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The Liturgy of Family

Ritual and liturgy have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. The spoken and sung responses colored the Sunday mornings of my childhood and then my rebellious youth, my adulthood, and now my middle age. Even in years when I was not regularly attending church, all I had to do to bring meaning back to my life was walk into a sanctuary, sit down and go through the order of worship from beginning to end. It never failed to bring me back to who I was and who I wanted to be. Now, I attempt to bring this sense of ritual into all areas of my life.

Since my son was very young, I have tried to give rhythm to our days and weeks with family traditions. We repeat the same words together as we say goodnight. Monday is bacon sandwich day. There is a special treat when school is out on Friday afternoon. We have a special family dinner every Saturday night with music and the fancy table linens. These rituals over time have become infused with meaning.

Each time we gather for dinner at the table, we light a candle and someone says what we call the “Litany of the Light” (borrowed from Jerome Berryman and the Godly Play movement), and we light a candle. We hold hands and say a blessing. We tell the stories of our lives in the light of this circle.

This reverence for ritual brings us to Sunday school and worship every week. I believe worship has a cumulative effect. (Anytime you attend church, it is a good thing, a blessing for the congregation and a blessing for you, but show up week in and week out, and you start to experience something richer, deeper.) Worship provides a framework for your family’s week. For us, it is a spiritual reset that allows us to dive into the hustle of our weekday life renewed and restored and reconnected to one another.

Here at home, bringing the idea of ritual to the mundane tasks of keeping house helps to create meaning. The dishes are never going to wash themselves, but I can light a candle and make a little ritual out of warm water and sweet smelling soap. It helps me bring my whole heart to the task.

Where might you create a family ritual? What would that look like for you and your family?

As the holidays approach, how do you honor your own family traditions amidst the bustle of the holidays?

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