Note: A copy of today’s Examen prayer from Lunch Break Devotional is at the end of this blog.
As a young girl I was always envious of my Catholic friends who made the sign of the cross. It seemed like such a cool way to connect with Christ. I remember crossing myself during prayer at our Baptist Church and my mother was beside herself. For her it was a badge of Catholicism. For me it was simply a sign of the cross. I liked the motion, the action that reminded me of Jesus in my life. It was ritual and I understood its importance long before I could articulate it.
Interesting note: the practice of making the sign of the cross, dates back to the early Christians, made as a mark on their foreheads. In 211 AD Tertullian, an early Christian writer who said: “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.” I love this quote. This ritual, the sign of the cross is connecting Christ to every part of their daily lives.
Still, ritual is a word that is tossed about in our culture and used sometimes used interchangeably with routine. There is a big difference between ritual and routine and it is important to take a few minutes and look at these differences more closely.
Routines are the actions we do regularly. We brush our teeth, often at the same time and in the same way every day. I routinely take a cup of coffee upstairs and drinking it signals the start of my day. It is routine, not ritual.
Ritual is defined as: “solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Some definitions include repetitiveness.
It does sound a lot like “routine”, but the big difference is that ritual is not about the action itself. The biggest difference between ritual and routine is that:
Ritual connects us with something beyond ourselves,
something bigger than ourselves.
I see ritual as this human attempt to reach out and connect with God. It is the way we remind ourselves that there is something bigger, more powerful to which we can connect. Prayer in itself, is not ritual, but we have ritual prayers that help us feel more comfortable talking with God.
Today on Lunch Break Devotional (on Facebook at noon or anytime after…) we are exploring the Examen. It is a ritual of prayer and self-reflection that can open the door to deeper prayer. We are beginning with a “response” prayer… where I will say a few words and we all repeat some lines together.
Rituals not only bring us closer to God, they bring us closer together. They can also help us transition from one part of life to another. We talked about that yesterday as grieving women in the post-Civil War transitioned through the stages of grieving. We’ll look at these aspects in the days to come.
For today, think of a time when a ritual felt special to you. Maybe you felt connected in some way. Maybe you felt closer to God. Think about that and ask yourself why. Then think of a ritual that might be helpful in your day, today.
Grace and Peace,
God, thank you.
I thank you, God, for always being with me, but especially I am grateful that you are with me right now.
God, send your Holy Spirit upon me.
God, let the Holy Spirit enlighten my mind and warm my heart that I may know where and how we have been together this day.
God, let me look at my day.
God, where have I felt your presence, seen your face, heard your word this day?
God, where have I ignored you, run from you, perhaps even rejected you this day?
God, let me be grateful and ask forgiveness.
God, I thank you for the times this day we have been together and worked together.
God, I am sorry for the ways that I have offended you by what I have done or what I did not do.
God, stay close.
God, I ask that you draw me ever closer to you this day and tomorrow.
God, you are the God of my life—thank you.