that this is the time and place that I surrender myself. And when we hear that interior voice rising up to criticize (the deacon, the lector, the musician, the priest), we should recognize it as ego, name it and return to a spirit of prayer. If we look closely we will find that our greatest distraction do not come from the outside but from our self.