There is great meaning in ritual when you understand it. As I was taught how to serve at Mass, I also grew in knowledge and understanding of what was taking place. I was not just performing a function, I was beginning to enter into the mystery of faith. There was a purpose behind each action during the ritual.
The wisdom that has been passed on to us through the liturgical calendar is immense. The same can be said for the three year cycle of Scripture readings. There is a purpose behind the way it is structured to help us enter more fully into our worship. Have you missed those rituals this year?
Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are not "holy days of obligation." Have you ever wondered why so many people show up at Ash Wednesday as compared to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil? Parishes frequently add Masses on Ash Wednesday while the other days generally have one service. Why? Is it because people understand the meaning of Ash Wednesday rituals more than the other days?
All I know is that I feel the emptiness a little more deeply today than I usually do on Holy Saturday morning. I miss the rituals. For years I have participated in rehearsals and extensive preparation to celebrate these days. This year--nothing. There was no washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. There was no transfer of the Holy Eucharist at the end of Mass to the altar of repose. There was no adoration into the night hours.
I did not proclaim the Passion narrative on Good Friday. I did not carry in the cross for veneration. After the fear instilled within us by the 24 hour media during this virus outbreak telling us millions will die, will we ever again kiss the cross on Good Friday? These rituals which have been part of my entire life were suddenly gone. The emptiness we feel with the burial of Jesus takes on even more significance this year.
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours and other smaller rituals remain a part of my prayer life. However, this week has challenged me to look at my prayer life from a different perspective. Has my personal prayer life been more intense in the absence of the larger rituals, or has it resulted in less fervor without the grounding that the larger rituals provide?