Anne Koerner Simpson // Genius of the Call


February 20  

The playfulness of children is an exercise of their limitless youthful imagination, but it often mimics grown-up realities. For example, the “Mama” with the baby doll wrapped in an old cloth and shushed to sleep, or a “Vet” dutifully checking the heart rate of the stuffed animals with the plastic stethoscope, and the “Chef” standing at the toy kitchen, creating a huge pot of vegetable soup. The examples are almost endless. Play begins simply and naturally and often grows as the children grow to include elaborate made-up games with many rules. When a child plays, he just plays. Is there really a purpose other than it is natural and fun and an expression of youthful imagination? Not to the children, I’m sure. However, experts know that young children learn by playing, and it is critical to their development. To put it simply, when a child plays, she learns to be human. A child that never has the opportunity to play is a deprived and sick child.

A week ago, on Ash Wednesday, we went to church and allowed a person to place ashes on our heads. It is a symbol of the season of Lent, a symbol of our nothingness without God, and a symbol of our penitence. But there is something playful about this action. Our liturgy has a playful quality about it. On Ash Wednesday we played “dress-up” in ashes.

The liturgy is not only our sacramental life which sustains us in this world, but it is also the earthly sign and symbol of heaven. We can think of our participation in the Mass much like our child’s participation in play time and pretending to be “grown-up.” Our participation in the Mass is galvanizing us for our future—and our future is heaven. This galvanization takes place organically in the lived space and time of the liturgy. Besides, of course, the grace of the sacraments themselves and the Eucharist, we have also the liturgical calendar of seasons, the cycles of readings, the feasting and fasting, the celebrations and their preparations that year after year draw us—not round and round in a repeating circle—but up and up in a spiral toward union with God. One day, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, we will be welcomed into heaven, and because of our play, our practice, our familiarity with the earthly liturgy, we may be able to say to the heavenly hosts, “I know how this goes,” or “I’ve sung this song before,” or “I know this by heart.” As a child plays, he learns how to be human. As we play in the liturgy, we learn how to be divine.

Adults, driven by purpose and responsibilities, can have difficulty being playful. Lent is typically a time of seriousness. We buckle down and we get to work with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes we feel like we are only doing it “right” if we are extra miserable, but what if we approach Lent as a time of playfulness in Christ? What happens when we open our eyes to the playfulness of the liturgy, the playfulness of our children, and the playfulness of our leisure and home life? How might looking through the lens of playfulness change our daily Lenten goals?

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • This is so beautiful! What a lovely and refreshing perspective. I particularly love the imagery of spiraling up and up toward union with God. Thank you for this!

  • Love this, so sweet and simple just like Our Heavenly Father is with His children. “Adulting” can make life so difficult at times and having this mindfulness that the Liturgical calendar and the Liturgy allows us to pray, “play” and plan for our Divine home in union with Him. Thank you Anne

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