Ritual is about joining vision and practicality, heaven and earth, samsara and nirvana. When things are properly understood, one’s whole life is like a ritual or a ceremony. This is what’s behind ritual, these formalized things that get carried down in the religions of different cultures.
Ritual, when it’s heartfelt, is like a time capsule. It’s as if thousands of years ago somebody had a clear, unobstructed view of magic, power, and sacredness, and realized that if he went out each morning and greeted the sun in a very stylized way, perhaps by doing a special chant and making offerings and perhaps by bowing, that it connected him to that richness. Therefore he taught his children to do that, and the children taught their children, and so on. So thousands of years later, people are still doing it and connecting with exactly the same feeling.
All the rituals that get handed down are like that. Someone can have an insight, and rather than its being lost, it can stay alive through ritual.
From The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön, pages 77–78