I’ve lately notice people referring to things they do in the liturgy of worship as being done “symbolically” or “ritually.” The description is apt in some ways but also could be misleading. It seems misleading because I think the adjective “ritually” is sometimes understood as an alternative to other adverbs like “really” or “verbally.”
But words are just as much rituals. They are customs handed down from antiquity to allow us to do things, like express thanks or ask forgiveness.
Making love to your spouse is a ritual of marriage, but does that mean that there is some more authentic way of loving?
A couple of weeks ago I asked my girls what God did for them in Church every Sunday (I think it was Saturday night). I said, “This is what God does to each one of us,” and picked up my youngest, put her on my knee and hugged her.
Does one love a child ritually by hugging him or her. Can’t one just drop the adverb and say that one loves a child by hugging?
God loves us by meeting with us, forgiving us, teaching us, eating with us, receiving the works of our hands, by blessing us and sending us out. Do we need to insert “symbolically” in any of these descriptions?