Religious rituals in the age of COVID-19

There is something that the enhanced community quarantine has stifled in believers and religious groups: the collective expression of our beliefs. This is commonly called rituals. Going to church with other believers, praying together and singing the same religious hymns are the rituals that serve to bring us closer to each other, at least physically.

Since rituals are routine, they have become a self-evident aspect of our religious lives. Some of us might think they are there because of tradition. But rituals have a specific purpose in all religions and belief systems. Rituals must be performed to reaffirm our collective unity.

Sociologist Émile Durkheim explains how physical proximity in community gatherings intensifies religious experiences. He asserts that religion is a social phenomenon. It is made up of people who generally 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 involve action. And this action must be performed collectively by real hot bodies in real physical space.

This gathering of people with a common thought to participate in the same action is called collective effervescence. Through this we feel that we are one with those who pray with us. We feel excited and impressed when we worship and celebrate with our fellow believers. When we do the same practice as a people, everyone is able to express their solidarity with those in whom they believe and with the church.

Mass gatherings are discouraged at this time to ensure physical distancing and prevent the spread of the virus. Religious services were not exempted. Even Pope Francis held Palm Sunday mass in a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica. Apart from that, his papal masses were televised. Evangelical churches use online platforms to continue spreading their message.

For us believers, we turn to other media like watching televangelists, listening to podcasts, or reading daily devotionals. Whether we like it or not, doing these things at home is the only option we have right now. Praise and worship can be done privately. We can even say that thanks to our personal relationship with God, we can, on our own, seek the presence of the Lord at all times.

But as we do our best to connect with our brothers and sisters with all the online means of communication available to us, we must remember that nothing can replace the physical presence of these people. We must not lose sight of the common 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 Banos
[email protected]

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