Repetition. What comes to mind when you think of repetition? Boredom? Routine? Security? Comfort? Familiarity? Drudgery? Does it have more of a positive or a negative connotation for you?
I tend to associate repetition with boredom, yet I find myself reflecting on the ways in which repetition is a very positive thing. Imagine going through a day in which everything you do, you’re doing for the first time. There is no time when you can go on auto-pilot and daydream while you cruise through making breakfast, driving to work, mowing the lawn. Everything requires your full concentration…it’s exhausting. I suspect the most avid thrill-seeker would draw the line at this! Repetition in some (many) areas of life leaves us with the energy (we hope) to learn and do new things.
A more positive word for repetition is "practice." While practice does not always make perfect, it is certainly true that very few of us have beginner’s luck and do our best on our first attempt. Obviously, this means we don’t do it exactly the same way every time – we learn to avoid mistakes and find more effective ways to accomplish the same task. Learning to do anything well, be it cooking, music, sports, or a job, takes time and practice…it takes repetition.
Another benefit of repetition is that we can build on the familiar to create something new. After years of practicing scales and exercises, I’ve learned that parts of those boring scales are now “built into” my fingers, and flow out without much thought when the music calls for them – even when I haven’t practiced regularly in a long, long time.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m rambling on about the benefits of repetition. Well, one area of our lives where we have a love/hate relationship with repetition is prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours repeats every four weeks; the Rosary is built on contemplative repetition of the Hail Mary, and we fret about repetition and worry about praying in our own words. Yes, we can and should and must pray in our own words…but we can and should and must pray in the words Jesus told his disciples to use, and must do that often. One of the last times my grandmother spoke coherently to me was when I started saying the Our Father and she joined in. Alzheimer’s had robbed her of so much, but that prayer, deeply engrained by close to 90 years of repetition, was still with her.
I have found that the repetition of the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours has engrained those prayers of the Church into me as well. These, too, were Jesus’ prayers – as a good Jew, he prayed the Psalms in the synagogue. I know that the Office is making a difference in my prayer life when a situation brings one or another psalm to mind. Just as practicing scales make playing an instrument easier, so praying the rhythm of the psalms regularly helps us in our personal prayer.
I’m happy that our fraternity has been able to make Morning Prayer a regular part of our monthly meetings. I assure you, there is far more treasure in the Liturgy of the Hours than we can explore in Saturday Morning prayer! If you aren’t already praying from Shorter Christian Prayer or something similar on a regular basis, I encourage you to consider making the effort. It will be challenging at first, but with repetition it will first get easier, then the prayers will start becoming part of you.
May God bless you richly this month and always.......Vickie