So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ritual: love made visible.

We are creatures of ritual. Ritual love brought each one of us into existence. The loving union of/in marriage is a ritual encounter between a man and a woman. We are creatures made for ritual. If one isn't given ritual, one tends to invent ritual for oneself.

Many natural religions, skewed as they may be, may still have elements of the Gospel hidden within them. Some rituals of man are, however, so rife with evil intent or the elevation of man above God that such rituals are incompatible with common sense and healthy spirituality.

Everyone needs good ritual. Every name is a ritual of sorts. The ritual of naming a child should be a way of acknowledging one's family and giving gratitude to God for the new life entrusted to one's care. Recall the concept of the 'christian name'. The giving of one's Christian name occurred at baptism. The power of that moment is frequently lost among Catholics.
  • To name something or someone is to assume authority over it/him and responsibility for something or someone.
  • A name can be a story of one's heritage or ancestral origin.
  • A name becomes one's identity, something into which one grows.
The way we grow into our name is a ritual progression. Attendance taken in class, or roll call in sports or the military, or called forward to accept a college degree—a pattern of relationship is established or acknowledged. That pattern of relationship is a ritual.
The English word "ritual" derives from the Latin ritualis, "that which pertains to rite (ritus)". In Roman juridical and religious usage, ritus was the proven way (mos) of doing something, or "correct performance, custom". The original concept of ritus may be related to the Sanskrit ṛtá ("visible order)" in Vedic religion, "the lawful and regular order of the normal, and therefore proper, natural and true structure of cosmic, worldly, human and ritual events". The word "ritual" is first recorded in English in 1570, and came into use in the 1600s to mean "the prescribed order of performing religious services" or more particularly a book of these prescriptions.—WP
Ritual does arise in many forms. There is, indeed, ritual that is holy and healthy, and there is unhealthy ritual, diabolical in fact. There is a Catholic ritual for expelling demons. There is a Catholic ritual (sacrament) that invites the Holy Spirit to anoint the confirmand who is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. All Catholic ritual begins with Baptism, the gateway to salvation, and ends with the Requiem Mass, the prayer of hope in the Resurrection.

Catholic ritual, for example the Holy Eucharist, has God as its author. Catholic ritual is revealed by Jesus Christ and has developed in response to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The seven sacraments were revealed by Jesus during the course of His earthly ministry. Some are plain to see in Holy Scripture. Others are present therein, but require reference to the Sacred (oral) Tradition of the Apostles to confirm what was understood by Christians before the advent of New Testament Scripture. Remember, the Church and her Tradition preceded the Canon of Holy Scripture. The two taken together—Holy Scripture and the oral Tradition handed down from Apostle to disciple—constitute the one Tradition of the Church (CCC 83).

What is the purpose of ritual? Ritual is a living framework, a scaffold for living, a lattice upon which we are grafted in a way that allows us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (cf. Saint Pauls' Letter to the Philippians 2:12).
Lest we be accused of works righteousness, i.e., earning our way into heaven, Catholics understand that faith and works go together, that we are saved by grace to serve. It is by works graced by God that God invites people into relationship with Him in the Holy Spirit. The Seven Sacraments are visible rituals that are signs of God's presence and channels of His grace (ex opere operato).
The Church as Christ's Body, the priest as Christ's representative and the sacraments as visible signs of Christ's grace are all inextricably connected. The fullness of God's revelation is found in the Catholic Church.

Ritual is the nexus between word and sign. Signs are vehicles through which the grace of God reaches into the heart and soul of man, filling his entire being, body and soul, with the light of salvation in Christ. Ritual is silence in action. Not the empty silence of a void but the fullness of God's Presence, a presence which is both intimately close to man and beyond man's comprehension because God is both the Incarnate Word and the transcendent Father.

Ritual is frequently dismissed as fluff or mere ornament because those without a sense of poetry are blind to the efficacy of beautiful, true and good art that points beyond itself to the Creator who is the source of all true art.
  • Ritual is a compass pointing to God.
  • Ritual is a communication device through which God communicates Himself to the souls disposed by ritual.
  • Ritual is a pattern of behaviour that configures us to the Word of God.
  • Ritual is the artwork of the spirit.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.