The View from the Sacristy: Symbols

March 19, 2014 § 1 Comment

screw topIt’s good to sit and think about altar guild work when I am, every other time, on the move and offering it.  The first real thought I have is it’s an opportunity to handle symbols.  I interact with them.  Some are exalted-looking vestments and frontals, some are prosaic-looking, a large jug of tokay with a screw-cap.  But all are more significant than they appear, and that is the magic.  They as a whole are as whole as the cross itself, the chrism and candle for baptism, the ashes for imposition, the funeral pall. The joy of the sanctus bells.  I don’t know if symbols can symbolize minor things, but these symbols don’t.

There’s a participation with them in altar guild work, of which my part is a caring for them.  Caring for the symbols of our faith!  They are mute reminders of the truth of our faith.  The symbols can be upsetting or beautiful, but this only reminds me of the wonderful thought from Martin Buber’s I and Thou, “ Jesus’s feeling for the possessed man is different from his feeling for the beloved disciple, but the love is one.”

Reminders of mortality or bells pealing a call to receive, the ciborium holding the Blessed Sacrament, the plastic tubs for the foot washing on Maundy Thursday, all these symbols, and caring for them, form an engaged Lenten meditation.

– Robert McVey

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