Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is it Ritual or is it Art?

a makeshift shrine for a ritual of remembering
This morning dawned clear and cool. The sky was the same bright, clear blue that it was on that morning eleven years ago, when we were all shocked out of our morning routines by death and destruction. On that terrible morning, I was unable to think about art. All I could think about was the horror of the moment, as I sat watching the same awful images being played over and over on the television.

Today in chapel, we remembered together. We prayed for those whose lives were forever changed, sang of God’s healing power, and received the bread and cup as tangible tokens of the love of Christ. In the readings from Scripture and in the sermon, we were reminded that death and destruction have always been part of the human story, that God has seen it all before.

Later, in my class on art, ritual, and symbol, we enacted a ritual described by Ronald Grimes in his book, Rite out of Place: Ritual, Media, and the Arts. At first, the students seemed a bit self-conscious, as if we were just play-acting rather than participating in something real. Very quickly, however, they entered into what had become a space made sacred by a lighted candle, a dish of small stones, a vial of clear water, and a single, white rose. One student lifted the rose towards the group as he read the verse,

This is living. . . but not for long
may its short life
and ours
enliven the planet.

As he finished speaking, he pulled off a petal, allowing it to drop gently onto the cloth that defined the make-shift shrine. The unexpected snap as the petal broke off from its stem seemed very loud in the silence, underscoring the fragility of all life.

1 comment:

  1. If it is a channel for God's grace, it may not matter much whether we call it "ritual" or "art."