More on Signs and Symbols
“…for many Christians, ceremonies and symbols are more or less unnecessary adornments or enhancements of real life. The key assumptions in this view are that natural or literal reality can be isolated from its enhancements, that natural or literal reality is non-symbolic, and that “real [i.e. non-symbolic] life” is the foundation on which we set up pretty symbols. These assumptions are false.”
“With regard to language, there is no clear line between literal and symbolic. In an important sense, all language is “symbolic” because it employs visual symbols or sounds that mean something other than themselves.”
“Relationships do not exist “behind” the symbolic exchanges, as if the “real relationship” were a hidden “spiritual” reality of which the symbols are only visible or audible “expressions.”
“If sacraments are signs and symbols in the sense suggested here, then they are (with the Word and through the Spirit) the matrix of personal communion with the Triune God. The symbolism involved in sacraments is the symbolism of action, less like the symbolism of a painting or a metaphor than the symbolism of a handshake or a wave or a kiss. They are symbols by and through and in which personal, covenantal relationships are forged and maintained. Sacraments are not “signs of an invisible relationship with Christ.” Rather, the intricate fabric of exchanged language, gesture, symbol, and action is our personal relationship with God.”
Part VI is here.