After my encounter at the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, which I wrote about yesterday, I have been pondering on how we approach God. The thing that really allowed me to embrace that service was the fact that I literally didn’t understand what was being said (it was in Dutch). I think that although I had chosen to go to the service, if I’m honest there would have been a certain level of expectation on my part – expectation of what I would feel like and what I would ‘enjoy’, and probably the thought that this wasn’t for me an act of worship (ashamed to say that, as I was taking communion too) but more one of furthering my personal interest.
So the fact that I didn’t understand meant that I just closed my eyes and focussed on the atmosphere. The Dutch accent, particularly in men, forms a sort of deep droning sound, and I really don’t mean that in any derrogatory way, just trying to describe the sound. A linguist would probably be able to describe it better, but it’s sort of deep, gutteral and often with little intonation. (Or perhaps that’s just the men I have heard!). This was rather emphasised by the Priest who was reciting copious liturgy and scripture, adding to the drone. So, to get to the point, the sound of him speaking, whilst sitting with my eyes shut, was very soothing. And interspersed with the wonderful choir, it felt really special. The word I used yesterday was ‘safe’. A rather rubbish and ineffectual word here, but it provoked a feeling of being in a place of great safety.
So in my pondering I have been thinking about why I found it such a special experience and I think the lack of intelligible words was key to it. In that space there were no words to cling to, no words to focus on, or to try and interpret, and so the natural atmosphere was more apparent. Was that the presence of the Holy Spirit, or was it just my own inner emotions? So many things can prompt our emmotions and memories, leaving us almost as a bystander in our own bodies, incapable of controlling what is going on.
So often we come to worship God and we are preoccupied. By our own worries, or what has been going on in the day. Or by the building and ones surroundings. Or by the service itself, the music, the liturgy, the Priest, the people around us. Sometimes it is very hard to get past all that and focus on God. The lyrics of that Matt Redman song come to mind:
When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come… Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
And thats the thing isn’t it. It is all about Him, no matter how we come to Him, or when or where. And I think thats what I learnt in that little church in Brugge (despite my issues with relics, as written yesterday) that He will meet me wherever I am and in whatever state!