By Leo Campos
What do we use language for? In a church setting how is language used? On Sundays what is th elanguage you use, and how does it compare to your Monday language? We tend to think of language as this “thing” that points to an experience. The experience (“Look at this tree”) is “out there” and language points us to it (“looking”, “tree”). But language itself is an experience. If you are trying to be fully present to this moment you should get lost in the experience of language itself.
Church language, BIble language is also a vaccine. It contains some agent (words) that resembles the disease (divorcing ourselves from God’s Reality, the Fall, Babel as well) . Vaccines are made from weakened or killed forms of the disease. So good word-vaccines are made of neutralized strong emotional statements (“dash the babies against the rock”). Strong vaccine! But it is neutral in the sense that it is not my experience or my actions which are described, so it gives me an “out” a way to not get too involved. And yet these are all actions I could (and probably would) commit in the right circumstances.
So through skillful use of language we can overcome the poison which is language. Thus a common exercise is to read the psalms over and over. They are a vaccine against our crass use of language. They refine and purify our own language until all we say and all we hear is psalm.
For example here is a vestry psalm (no resemblance to my wonderful colleagues at my vestry):
Have been having some issues with the leaders The vestry is full of barking dogs They prowl around growling, keeping everyone in line They bite with their teeth, they hit everyone with their rules They prod the people with their regulatory spears What are your “job duties” they ask? We will tell you what God says! O God I dislike interlopers who say “You are not godly unless...” Lord come quickly and rid us of all these rule-mongers Why can’t people just trust in your love? They email me harsh words, make demands But I want only to have space to be with you In the silence of the evening I want to sit Content as a chick waiting for you
And here's a psalm about looking forward to a massage:
After the work of days and days After the tending of data, planting of reports, the cycle of meetings Today O Lord I get to be tended. Please Lord God of Life do not let me be disappointed. Let their hands be skillful who will tend your servant Lord, I cry out to you let their hands be supple With a stronger body O lord I will sing for joy and give you praise!
You will find much in your own life which is psalmody, if you listen carefully to language, and become a prayerful presence to your own life.
Brother Leo Campos is the co-founder of the Community of Solitude (www.communityofsolitude.com), a non-canonical, ecumenical contemplative community. He worked as the "tech guy" for the Diocese of Virginia for 6 years before going to the dark side (for-profit world).