Loving God Through Ritual and Symbol


Quotes from 'Sacred Pathways' by Gary Thomas

“Traditionalists are fed by what are often termed the historic dimensions of faith: rituals, symbols, sacraments, and sacrifice. These Christians tend to have a disciplined life of faith. Some may be seen by others as legalists, defining their faith largely by matters of conduct....Traditionalists have a need for ritual and structure.” (24)

“Many of the religious obligations I had felt ‘delivered from’ in my own youth, I later discovered as potential avenues of spiritual growth. Instead of feeling delivered, I felt cheated, as if I had been taught to live the Christian life without being given something very helpful to assist me.” (93)

“Rituals provide structure for our faith. Once we learn to use them, traditionalists can also incorporate the use of symbols, which provide meaning.” (81)

“Some people react to the word, religion, like a child reacts to the work, bedtime. They rightly fear a form of faith that has no substance, so they stress Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. However, in the context of a true faith, religious practices and rituals can be a powerful force for good – a friend, not an enemy, of a rich and growing relationship with God.” (70)

“There are three elements of the traditionalist pathway: ritual (or liturgical pattern); symbol (or significant image); sacrifice.” (73)

“Imbued with a vibrant faith, the repetition of ritual is a powerful force for good. Without present attention, however, ritual becomes an empty exercise that floods our souls with insincerity.” (91)


1. Contemplate the three elements of the traditionalist pathway.

2. Read Scripture aloud.

3. Select a Psalm to say every morning and one for each evening; Practice liturgical prayer (see Book of Common Prayer)

4. Set a regular time and place to meet with the Lord each day.

5. Follow the Church calendar and celebrate significant days, e.g. Pentecost, Advent.

6. Develop meaningful rituals; Make plentiful use of symbols or ritualised gestures.


Gen. 12:7,8; Ex. 25:40; 40:12-15; Lev. 10:8-11; Num. 15:37-40; 21:4-9; Josh. 1:8; 2 Kings 18:4; Ezra 8:32, 35; Neh. 8:3; Jer. 7:4-7; Amos 5:21-24; Mt. 23:27; Lk. 4:16; Acts 3:1; 10; 16:13; 21:26; Rom. 3:25; 8:3; Col. 2; 16-17; I Tim. 4:1-5


1. In what ways did men and women in the Bible and in church history use ritual to embody spiritual truth?

2. What rituals, symbols, etc. would you like to incorporate into your life? How do you think they would affect your personal worship time? What would you like them to do for you?

3. What rituals are necessary for you to be able to worship easily?

4. Use a formal liturgy for your quiet time such as Celtic Daily Prayer?