Ceremonies of Innocence

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Articles

  1. The ceremony of innocence
  2. From the SparkNotes Blog
  3. SparkNotes: Yeats’s Poetry: “The Second Coming”
  4. “The Second Coming”

In this case, despite ample evidence of life's brokenness, and despite a flood of feelings that all may be lost, we choose, if only for a moment, to live as though the world is whole and healthy. We embrace what we can find of the truth, cherish what we can see of beauty, and respond with what we know of love.

The ceremony of innocence

I do not suggest that we give up the fight against forces that injure and destroy, only that we remember to give the values we are fighting for a place in our lives. Simply put, the ceremony of innocence is what brings us to church. In a world where many things are falling apart, we are here to testify that some things are not. We gather among friendly faces, listen to heavenly music, lift up acts of courage and reflect on psalms of hope.


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We strengthen each other, so that we can, in the words of the prophet Micah, "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. I recently visited a woman named Monica in the hospital, and I tell you about her with her permission. Monica has been attending the Unitarian Church of All Souls for the past year with her year-old daughter Jordan.

Monica came to the U. Sometime in the next few weeks or months, Monica will likely die of a relatively rare, extremely persistent cancer. We talked about the challenges she has faced, and especially her frustration that the cancer was not diagnosed earlier. Hers was a story I hear too often, especially from women: Her doctors some of whom are also women brushed off her early intimations of trouble.

From the SparkNotes Blog

By the time someone started paying attention, it was too late. Mostly, we talked about her daughter—about the arrangements she has made for Jordan to remain in this country and the hopes she has for her as a young woman. Then Jordan walked into the room from one of her first days of the school year. I liked her immediately. She is strong, smart, and delightfully bold. We talked about the courses she is taking and her new teachers—which ones are on the most sought-after list and which ones not.

SparkNotes: Yeats’s Poetry: “The Second Coming”

We talked about whether her new hairstyle makes her face look square my answer is no. We also discussed whether Ashlee Simpson is musically more talented than her older sister Jessica my answer is yes. It was during that conversation that I finally understood Yeats. My conversation with a dying woman and her daughter was, in its own way, a ceremony of innocence. The fact that Monica is dying does not mean Ashlee Simpson is irrelevant to her daughter, nor does Jordan's concern about how her hair looks mean that her mother will not die.

The lesson is this: No matter how difficult the circumstances or how dire the situation, seize the opportunity to celebrate whatever wholeness you can find. Heed what is true, cherish what is beautiful, and embrace what is loving. From this ceremony will come strength for the journey that lies ahead. When I was a child, we had family worship in the living room most nights after supper. Mom would read from our book of Bible stories, we would sing a song or two, and then we would all kneel, and Dad would pray.

His prayers always seemed long to me, but then he had a lot of ground to cover: our family, the church, our nation's leaders, and often a continent or two of the world and its troubles. When we sit down to dinner, we hold hands and take turns saying what we are grateful for. On some evenings, the ample blessings of the day come tumbling out. Other evenings find us less ebullient and more thoughtful.

Our world is continually roiled by people and forces that are not innocent in any sense of the word. Their purpose is to injure and destroy. Our purpose is to bring about wholeness in all its forms: beauty, truth, compassion, and love. This involves standing firm against the forces of evil and making a place for the presence of good. It also happens to be the one in which drowning might be any sort of possible eventuality, however obscure. And so it struck me that perhaps Yeats, in his poem, was looking ahead to a world in which the things, the ceremonies, which are meant to cleanse and make pure no longer have a function.

It is a frightening existence to contemplate. Thankfully, it is not the world in which we live — not yet, at any rate. Right now, today, and most emphatically at Easter, the reclamation of lost innocence is available to those who desire and are willing to accept it. As you may have gathered from some of my previous writings, I am a Christian.

I believe this world is absolutely seething with sin, by which I mean error. It was the measure of his error. The way we live our lives is just the same. We were created to be perfect, and yet we seldom do those things which are pleasing to the God who created us. It is as unavoidable as the archer usually missing dead-center.


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Since this sin separates us from God, now and ultimately in eternity, and since we can not seem to avoid it, there had to be a solution. The concept of shedding blood as atonement for wrongdoing is as old as human-kind. The other is that the ancient practices were preparation, so that the truth would be easily recognized when it came. Consonant with the conviction that there must be a God, even if not easily conceived of, the second view makes the most sense.

Easter, the name given to the day when Jesus rose from the dead, is proof that sin — error — and its consequences have been defeated, its hold on us pried loose. It remains only for us to be convinced.

“The Second Coming”

You may reject a gift of pure gold; I assure you, I shall not. And the innocence thus reclaimed must be constantly maintained, by striving to live as God would have us live. Few can argue that living in such as way, with love and kindness toward others, is objectionable. I am the archer. The degree of my sin will correspond to the frequency of my practice. Happy Easter. This entry was posted on March 23, at pm and is filed under general commentary.