Sacred Rituals Throughout Religions
The sacred ritual can be defined as symbols in the form of action in regards to the divine and revered. They include ceremonial acts and verbal expressions all carried out in a sacred perspective. They allow for the acknowledgment of transition in the human life cycle, as well as celebrate a fixed point in the yearly calendar. They serve to enhance the spirit of community and to bring cohesiveness to that society. By participating in these sacred rituals, it takes the focus of how individuals differ and places that focus on how as a whole they function and are alike.
No matter your social caste or economic status, certain events such as birth and death come to us all; as other events such as the beginning of a new year allow us all to let go of the old and welcome the new. One type of sacred ritual is that of the life-cycle rite. These rites acknowledge the passage every person takes from the day they are born until the day they die. They help individuals deal with the difficulties that arise when dealing with the transition from one stage in life to another. It also assists those in a community to deal with the loss or change of a fellow member.
Rites of passage usually include three different stages: the act of separation, transition, and the reincorporation into the community. When a Catholic woman hears a calling from God to take up the vocation of being a nun in the Church, she must go through a lengthy process to achieve that goal. Once accepted as a candidate, there is a Rite of Welcome celebrating the acceptance into the community. The candidate is separated from their old life, and moves into the Convent with her new community and lives with them for up to the next two years to see whether she is able to fulfill the duties required by the Church.
She will be guided by her fellow sisters in understanding the deep meaning of religious life, her personal relationship with God, her ministry, and others. During her Noviate phase, an emphasis is put on her ability to live up to the vows, spirit, and mission of the Convent. Once again, the novice will be separated as she is sequestered to live with other novices in a year of intense study of sacred scripture and classroom instruction. Spiritual preparation about integrating the Work of God into her daily life and work will be emphasized.
After that year, she will practice implementing what she has learned into her own life for another year. After completing this phase, the novice starts to transition as she takes a temporary profession of faith as a Sister. Vows are made during a Liturgy celebrated with the sisters, family, and friends. She wears a sign of commitment that all professed sisters wear. During this transitional time, she will live as the Sisters do. She will participate fully in their life and mission, in vowed membership, ministry, and academic preparation.
After a time of three to six years, she will spend time in an intensive and prayerful mode in preparation to reincorporate by taking final vows. She will formally request to become a nun. The last phase of final vows secures oneself as a Sister. There is a happy celebration as which time you give yourself fully and freely to God. Your transformation into a Sister is complete. (Sisters of Bon Secours USA, Becoming a Sister, 23 Sept 2011, 1) Another type of life-cycle rite is the life crisis rite. It allows for healing of an individual or community.
It allows society to believe that horrible incidents such as illness or natural disasters are caused by the supernatural. People find solace in explaining these incidents as opposed to believing them to be random. In addition, once the notion is decided that these incidents are incurred by the supernatural we can find a way to control them by invoking divine assistance or appeasement of those offended. Often a scapegoat is made to bear the sins committed and therefore can be offered as a sacrifice removing said sins.
Scientologists believe in the practice of auditing to rid the mind of any spiritual disabilities and increase one’s individual abilities. Auditing deletes things added to the reactive mind by painful life experiences called engrams and allows one being audited to confront and handle those factors in their life. By deleting these painful experiences, one is freed up to function at a higher level of being. It is thought to restore self-esteem, happiness, and self-confidence. The person receiving the auditing is known as a “preclear” and the person performing the auditing is known as an “auditor”.
The auditor asks the preclear questions about their current state of life while the preclear is attached to an E-Meter that allows the auditor to see changes in the reactive mind of the preclear. As a preclear deletes the engrams, they attain different levels of spiritual well-being. (The Church of Scientology, Scientology Auditing, 20 Sept 2011, 1-27) The last type of sacred ritual is that which is associated with a fixed point in a calendar, either in connection with the changing of the seasons or in remembrance of a significant historical event.
It has always been the function of these rituals to purge the evils of life allowing revitalization to occur. In the Wiccan religion, they celebrate their new year during the holiday of Samhain. During this festival, it is a time to celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth. This is considered the beginning of the dark part of the year. It is considered a time to celebrate the lives of those that have passed on and to pay homage to the loss of loved ones. The departed are invited to attend the ritual festivities, as Wiccans see this time of year as the time when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. Patti Wigington, All About Samhain, 22 Sept 2011, 1) A feast is made and a chant about the year’s harvest is recited. Then an offering to the earth is made while reciting a chant about the end of the harvest. Dead plants symbolizing either their King of Winter or their Goddess are gathered, bundled, and seated at the table as the most honored guest. They are served first and stay in the home for the remainder of the dark season. At the end of the dark season, they will return to the gardens to watch over next spring’s seedlings, and then eventually be burned at the Beltrane celebration. Patti Wigington, How To Honor the Harvest’s End – A Samhain Ritual for Wiccans and Pagans, 22 Sept 2011, 1) Sacred rituals are common and varied throughout the world because regardless of their steps or symbols they celebrate and honor things that are considered to be worthy of reverence among all in society. The passage of life, crises man suffer, the cycle of the seasons, and remembrance of special events are things that cross every social, economic, and cultural barrier.