One Man’s Tradition – Is Another Man’s Ritual

We’ve got a huge yard, sixty acres to be exact. Some is fenced off for cattle but that still leaves fifteen or so acres for a yard, as city folks would call it. The dogs have a specific place for number one and another place for number two. We call it ‘walking the perimeter’ because one is on one side and two is halfway across the ‘yard’. How they manage themselves is a tradition and every dog we have had has kept the tradition.

We have other traditions. Right before bed at night I announce to the Budster, “It’s time.” He jumps onto the bed and I give him hugs and pets. It’s our Daddy Love Time tradition. Sometimes we play growly hands which is lots of fun. After dinner when the Missus is settled in and watching television, I carry the plates to the sink and I give Mumford a plate or a pot to lick. It’s a tradition of ours. In the morning, the Missus feeds the cats first and then the dogs. Mumford crowds next to Mom and whines in an attempt to hurry her up. I think it helps. When food and medications are measured out, she lays the bowls down on the floor in a particular order, calling each pup by name as she does. It’s a tradition. No one can do it but Mom.

Sometimes cherished traditions fade and die out. Every Sunday night for years we sat down as a family and watch Touched By An Angel on television. Tradition. The kids are grown and gone now and the show is off the air. Sadly, that cherished tradition came to an end. Another tradition in our house, I make popcorn, sit on the floor and share with the fur babies. Sometimes they even get their own bowls! White popcorn popped in oil (coconut oil if we have it) with real butter drizzled all over it. Yesterday, I made some popcorn, the Duchess and I sat on the floor and we shared. It used to be with Miss Annie, Ruger, the Duchess and me but now it’s just the Duchess and me. The Budster doesn’t like popcorn and neither does Mumford. One day our family popcorn tradition will be gone and I will be sad.

Our churches are steeped in traditions/rituals. The Protestants call Catholic traditions rituals because to them rituals are bad and traditions are good. It’s a subtle, self-righteous slam. Sunday morning worship in a Protestant church is a ritual but they don’t call it that. The ritual is predictable, beginning with up-tempo songs (choruses) and ending with slower worship songs unless the executive branch wants people riled up at the end for a special offering or some other such activity that requires a hyper-attentive audience. Ritual, tradition, take your pick. You say po-ta-to, I say po-tah-to. My religion/denomination/congregation is better than yours. God loves us more than He does you because you have meaningless, yea even pagan rituals while we have spontaneous traditions (oxymoron). Blah blah blah.

So what’s the difference?

Ritual /ˈrɪtʃʊəl/ noun
A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order:

Tradition /trəˈdɪʃ(ə)n/ noun
The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way:

Can you see the difference between the two? It may appear to be subtle but it is important. A ritual is something you do a particular way and technically anyone can perform or participate in the ritual if they know the magic words and secret handshake. A tradition is about the family, the people, the heritage. You could try to mimic our family traditions but they wouldn’t be the same because they’re not your heritage. You have your own. You don’t need ours.

I can learn to make the traditional Navajo foods but I can’t share in their tradition because I am not Navajo. I can appreciate and respect their traditions but they are not mine.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread,
24 and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This is my tradition because it is my holy heritage.
“In remembrance of me,” or remember me when you do this. It’s personal. It’s holy. It’s a living memory. Don’t desecrate the sacred tradition by making it a ritual as some have done.

1 Corinthians 11:27-30
27 For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself.
30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.

Some call it The Lord’s Supper and some call it taking communion. Whatever you call it, it is sacred. You may not feel comfortable calling it a tradition but it is not acceptable as a ritual. Wine or grape juice, bread or teeny tiny crackers, its the heart and soul that matters.

Yesterday, we didn’t have butter for our popcorn, yet the Duchess and I still participated in that time honored tradition and it warmed our hearts. You might say we did it in remembrance of Ruger and Miss Annie. I sometimes eat Cheetos and remember Sadie because she so loved Cheetos. It doesn’t mean that I worship Sadie. I remember her and sometimes I cry. Participating in a tradition helps us relive a special time.

Passover in 2016 will start on Saturday, the 23rd of April and will continue for 7 days until Friday, the 29th of April. Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. By following the traditions of Passover, we relive their experience from slavery to freedom.

A Passover Seder can be a beautiful experience. It can also be a mockery in the wrong setting, with the wrong people. We were once invited to a Passover Seder that was…I don’t know what you’d call it…officiated by the pastor of a pentecostal church. It was painful, it was unholy. It was embarrassing for them. We know the difference because we have experienced it properly in the right setting with the right people. The same disrespect can sometimes be seen when participating the Lord’s Supper. We’ve experienced it in many different variations, most of which were not holy. They were cold, empty rituals. My opinion, your mileage may vary.

Cherish and perpetuate your cherished traditions. A part of your soul will die when they become rituals or rather, they become rituals when a part of your soul is dead.

Everyone has traditions. What are some of yours?

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About the Author

He is a policeman, a soldier, a programmer, a farmer, a murderer, a priest and a politician. Rod is anything that he wants to be. He's a consultant by day but he's an author by night.

Rod is the author of The Morning Zoo, hosted exclusively by WarmFuzzy's. He has also written several novels and proceeds from book sales help support WarmFuzzy's Rescue & Sanctuary. Mosey over to Amazon and get some.

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