Men and women, bearers of the Imago Dei, have five main senses. Senses which are heightened in times of joy and pain, compensate for each other in loss, and allow us to experience the depths and heights of human existence.
A view of a majestic mountain, tranquil beach or dazzling skyline can take our breath away in wonder. A scent wafting on the breeze can transport us to other times and places, bring vivid memories to life and draw our deepest feelings to the surface. The touch of a loved one’s hand can instantly comfort and encourage. Music has the power to describe and elicit the most powerful of emotions. When we feast at a table spread with earth’s bounty, drinking fine wines in the company of other lovers of God, we experience a depth of community unmatched outside heaven.
A rich life, a life lived vividly, is one that engages our senses as well as our minds, a life that fills our soul with glimpses of the Glory of God and prompts us to wonder and worship.
So why, then, do we confine our practice of our spirituality to a single sense? Why do we neglect the fullness of experience in the one place where we should engage the whole of our bodies, where we should be filling the temple with the praise of our maker?
Last weekend, I had the privilege of making new friends, friends who, for our first meeting, invited me to join them at their little Anglican church for Sunday Eucharist. As we sang, and listened and reflected, I looked around. I looked at a corrugated steel warehouse transformed into a place set apart for the meditation on the love of God. The vestments, chalices, reverential sounds of liturgy and the taste of the wine and wafer all drew me in to the contemplation of my Saviour.
The beauty and richness of an icon, the lovely rhythm of a chanted psalm or the waft of incense can engage our souls in a way that merely listening to a sermon and singing along to a chorus cannot.
I find myself wondering if, in our desire for clarity in understanding God, in our struggle for our minds to be made new, we haven’t backed ourselves into a sterile corner, a place where words are our primary medium and the remaining senses are seen as redundant?
What if we didn’t see the practice of our faith as something only for our minds to engage with? What if we engaged all our senses in worship? What if we embraced our historical roots, roots in which the Church was the fountain of artistic expression, where the greatest artists and composers found not only inspiration but audience for their works?
Sometimes, simplicity isn’t enough. My souls longs for richness. In re-embracing a liturgical and sacramental tradition, I am rediscovering the joy of communal worship as a feast for the soul.