Wise Words – Ritual as Doorway to the Divine

“A ritual is the enactment of a myth. By participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, you are being put in accord with that wisdom. Your consciousness is being reminded of the wisdom of your own life.”

Joseph Campbell


I pull open the heavy doors, walk into Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, and stare at the receding rows of arches high above me. From tall windows, the fading sun throws a soft yellow light on the massive stone ceiling. I am here for Evensong, sung tonight by the Cathedral Girls’ Choir. I take a seat.

I love spending time in ancient places of ceremony and worship, where the walls have listened for centuries to chanting and singing, where people have worn the stone floors smooth, coming together to find peace, solace, and connection. The sacred presence of generations has soaked this place, and I feel it can soak me too if I let it.

Sitting in the vast volume of the nave, surrounded by grandeur, I’m surprised that I feel small and large at the same time. One by one, the internal gears that keep my mind spinning start to slow down and a sense of calm contentment unfolds.

The choir begins, quiet harmonies rising into the evening, piercingly clear in the stillness. Reverent, resonant, lifting a soft beauty into the air, touching something in each of us that wants to be lifted up, wants to join in that beauty. My boundaries loosen. I am immersed, absorbed, connected across time, welcomed into stillness.

A young girl, she can’t be more than ten or twelve, has a solo line that floats above the rest. She effortlessly holds a long, high note, then sounds one even higher that splits me. My insides melt and tears well up. I close my eyes. If I let go completely, I would start to weep.

I didn’t know I had a sadness that wanted to surface until it did. This is the power of ritual. It creates a space that can reach the things inside us that we tuck away. Maybe this is what Joseph Campbell means when he says that ritual reminds us of a wisdom within, wisdom in the form of myth.

Why myth? Because myth represents the true part of ourselves that can’t be articulated with descriptive speech. Myths use symbols to show us what’s behind language and reason. The choir was singing in Latin, but I didn’t need to understand the words to get the meaning behind them.

This night, Evensong touches part of a myth in me, and its release connects me to the many generations who have sat within these walls to do the same. I am linked to them by a common space, an ancient ritual and our mutual intention to join with the Sacred.

Photo by Sebbi Strauch on Unsplash

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