Human beings are created with a physical, mortal body and a spiritual, immortal soul. Actual grace comes to us in many ways, one being sacramentals.
One of the forms of sacramentals is ceremony or ritual. The way the sacraments are celebrated, their cultural and ritual practices, are of great importance. Time, energy, and care should be executed when sacraments are being administered, since they are encounters with divinity. Sacred ceremonies and rituals, like the holy sacrifice of the Mass, exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, etc., help believers transcend this earthly existence and contemplate heaven. Devotion and novenas to saints and their corresponding rituals are also important to the Christian on the pilgrimage of faith to heaven.
Rituals and their symbolisms are also important since human beings are tangible people. We are a body and soul composite. The soul needs the body to bring information to the intellect via the five senses. Your mind would not know what hot or cold meant unless you first experienced these sensations in your body.
We worship the Almighty God not only with our minds, but also with our bodies. In fact, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the rituals in the ceremonies convey our deepest sentiments to God through words, actions, and gestures. During religious ceremonies, Catholics make the sign of the cross and bless themselves with holy water; they genuflect before the real presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle; they are inspired by a holy image; they light candles to communicate their prayers. Symbols and rituals are important in Catholic worship, devotion, and spiritual life.
We praise God through the five senses. Sight—a beautiful church with stained glass windows, frescoes, paintings, and statues—tells a story of faith to the person. Touch—the sign of peace, kneeling, genuflecting, the striking of the breast at the confiteor, and sprinkling of holy water—conveys the sacred actions of prayer.
Smell—incense and candles burning—transports the person to another world: the sphere of the divine. Incense has long been associated with our prayers rising to God; the fragrant smell is a pleasing symbol of our offering to God. Through taste, in the reception of the Holy Communion, we have the foretaste of the heavenly banquet that Christ has prepared for us. Finally there is sound, not only from the preaching of the Word and recitation of prayers, but also in the singing of liturgical music. Good Saint Augustine, a fourth-century bishop and theologian, once said, “Singing is praying twice.”
Jesus Christ is the Word that existed for all eternity and then took on flesh. His sacred humanity elevated ours. Hence, when we worship God through the senses of our human bodies, we give credence to the Incarnation.