Between rituals and ceremonies…

“I feel the term ritual should not be squandered or loosely applied to inconsequential and habituated behavior. There the better word to use might be ceremony. Authentic ritual enactment concerns itself with transition and transformation; ceremony with the awarding and preservation of status.”

Bani Shorter, Susceptible to the Sacred: The Psychological Experience of Ritual (Routledge: London, 1996, p.30)

I’m tired of going to his mass, not that I’m tired of going to mass. Who is not (unless one doesn’t really care about the distinction above) when even in the closing of the Church’s liturgical year capped by Christ the King, all one hears during the homily is the perfunctory, repetitive, information-driven reminder of how a liturgical year looks like, the major seasons and its distinctive assigned colors, not to mention of the pending projects like the multipurpose building and the covered walkway aimed for the coming advent dawn masses and Christmas. I found it very anti-ritual, shallow, devoid of the kind of substance that a meditative homily is potent to transform the landscape of attention of the listeners. One could argue that perhaps more from among the congregation still need those information. But isn’t this spiritual consumerism at the expense of the depth of a ritual, Eucharist for this matter, where a homily is an opportunity to plunge deeper into the mystery of Christ’s humility, rather than get caught up in the pragmatics of liturgical legalism? Isn’t it theologically commendable that a homily part is where worshipers can “take off their sandals” as flesh and spirit plunge more deeply into Ember of the Unknowable?

“Brought to the crossroads, where creative freedom is a choice, at the juxtaposition of human and divine energies, space is required for contemplation of the mystery of revelation. This space will be imbued with symbolic presence and respect for that presence determines the outcome. For the symbol does not disguise; it reveals over time. Attentiveness is needed during the process of its unfolding, a certain patience and the willingness to relate to it as something more than oneself though belonging to oneself. Meaning follows.”

“Ritual is the name we give to what happens in that hazardous space, gives witness and pays homage to an encounter between human and divine forces, an exchange that involves a sharing of attributes, though not of essences. Precisely because of this what happens can only be expressed  in imaginative and metaphorical form.” (op.cit. p.119)

Are our liturgies too modern in losing a sense of “sacred space,” turning homilies into announcement boards, rituals into ceremonies, mythos and the symbolic life into the verbosity of the human logos?

I suspect that if people keep eating the bread of rituals and symbols, the multipurpose building follows by a “different route” like the Magi.


Photo credit: mattstone


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