Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ceremonies and Rituals.

I've been thinking a lot about rituals.
We've even invited a new one into our daily routine.
Just me and the a Sunrise Devotional...
...but more about that later.

First, you must read this from Ann Voskamp's post entitled: Live a Celebrated Life: Beauty of Ceremony

Young hands celebrate September with posies of pink erasers budding on the end of slim yellow stems and hours dressed smartly in routines. It’s the rite of back-to-school days: the folding back of fresh notebooks, the lacing up of maiden shoes, the cracking open of new texts.

It’s the ceremony of new school days.

We do that, us soul carriers. When we deem events significant, we create ceremony. Marriage ceremonies, baptismal services, holiday observances… yes, too, back-to-school traditions.
If we consider an occasion meaningful, we develop a ceremony to duly recognize it. Simply, ceremony is a repeated action that marks important happenings: always candles on birthday cakes, centerpieces for Thanksgiving, vows on wedding days.

And yet, isn’t every day important? Do not all of our acts warrant ceremony?

Each moment God generously bestows is momentous. If we embrace each day as gift, then isn’t each event noteworthy? And if each moment lived is important, could we not then live in ceremony, celebration wrapped around each bead of time?

God does. Every day, He acts in ceremony, repeated quotidian order of services: calling sun-orb to arch across skies, ocean waters to wet land’s lip, again and again, the globe to dance in orbit with milky moon through heavens.

Our God acts in endless ceremony to bring order to the world. And so we too, made in His image, are ceremonious beings, bringing order to chaos through ceremony.

Whenever parents create ceremonies, or a rhythmic routine, around any daily activity, we impose order on the environment, instead of on our children.

The order of service we create around bedtimes, school times, mealtimes allow ceremonies to prescribe behavior instead of each event requiring parental directive.

This atmosphere of known routine, expected ritual and, yes, celebrated ceremony, not only lessens the number of decisions that a parent must make throughout the day (the established ceremony directs, instead of the parent), but children thrive in such an environment.
Children “want things repeated and unchanged,” writes G.K. Chesterton. “They always say, “Do it again”… [It is] grown-up people [who] are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon…. The repetition in nature may not be mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.” 

When we reject repeated actions as monotonous and Spirit-quenching, are we simply exposing our weaknesses?

If we chose to “exult in monotony,” to embrace habitual ceremony, would we be inviting the same God who instituted the observances of feasts, temple ceremonies, the service of communion, to be our strength too?

Perhaps the repetitiveness of ceremony does not stifle the Spirit, but ceremony invites us to regular meeting places, places to commune with the Spirit.

So we meet our days with routines, ceremonies around the simple:
  • Perhaps we tie up breakfast with quiet music, prayer for the day, and a lighting of a candle.
  • Or wrap up school times with a habitual place, a consistent time, and an anticipated order of service: an opening hymn, a Word of Scripture, a time of happy sharing.
  • Possibly we establish a ceremony of evening circle, with a gathering for the read aloud of a classic while tired feet are massaged and hot drinks sipped, before tucking children into bed with blessings. 
 And so, as for me, I want these ceremonies, these rituals to be a part of my family.  When we can take a mundane act and make it memorable and special, life is lovely and joyful.  This is what I want.

So, we began something I've wanted to do since I was a young girl writing down lists of ideas and activities to do in my future family....Sunrise Devotional.  Each day after the dishes and chores are done, we gather around the kitchen table (which is lit with a charming candle) with the scripture reader and snacks.  We begin with a prayer.  And then we eat.  And read.  And share our questions and feelings.  It's been a tremendous blessing in our family life.  I feel more peaceful and empowered as a mother since we've implemented this tradition...and we haven't missed a day.

And then there's this morning.  We tried what Ann suggested with a candle and quiet music for breakfast.  It did give a unique ambiance to a normally crazy meal.  And sometimes we have a "picnic" in the living room while we watch a short movie and eat our lunch.  This one isn't an everyday thing.  Just every once in a while to keep it special.  But the boys ask me if we can do it nearly every day.

Family scripture study and prayer is a must every morning and night for prayers and nightly for scripture study.  And of course family home evening is something we all look forward to on Monday evenings.

My question to pose to you today, is, "How can we make these events more unique?  More special?  More ceremonious?"  I doubt that our Heavenly Father just "goes through the motions" when it comes to that "theatrical encore" of rising the sun and the moon each day.  How do we make the simple activities beautiful?  Like cooking? And cleaning? And grocery shopping? And laundry?  

What are your ideas?  What are your thoughts?  What has worked in your family?  What would you like to implement?  Please share.

1 comment

  1. One of my favorite rituals is with our family prayers. Since our kids were tiny we have always sung a primary song or hymn right before. And then right after we each take a moment with every member of our family and throw our arms around them and say we love them and kiss their cheek. It is so precious to me every morning and evening to see my children hugging each other - and sometimes tickling and giggling too - and telling each other that they love each other. It's also another chance for my husband and I to reconnect with each one and whisper in their ear something special about them.

    Another ritual is our read-aloud time at night. We often turn out all the lights and read by candlelight. Even if we are only reading little kid stories my teenagers always come and listen. Countless times when the story is done we will have beautiful discussions that end with children sharing how they feel about important things.

    Thanks for this post Jamie! It really got me thinking!



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