Tuesday, May 18, 2010
"Just" A Symbol
In a recent discussion about holy communion, someone said of the bread and wine, "Well, they're only symbols." By using "only" this person was downplaying, even demeaning, the importance of symbols.
Symbols are powerful. Religions are filled with symbols. The cross, the prayer wheel, the yin-yang, the minaret, and the Star of David are just a few examples. We should never underestimate the power of a symbol to convey meaning.
Certainly, symbols point beyond themselves to the reality they symbolize. Yet, in the spiritual realm, we are forced to use symbols in the form a metaphors to describe the indescribable. A metaphor is a word-symbol.
I believe that all language about God is metaphorical. When we talk about an invisible, spiritual reality, we have no other language than the language of image, symbol and metaphor to convey the mystery and majesty of the divine.
To use the words "just" and "only" in relation to symbols is to undermine their significance. Of course, this is only my opinion...