Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Liturgical Symbols

Symbols are to be found in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. We Christians use material signs in order to emphasise the spiritual world, in order to comprehend the depths of the theology and the meaning of our existence, our relationship between us and God and in order to be in communion with the Creator. This symbolism is also evident in the liturgical side of our existence. St Maximus examines liturgical symbols.

‘For him the Eucharistic office manifests the whole of God’s saving providence. The lesser entry during the synaxis represents the first coming of the Saviour. The ascent of the presiding bishop to the altar and to his throne is an image of the Ascension. The entry of the assistant ministers symbolizes the entrance of the Gentiles into the Church; the forgiveness of sins represents the judgement of God revealing to each one severally the divine will as it concerns himself. The liturgical chants express the joy encompassing the pure hearts which it lifts up towards God. The invocations of peace recall the serene life of contemplation to which the fearful battles of asceticism give place. The reading of the Gospel, the descent of the presiding bishop from his throne, the expulsion of the catechumens and the penitents, and the closing of the doors of the church, symbolize the events of the Last Judgement, the second coming of the Lord, the separation of the elect from the damned, and the passing away of the visible world. Then the entry with the holy gifts represents the revelation of eternity; the kiss of peace – the union of all souls with God, gradually being accomplished. The confession of faith is the great thanksgiving of the elect. The Sanctus is the lifting up of human souls towards the choir of angels who, in the immobility of eternal motion in God, bless and hymn the one and only Trinity. The Lord’s Prayer represents our sonship in Christ, and the final chant One is Holy, One is Lord, brings to mind the supreme entry of the creation into the abyss of the divine union. The Church’s festivals make us participants in the events of Christ’s earthly life on a deeper level than that of mere historical fact; for in the Church we are no more spectators who watch from without, but witnesses enlightened by the Holy Spirit.’[1]

[1] Lossky, Vladimir, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, (Cambridge, James Clark & Co. Ltd., 1991), pp. 189-190.

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