The Liturgy and our Senses

The human mind is an amazing thing, as is the sacred liturgy.

When I got home yesterday, I found that the power was out. We grabbed every candle we could find from stove-top, the little shrine on the bookshelf, the Divine Mercy votive candle on the mantle, those decorative ones from above the cabinets, every candle. We lit them up around the house on the counter, on top of the piano, on my desk, and continued with our evening. After a little while, we were able to spend the rest of the evening more-or-less normally, bathed in the light of candles all over the place.
Then, all of a sudden, as our electricity came back on, and the ceiling lights with it, I was hit by a flood of emotions. I felt happy. I felt like I could jump for joy. And it had nothing to do with the power being restored. I honestly couldn’t tell you why, for a second. But then it clicked: Entire rooms lit only with candles for extended periods of time. Relative quiet, compared to normal life. Not a lick of artificial light. The smell of burning candle wax permeating through the whole room. The crucifix and Marian icon on the wall above my desk, lit clearly by the candle on my desk. Everything around me was telling brain I was at the Easter vigil, and that we’re about to sing the gloria for the first time in months! And to be honest, I was moved to prayer because of it.
This is such a great example of how the liturgy uses all of our emotions and senses, from the smell of wax, to the sight of entire rooms lit only by candlelight, to the feeling of wax in our hands and the taste of our Lord’s precious body, blood, soul and divinity, under the taste and appearance of bread. In His infinite wisdom, he knew that we would be able to best worship Him and be drawn to Him would be through the integration of all of our senses and emotions through the sacred liturgy. All those emotions I had yesterday evening were thanks to the amazing power of a truly beautiful liturgy.
He uses the incense, the sound of the priest’s prayers being sung, the other music of the organ and the choir, the taste of the bread on our tongues, the sight of beautiful artwork and architecture all around, and the sights of the clergy and servers in their beautiful venture, moving gracefully throughout the sanctuary and the the whole church.
“The earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no 8). The liturgy is something beyond our understanding. It is not something we do, it is given to us by God. It is something given to us for our salvation, something of supreme importance. Let’s always make it the most beautiful that it can be. We never know how it may touch someone, in small ways or in large ways.
Save the Liturgy, Save the world.