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  • Writer's pictureDavid Linaker

Vulnerability, Symbols and ‘Holy’ Ghosts

In yesterday’s coronation service there was a moment when the King stood in his undershirt looking slightly lost and vulnerable. It was a supremely human moment amidst the pomp and ceremony. Yet it was absolutely at the heart of all that was happening. An ordinary man was part of something extraordinary.

This is at the heart of all human ceremonies. Very ordinary and vulnerable people meet with something hugely powerful represented by symbols and actions that render the moment extraordinary. This happens at weddings when I’m always struck by how vulnerable the couple are when they stand before me. Not even special clothes can hide their vulnerable humanity. But perhaps it happens most supremely at a funeral when death and loss strips us of all pretence and leaves us naked in the face of grief and of our own mortality.

This is why ‘holy’ ghosts lurk in all our ceremony making. The ghosts of those we have lost, but also the ghosts of the lessons life has taught us with the best ones being those we learned the hard way.

What we need most at these times when love and fear tug at our sleeves are things that are familiar, like the faces of those who love and support us, but also symbols and the things that evoke the ‘ghosts’ that call us beyond the mud of grief or the confetti of a wedding and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

All this might sound like superstitious nonsense, but it’s at the heart of our evolutionary journey and speaks to the mystery of our human psychology and is, as ancient wisdom shows us, crucial to our healing from our wounds and the binding of our hearts and minds into our promises and pledges to one another.

A good celebrant knows this both instinctively and by training. They are skilled at using language and symbol to call out those ‘holy’ ghosts of our individual and communal history; the friendly ghosts that settle our hearts and inspire our souls.

Therein is our human mud made magnificent and our confetti consecrated.

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