My Psalms 149
In many cultures, the rituals are how the family is defined, how the soul celebrates. “We’re all searching for a foothold in the past, and for peace and meaning in the chaos of modern life. We all want to give our children a place of refuge and a sense of predictability. We all wish to make the difficult times easier and the unknown feel safer. Rituals have served these functions for ancient cultures; and rituals can now do the same for us, too,” writes Barbara Biziou, author of “The Joys of Family Rituals”.
While we usually define a ritual as a sacred rite or celebration, the truth is that rituals are simply habits we repeat at specific times. We all have them. Usually these rituals involve celebration of a holiday, religious or spiritual event. For instance, having the family come together and share a Thanksgiving dinner is a holiday ritual. Everyone getting together for a baptism, confirmation, bat mitzvah, etc., is an example of a religious ritual. While we seldom think of them this way, celebrating birthdays or anniversary are spiritual in nature as we are honoring the life spirit of a person or an event. Even having friends over to watch a ballgame and share a pizza can be a ritual. All of these things make us happy and reaffirm who we are. They brighten our lives and help us live.
On her website, author Michele Phillips states: “Happy people don’t have fewer problems, live in a world without traffic or void of negative people. They don’t skate through life without being burned either. They deal with the same obstacles and challenges that everyone does. The difference is in their coping skills. They adopt a positive outlook and they take control of their happiness.”
Some rituals were created as new religions came into being and have a link to those of ancient cultures. Others were formed out of community gatherings and cultural practices. Participating in these help us connect the past to the present and provide for us a way into the future.
Debra Moffitt is the author of “Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live in a Divinely Inspired Life”. She discusses one such ritual: “In the South of France the summer solstice is a time of celebration. In Antibes, a bonfire is lit to pay tribute to the summer sun. Crowds circle around it and brave people jump the fire. This festival harks back to ancient festivals that expressed gratitude for the light that grows crops, brings warmth and opens hearts to joyful moments. Once the bonfire diminishes and the flames become manageable, the fire becomes a rite of initiation. Those who feel courageous leap over the fire. Some people leap alone and others hold hands and fly together. It’s a sign of courage and confidence and an exuberant celebration of the power of light to give and sustain life.”
Most of us don’t jump over fire and I certainly am not recommending you do so. However, even indulging in crafts from the past can provide a ritual experience and comfort. Many communities have prayer shawl groups. Members gather and either knit or crochet. Some might do lap quits or even flannel tie-together shawls and blankets. The finished items are then donated to the infirmed, nursing homes, or the homeless. One youth group made flannel blankets and gave them to an animal shelter. When the pet was adopted, his/her blanket went with them. Other groups provide similar items to foster children or abused children. Using the crafts of their ancestors and gathering for communion of souls, these people have created a ritual experience that benefits many.
Recent findings indicate that those who spend lavishly on weddings soon find themselves unmarried. More emphasis was placed on the event than on the union. Whatever your ritual of joy is, the focus should remain on the jubilation and not on extravagance.
“Creating Moments of Joy” is a book by Jolene Brackey. It is really a journal for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Brackey believes that celebrating and creating moments of joy is the key for both the patient and the caregiver. “When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too. We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory. Five minutes later, they won’t remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger.”
That is the advantage of celebrating, of life’s joy, of recognizing the jubilant soul – the feeling that lingers. It is that feeling that lets us know we are alive. It is that feeling that allows us to celebrate the present and look forward towards tomorrow. It is in that moment of joy, that ritual of celebrating the jubilation found in life, that we are closest to whichever Great Spirit we honor. And in honoring that Creator, we honor ourselves.
My Psalm 149
I will dance at the rising of the sun
To give thanks for my birth.
I will dance in the morning
To give thanks for my waking.
I will dance at the noontime
To give thanks for others.
I will dance in the afternoon
To overcome life’s problems.
I will dance at the setting of the sun
To give thanks for my ancestors.
I will dance in the evening
To give thanks for family present and future.
I will dance in my dreams with my Creator and Spirit
To glorify that which gives me life and keeps me safe.
I will dance at my dying
To give thanks for all.