The Presence of Mystery and the Sacred

lone-cyprusThis is the week of Passover and Easter. It is, in Judaism and Christianity, a time of mystery, a season when the complexities and unknowables of life are acknowledged and pondered.

Our lives, too, have their seasons, times and passages containing both predictability and mystery. Traditional cultures mark these moments and milestones with ceremony. Ceremonies acknowledge the transitory nature of identity, strengthening one’s sense of self, relationship, and belonging. They mark beginnings and endings, continuity and change.

Ceremony acknowledges the immediacy of mystery and the sacred. My women friends often speak of the mystery and sacredness of pregnancy and childbirth, and of child-raising. They envision motherhood as a cycle of ceremony, marked by transitions that delineate their relationships with body, self, and other. When folks are healthy, parenthood becomes a sacred journey, a bridge between past and future, self and other, ancestors and those yet to come.

Ceremony, like family,  is best supported by community. Yet the dominant culture of capitalism works against community, substituting isolation, material acquisition,  and self-interest for care and relatedness. In many Indigenous families and communities colonization has undermined ceremonial tradition, leaving generations untethered. Residential schools, land seizure, and the imposition of capitalism and a repressive form of Christianity have, over many generations wrought much harm. Other strategies affected settler communities.

Still, there is hope. Individuals, families, and communities, both Indigenous and non, are rekindling their commitment to ceremony and a life framed by the presence of, and contact with, the sacred. When our lives  become filled with mystery and the experience of the sacred, the dehumanizing influences of capitalism are held in check; the presence of the sacred invites more humanity, creativity, and connection.

Ceremony may be deeply healing, bringing us into the moment and embracing us in the immediacy of human experience. It offers belonging and helps us to understand the challenges and complexities of our lives.

Passover reminds us that as long as any are enslaved, we are all enslaved. The rituals of Easter remind us of the promise of rebirth. When we acknowledge that our lives are cycles of change, each rung requiring a new vision of self and world, these celebrations take on new meaning. Rather than following a straight line, our lives can, with attention, spiral, acquiring great richness and breadth. As they do so, they become sacred ceremonies.

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9 thoughts on “The Presence of Mystery and the Sacred

  1. Wonderful Easter gift. Thank you. I choose to treat all aspects of life with some degree of sacredness. I guess that you could also call that mindfulness. It turns life into a divine ceremony. A life lived with gratitude I feel. Otherwise we are all running around wildly toward death. I guess that you could call that smelling the roses. I am old and live alone in the woods so the value of the sacred becomes easier to touch in my world.

    • Hi Gretchen! There is much to be said for living in the woods! We leave adjacent a wood, not really in it. Still, there is something magical about proximity. I. too, and sort of old, although I have many friends 10-20 years older. And yes, the proximity and immediacy of the sacred does, in my life, seem enhanced by gratitude, although some days gratitude seems rather elusive.Still, we are alive and in the world and that seems a great gift.

      • What I find, Michael, is that with any breath I can find that I have forgotten to be grateful. That’s the way of the mind. The gift is that there is another chance to practice gratitude….stillness. It goes round and round doesn’t it.

  2. This style of writing captivates me. The way current religious practices are related to ceremonies of the past, along with offering a solution. Thank you for taking time to form this article.

  3. Hello Michael, Thank you for sharing! Your words bring me back home to what I truly believe in and I always find great comfort in your way of expression. Very best wishes always, Laara WilliamSen

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