by Terri Stewart
Note: This is from my context, please release what you need to release and adapt as you see fit for your context.
Ritual for Release on the Sabbath Day
Social justice work can often seem to be very sad and disenchanting. You really do run into the worst of people. However, you also meet the best in people. Where they transcend what-is and move into what-shall-be. I find that Sabbath is necessary to sustain social justice work.
Sabbath from everything that I’ve learned is grounded in work-stoppage, rest, being in contrast to the prevailing economy, and holiness. Why do I say these things?
The recognition of Sabbath comes from the creation story in Hebrew scripture in Genesis. G*d does all this work creating the world and everything in it in six days. And on the seventh day, comes rest from creating. That is work-stoppage and rest!
The command to honor Sabbath comes down to the Israelites after they leave Egypt (the prevailing economy) and are called into a new life. So Sabbath life is in direct contrast to a productive life. Additionally, the commandments call for us to honor Sabbath and to make it holy. Not just rest, but honor and holiness. The roots of the word holiness include meanings like “to make whole” and “to heal.”
As I was ruminating about posting about Sabbath and all that it means to me to step outside of the prevailing production system, I thought, “I need a ritual that will help cleanse the seemingly endless supply of idiocy that comes my way.” And let’s face it, we all have an endless supply of idiocy that comes our way.
So here it is! Using the handy-dandy template from LaPadre.com (Deborah Globus):
- Declare sacred space
- State intentions
- Create an embodied ritual
Since this is a ritual for releasing angst and the need to solve social justice issues in order that Sabbath may truly be a place of being made whole, I think the sacred space should be in my home. Or yard. But definitely somewhere close by. I will do it in my back yard.
Things I needed to create the ritual:
- Pitcher of Water
- Towel <–very important!
- Yoga Mat (my yard is not great so I want the mat to sit on)
- Something to write my ritual onto (I used my handy dandy Surface)
- My favorite sacred poetry book: Women in Praise of the Sacred (all the readings except scripture readings are from this book)
- My favorite sacred text (Bible for me): The Voice
- My iPod to play my favorite meditative music:
Please use this is a guide to create your own meaningful ritual. I am choosing five readings-2 from Hebrew scripture and 3 from Women in Praise of the Sacred.
Breath in / Breath out – Breath Prayer – at least five times
On inhale name your idea of God or Ultimate Transcendence, on exhale name the results you desire
Example: Holiness / Bring Peace
First reading (A reading that speaks to the issue of how we treat other people. Excerpted from Exodus 22:21-27.)
21 Do not wrong or oppress any outsiders living among you, for there was a time when you lived as outsiders in the land of Egypt.
22 You must not take advantage of any widow or orphan. 23 If you do oppress them and they cry out to Me, I will certainly hear them, 24 and My wrath will be kindled.
25 If you loan money to any of the poor among My people, do not treat them as borrowers and act as their creditors by charging interest. 26 If your neighbor gives his coat to you as collateral, then be sure to give it back before night falls—even if he has not repaid you in full. 27 You see that coat covers his body and may be his only protection against the cold. What do you think he would sleep in? When he calls out for Me, I will hear his cry. I am kind and compassionate as you should be.
Confession: I have heard your cry to care for your people. All the people. At the same time that I cry out against injustice, I am aware that I am inextricably part of this system. I am both oppressor and oppressed. I give my heart up today so that I may be forgiven when I am too zealous and when I am not zealous enough. Please forgive me.
Second Reading (please substitute words as you see fit for your tradition, “The French Beguine,” 13th century, from The Soul Speaks):
Beguines who hear these words,
If life on earth
Makes you weep and complain,
Find your comfort in God:
Know that it is His will
That keeps you dwelling here below,
And the more your hearts burn with love—
As mine did, when I lived—
The more lovely to Him you will be.
It is the color in which He is clothed.
In this you will be like Him.
Prayer: I am here to rest in Gracious Love. Still my burning heart just for this day so that I may be refreshed, renewed, and restored.
Ritual Offering: Lift the bowl of water to the sky, let it carry the meaning of your heart. Connect yourself, grounding in the earth, through the bowl of water, through the air, to the flame in the sky—the sun. Take in all the elements supporting you and your breath.
Third Reading (by Mechtild of Magdeburg, 1207-1297ish, “How God Answers the Soul):
It is my nature that makes me love you often,
For I am love itself,
It is my longing that makes me love you intensely,
For I yearn to be loved from the heart.
It is my eternity that makes me love you long,
For I have no end.
Prayer: Let me be love, today and always. Let me unite with love, today and always. Let me walk with love, today and always.
Ritual Cleansing with Letting Go: Wash the waters over your face. Say a word of release for each washing:
Ignorance (wash water over face quickly and then flick the water off of your fingers)
Hatred (wash water over face quickly and then flick the water off of your fingers)
Disregard (wash water over face quickly and then flick the water off of your fingers)
Fourth Reading (excerpt from the Gnostic Gospel: Nag Hammadi Library, 2nd-4th c., from The Thunder: Perfect Mind) This reading reflects the dichotomy of being oppressor and oppressed:
For I am the first, and the last.
I am the honored one, and the scorned.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother, the daughter,
And every part of both.
I am the barren one who has borne many sons.
I am the incomprehensible silence
And the memory that will not be forgotten.
I am the voice whose sound is everywhere
And the speech that appears in many forms.
I am the utterance of my own name.
I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am modesty and boldness.
I am shameless, I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and I am peace.
I am the one they call Life,
The one you call Death.
I am the one they call Law,
The one you call Lawless.
I am the one you have scattered,
And you have gathered me together.
I am godless, and I am the one
Whose God is great.
Ritual Cleansing with Letting In: Wash the waters over your face. Claim a word of life for each washing:
2 On the seventh day—with the canvas of the cosmos completed—God paused from labor and rested. 3 Thus God blessed day seven and made it special—an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping, because God rested from all the work done in creation that day. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Go now in peace to rest, rejuvenate, and be restored.
Amen. (So mote it be).
What would you release?
What would you hold onto?
How could you use a ritual like this? On a special Sabbath day or in daily life?
© 2016, words and photographs, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved