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GCSE RE Quiz

Christianity - Rituals

This GCSE RE Christianity quiz will challenge you on rituals. ‘Ritual’ is a collective term related to ‘rites’, which themselves are patterns of behaviour developed within an anthropological group ~ such as a tribe or, here, a faith-community ~ to mark significant moments in their collective life.

You may have heard of a famous, then-groundbreaking ballet by Igor Stravinsky (1913) depicting a primal celebration of the annual reawakening of nature; meanwhile it could well be called a ‘ritual’ when players and supporters gather for the ‘tribal clash’ of a sporting fixture: club ‘anthems’ are sung, and there are established procedures for how the teams come onto the pitch with their mascots, etc. ~ almost quite apart from the actual conduct of the game itself.

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Believers in many faiths use, enjoy and appreciate rituals. These may be collective traditions such as reciting prayers together or, of course, ‘rites of passage’ (quizzed separately under each of the faiths that we cover) such as to mark the lifetime milestones of birth/naming, adolescence, marriage and death; or they might be religious habits that are in fact done privately, though in the knowledge that others are doing similarly elsewhere (such as a private ‘quiet time’ with one’s scriptures, prayer and contemplation).

It can be a great comfort, in good times or bad, to maintain rituals that support and enhance a faith which one values and shares. Forms of words, postural gestures (for instance: crossing oneself, washing one’s hands before worship, &/or using a physical token such as rosary beads to follow a long-established sequence of prayers) and other aids can channel, console and stimulate a lonely, perplexed or wavering soul when life’s other elements seem to be running amok.

Christians of many traditions have particular rituals which they keep and honour as valuable. This quiz will review a number of such rituals and their wider context.

