Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Rituals

When it comes to the world of institutionalized rituals, it doesn’t get any better than Catholicism. With the vestments, bells, gongs, candles, incense and the choir, if the believer is following the ways of the rituals, he is engaging in the “the step before devotion,” as a friend once called it. It’s true. If the participant is really involved in the ritualistic calls, she cannot fail to be drawn inward to inner contemplation. The Muslims aren’t too far behind either. The charismatic call of the muezzin brings the worshippers to their knees five times a day in prayer, all so that the believers may turn to Allah.

Any number of small, sweet rituals...

But if we’re not into formalized rituals, don’t think that it does not play a part in our lives. There are any number of small, sweet rituals that get us out of bed in the mornings. Families follow certain rituals as they arise so that they may get the day going. Those who quietly meditate often do so at the same time of day, and mind and body prepare for it. Even the church I ministered to, as devoid of formal ritual as it was, had an order that people could count on, and I noticed that some people did not arrive at the start of the service; they arrived at the place in the service that they was important to them, and they knew when it would take place.

Small "salvations" to be found...

I think there are actually some small “salvations” to be found in daily rituals. If a sudden shock comes along or a great sense of loss, our inclination to turn to the next order helps to stabilize us so that we can regain our footings. I have watched people fight to be able to do this.

They are to be cherished...

And then, there are private rituals that are dear only to us…the piece of chocolate after breakfast (or maybe before), the wearing of a favorite scarf when we are doing something important, reading the paper in the morning (if we still handle paper!). I think these are little touches that help us find ourselves during the day…and they are to be cherished.

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