Christian Living

Why you should have rituals

By Vivienne Tam

On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took bread, broke it and said, “This is my body which was broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The syllables resonate within my spirit. Closing my eyes, I could almost be sitting again on the wooden pew of NCC, the air heavy with a tangible silence, broken only with the sound of fresh crust breaking.

But, this time, I am cross-legged on my bed in my nighties, holding a torn piece of stale white bread leftover from Christmas morning.

It’s amazing how I could be miles away from my home church where I would take communion every Sunday, and yet, in my mind’s eye be brought back to the same place where blood was spilled for my forgiveness.

I let the bread rest on my palate, savoring as it slowly dissolves into my tongue: the body broken for me.

This week, I have been impressed by the power of the ritual. My roommates and I decided to institute the ritual of taking communion together every night for the duration of the week-long fast we do to kick off the New Year.

So, every night, we divide up the one slice of bread from the time we made French Toast Casserole, pour grape juice to fill 1/4 of a multicolor-striped wine glass, and enjoy the ritual passed down from Passover feasts to vacuous cathedrals, from the persecuted home church to my bed in my little apartment bedroom. 

I chew slow, the rhythm of my chewing filling up the space of time and silence that is both empty and full at the same time and suddenly, there is only a sacred stillness. There is where the Divine, the most Holy, enters.

He really liked rituals. He told the Israelites to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. 

That meant the rhythm of every week included a day of complete rest, dropping everything and enjoying the fruit of their labor.

He instituted many festivals; there was the Passover to remember when He delivered them from Egypt, the Festival of Booths to commemorate the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness. There was the ritual hand-washing, the ritual offering of the burnt sacrifice, the ritual circumcision for all the males.

And why? So that we would remember. We so easily forget, he knows that, so he made sure that we have reminders in the daily to stop and do the ritual, and every time we partake in the ritual, we remember His goodness.

We proclaim His victory. We remember that we are a part of His story.

Self-help experts purport the benefits of the morning ritual for a healthy, purposeful and happy life. By fitting the most important things – the likes of exercise, meditation, planning your day making the top of the list – into a morning ritual, we break our big goals into small, manageable portions that we commit to every day.

Ancient Chinese philosophers agree. Habits form a man, they say. Who knew that the wisdom of the top-notch self help experts of our day could be found in the annals of Confucius, the ancient Hebrew texts?

Instead of pontificating lofty goals that we end up giving up on after the month of January, I suggest our New Year’s Resolution is a ritual. One ritual.

A simple one, but one that done every day will change your year – and your life. 5 minutes of silence. 3 positive declarations to the mirror. 1 page of journal-writing.

Small but important things done everyday and through day to day faithfulness, things got done. I honestly believe it’s a lot more simple than we think and a lot less overwhelming than we fear.

So, may 2018 be the year of a new ritual. and don’t be afraid of failing, if anything, it will be an experiment.

Maybe you will join the 98% who do not follow through with their resolutions by the end of the year, but maybe, just maybe, through the faithful implementation of that one ritual, you join the ranks of the determined 2%. AndI believe it will be worth it.


Vivienne Tam is an engineering graduate student at McGill in Montreal, Canada, but recently spent two years in Fuzhou, China, teaching at a special needs foster home. She loves embarking on new DIY projects, solo-travelling and writing about the intersection of faith, culture, and science.  

More Articles Like This