The Liturgy of Home: Place and Practise

Fog diffuses light and shadow, shrouds the world around me in unfamiliar shapes, bringing with it the damp smells of earth and balsam. Raucous calls emanate from the rook perched amongst the pines. Watching, listening, I sit still—allowing the morning’s wild silence to feed my soul. I revel in weekends and mornings; their hours hold out strong fingers of life and help to me. A cheery kettle often whistles its tea-song as I poach an egg or wipe the table. Benedictine’s chant a Psalm whilst I wash the dishes, my own prayers rising with their strains and the water’s steam.

Morning rhythms thrum through my day, setting the tone for the day’s song. If I begin with a Psalm and moments for prayer, the first melody is strong. If I add to that the kitchen tidying and sweeping, a chord of harmony twines into the day. Weaving in reading or writing—if I have given myself enough time for leisure—the chorus grows more substantial by the time I greet my fellow workmates. This is home—this practise of cultivating habits and routines which chart the course of days and weeks.

I grew up in a home that was less focussed on punctuality and more concerned with ‘life together.’ My mother set routines both around the morning meal and reading Scripture aloud to me and my sisters. My father would engage us all in conversation over dinner, leaving time to read together after the table was cleared or just before bed. Sometimes we would shift our evening routine, having friends over for dinner or coffee. We would hold hands and pray together. There we were, gathered around the table, listening to stories and laughing over the trifling events of the day—glad for friends with whom we could share both words and meals.

Time swirls on as ever—I cannot believe how many years ago I grew up in my parents’ home. I have since moved to my own cottage, a tiny cabin peering out at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Here I have scrubbed, dusted, and decorated. I have laughed and cried, both with friends and alone. I have acquired and organized books and bookshelves. Here I have stocked cabinets with tea and food to serve at the whim of a knock. And here I have learned that being still is a practise—not an intrinsic right that comes with living solo.

It seems safe to say that home is a place of comfort and cheer, of peace and pleasure. If you do not believe me, think of the households where there is chaos, violence, stony silence, instability, or abuse. Out of these dens come hurting individuals, hungry for peace, yearning for safety and love. Acceptance and care, feeling like they belong, is the home-feeling they are looking for—whether it comes from a gang or a healthy family.

Indeed, home is a place, not a nebulous placeholder, like your internet browser’s so-called ‘homepage.’ Yet home is much more than a tactile frame of timber and glass. Home is a practise—the practical application of routines and daily liturgy. Home is private—a place to rest and a bulwark from the buffeting tempests of life-storms. Home is public—an open-door-hospitality sort of shelter for friends and family in times both of laughter and tears.

We live in a culture that is anything but home-like. It separates, drawing individuals off into solitary pursuits, or keeping families so busy that a meal together is an anomaly. Busy-ness and individualism are the antitheses to home life, community, and sanity. Keeping a frenetic schedule allows precious little time for reflection, an act of both soul and spirit that is needed to balance reality and dreams.

Knowing that reflection is an essential need, I make space for it in my mornings and weekends. Sometimes this means setting aside books and screens, simply looking out the window as I enjoy a meal, or sitting on my porch watching the rain drip from the pine needles. Other times, this means going for a solitary walk. As I was reflecting recently, I realised that the way my parents raised me and my sisters was not perfect, but it was good. The ‘life together’ aspect of the dinner table, of evening recreation, of opening our home or going to friends’ homes, of working together in the garden or to make dinner set a theme for my life. These things painted a robust and rich picture of home for me.

We need flourishing homes in our lonely, fragmented culture. Are our homes the sort that cast a beam of warm, golden light out into the dark of night? Do the weary, worn, busy travellers along the road of life find us—and our dwellings—places of solace? May the habits we practise—order, hospitality, togetherness, and reflection—shine out into the inky night as a beam of hope for all who see it and choose to come inside.

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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