Young hands celebrate September with posies of pink erasers budding on the end of slim yellow stems and hours dressed smartly in routines. It’s the rite of back-to-school days: the folding open of fresh notebooks, the lacing up of maiden shoes, the packing of new lunch bags.
It’s the ceremony of new school days.
We do that, us soul carriers. When we deem events significant, we create ceremony. Marriage ceremonies, baptismal services, holiday observances. yes, too, back-to-school traditions. If we consider an occasion meaningful, we develop a ceremony to duly recognize it. Simply, ceremony is a repeated action that marks important happenings: always candles on birthday cakes,
centerpieces for Thanksgiving, vows on wedding days.
And yet, isn’t every day important? Do not all of our acts warrant ceremony?
Each moment God generously bestows is momentous. If we embrace each day as gift, then isn’t each event noteworthy? And if each moment lived is important, could we not then live in ceremony, celebration wrapped around each bead of time?
God does. Every day, He acts in ceremony, repeated quotidian order of services: calling sun-orb to arch across skies, ocean waters to wet land’s lip, again and again, the globe to dance in orbit with milky moon through heavens. Our God acts in endless ceremony to bring order to the world. And so we too, made in His image, are ceremonious beings, bringing order to chaos through ceremony.
Whenever parents create ceremonies, or a rhythmic routine, around any daily activity, we impose order on the environment, instead of on our children. The order of service we create around bedtimes, school times, mealtimes allow ceremonies to prescribe behavior instead of each event requiring parental directive.
This atmosphere of known routine, expected ritual and, yes, celebrated ceremony, not only lessens the number of decisions that a parent must make throughout the day (the established ceremony directs, instead of the parent), but children thrive in such an environment. Children “want things repeated and unchanged,” writes G.K. Chesterton. “They always say, “Do it again”. [It is] grown-up people [who] are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is
possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. The repetition in nature may not be mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”
When we reject repeated actions as monotonous and Spirit-quenching, are we simply exposing our weaknesses? If we chose to “exult in monotony,” to embrace habitual ceremony, would we be inviting the same God who instituted the observances of feasts, temple ceremonies, the service of communion, to be our strength too? Perhaps the repetitiveness of ceremony does not stifle
the Spirit, but ceremony invites us to regular meeting places, places to commune with the Spirit.
So we meet our days with routines, ceremonies around the simple. Perhaps we tie up breakfast with quiet music, prayer for the day, and a lighting of a candle. Or wrap up school times with a habitual place, a consistent time,
and an anticipated order of service: an opening hymn, a Word of Scripture, a time of happy sharing. Possibly we establish a ceremony of evening circle, with a gathering for the read aloud of a classic while tired feet are
massaged and hot drinks sipped, before tucking children into bed with blessings. The rituals and liturgies are uniquely ours; each family has the privilege to create their own distinctive (fun? unusual? memorable?) ceremonies around regular occurring events.
The institution of a ceremonious life requires daily petitions for God-strength; in the flesh we are too weak. But the mundane in our lives begs for the Christ-vigor to be made lovely with ceremony. The repetition of our days need not be monotonous, exasperating, recurrences. Couldn’t our
days be a theatrical encore of a beautiful life?
Ceremony changes us: the single become married, the soul emerges baptized, the birthday christens another year. Ceremony offers us the opportunity to change our everydays too. Isn’t it time to celebrate life?
©2008, Ann Voskamp