O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever… (Psalm 136)
In the church I grew up in I heard preaching against "vain repetition" often enough to know that it was something grievous, something right up there with lying and stealing and coveting.
What I didn’t know, what I came to understand later in life, was that a good deal of that "preaching" was simply a veiled castigating reference against (primarily) Catholics whose liturgy incorporated a great deal of repetition.
Of course anything vain, is, well, vain. But repetition itself (is this too obvious?) is essential for growth, for mastery, for reorientation, for getting up and out of our deeper ruts, and for deepening our good channels.
Addiction treatment programs, for example, are really about reorienting lives through repetition, through rehearsal of right thought and action. And when that repetition is guided and driven by a spirit awakened by God’s love the chance of permanent return to the deep-rut pretty well vanishes.
Certainly Psalm 136 should put to flight any (Protestant) fretting about repetition. Why the entire Psalm is one long cyclical hymn to God’s steadfast love. The Psalm, because of its structure, can’t help but become a meditation on God’s enduring love and all the grace and mercy and forgiveness that that encompasses.
And isn’t it at loving where we need constant rehearsal? (I suspect we’re in luck. Sometime today we’ll get a chance to rehearse love.)
For those of us who have had the benefit of years of rehearsal, should not love dominate our lives in such a way that it follows us like fragrance follows a flower?