There was an interesting column in the paper the other day. It talked about some research in which people who were suffering pain were given treatment. Divided into to two groups, one group received fake pills, the other fake acupuncture. The group that receive fake acupuncture did quite a bit better than the ones that received fake pills. Of this, Ted Kaptchuck who led the experiment said, “Performing fake acupuncture is more elaborate than taking fake medicine. Being checked in by a smiling secretary, plus the professional attention, uniforms, even the paintings on the walls – ‘careful manipulation of such rituals could make all types of treatment more effective’ he says.”
It makes me think of Catholic rituals and art. The touching, eating, smelling, talking, standing, kneeling, hearing, singing, and soon, the elevated language, all these combine to make worship, for those who engage the ritual, more effective for the human condition. The whole person is engaged, inside and out, and thus the whole person is affected. We, like the medical personal, should pay close attention to ritual, not down playing it, not doing a cheap version, elevating our art to make worship more affective, not for God, but for us.