Rituals that aren't just rituals
Most of my life I've bought into the notion that the terms ritual and meaningless often go hand in hand. AND in the accompanying notion that when rituals happened to not be meaningless, their meaning was found solely in the effect it had on the individuals present. In other words, ritual, as I saw it, really accomplished nothing except a sort of superficial - perhaps psychological - transformation of people witnessing or performing the ritual. I was cool with rituals as long as they were fresh, new, and effective in transforming people in the manner previously suggested. A ritual I was once counseled to do - as a protestant - was to write on a piece of paper a particular sin that was burdening me and then, after confessing that sin to God, to burn the paper. Very effective to me mentally...but what if rituals do, and indeed are intended to do more than just make us feel good? What if rituals are, or at least can be REAL?
With such an understanding about rituals, would we then approach them more fearfully or cautiously? St. Paul warned the Corinthian church that communion could make you sick, and even kill you if you took it in an unworthy manner:
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
Not exactly the sort of thing that you would expect to happen in a ritual intended solely for our emotional well-being, huh?
We live in a culture that downplays the mystical - do we not? The wedding ceremony (indeed the marriage itself) today is seen as an unneccesary "peice of paper." And then, even if we embrace some aspect of mysticism, we isolate it from our bodies and make it purely "spiritual"...two extremes of the same error - I think.
I am reminded of this fact because at each liturgy, as the priests and deacons pass through the Royal Doors of the Iconostasis we are exhorted: "In the fear and love of God, draw near!" It makes you pause for a moment and think about what exactly you are doing as you approach the Chalice...with fear and love. Sometimes I abstain from communion because I have not prepared (or examined as St. Paul recommends) myself properly or because I have had a bad morning with the kids and grew angry or whatever the case may be - I am learning to take sacramental theology seriously and in so doing I am also recognizing - as the Church teaches - that God's Holy Mysteries are not limited to the seven biggies. And thus, I am learning to approach ALL of life with reverence. In the fear and love of God, I am drawing near to REAL life...REAL ritual.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 8:01 AM [+]