This weekend I had a conversation about my love for liturgy in my spiritual life and practice. The routine is something that speaks to me. It leaves a space to enter into something familiar where something unexpected might happen. On the recommendation of one of my cousins, I picked up Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” by Kathleen Norris and I was seriously encouraged and challenged by her book.
We all know that we take for granted the everyday routines in our lives. We all know that some days we run on autopilot. We all know that we dread doing the dishes and laundry after a long day at work or a glorious day off. Yet it is how we act in these small, everyday tasks that grounds us and allows us to wake up and see the world around us. Norris speaks of these moments and the potential for how to make them meaningful.
She relates our everyday tasks to those everyday prayers that happen in Churches (and should happen, at least for me, more at home):
“No human being can pay full attention to the words that he or she is praying every single day, and apparently this is how God would have it. Sometimes, particularly at crisis points in our lives, we feel these words with our whole heart. They seem to burn in our chests, and bring tears to our eyes. We find that we mean them in ways that remain unfathomable, and on rare occasions a new interpretation of a line or image will come to us” (Pg 81).
This is precisely why I love liturgy! Yet Norris challenges her readers to be aware of those routines and habits we get into and how we can become more aware during them. “Laundry, liturgy and women’s work all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-support work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings. But they have a considerable spiritual import, and their significance for Christian theology, the way they come together in the fabric of faith, is not often appreciated. But it is the daily tasks, daily acts of love and worship that serve to remind us that the religion is not strictly an intellectual pursuit, and these days it is easy to lose sight of that as, like our society itself, churches are becoming more politicized and polarized. Christian faith is a way of life, not an impregnable fortress made up of ideas; not a philosophy; not a grocery list of beliefs” (Pg 77; emphasis mine).
Norris’ book has been humbling, challenging, and encouraging all at the same time. Her gift for poetic language made her ideas a joy to read, even while they packed a punch! I can tell that this is a book I will be rereading over and over again.
“The Bible is full of evidence that God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a great cosmic cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us–loves us so much that we the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life” (Kathleen Norris).
“With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” (Matthew 6:9-13)