The Spiritual Practice of ~ Ritual
The Scripture ~ “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” John 4:24 The Message
The Spiritual Focus ~ “The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual.”—C.S. Lewis
The Breath Prayer ~ Inhale – Spirit, Exhale – Truth
The Devotion ~ Today we look at the spiritual intentions of rituals and the practices we embrace on our faith journey. The words “ritual” and “practice” are synonyms. Ritual, however, is more connected to religious ceremonies and rituals are found in every major religion. Practice is associated more commonly with the idea of a repeated action, not necessarily related to religion.
Properly understood, rituals are intended to draw us closer to God and point us to the object of our worship. Misunderstood rituals become the object of our worship rather than the vehicle, the action which points or leads us to the object. Rituals can become unhealthy if one becomes obsessed with them as the object. When this happens, we are serving our ego rather than getting out of the way for the ritual to direct us to the object of our worship. as C. S. Lewis implies.
Since the rise of yoga in the West, the word “practice” has taken on a new meaning. Practice in yoga philosophy is both the object and the vehicle. The practice of pranayama or asana is a vehicle which also happens to have benefits, whether or not you are able to let go of ego. In a healthy yoga practice we are grateful for the physical outcomes of increased mobility, flexibility and breath, but those are really only the side effects of yoga. In this way yoga might be seen as the object. The practice of yoga is the vehicle when we are able to find a comfortable seat, where we are able to listen in spirit and truth. In this sense the vehicle of our yoga practice draws us closer to God.
This week’s spiritual practice is to examine rituals in our own life. Set aside those that have simply become habit and don’t point to the object. In doing this we open space for a new practice that may become a ritual so that you may worship God in spirit and truth.