Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Feb 28, 2012 Signs and Symbols


  • A sign is any object that represents something else.  Signs have one meaning.  Signs can be imposed on us or agreed upon.  An example of a sign is an exit or stop sign.


  • A symbol is a sign that operates on many levels such as a physical and a spiritual level.  Symbols have more than one meaning; they are multi-dimensional because they can represent many qualities at once.
  • Symbols are observable physical realities that represent an invisible reality.  This reality can be intellectual, moral, emotional, spiritual, social or a combination of these.  For example, a rose is symbols of the social and spiritual quality or virtue of love as well as beauty.

  • Symbol comes from the Greek word, “symballein”, which means to thrown together.  A symbol’s meaning and physical appearance are interwoven.  Water is a symbol of Baptism because it cleans.

  • Cultural symbols are those that have a deep meaning for the members of a particular group.  For example, the maple leaf is a cultural symbol for us.

  • Symbols are most powerful when the personal meaning is shared with others (example:  hockey sweaters).  However, you may have a personal symbol that no one else knows about.  It could be a symbol that runs through many of the events in your life.  Can you think of one?

Universal symbols are those that people throughout the world recognize.  The most universal symbols are natural symbols (rock, water, light).  These tend to have the deepest meaning.  Religious symbols are often natural symbols because natural symbols convey such deep meanings.

Symbols and Sacramentality

  • Symbolic seeing and thinking leads to sacramental awareness.

  • “Sacrament “ means the hidden sign of the visible reality of salvation.  It is God’s loving presence made visible in our life here and now.

  • “Sacramental Awareness” is the ability to see God present around us.  It means being aware of God’s communication to us through people, places, actions, events, and experiences that shape our lives.  All of creation is sacred because it comes from God.
  • Sacramental Blindness is not being able to see the sacred in life or in the world because of pain and suffering, business, or not knowing where to look.  The cure for this blindness is to take a second look and learn where and how to look.

  • A “Sacramental Moment” is a time when we intensely feel God’s presence in our lives.  This can occur through experiences in prayer, nature, or relationships.  Through the God given gift of human reason, we can also intellectually experience God.  An example of this would be St. Augustine’s logical proofs for God’s existence such as the argument of design.

  • Grace is the loving presence of God in our lives and in the world, which brings peace, joy, love, and mutual caring.  Grace helps us become more sacramentally aware.

  • Faith is the virtue that enables us to trust in God’s power.  It is a whole new way of seeing reality, an illumination of the mind and heart that gives one a grasp of God’s truth. It is a surrender of the self to the coming reign of God.  Faith is a gift from God; it is the ability to be open and respond to grace.
Instructions:    Below are the names of four kinds of symbols.  Draw an example of each AND explain the symbolic meaning of each.

A:  Personal Symbol

B:  Universal Symbol
C:  Cultural Symbol

D:  Natural Symbol that is also a Religious Symbol

Ritual (Cult)

. We celebrate with symbols and rituals.
. This helps us become more and more sacramentally aware.


          .  symbols that include actions, gestures or movements.
          .  "symbolic action"
          .  just like symbols, rituals have deeper meanings
          .  not all rituals are religious (ie. birthday rituals)


          .  routines are not rituals because they are not symbolic actions
          .  they only have one surface meaning