Rituals can enrich our world with meaning: 5-31-19
May 31, 2019
Sometimes religious ritual gets a bad reputation. It gets criticized as hollow, empty, rote. And, in fact, sometimes it is exactly that.
But ritual has stuck around this long because in sometimes-mysterious ways it speaks to us. We need it. It provides context and meaning that simply isn't otherwise available.
And when humans are deprived of meaningful ritual, they are impoverished in destructive ways. Just the other day, after attending a funeral at a Catholic church, I heard someone else who was there (and, like me, also not Catholic) say how much the funeral Mass meant to her, in part because its ritual was so structured, so set, so historic.
Some years ago, I attended a ceremony at a synagogue in which two adult friends went through Judaism's ritual called Bat (for females) and Bar (for males) Mitzvah. This normally happens when a child turns 13 or 14 or so, and marks a ceremonial entrance into adulthood.
But my friends had never gone through the ceremony because when they were growing up their branch of Judaism had decided not to do them. In part, it was a rejection of ritual.
But they missed that ritual. And, as adults, realized what was absent from their religious lives. So they went through the ceremony and the work required to be ready for it.
I was remembering them the other day when I read this story from Tablet Magazine about one man and 21 women living in a retirement home in Massachusetts who also just went through a Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony.
The author of the Tablet story writes this: "Students found the process a life-changing journey; one woman told me she no longer blames God for family tragedies such as the premature deaths of her father and husband. Some enjoy the intellectual stimulation of Jewish text study, while others have become attracted to Jewish spirituality and ritual practice. Still others are grateful to finally celebrate the milestone experienced by their brothers, children and grandchildren."
When we ritualize the world, we take it more seriously. And sometimes, in a culture that tries to entertain itself to death, that's an excellent thing to do.
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ANOTHER SLAP AT LGBTQ PEOPLE
Some African bishops in the worldwide Anglican Communion have decided not to attend next year's Lambeth Conference in England because it will include gay bishops in same-sex marriages. This is one more example of the pain that can be caused by a harsh and loveless misreading of the Bible. Sigh.