Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Creed: Hocus Pocus

"I Love You". Do you use that phrase very often with important people in your life? Some do and some don't.

But if you do use it, maybe you've had the experience of realizing it's gotten kind of commonplace, it's become more a reflex than something you actually think about and put some oomph into you. And how could it not, really? End of a phone call, on your way to work, before bed -- not exactly peak experiences. Or, at least not all the time. (Imagine someone who tried to make everything they said saturated with meaning every time. Could be a great SNL skit. Or a description of the work of Charlton Heston.)

Or both.

Here's the thing -- just because you're not thinking about saying "I love you" every time you say it doesn't mean it's not having any impact. It's like watering a plant -- you don't have to know you're doing it for it to nourish the roots, do you? No, you don't.

I can't say I believe in magic spells. But all of those fairy tale witches and wizards had an insight that I think we all get behind, which is this: for good or for ill, words have power. What we say out loud has effects. it makes a difference. I saw the negative side of that all the time as a high school teacher. One kid would share a little gossip with another, and before you know it you'd have this hugely escalated situation in which no one knew the truth or where the rumor started, but if something wasn't done there was going to be huge explosion.

"I love you" is a positive form of that. And so, I think, is the creed. Its words knit us together and form our hearts. It's not just a statement of commitment, in fact maybe better it's a statement of intent. This is what I want to believe. This is what or who I want my life to be centered around. And perhaps part of the reason we say it every week is because making that desire a reality, breaking down my heart of stone into a heart of flesh, is not a one-shot deal, but the work of a lifetime.

Come to think of it, maybe that's why some of us say "I love you" so much, too...

I've got a little more to say on the Creed, but for Christmas, I think I'll try something a little bit different...

May the gentle light of Christ shine on you these days.

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