On Formation

As someone who cares deeply about spiritual formation, it’s always interesting to me when I get little glimpses of the process especially when I see it in my children…

My 7th grader is required to do a Bible journal for her Bible class wherein they write reflections on the chapter of the Bible they have read that night for homework. In the car on the way home yesterday, she was leafing through her journal, looking at the comments her teacher had left. They’re working through 1 Samuel right now, and she said her teacher (a former RC priest) was very pleased with her entry on chapter 2; she had gone through the Song of Hannah and had called out all the way through it the parallels with the Magnificat.

Here’s the thing, though—she was writing the Magnificat from memory and I have no idea when she’s heard it last… Now, generally M and I pray the Offices separately rather than together and as a family because if we tried to coordinate them, we’d rarely ever pray them. Sometimes in Lent we try to do Evening Prayer together as a family, but we’re not as regular about that as we’d like to be. So, it’s not even from frequent recent repetition that she was able to pull it up. There was a time for a year or two when we tried to get daily Evening Prayer going in our former parish and G would often be there and would sometimes lead the service. That was probably three or four years ago. Was this passive formation from then expressing itself now? I have no idea.

The other thing that struck me as she was reading what she wrote is that the text cited was recognizably BCP Rite I as she quoted verbatim the phase “sent empty away.” I wonder if she chose this because it’s simply the way she remembers hearing it, or because she and her best friend are self-consciously antiquarian Anglophiles (no idea where she gets that from…), or if the now non-standard word order makes it stick more firmly in the memory. I suspect the last, although all three are likely in play.

1 thought on “On Formation

  1. Barbara S.

    I would think leading the service would have a big effect, since you have to make sure everything happens correctly – which means you can’t space out at all. But actually in my experience it doesn’t take long for things to start to seep into the mind and memory, even if you’re just attending (or reading) and you DO space out; it’s all got a certain rhythm of its own.

    I agree about the non-standard word order (i.e. “poetry”) – but I also think that rhythmically “sent empty away” just works much better than “sent away empty,” so it’s just easier to say. I’m betting that’s why they wrote it that way, in fact….

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