7 Feb 2017
Ritual is very important to the Catholic faith. But ritual has both light and dark sides to it.
On the light side of things, ritual is helpful in that it almost forces us to pay attention to God. We come here, we sit down, and we hear the words of Sacred Scripture because we need to. There are fundamental life lessons in those ancient texts which we’re still trying to get right. And then we celebrate the Eucharist, as Christians have done for thousands of years. And we do it because that’s what the bride (the Church) and the bridegroom (Jesus) do: they give themselves to one another in self-sacrificing love.
The ritual of the Mass helps us to more truly the Bride of Christ before God, and the Body of Christ out in the world.
But the dark side of ritual is that it can so easily become mindless repetition. And ritual can, in some ways, become a god unto itself—and we risk becoming worshipers of the ritual, instead of the God beyond the ritual. And that’s the slippery pit that the Pharisees and scribes fell into. They loved the law of God more than God himself. And the Sadducees loved the ritual of the Temple more than the God in the Temple.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with ritual. But it depends on how we approach it. Is ritual a jumping off point to go deeper into the mystery of God; to go deeper into authentic Christian living out in the world? Or is ritual simply a stone upon we stand still, and go nowhere?
Ritual is very important to the Catholic faith. But ritual has both light and dark sides to it. May God help us to worship him through our rituals, and above and beyond them as well.