Monday, March 23, 2009

40 Days of Lent: Day Twenty Seven

My Favorite Religious Rituals
In no particular order

1. Passover Seder
I particularly like the idea of using food to symbolize historical, cultural and spiritual events. The fact that some of the food is not meant to be enjoyed but to remind the eater of suffering is sadly lost on people like me who like bitter herbs and bland flat bread. The only Seders I've attended were those at my friend Steve Gutin's, where the question "Why is tonight not like any other night?" was inevitably answered with "Because tonight Aunt Esther is going to lose her place if anyone strays so much as one word from the evening's prepared materials." Other nights, she was just generally confused. I miss those nights.

2. Getting Ashes on Ash Wednesday
Don't know why, but getting dirt smeared on my forehead, being marked for the day, appeals to me. This past Ash Wednesday I had so much smeared on my forehead it looked like I was getting ready for a minstrel show.

3. Blessing of the Throats on St. Blaise Day
St. Blaise is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, a group of saints who protect against illnesses and everyday difficulties. Blaise is the saint who protects against throat ailments and infections. On the Sunday closest to February 3rd, the Blessing of the Throats is offered after mass: the priest holds across your throat two unlit candles that have been tied at the bottom and mutters a short prayer. Afterwards you'll probably overhear someone say that they had a sore throat but now are starting to feel better. It's such a strange ritual, which is probably part of its appeal.

4. Saying "God Bless You" After Someone Sneezes
It's just polite.

Yes, I realize this is a fairly short list of rituals.


Carol said...

I am especially fond of the Catholic rituals where they bless the Easter baskets (maybe just a Polish thing?) and when they do the ceremonies where people bring their pets in for a blessing.

the hanged man said...

I've never seen the blessing of the Easter baskets (though as a kid I would have loved it) or the blessing of the animals (which I would also love to see).

Iva said...

Re: the blessing of the Easter baskets, yes, Carol, I think that is primarily an Eastern European tradition. It is something that I was completely unaware of throughout my childhood...the Irish don't follow the custom.

wpbooks said...

You should attend a Purim service at a synagogue. The Book of Esther is unspooled and read aloud and every time the name of Haman (the villain of this tale) is mentioned, the Jewish version of a Bronx Cheer erupts by utilizing a noisemaker called a Gregor(sp?). Quite the pandemonium to be sure and fun for the whole family since most people attend the service in costume. Just ask Madonna...I think she attended this year's service dressed as Esther the Queen herself.....she seems more like a Mordechai to me, though!

the hanged man said...

WPBooks -

That sounds much more fun than the Catholic equivalent, which is when the Passion is read like a play and the parishoners are supposed to play the angry mob that keeps call for Christ's execution. Most parishoners read their parts with all the usual enthusiasm they have for saying anything out loud in church, that is to say, none.

My friend Carol (she submitted the first comment) and I used to talk about how enjoyable it would be to dramatically scream our parts, method act our bits as the angry mob. Sadly, we still have not done this.