Friday, December 9, 2011

In Praise of Interruption

A while back I wrote about routine and interruption. It is fitting during Advent to examine our conscience to see whether we as disciples, particularly those in religious life, are willing to let God into our lives through the disruption of our routines, both the healthy and harmful ones.

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary, the mother of Jesus, offers a song of praise for the God whose ordinary mode of revelation lies in unsettling the settled ways of so-called civilization. God does this for the benefit of those who, like Mary and all the lowly, don't stand a chance in the empires of their age. The Canticle of Mary, or Magnificat, is recited or sung at evening prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.

A friend of mine, M.T. Davila, is a professor of Christian social ethics at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass. She recently preached a homily on the Magnificat at her seminary chapel. Her main point is that glorifying the God who rips into time and upends our settled existence is a terrifying thing. To illustrate her point she transposed Mary's prayer into a modern key, one that busy parents and professionals can say with authenticity. I share it here with you in admiration for her efforts to get God's Word across today, and in the hope you will be inspired to seek out, in faith, Mary's prayer as it comes down to us in Scripture.

Wherever you are, whatever you are up to, may God stop what you are doing!

My soul is bogged down with the burdens of keeping up appearances—
and therefore glorifying the Lord seems superfluous.
But I suppose that a roof over my head and healthy children to boot are more than enough to acknowledge that God is at work in my life.
I would appreciate all generations calling me successful, not blessed.
While the Mighty One has done great things for me—
Yeah, holy is God’s name, but surely he doesn’t need to hear it from me. I can’t be bothered with Magnifying.
That would be an unneeded and quite bothersome interruption.

And yet, God’s mercy extends to those whose homes have been foreclosed,
and the unemployed from generation to generation.
The Holy One has performed mighty deeds;
and scatters those who are proud and arrogant in our comfort and order.

God’s mercy disrupts the routine in my home, the discord and squabbles, opening new spaces for unbounded familial love.
She has brought down the rules of abuse and inhumanity from their thrones, discontinued collection calls, extended pressing deadlines, empowering me for interrupting and upending love.

Lifting up the humble, God points me to the reality of the hungry whom he tries to fill with good things despite our best efforts at keeping business as usual and upholding norms of inequality and indifference.
The rich, God sends away empty, empty to our antiseptic disinfected routines, our death-dealing normal.

My God has helped this servant, with the blessing of tremendous interruptions,
indeed, remembering to be merciful.
To me and to all the Divine calls out of the routine,
just as it was promised to our ancestors.

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