The Power of Ritual
The activity of ritual can significantly enhance every facet of a person's life.
Mention the word "ritual" and people's reactions and responses are quite varied. Many conjure up images of evil doings, magic practices and spells. Some roll their eyes at religious rites performed without change and declare they are void of meaning. Others, though, cling to the significance of ordered ceremonies, celebrations or individual acts that remain static.
WASHINGTON,DC (the burningbeast.com) - Mention the word "ritual" and people's reactions and responses are quite varied. Many conjure up images of evil doings, magic practices and spells. Some roll their eyes at religious rites performed without change and declare they are void of meaning. Others, though, cling to the significance of ordered ceremonies, celebrations or individual acts that remain static.
What, then, is the true meaning of ritual? How does it differ from routine?
Ritual vs. Routine
Rituals and routines are similar in that they each are repetitive functions that provide a sense of order, structure and intention to produce an outcome.
A routine is a course of action that is standard procedure and habitual in nature because it is performed on a regular basis and without much thought given to the action. One can perform a daily routine and not be fully aware of the fact it is being performed.
For example, every morning Jane sets the home alarm before she steps out the door and leaves for work. Her routine is so habitual that she does it without thinking and sometimes arrives at work wondering if she set the alarm. Jane's action is important-the alarm needs to be set-but the act itself can be performed regardless of her immediate awareness of the fact she's doing it. Routine, therefore, can become a mundane task even though it yields something productive.
In contrast, the very act of a ritual is rich in meaning. Ritual requires one to prepare and focus on the event or activity, and to be fully aware. Symbolism is laced throughout ritual, providing a deep sense of value. While ritual is often solemn, sacred and rhythmic in nature, it is always thought-provoking. It often provides a connection to others, such as a group of like-minded believers, or to God, or both. That cohesiveness offers a sense of belonging, stability and safety. Ritual is grounding to the human soul and helps one to stay focused on the belief that led to the action of the ritual in the first place.
For example, John arises every morning at 5:00 a.m., pours himself a cup of coffee, picks up his rosary beads, then sits in the same chair on his back porch. After drinking his coffee as he observes the stars, before the sun rises he prays for the needs of others, then himself, through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. John's actions are ritual because he prepares by planning to arise at the same time everyday and by setting the coffee pot to brew before he arises. He anticipates his pre-dawn solitude, and he has considered others' needs before he prays. His prayers bind him to God and to humanity through the rhythmic prayer, and the rosary beads help him to focus. In John's case, even the coffee making and drinking are ritualistic and not routine because they are planned out and are an integral part of his process.
However, if John arose and said some token prayers, all the while not focusing on them as he showered for work, then his early morning activity would be a routine and not a ritual.
Routine is essential, though, because daily life requires it.
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