A friend tipped me off to an interesting interview with Alain de Botton regarding his new book Religion for Atheists. I have not read it yet, so I can't offer a review. However, I was intrigued by Botton’s defense of rituals. He says,
The secular world tends to trust that if we have good ideas, we will be reminded of them when it matters. Religions don't agree. They are all about structure; they want to build calendars for us that will make sure we regularly encounter reminders of significant concepts. That is what rituals are: they are attempts to make vivid to us things we already know but are likely to have forgotten. Religions are also keen to see us as more than just rational minds, we are emotional and physical creatures, and therefore we need to be seduced via our bodies and our senses too. This was always the great genius of Catholicism. If you want to change someone's ideas, don't only concentrate on their ideas, concentrate on their whole selves
Rituals fill this part of the church’s calendar. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, continuing through Holy Week, and concluding with Easter, the ancient rituals of the church command our attention and invite us to a deep encounter with God.