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Ritual, Devotion, Faith & Fruitcakes

monkcakeI’m very fortunate to have the ear of clergy representing many faith groups at many levels. Recently, during a conversation we discussed the idea of ritual in opposition to devotion.

Raised Christian, with a background rooted in the rich and terrifying land of Religious Studies in combination with being a present-day-barely-practicing-Buddhist, I must admit that I  equally find comfort in the ritual of a Protestant service,  Catholic mass and chanting of the Sutras.

I’m one of those heathen hybrids that most faith leaders find irresistible when it comes to their calling to convert. That I can somewhat intelligently discuss a vast variety of religious dogma and texts makes me somewhat slippery when it comes to devotion, and a ritual junkie. My values of honouring the human spirit, practice of kindness and stripping interpretation of sacred text of its ancient and oppressive cultural superstition also makes me a bit of a pariah.

The idea that devotion and ritual can even be opposed left me gob-smacked.


devotion; noun (pr. dee-vo-shuh-n)
1. profound dedication; consecration.
2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.:

the devotion of one’s wealth and time to scientific advancement.

4. Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical. religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

Devotion embraces elements of ritual, often as prescribed by religious texts and demanded by rites of passage.

I do believe that perhaps the faith leader I was speaking with perhaps intended to say that people often go through rituals without understanding the intended meaning within the faith. Ritual is a step on the pathway of devotion.

Ritual often reveals itself in real-life-every-day habitual activities. Think about our rituals around food.

Today, for instance, I spent  some time preparing a fruitcake recipe that has been handed down for generations. ‘What does fruitcake have to do with ritual and devotion‘, you might be asking yourself right now. Everything.

The ritual reminds me of my grannies, and all of the lessons about life I  learned at their apron strings; patience, planning, generosity, the value of work, taking time to teach, listening, and even the value of humour.

You see, it’s not about the fruitcake. It’s about what you do with it. Your fruitcake might be wine, or cabbage rolls, easter ham, serving tea or technical skills. It’s about whatever it is that helps you create something to be shared with your community.

After all, isn’t a life of faith, devotion and practice about creating a more compassionate, loving world? Religious scripture, ritual, and organization are creations of our own, intended  to guide us on a path of living a life of purpose, meaning and compassion.

Whatever your creations (even if it’s a controversial culinary masterpiece like the oft-debated value of fruitcake), they are  your gift to share.

Small,  daily rituals such as opening a door for someone, shaking hands or  sharing food are all stepping-stones of devotion. That we don’t recognize them in such a busy world, where the human spirit often struggles to shine,  does not diminish their value .

Your small gestures  in this big machine of North-American life do matter.

Celebrate your mundane creations, and the people who share them with you. Faith has such vast connotations, but why don’t you try to think of faith as  the ability of the human spirit to shine through our every-day-existence.

Whatever your particular faith, ritual or devotion, please share your own fruitcake with the world.