Ritual and Community
I was in Africa recently and was struck by how integral dance was to their society. Dance wasn’t primarily for entertainment, nor for self-expression, nor for show – rather it was a ritual by which they made community. Whether an event was the opening of the Sunday Mass, the greeting of guests or a presentation of gifts, the celebration would begin with a small group dancing. The steps were usually simple with the rhythm inviting all the onlookers to join in at the very least by clapping in time. In a very real sense, we joined in the dance coming together as one community.
Ritual always had an important place in the practice of our Catholic faith – it is integral to the way we pray together as a community. Simple gestures done together, like standing or blessing, let others see that we are joined together in this faith. Simple things like water, wine, bread are used to reveal the presence of God in ways that are too deep for words. They may mean different things to different people at different times, but the simple symbolic rituals can hold us together as a community. Held together by ritual and symbols our differences, instead of being divisive, can be a source of richness.
Next time you are at Eucharist, ponder the simple rituals and symbols used and wonder how they bring you together, into communion, with the other people present.
Loving God, forming a community of love is often difficult. Send us the wisdom of your Spirit that we may appreciate the role ritual plays in holding us together in love in spite of our differences. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb