To say that ritual, symbol, and narrative are connected is an understatement. They actually rely on each other in order to survive and thrive in a culture. Here's basically how it works:
- Every group has an underlying narrative or story.
- The group always extracts symbols from that story.
- Rituals are instated to remind of and reinforce the symbols.
Here's another way to think about it:
- A group's identity is wrapped up in it's underlying story, it's DNA.
- Symbols keep the stories prominent in the group because a symbol is a compact form of the underlying narrative.
- Rituals give the symbols a platform to be experienced in corporate and sanctioned form.
Here's an example:
- The core narrative of Christianity is the sacrificial death of Jesus.
- The cup and bread are symbols of his broken body and spilled blood.
- The Lord's supper is a ritual that keep those symbols fresh and significant to the church.
- A seminal story for Israel was the exodus.
- Unleavened bread was a symbol of the hurried exit.
- The annual passover meal helped them relive and remember the story.
This is why it is important that baptism and the Lord's supper are consistently tied to the underlying narratives that they ought to invoke. If not, they quickly become meaningless rituals that amount to nothing more then empty religion.