Monday, April 25, 2005

Rituals

This one, this Gandalf to my Frodo, laughingly derided himself for eschewing ritual in true independentfundamentalbabtist form then practicing it in his prayer life. He prayed in the same order every day (me first of course :) and felt that God was having a laugh at his expense. Perhaps He was; no He definitely was. I began to think about rituals, for I too had written them off as bad in theory while practicing them every day. I realized that it is the rituals that save us, or at least me, when we cannot save ourselves. The Protestants, always doing what their name says, left ritual behind because it had become empty and formulaic--devoid of the meaning they so desperately sought in their lives. Then a splinter group protested against the rituals the Protestants had developed and formed their own club, again seeking meaning. But they too, fell into the trap of rituals, for is it not a ritual to have the same order of service every Sunday, to have the same schedule every week, to be expected to wear the same thing as everyone else? Rituals, all (and less meaningful than the original ones). Admit it. If you won't, I will. So I found a church that revisits the rituals: the Lord's Supper, Advent, Lent. They are rich with meaning if we seek the substance within the form. If we allow our hearts to be quickened by what they represent. I have picked up the baby that someone threw out with the bathwater and found it to be beautiful. And then there are times when our hearts (my heart) cannot attain to the level of pure worship, and we fall back on ritual. It can become a barrier to knowing God, but it can also be the vehicle that propels us toward Him until we have the strength to rise and speak our hallelujahs. Each day I perform a ritual. Only God and I know about it. It is an act of obedience to Him that has long since become ritual alone. The substance beneath the symbolism is dead and my heart with it, but I do it in hopes that God will restore not only my heart but the worship behind the ritual. In due time; in His time. I know it is the ritual that saves me because it calls me back to what is true, what is right, what is lovely. Had I no ritual, I would have no reminder to walk in faith as Abraham did. I would gradually slip away into the sea of despair. It is my little practice that moors me with the anchor of faith that God will reappear. I do it for Him whether I feel like it or not and know that He hears the deepest part of me worshipping. Worshipping with a ritual.

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