Ceremonies for Common Days

How, but in custom and ceremony, are innocence and beauty born?

WB. Yeats

Yeats reflects on the workings of ceremony and custom that give birth to beauty and how they restore a sense of wonder to our daily rounds. Most of us are far too jaded for our own good…we have seen it all…there are not surprises for us anymore…which is precisely our problem. We only think we have seen it all! What we haven’t begun to see is the abundance that surrounds us, the beauty that gift wraps the extravagance of each day.

The best ways to renew our sense of the Sacred is through personal rituals. I once read a little book called Ceremonials of Common Days, written sometime in the 1920’s by Abbie Graham. It reframed my thinking about the commonness of each day. She wrote that nothing is “too insignificant in the eyes of the authentic self.” In other words, nothing is beneath notice. During these days—in the middle of July—during a pandemic that keeps us cooped up and away from other people, it seems there might be some awareness to be had from such thought.

There are numerous holidays (from the old English for “holy day”) throughout the year, falling just when we need cheering up or respite from these humdrum days that seem to fold together lately. We normally respond to holidays as if company is coming, bringing out our own special dishes, linens, crystal, flowers, and candles. However, we do most of our living among the common days, taking them for granted, just the way we do the people we love. There are myriad occasions during the course of each day that call for some kind of consecration, to use a religious term.

Every day there are first cup of coffeecommonplace moments that are ripe for personal ritual: sipping the first cup of coffee or tea in the morning; putting on one’s public face; greeting the co-worker; lunch out (or in); closing up shop for the day; crossing the threshold at night; changing into comfortable clothes; hearing the sound of the beloved’s homecoming footsteps; sitting down to a simple meal; sharing a laugh, or a confidence; indulging in rainy day dreams; curling up to watch a video at home; sleeping late and enjoying a late breakfast; reading a good book; to bed early for a solid night’s sleep. There is no shortage of common day ceremonies waiting to be enjoyed, only weary imaginations in need of inspiration. Graham writes:

To make a day, it took an Evening and A Morning—at least to make the first day. But that was when the world was new and there was in it only light and darkness, day and night—and God. The world has grown more complicated since then. To make a day now it takes bells and whistles and clocks and desks and committees and meetings and money, luncheon engagements among people too tired and hungry, telephones and noise, shouting and much hurrying. (remember this was 100 years ago) Perhaps the ingredients are necessary for the concoction of the day, but when I observe the ceremony of Evenings and Mornings they do not seem to be the reason why light and darkness were separated and day and night created. So, I shall watch the stars of evening, and in the morning open my window toward the east. I shall observe the ceremony of quietness of heart, of simplicity, and poise of spirit, that I may keep my soul and the souls of others free from entanglements in the machinery of the day.

Can you make some time in your day this day to celebrate the commonplace? I encourage you to try it!

Kent Schaufelberger

Kent Schaufelberger

APC CERTIFIED Chaplain (retired)
ACPE Certified Educator

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I’m thankful for your words —& those of Abbie Graham’s. Beautiful reminders.

“Making time this day to celebrate the commonplace” –I appreciate that challenge, Kent. Thanks for sharing.

Like Jim I’m struck by the phrase “Making time this day to celebrate the commonplace.”

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