Sunday, January 25, 2015

No es perfecto, pero es fiel.

Why can't I sleep in on Sunday mornings?

After massive amounts of time working through Rosetta Stone for Spanish on breaks, time speaking Spanish with employees and parishioners at the Cathedral, and walks in the city, I'm pretty worn out at the end of the day. Though it's definitely hot and muggy, the fan is nice and I've been sleeping fairly well.

But still, today was Sunday morning and so I was wide awake at 7am. I didn't even have to be in the church (which is literally a walk across the parking log) until 8:30am. But, my body knew it was Sunday and so woke me up.

Dean Brooks had offered to let me celebrate the Spanish language Eucharist at 10:45am today. I declined, insisting that learning a new liturgical space in a language I'm still not fluent in would probably not, in the words of #MarionofBlessedMemory, be "edifying to the people." Instead, I said I would prefer to celebrate the 8:45am Eucharist so I could get a little used to the space. Then, next Sunday (when I'd had a week to practice with my tutor), maybe I could take my first shot at celebrating the liturgy.

But still, 7am seemed a little early to wake up. Nonetheless, I made coffee, spent some more time working through Rosetta Stone lessons, and then made my way to the cathedral.

When I was at Nuevo Amanecer in August, one of the things I learned in a presentation about cultural difference between Anglos and Latinos is that Anglos value time and Latinos value relationships. That is, whereas it is kind of a thing for Anglo Episcopal Churches to start on the nose at the appointed time (I may have put atomic clocks in my own parish...), Latinos would rather spend five more minutes talking to someone than start anything on time.

So, though I was vested and ready to go ten minutes early (my vergers would be so proud), around five minutes AFTER the liturgy SHOULD have started, I was still in the chancel listening to the organist tell me about the difficulties of maintaining the only tracker organ on the entire island in this heat, without even proper electrical grounding. Finally, though, the liturgy got underway about fifteen minutes late (seriously).

I think that is why they announce an 8:45am start time, so everything can actually get underway at 9:00am.

Celebrating for the first time in a space you don't know, with a customary you don't know, is difficult. Thankfully, Dean Brooks is a class act and has that gift some clergy develop for subtly directing the celebrant what to do when and where. (He left a spot in the middle for me in front of the altar, then when I got there, waited for me to reverence for us all to go together and then softly gestured to the side and chair I was supposed to go to).

My celebration was not flawless (the bulletin didn't list a hymn number for the Gloria and so I began it spoken before Deacon Alejandra touched my shoulder, causing me to stop and allowing the organ to begin), but it was... earnest.

Someone told me once that I am a very earnest priest. I hope that's a good thing.

The rest of the liturgy was like that, a flub here or there, trying to be in the right place in the right time knowing every church does things a little differently. Dean Brooks wanted us to sing a different hymn for the sequence than the one that was printed, and so just went ahead and went to the back, got a different hymnal for the twenty or so worshippers, and told us all we were going to sing this one instead.

It's fine. No es perfecto, pero es fiel. It is not perfect, but it is faithful.

Given the Gospel reading for today, his substitution was natural. It was actually the first Latino worship song I ever learned: Pescador de Hombres.

A group sang it at the institution of Bishop Katharine as Presiding Bishop. I remember liking the sound of it and looking up the lyrics... I couldn't even get through the first verse and chorus before the tears started flowing:
Lord, you have come to the seashore,neither searching for the rich nor the wise,desiring only that I should follow. 
O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me,gently smiling, you have spoken my name;all I longed for I have found by the water,at your side, I will seek other shores.
One of the dangers—the great dangers—of liturgical worship is that we become so focused upon doing it properly that we lose sight of what we are attempting to do: to create space to be present with God. Hence, one of my favorite liturgical dictums, "The greatest mistake to make in liturgy is worrying too much about making a mistake."

There were indeed mistakes and flubs today. I generally prefer liturgy I organize to run a little more smoothly. I could not imagine our organist, John, calling out to me before the Sequence Hymn, "Was that the tune you wanted, or did you want the setting next to it?" I shudder to consider what would happen if I handed out an entirely different hymnal in the midst of the liturgy because I wanted us to sing a different hymn or because I had made a mistake in the bulletin.

I have learned that Latino worship is not quite as... up tight... as Anglo worship can be. And I say that as a confessed (and avowed) rubrical enforcer—they give us special pins. The goal of carefully prepared and orchestrated worship is that all of the worshippers can blend into the liturgical action, no one wondering what is happening next and no one person ever standing out.

And true, the celebration of Holy Eucharist today was not perfect at either service, but it was faithful.

No es perfecto, pero es fiel. It is not perfect, but it is faithful.

Because our desire for perfection can be a distancing move. Our practice of liturgy can be a distancing move, one that keeps us from truly seeing Christ in the sacrament, sonriendo, gently smiling. It can keep us from seeing that all Christ wants is for us to follow. Tan solo quieres, que yo te siga.

Oh Señor, yo quiero aprender a seguir.

Oh Lord, I want to learn to follow.

Porque a veces ser fiel es mejor que sea perfecto.

Because sometimes to be faithful is better than to be perfect.

No. Siempre es mejor ser fiel es mejor que sea perfecto.

It is always better to be faithful than to be perfect.

1 comment:

  1. You brought tears to my eyes with that Hymn, sometimes we can get accustomed to some things and then looking at them from a different perspective has it's fruit. Somehow to read that hymn in English had that effect for me, it was known, but new. Thanks.