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Christianity - Rituals
How many Christian rituals are you aware of?

Christianity - Rituals

This GCSE RE Christianity quiz will challenge you on rituals. ‘Ritual’ is a collective term related to ‘rites’, which themselves are patterns of behaviour developed within an anthropological group ~ such as a tribe or, here, a faith-community ~ to mark significant moments in their collective life.

You may have heard of a famous, then-groundbreaking ballet by Igor Stravinsky (1913) depicting a primal celebration of the annual reawakening of nature; meanwhile it could well be called a ‘ritual’ when players and supporters gather for the ‘tribal clash’ of a sporting fixture: club ‘anthems’ are sung, and there are established procedures for how the teams come onto the pitch with their mascots, etc. ~ almost quite apart from the actual conduct of the game itself.

Jesus taught (in the Lord's Prayer) that we should only expect, and be grateful for, 'our daily bread' ~ rather than being greedy and gluttonous. What is the usual title of the short prayer said in many Christian households and institutions, before beginning a meal?
The Grace
Table blessing
'Grace' (from the Latin 'gratias', as in 'grateful' and 'gratitude') can take an extraordinary variety of forms and tones, but a simple and serviceable example might be: 'Bless, o Lord, this food to our use, and us in your service'.
It should not be confused with The Grace, a collective prayer at the end of a meeting or worship, which is found in 2 Corinthians 13.
Some people believe (rather unfairly) that relatively strict Christians are miserable folk who frown on anyone else having any fun, and who will make themselves even more miserable at the least opportunity. An example of this might be their practice of 'giving up something for Lent': which of the following is NOT part of the rationale for it?
During the annual commemoration of Jesus' '40 days and nights' in the wilderness, which takes place in the weeks prior to Holy Week and Easter, many Christians adopt the discipline of 'denying themselves' some relative luxury (such as chocolate or alcohol).
Some Christians actively make space in their lives for more positive behaviours, such as more determined private prayer &/or study of the Scriptures.
Some Christians give up their church attendance and concentrate entirely on their private spiritual life.
Many Christians put aside money that they would have spent on 'extravagances' and donate it, instead, to some Christian or other good cause.
Whatever else a Christian might give up or take up, it would be unhelpful and self-defeatingly sacrificial if they were to break the habit of sharing regularly in their faith community.
Even non-Christians are usually aware and grateful to take part when Shrove Tuesday comes round, the day before the 'fast' of Lent (see Q.2 above) begins on Ash Wednesday. Which of the following most aptly explains what Shrove Tuesday really means?
As many 'tempting' foods as possible should be eaten up before the fasting period starts
This offers a good excuse to 'blow out' on richer foodstuffs such as meat and fats
Hence the internationally famous labels 'Carnival' ( = 'farewell to meat' [as in 'carnivore'!]) and 'Mardi Gras' ('Fat[ty] Tuesday) and the last big public parties before the serious season begins
The Carnival gives people the chance to 'get sins out of their system' in one big go, if they feel the urge, before Lent begins: hence all the display and dancing at some high-profile public carnivals
We feel that Answer 4 would be going a bit far! The underlying principle, however, is that of sacrifice ~ making (or forsaking) something special and symbolic, as a mark of one's faith commitment.
Meanwhile the Jews have a slightly parallel principle when they clear out any leavened goods from their homes prior to Passover, and hunting out a strategically-hidden remnant becomes a party-game for any children at that festival (try carefully googling 'afikoman' for more on this).
The other penitential season in the Church's year is Advent, consisting of three (or occasionally, nearer four) weeks' run-up to the positive traditional festival of Christmas. Young people, in particular, may have an Advent Calendar to count down the passing days until Christmas. Which of these observations is NOT directly relevant to this custom?
'It seems strange and sad that many Advent Calendars these days bear no other obvious connection to Christmas: instead of cosy coaching and Nativity scenes, they may as easily feature rude, violent and commercial characters from films etc.'
'Along with Christmas cards, they are in the shops way too early each year ~ almost before Hallowe'en, which itself is a pretty questionable 'festival' stirred up by commercial interests (i.e. the card-selling industry, and its close allies in the kitsch and confectionery businesses)'
'How odd that during a penitential, preparatory season, children should be regularly eating even small quantities of chocolate from behind the calendar windows!'
'... And it can be quite a job tracking down actual 'religious' Christmas cards, marked in a special category of their own on the shop shelves, these days!'
Some traditional Christians (and not only they) may quite fairly regard these developments as something of a sad hi-jacking of an originally valid cultural custom. Things have indeed come to a fine pass, if one has actively to ask to find any 'religious' cards among the others (Ans.4)!
Which of the following (only) are rituals mandated in Christian Scripture, i.e. the New Testament?
Fasting during Lent &/or Advent
Fixed prayers at specified times of day
Ceremonial washing before worship
Baptism and Communion, for and among believers
