By Kathleen Quiazon, Director of Mission & Ministry
In our human experience, we look at various life moments not only for what happened, but perhaps more powerfully, how that moment made us feel and what it meant to us. When I recall moments like these, I am struck by how it is often certain images, words and emotions that I carry with me.
Why do we do this? Author Sasha Sagan in her book, For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World, speaks to this idea:
“Nature is full of patterns and we humans love finding them, creating them, repeating them. This is the core of language, math, music, and even ritual, which is the repetition of words or actions deemed worthy of representing something bigger than ourselves.”
The symbols and language of ritual provide us tools to understand these meaningful moments and to connect with the good God who is bigger than us. In many ways, these are rituals that are familiar to us from our religious practices and traditions; liturgy is much like a family meal, birthday cake and candles are part of our family customs, and rites of passage are ceremonies to mark accomplishments. For all of these, the special symbols and words contribute to how we celebrate meaning together.
This is a spiritually profound time in two ways: first, because of the absence of, or distance from, the community and prayer rituals to which we are accustomed, and second, because it serves as an invitation to become creators of our own spiritual meaning.
We see examples of this around the world during these times. There are symbols in home windows, messages and cards to neighbors, social media prayers, and more. This New York Times article showcases the creativity of teens to create new rituals.
We have the tools to create rituals in our homes and with our families and communities. Our past experiences have given us the knowledge we need to pray and reflect and honor the divine among us. We know how to look for the moments that have meaning for us, to recognize the symbols of that meaning, and to bless that with our gratitude, our grief or our need.
While the world laments the absence of what we expected, we have the ability to imagine new ways of celebrating the meaningful among us. This is what spiritual seekers do.
Barbara Biziou, author of The Joy of Ritual, offers a simple pattern you can use to prepare your own rituals--whether that is to celebrate the conclusion of the year, honor your graduate, remain in solidarity with essential workers, or remember a loved one.
- Intention: What will be the purpose of the ritual? Be prepared to name it out loud.
- Sequence: How will the ritual begin and end? Maybe you light a candle at the beginning or include a blessing at the end.
- Sacred Space: How will you mark that this is a special time? You can ask everyone for a quiet deep breath, dim the lights, set up the chairs in a special way, or bring in a special object.
- Ingredients: What images, words, or actions will make up the middle of the ritual? Perhaps there is a poem, prayer, or scripture reading to share. Perhaps you want the family to share words of appreciation or write notes in a book. The possibilities are many.
- Personal Meaning: Whatever you choose to do in the four elements above, be sure that the choices are meaningful for you.