Word power


As a new Catholic, I was enthralled by the beauty of the liturgy.

I wanted the priest to slow down so every word could be savoured fully; but the pace was such, I felt like a hungry woman being rushed past delicious food.

I’d glance at the people near me: some would be attentive; others would be fidgeting or distracted.

I wondered how anyone could fail to be involved with the beautiful words given us.

Thirty-five years later, I’m the same as everyone else.

The liturgy has been internalised and is sometimes taken for granted.

In the middle of the Gloria I can be thinking about a grandchild or wondering what kind of vinegar I’ll use to pickle the onions.

I catch myself straying, thank Jesus for his patience, and refocus; but there are more distractions waiting around the corner.

That’s how it is for most of us. We tend to bring our busy lives to church.

On a silent retreat, however, the clutter of our daily lives tends to fall away, and God takes us deeper to a place where words of prayer can have intense meaning for us.

The liturgy can glisten like strings of jewels.

Words and phrases can be butterflies leaving their context to fly to us with new meaning.

Some words are like seeds. They lodge themselves in our hearts, take root and grow into a new plant that fills us with fragrance.

It is all God’s work.

On a recent eight-day silent retreat, the pattern of early morning prayer began with the Anima Christi:

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.

May your body and blood be my food and drink.

May your passion and death be my strength and life.

With you by my side with your love, it is enough…

Sitting in a little chapel, the dark lit by a flickering candle, this old prayer became new.

In slow time, I sat with each word, tasting it on the tongue, allowing it to fill mind and heart. In doing so, I discovered the spiritual significance of a little three letter word usually ignored.

That word is ‘and.’

The simple word ‘and’ is defined by three syllables, conjunction, and for school children ‘and’ is simply a joining word. But in the context of prayer, we can say, ‘and’ is a word of unity.

We may even see it as a holy word, making one of two, healing divisions, sometimes bringing difference into a larger sameness.

Body and blood. Food and drink. Passion and death. Strength and life.

We could go further and use AND as a symbol of God’s love in a world where fear causes much division.

With an awareness of ‘and’ as an instrument of spiritual unity, we can take this worldwide: God and us, men and women, parents and children, faith and works, justice and peace. The list is endless, including you and me.

Everything, of course, is in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen, amen.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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