This is certainly not to deny the value of any or all of the other Answers for those who find them helpful; but the essence of the faith is simple rather than prescriptive. It is partly the appeal, and comfort, of such other accreted traditions, that can lead to churches and individuals feeling almost too 'cosy', while other more questing souls break away (as in the Reformation, and later offshoots of the Protestant church in general ~ such as the Methodists, Baptists and Pentecostalists) into freer forms of observance.
A fairly radical question, now: On which of the following would a true Christian most probably say that their faith is founded?
Relationship with God
Someone describing themself as a 'keen Christian' might well opt for Answer 4 (referring to God's revelation of Himself through His Son, Jesus), but after that moment of 'conversion', the rest of their eternal pilgrimage on earth and beyond would be founded on an ongoing and personal conviction of a direct relationship with God through Him. Jesus Himself (an observant Jew by upbringing, besides His other more unique qualities) was often quite scathing in His comments about the 'empty ritual' of people who rattled through their routine prayers etc. while displaying no shred of practical charity, for instance, in their daily lives.
Continuing from Question 6, there are certain minimum and widely-established rituals built into Christian worship (and often, the 'church' premises where it is conducted) ~ including acknowledgement of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus' summary of them, whose texts can be seen on display in various forms, and which make an authoritative basis for confession as a necessary prelude to worship.
What are the key relationships enshrined in the Commandments, and Jesus' summary?
Our honest and honouring relationship with God
Our honest and honouring relationship with others around us
Our putting God first, and therefore not offending others of His people around us
Obeying rules about social and family conduct so that we stay on the right side of God
As Jesus puts it, the first four Commandments lead us naturally into the latter six: if we are right with God, we should not need dozens of detailed reminders with regard to unhelpful behaviours that we ought to be avoiding.
The Christian urge for ritual has given rise to many beautiful, valuable and comforting artefacts and behaviours down 2,000 years, including church buildings and their embellishments, and evocative forms of words and music. But the very birthday of the Church ~ itself now a major festival with rituals of its own ~ did not require any such 'script' or 'properties' (in the sense of a rehearsed, theatrical presentation). What, according to the report in Scripture, prompted those first believers into action, and in fresh ways?
God's Spirit coming upon them in the form of wind and fire while they were at prayer
A blinding light and the voice of Jesus from the sky
An earthquake accompanied by thunder
A message from the Prophets
God's presence is signalled to humans, on many occasions in the Bible, through wind (symbolising breath and life) and/or a shining light or flame (representing energy, companionship, safety, purity and various other positive things). As one modern 'chorus' puts it, 'The Spirit came to set us free: walk in the light of the Lord!' No amount of painstakingly crafted and prepared ritual performance could have been quite so powerful and startling as what happened on the morning of that first Pentecost.
In its role as a focus for the community, the Church (generally or specifically) regularly hosts ritual gatherings or events which may well have a religious dimension to them, but are not primarily Christian. Which of these is the LEAST evidently, or directly, based in faith &/or the liturgical calendar?
Harvest Festival
Remembrance Day
St Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day (with some confusion, even, over which St Valentine, or who exactly he was) is rarely celebrated as such in mainstream churches; but Hallowe'en (the eve of All Saints') has heavy pagan overtones. Some churches actively do what they can to counter the un-Christian 'nastiness' of trick-or-treat, along with its associated greed, ghoulery and threats to children's values and wellbeing. But you are unlikely to find a 'celebration of Hallowe'en' announced on a church's events board. If anything, a church is more likely to host a fairly sober act of worship and commemoration marking All Souls', on the day AFTER All Saints'; the names of the 'faithful departed' may well be read out, almost as with Remembrance Day which officially falls exactly a week later.
Some Christians are privately more comfortable than others when, within (most usually) a communion service, The Peace is reached. What is expected to happen at this point?
The priest or leader prays for world peace
Members of the congregation wish one another 'God's peace' and go around shaking hands
A flexible period of silent ('peaceful') private prayer is held
There is either absolute silence, or perhaps very gentle contemplative music, while people gather their thoughts and prepare to confess their sins
In British churches at least, however well one may know one's fellow-worshippers, there can be cultural reluctance to break out of 'altar-oriented' worship and go around clasping others by the hand in an echo of the fine Jewish bidding 'Shalom'. This practice was brought back into mainstream worship in the late 20th century and caused a surprising level of embarrassment and misunderstanding among certain worshippers.
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - The revelation of God and the Christian Church

Author:  Ian Miles

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