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  1. Jesus taught (in the Lord's Prayer) that we should only expect, and be grateful for, 'our daily bread' ~ rather than being greedy and gluttonous. What is the usual title of the short prayer said in many Christian households and institutions, before beginning a meal?
    'Grace' (from the Latin 'gratias', as in 'grateful' and 'gratitude') can take an extraordinary variety of forms and tones, but a simple and serviceable example might be: 'Bless, o Lord, this food to our use, and us in your service'.
    It should not be confused with The Grace, a collective prayer at the end of a meeting or worship, which is found in 2 Corinthians 13.
  2. Some people believe (rather unfairly) that relatively strict Christians are miserable folk who frown on anyone else having any fun, and who will make themselves even more miserable at the least opportunity. An example of this might be their practice of 'giving up something for Lent': which of the following is NOT part of the rationale for it?
    Whatever else a Christian might give up or take up, it would be unhelpful and self-defeatingly sacrificial if they were to break the habit of sharing regularly in their faith community.
  3. Even non-Christians are usually aware and grateful to take part when Shrove Tuesday comes round, the day before the 'fast' of Lent (see Q.2 above) begins on Ash Wednesday. Which of the following most aptly explains what Shrove Tuesday really means?
    We feel that Answer 4 would be going a bit far! The underlying principle, however, is that of sacrifice ~ making (or forsaking) something special and symbolic, as a mark of one's faith commitment.
    Meanwhile the Jews have a slightly parallel principle when they clear out any leavened goods from their homes prior to Passover, and hunting out a strategically-hidden remnant becomes a party-game for any children at that festival (try carefully googling 'afikoman' for more on this, or see the parallel Quiz in our Judaism section).
  4. The other penitential season in the Church's year is Advent, consisting of three (or occasionally, nearer four) weeks' run-up to the positive traditional festival of Christmas. Young people, in particular, may have an Advent Calendar to count down the passing days until Christmas. Which of these observations is NOT directly relevant to this custom?
    Some traditional Christians (and not only they) may quite fairly regard these developments as something of a sad hi-jacking of an originally valid cultural custom. Things have indeed come to a fine pass, if one has actively to ask to find any 'religious' cards among the others (Ans.4)!
  5. Which of the following (only) are rituals mandated in Christian Scripture, i.e. the New Testament?
    This is certainly not to deny the value of any or all of the other Answers for those who find them helpful; but the essence of the faith is simple rather than prescriptive. It is partly the appeal, and comfort, of such other accreted traditions, that can lead to churches and individuals feeling almost too 'cosy', while other more questing souls break away (as in the Reformation, and later offshoots of the Protestant church in general ~ such as the Methodists, Baptists and Pentecostalists) into freer forms of observance.
  6. A fairly radical question, now: On which of the following would a true Christian most probably say that their faith is founded?
    Someone describing themself as a 'keen Christian' might well opt for Answer 4 (referring to God's revelation of Himself through His Son, Jesus), but after that moment of 'conversion', the rest of their eternal pilgrimage on earth and beyond would be founded on an ongoing and personal conviction of a direct relationship with God through Him. Jesus Himself (an observant Jew by upbringing, besides His other more unique qualities) was often quite scathing in His comments about the 'empty ritual' of people who rattled through their routine prayers etc. while displaying no shred of practical charity, for instance, in their daily lives.
  7. Continuing from Question 6, there are certain minimum and widely-established rituals built into Christian worship (and often, the 'church' premises where it is conducted) ~ including acknowledgement of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus' summary of them, whose texts can be seen on display in various forms, and which make an authoritative basis for confession as a necessary prelude to worship.
    What are the key relationships enshrined in the Commandments, and Jesus' summary?
    As Jesus puts it, the first four Commandments lead us naturally into the latter six: if we are right with God, we should not need dozens of detailed reminders with regard to unhelpful behaviours that we ought to be avoiding.
  8. The Christian urge for ritual has given rise to many beautiful, valuable and comforting artefacts and behaviours down 2,000 years, including church buildings and their embellishments, and evocative forms of words and music. But the very birthday of the Church ~ itself now a major festival with rituals of its own ~ did not require any such 'script' or 'properties' (in the sense of a rehearsed, theatrical presentation). What, according to the report in Scripture, prompted those first believers into action, and in fresh ways?
    God's presence is signalled to humans, on many occasions in the Bible, though wind (symbolising breath and life) and/or a shining light or flame (representing energy, companionship, safety, purity and various other positive things). As one modern 'chorus' puts it, 'The Spirit came to set us free: walk in the light of the Lord!' No amount of painstakingly crafted and prepared ritual performance could have been quite so powerful and startling as what happened on the morning of that first Pentecost.
  9. In its role as a focus for the community, the Church (generally or specifically) regularly hosts ritual gatherings or events which may well have a religious dimension to them, but are not primarily Christian. Which of these is the LEAST evidently, or directly, based in faith &/or the liturgical calendar?
    Valentine's Day (with some confusion, even, over which St Valentine, or who exactly he was) is rarely celebrated as such in mainstream churches; but Hallowe'en (the eve of All Saints') has heavy pagan overtones. Some churches actively do what they can to counter the un-Christian 'nastiness' of trick-or-treat, along with its associated greed, ghoulery and threats to children's values and wellbeing. But you are unlikely to find a 'celebration of Hallowe'en' announced on a church's events board. If anything, a church is more likely to host a fairly sober act of worship and commemoration marking All Souls', on the day AFTER All Saints'; the names of the 'faithful departed' may well be read out, almost as with Remembrance Day which officially falls exactly a week later.
  10. Some Christians are privately more comfortable than others when, within (most usually) a communion service, The Peace is reached. What is expected to happen at this point?
    In British churches at least, however well one may know one's fellow-worshippers, there can be cultural reluctance to break out of 'altar-oriented' worship and go around clasping others by the hand in an echo of the fine Jewish bidding 'Shalom'. This practice was brought back into mainstream worship in the late 20th century and caused a surprising level of embarrassment and misunderstanding among certain worshippers.
    A clever ~ and far-from-inaccurate ~ illustration of this can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc80G6Yzu04 ... after which the singers would usually (and justifiably) observe that they 'seem to have touched a nerve' with their theatregoing audience!

Author: Ian Miles

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