There has been a regular spate of sharing favorite Dorothy Day thoughts and quotes. Here is a good long list of some as well as a great reflection on her that one does not normally hear. Anyway, I just have to share some of my favorite Dorothy moments. There is so much packed in these, that I just have to spread them out over the week. We’ll start with this from The Long Lonliness pg. 199-200:
Ritual, how could we do without it! Though it may seem to be gibberish and irreverence, though the Mass is offered up in such haste that the sacred sentence, ‘hoc est corpus meum’ was abbreviated into ‘hocus-pocus’ by the bitter protestor and has come down into our language meaning trickery, nevertheless there is a sureness and a conviction there. And just as the husband may embrace his wife casually as he leaves for work in the morning, and kiss her absent-mindedly in his comings and goings, still that kiss on occasion turns to rapture, a burning fire of tenderness and love. And with this to stay her she demands the ‘ritual’ of affection shown. The little altar boy kissing the cruet of water as he hands it to the priest is performing a rite. We have too little ritual in our lives.
We fear ritual in our lives. I’m not quite sure why. It is not like we can avoid it. We take the same path in the morning to the bathroom, or wear the same combinations from our limited wardrobe, have the same conversation with our co-worker. These are like rituals, or how we’re trained to think of them. The moment we are aware of them, somehow they have to change. They change in order to prove that we are alive and in control. But ritual is more than that daily rhythm that soothes the mind and heart, soothes its pain from knowing deep down inside that we are not in control. Rituals are a sign that only He is in charge.
The rituals at Mass are our worst enemy so we are told. I distinctly remember speaking to a woman of about fifty-five years or more who had seen an advertisement for the Catholic Church, the Catholics Come Home Campaign in fact. She saw the image of a little girl receiving first communion at the altar rail, and her comment was, “We’re not going back to that are we? It’s so old fashioned.” It would have been funny if it were not so sad.
I also remember witnessing Mass said by a young priest whose movements in the preparation of the altar were always the same, each morning, exact and exacting. That young priest is still young, and still a priest, and still a man who is guided by ritual so that those attending Mass know that this is more than just about him or them or today. This is about eternity.
The ritual demonstrates a willingness to lose ourselves in the largeness of the thing before us. Ritual is a sign of physical solidarity with the world. Ritual is humanizing and oh so human. Ritual places us at the feet of history, where we can sing thanks to God. “We have too little ritual in our lives.”