If ritual is to lead us into mystical experience, it needs to engage the body and its senses. It is not hard to understand why this is so. We are still ‘hard wired to nature’ and have not somehow jettisoned this part of ourselves, in favour of our rational minds. Our so called ‘primitive nature’ is still very much part of who we are and engaged in our daily liturgical lives.
If we don’t don’t engage the body and its senses then ritual can ossify, and religious practice become mere social habit or custom and no longer a carrier of the sacred.
It is hard to be optimistic that this will happen for the body is still effectively excluded from most ritual….“liturgical reform is afflicted by its enmity towards the body……the liturgy must win back its character as event, as an activity expressed in gestures and symbol, in short its character as a fully human act. Do we trust our liturgies any more to provide us with the ecstasy of belief?” Kunzler
Ecstasy and belief not two words I put together easily – and today the loss of spiritual ecstasy is replaced with artificial ecstasy provided by other often destructive rituals – beating music, drumming, glaring lights, drugs….and even body building is assuming ritual potency.
It is a big challenge to reintegrate the body into ritual and it requires more than simply kneeling or standing. Engaging the senses, through the use of colour (vestments), smell (incense) sound (chant) is vital if ritual is to provide an effective five sense breakthrough in people’s lives. We have the resources we just need to use them.