Since recently purchasing a copy of Shane Claiborne, et. al, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, I’ve been thinking about the value of communal worship. And this is a period of more-than-usual opportunities for such worship.
I have heard many people say something on the order of “I don’t need to go to Mass. I can pray to God on my own.” And, of course, that is true. We can pray to God everywhere and anywhere and solitary contemplative prayer is an important part of our communication with God.
Nonetheless, I know that for me, communal worship is important. I would miss something that matters to me if I didn’t attend Mass, Taize services and other rituals and forms of worship where a faith community comes together. I take solitary time with God every day (something I need and love) and I’m conscious of the presence of God in my interactions with friends and family and at other times, but still, there is something significant to me in communal worship.
In cleaning out some files, I came across a quote from Henri Nouwen that spoke to the value of communal worship, but in a way that articulated the value in a way I hadn’t thought of, but that seems to me vitally important. In The Road to Peace Nouwen writes
Worship is coming together as a community of God to claim the presence of Christ. So we listen to the readings, we break the bread, we share the cup, we sing songs. They are all gestures in which we remind each other that no matter what we are experiencing – whether it is joy or pain or suffering – God is there.
It is not just about what we get ourselves from communal worship, it is about what we give each other – the reminders, when reminders are needed, that God is here…and that we are here (as Christ) for each other.