This was my response to Reb Jeff's most recent post. It is an important question for all of us, no matter our spiritual tradition. The transcendent aspect of our lives has been so eroded, we are now no more than slaves to realism without an opportunity to rediscover the redemptive narrative that God has given us.
We do rediscover ourselves within the living story of the Bible, it takes time and gentleness. Without our sense of the mystery, and eternal beauty of knowing God as 'other', the 'yet to be voiced' personal story of our own lives, we can't redeem the past, and we are dead to the future. We have no sense of the eternity of the moment. We do not see 'Art', but merely the 'brick wall of defeat'. We have no sense of hope, or possibility of accomplishment either personally or collectively.
Here was what I wrote last night, above was how I felt about it this morning. This is the 'back to front' timing of eternality! You would need to visit Reb Jeff's blog to see the prompt for this...
I think everyone has this problem. Perhaps I define 'Religeous' as the strict adherence to a set of rules without understanding what the original context of the 'rules' was about. Also that those rules need to be revised into the context of the life we live in a very different world. Not relegated to the trivial or difficult to understand, but genuinely understanding the points and facets of reference those laws pin the transitional 'worlds' together with. This helps spiritual discernment to grow, in order that God's wisdom may grow in us that we understand how to unpack our own motives.
Also that we 'see' the reality that lies behind the ever changing mask the world presents. It is easy to confuse 'religious' with 'traditional'. For instance it is now 'traditional for us to have roast Turkey and goodness knows how many other things like brussels sprouts, sausage wrapped in bacon, chesnuts and here in Jersey something we call beancrock all on the same plate covered in thick gravy for Christmas dinner. (Not us, as there are only two of us, we have a duck. We don't go anywhere that the Turkey is being served).
The interesting thing is, I don't think anyone even knew what a Turkey was just after world war two. You were well off to have a chicken for christmas dinner. Now this is 'Traditional' as though everyone has had turkey for the last 5000 years. The one meat I can't stand is turkey! It's the same with Christmas trees. No one had heard of them before Prince Albert brought the tradition with him, when he married Queen Victoria. Before that we had a yule log, which was an old pagan tradition sort of re-vamped into being ok provided it was blessed, (As you still needed to light a fire). And other food 'traditions' like mince pies.
I would say that over such a short period of time this custom/traditional fare has become a sort of quasi religeous statement in that we have it because it's Christmas. There is no actual 'religeous' aspect to this choice of menu. It does not have any other significance other than the prospect of Spiritual and physical indigestion.
Very few people eating it would have gone to Church either, so I can't see the point of celebrating Chrismas! This puts me in the same class a The Sherrif of Nottingham in the Robin Hood movie, I just love the moment when he says 'Right cancel Christmas'.
In comparison there is a point of religeous significance in a Hot Cross Bun. It is something that is supposed to be made for Easter morning only. With a yeast mix rich fruit bread bun and a pastry cross laid in the scored cross. You are actually meant to make them the evening before and pop them in the oven for breakfast. This is to signfy breaking the fast of Lent, and the risen Christ of Easter Sunday.
Now you get mass produced buns from Christmas through to Easter, and no-one even knows what Lent is supposed to be for. They would rather spend a fortune doing detox with a special tea, or expensive 'diet', and read a self help book. So although they eat the Hot Cross Buns they do not know their significance. The bought ones are very stodgy and don't have any substance, almost like a tea cake.
My Home made Hot Cross Buns are full of fruit, close textured, and made with very fine wholemeal flour, the idea is that they signify complete nourishment, both Spiritual and Physical. They taste good, but we have to share one, as neither of us can eat a whole one. This is a spiritual thing I am sure, because they aren't large, and they are actualy nice. They take ages to make and I am very thoughtful and prayerful during the process. I cheat and make them before and freeze them. Does this make them less 'religeous'? Definately not, it's just practical.
This is when I see something as 'religeous'. That the normal everyday things we do, have a far greater significance than the simple act itself. They have God given meaning and sustenance about them that fills us up in such a way that we do not crave other things, that have no meaning or significance.
It is in the 'little rituals' of our everyday lives that we give ourselves the gift of peace and stability, when the world crumbles around us. If we don't have those little rituals every day, we have no coat hanger to hang the garment of our lives on.
I am reminded I still chuck my clothes on the floor like a teenager, but this is one of my rituals! I think it is because I do not think my clothes should 'own me'. My clothes don't make me, I make them, and I love them while I am doing it, actually I do generally hang things up I have made myself thinking about it.
I think it is wonderful that you Jewish People do have so many traditions and daily significant rituals. You have an incredible wealth of things to draw on for 'coat hangers'.
I think having so many gives you a lot of choice on which ones you want to use. For some people it is realy important to have a very structured life, so lots of significant rituals to choose from. From the sounds of it, it would be humanly impossible to do all of them all the time, so it's probably not the point of having so many.
More that you have a lot of choice as to which ones are genuinely supporting your sense of transcending the limitations of self, that makes each day quite unique and richly and surprisingly special. I am sure having a lot of ritual heritage is meant to be a spring fed well of resources.
If 'Religious' is understood as a sense of personal burdening with merely irrelevent rules, then it would all be rather joyless and uninspired. You wouldn't be able to get a look at The Glory of God with all those clouds of doom and gloom and frustration permanently canopied overhead.
In the wider society we don't realy have any of this structure and daily ritual, which is a pity. That's why we are all so fragmened, and have no sense of common narrative. It has made us all become very insular, rather than sharing aspects of common practice based in a Spiritual community. It is quite lonely realy.
Perhaps re visiting our religeous roots in a completely new way that is relevent to us, is why there has been such a ruptured break with the religion of our parents and grandparents. It truly gives us an opportunity to engage from a 'clean slate', rather than try to adopt the old Saturday/Sunday 'Hat and Gloves' stagnation we have suffered for so long.
Anyway I am now off to tackle the wall!