Religious rituals in the era of COVID-19
There is something that the enhanced community quarantine has stifled among believers and religious groups: the collective expression of our beliefs. This is commonly referred to as rituals. Going to church with fellow believers, praying together, and singing the same religious hymns constitute the rituals that serve to bring us closer to one another, at least physically.
Since rituals are routinized, they have become a taken-for-granted aspect of our religious lives. Some of us might think they are there because of tradition. But rituals serve a specific purpose in all religions and belief systems. Rituals have to be performed to reaffirm our collective unity.
The sociologist Émile Durkheim explains how close physical proximity in communal gatherings intensifies religious experiences. He asserts that religion is a social phenomenon. It is composed of people who commonly adhere to sacred beliefs and rituals.
Our rituals or religious practices are necessary components of religion because they regenerate beliefs. While beliefs reside in the mind, rituals entail an action. And this action should be done collectively by actual warm bodies in a real, physical space.
This coming together of people with common thought to participate in the same action is called collective effervescence. Through this, we feel that we are one with those who are praying alongside us. We feel excited and in awe when we worship and celebrate with our fellow believers. When we do the same practice as a people, each person is able to express solidarity with the one they believe in and with the church.
Mass gatherings are discouraged at this time to ensure physical distancing and to prevent the spread of the virus. Religious services have not been exempted. Even Pope Francis held the Palm Sunday Mass in an almost empty Saint Peter’s Basilica. Aside from this, his Papal Masses were televised. Evangelical churches utilize online platforms to continue the delivery of their message.
To us believers, we turn to other media like watching televangelists, listening to podcasts, or reading daily devotions. Whether we like it or not, to do these things at home is the only option we have at the moment. Praise and worship can be done in private. One may even say that through our personal relationship with God, we can, on our own, seek the presence of the Lord anytime.
But as we try our best to connect with our brothers and sisters with whatever means of online communication we have, we must remember that nothing can replace the physical presence of these people. We must not lose sight of the shared expressions of our beliefs, for they are as important as our personal faith. After all, the church is a community of believers.
Prince Kennex R. Aldama
UP Los Baños
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