Entering Into Liturgy

I’ll never forget the time I arrived late to hear a classical singer I had been following for years.  Ushers prevented me from entering until her first set was completed, which ended up being an agonizing fifteen minutes.  Although I understood why I was not allowed to enter, I kicked myself for losing those precious moments.  A concert is an aural experience and extraneous sound can not only poison the acoustics but also distract both the audience and the performer.  The same criteria apply to liturgy, which is communal prayer expressed through sound and gesture: spoken prayers, readings, and music accompany the rituals we know as liturgical prayer.  It’s easy to forget this fundamental aspect of our common prayer when we are focused primarily on our need and reason to be present, neglecting to consider the needs of others.

When we arrive at liturgy after prayer has commenced, we must not distract others by taking a seat during the prayers/readings, and instead remain still until they have ended.  Use the gathering area for removing jackets, putting away keys and silencing phones.  Distributing toys is not the best option for children; a later column will cover this.  Keep in mind that texting during liturgy or even following the readings on a smart phone, unless one has limited hearing, can be very distracting to others.

When choosing a seat, it is important to take a place among the assembly, as close to the sanctuary as comfortably possible because it is an area of central focus. Deliberately choosing to stand when there is available seating, or desiring to be in the last rows or in the gathering space, if other than for physical or medical reasons, tends to reveal our attitude towards the liturgy or an unhealthy spiritual disposition towards the sacred (I am not worthy).  The most hospitable gesture with regard to seating is to come as forward as possible, scooting in so that others won’t have to awkwardly pass us to seat themselves.  Good etiquette with entering and seating is a way of practicing Christian charity.