The Warmth of Ritual

Last night after dinner, as I sat at the table talking over the day with Jason, my four-year-old slid quietly away from the table and headed into a room of our house that we’ve repurposed during the pandemic.  Our two boys decided to share a room, feeling comforted by someone else being there at night during this weird, isolated year of pandemic existence.  What to do with that extra bedroom?  We now call it’s the calm down room.  It’s mostly open, with foam padding on the ground.  We dance in there, or turn the lights off and light a candle in the evenings.  It’s a place to go when you are grumpy, when you need some alone time, or want to wrestle with questions or your brother.  

Last night, Bryce went into that room and brought a candle back to the dining room.  Jason and I looked at him and he told us it was time to light the chalice.  He went and found the lighter by the stove in the kitchen and brought it to us.  He knows not to try to operate it, and he lacks the dexterity to use it. I lit the candle and he said “ok, you say what I say” and he led us in the chalice lighting that we’ve done in RE since before he could talk.  The one we use on Friday nights during virtual story time.  

“We light this chalice for the warmth of love, the light of truth, and the energy of action!”

Bryce is four.  But he knew the whole thing by heart.  He led us through the words and the hand motions.  And when the chalice was lit, so, it would seem, was his heart.  His smile, his pride, his joy at initiating and leading this ritual was apparent.  I was surprised by how pleased he was.  Then, he wanted us to all read a book together.  He made sure to pause and give space for Jason and I to participate, and when it was over, he listened carefully as we extinguished the chalice, noting how it was different, preparing to set it to memory for the next time.

We all crave ritual, in good times and definitely in bad times.  Bryce needed our Friday Storytime on Wednesday.  He looks forward to seeing familiar faces on Friday evenings now.  He likes to help light the chalice.

We’ve been doing Storytime for just over two months now.  Our volunteer readers and organizers wonder if we are having an impact or reaching our families.  While the quantity of participation might not be what we initially envisioned, Bryce wants you to know that it’s been a quality experience.  So do the other families, specifically children who have asked “when is it our turn to read a story?”  

This is Faith formation in action.  Even while we are apart, out of our building, and wondering what happens when we get together again.  The children want to read you a story.  Are you ready to listen?  They want to lead you in a chalice lighting, are you ready to follow?

Our children are resilient, and so is this community.  As we move toward togetherness, still far on the horizon, know that our families and youth are craving your presence and moments of shared ritual.  Even as the birds begin to sing songs that wake the spring, may all of us wake our inner children to the calls of spiritual practice, reminded by the youth around us that life abides in the moments and spaces between our time together and that we will be together once again.


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