What I'm Reading: Liturgy of the Ordinary

Shobana Vetrivel   |   February 13, 2019 

A friend asked me sometime last year to recommend a few good books on theology written by women. The question threw me off a bit because I had to think for a while before any names came up. I’m a theology student and I could identify only a handful of books written by women that were prescribed as part of the syllabus. The conversation led me to make only one resolution this year – to identify women writers who’ve written on theology or on other themes related to the Christian life, not aimed purely at women, and put them on my reading list for the year.

I knew there would be many good ones out there and in my quest I stumbled upon this website which has a list of resources written mostly by women on different topics. As I read this list, the one book that leapt to my attention was “Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life” by Tish Harrison Warren. I was intrigued by the title mainly because of the two words - liturgy and ordinary.

Liturgy - because I grew up in a liturgical church tradition and found it to be extremely dry and boring at that time. The services were predictable with everything written out, and the same prayers and confessions and readings spoken or sung each Sunday. To a teenager looking for some excitement, it lacked the thrill factor. But as an adult and having been a Christian for a long time now, I see the beauty in liturgy . . . the fact that it is repetitive, predictable and thought through. It’s also true that every church, denomination and expression of faith has a liturgy – patterns and practices that shape the worship of the community as it gathers.

Ordinary – because everything around me is pushing me to be extraordinary and to make my mark in the world in a way that makes me stand out. Our culture drives us to be the best in studies, to aim to be the top student in the class, to aim for the best paying job, to be as successful as we can be and to be as innovative and cutting edge as we can be. This is not all bad; I’m all for hard work and giving your best but this somehow makes us look down on the ordinary, mundane and routine things. We don’t want to do the small, seemingly ordinary tasks, which are necessary for any of the extraordinary to happen. This seeps into our spiritual life as well; we want the thrill, excitement and recognition rather than the daily habits that sustain our faith.

In the book Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican Minister, walks through common often overlooked ordinary practices – waking up, making the bed, brushing teeth, eating, sleeping, sitting in traffic, etc. – looking at them as liturgies of the day that are intertwined with and transformed by communal liturgies. Just as liturgy shapes and forms the worship of a community, our daily practices, our daily liturgy shapes and forms us. By examining our daily liturgies, we realise the need to either make new habits that form us into more faithful worshippers or to realise the importance of the daily practices as a way of being in the world and to honour them as the sacred practices they are meant to be, because they are the site of our daily worship.

“We are shaped everyday, whether we know it or not, by practices – rituals and liturgies that make us who we are. The question to ask is 'What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?'"

“The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. We often want to skip the boring daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith – the making of the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small – that God’s transformation takes root and grows.”

This book has been a balm to my soul because I have loved how each daily practice she picks up, is connected in small ways to gospel truths. Not in an over-spiritual way, where we are to be constantly praying, singing worship songs or reading the Bible but how in our day to day life we come face to face with our brokenness, our humanity, our bodies and how in all those moments we can also come face to face with the God who loves and delights over us, who meets us at our weaknesses, who gives us the ability to enjoy His creation and to be good stewards of it, who empowers us to love our neighbours and to do justice through our everyday lives. I love the simple poetic language of the book and how it urges me to apply these grand theological truths to my everyday life.

“If I am to spend my whole life being transformed by the good news of Jesus, I must learn how grand, sweeping truths – doctrine, theology, ecclesiology, Christology – rub against the texture of an average day. How I spend this ordinary day in Christ is how I will spend my Christian life.”

If you’re exhausted with the daily grind and the routines of the every day, I highly recommend this book, which infuses meaning into the mundaneness of life. And if you have any recommendations for me on books written by women on theology or any other topics, please do leave a comment below!

 

“Our bodies, our pleasures, our fears, our fatigue, our friendships, our fights—these are in fact the stuff of our formation and transformation into the frail but infinitely dignified creatures we were meant to be and shall become. Our moments of exaltation and our stifled yawns—somehow they go together, part of the whole life that we are meant to offer to God day by day, as well as Sunday by Sunday, the life that God has taken into his own life. It is the life that Christ himself assumed, and thus rescued and redeemed.

With its laugh-out-loud moments and moving descriptions of a life lived imperfectly but well, this is a great gift of a book—an ordinary book, in one way, but also not ordinary at all. Take and read. Taste—not just the wine and bread, but the peanut butter and jelly, too—and see. The Lord is good. Every square inch of our lives, every second, is his.” (Andy Crouch, Foreword)

 

 

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Shobana Vetrivel

Shobana Vetrivel enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life and the adventure of living in New Delhi. She has an educational background in social development and theology and has worked in both development and ministry settings. She currently works with Delhi School of Theology and is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology. Books, travelling, theology, coffee and deep conversations are a few of her favourite things.  

2 comments on “What I'm Reading: Liturgy of the Ordinary”

  1. Great article and something I'm trying to do as well... read theologically grounded books that are written from a female perspective. I have a couple to recommend: A little Manual for Knowing by Meek (on my lis to read) and then I'm reading All That's Good by Hannah Anderson. So many books, so very little time!

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