Monday, February 24, 2014

RITUALS AND SPIRITUALITY

RITUALS AND SPIRITUALITY


                        The Superior of a large monastery of monks had a small monkey as his precious pet. He loved it and fed it affectionately, talking softly and stroking gently with tender care. The other monks also loved the little pet dearly and enjoyed its innocent and funny gestures. It was let free in the monastery. It loved to be constantly in the company of the Superior. When the monks assembled for their daily prayer sessions in the morning and evening, the monkey followed them into the prayer hall. By its amusing movements, the monkey caused much distraction to the meditation.
                        The Superior closed the doors of the hall to prevent the entry of the monkey into the prayer hall, but it often sneaked in through the window. As a last resort, the Superior ordered that a collar be fixed around the monkey’s neck.  A chain was tied to the collar and the other end of the chain was fastened to a pillar at the back of the prayer hall, during every prayer session. With the new arrangement, the prayer and the meditation progressed without distraction. As the monkey’s presence in the prayer hall was a persistent problem, tying it to the pillar continued as a regular ritual.          The ritual continued even after the death of the Superior, as the rest of the congregation opted to maintain the monkey in memory of the memorable Superior.
                        The ritual of tying the monkey to the pillar continued in every prayer session for several years. Years later when the monkey breathed its last, there was a serious discussion among the monks. They decided to procure a similar monkey to continue the ritual which had by then become a matter of routine. In course of time, the practice of tying the monkey to the pillar became an unquestionable ritual in the congregation and some scholars undertook intensive and extensive research on this traditional practice. Most of the researchers attributed a divine halo to the custom and even discovered evidences from the verses of the Scriptures supporting the practice. After several years, a smart Superior studied about the origin of the ritual, enlightened the monks with much effort and finally put an end to the age-old ritual.
                        Rituals, sacred signs and symbols are integral parts of every liturgy. Rituals are meant to support and enhance the spiritual life of the people. Unfortunately, some rituals are practised as a matter of tradition without understanding their real meaning or significance. Rituals and pilgrimages can enhance our spiritual life only if these acts are accompanied by internal purification, real repentance and true transformation.
                        Special postures and rituals may strengthen spirituality but are not essential components of spirituality.  We believe in the principles and practices of our parent Church. We believe that they are based on the Sacred Scriptures and holy traditions gifted to us by God. Persons disguised as scholars and advisers may meet us and try to confuse us with their eloquent words. They may try their best to misinterpret the Scriptures and argue that our faith and rituals are wrong and against the words of God. We should be aware of their tricks. We must love our Church and learn the Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church systematically. Then false prophets cannot mislead us from the path of truth.
                        Jesus warned us, “Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briars do not bear figs” {Matthew 7: 15, 16}.

                        The Bible is to be read and studied systematically, assimilated actively and practised properly in daily life. Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnated as man. The Bible is the Word of God incarnated in the language of man.                           
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                      "The Lord says, "I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! When you bring me burnt-offerings and grain-offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry" {Amos 5: 21-24}.
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© By: Prof. Dr. Babu Philip, Darsana Academy, Kottayam-686001, Kerala, India ( Former Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India), Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally,  Leo. S. John, St. Antony's Public School, Anakkal, Kanjirappally and Neil John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.
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                         This is Story No. 309 in the second site. Please click ‘Older Posts’ at the bottom of a page to read previous stories and click 'Newer Posts' at the bottom of a page to read newer stories in these sites. Please click on a word in the 'Story Themes' to read stories on that theme.

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