The significance of sacred symbols and the need to exercise caution while choosing them

straipsniuiIt is worth remembering that the symbols used by the Church are more than mere relative artificial signs that have nothing to do with the reality they attempt to express. In Christianity, as in any other sacred traditional culture that strives to discover and know a higher truth, one that lies beyond the world accessible to the five physical senses, symbols help a believer to get to know God and the spiritual realm. Since earlier Christians understood this knowledge as a union between the subject (the one who seeks knowledge) and the object (that which the subject seeks to know), the symbol, as a concrete, palpable representation of this or that spiritual phenomenon, was used to achieve this union. Even the Greek word ςυμβολον (symbolon) means a sign that testifies to merging or union. This was associated with the belief that a symbol not only depicts the phenomenon or object one is striving to know but is its direct manifestation. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip says, “The truth did not come into this world naked; it came through images and symbols. Otherwise, the world would not have recognized it.” Or, in the words of Dionysius the Areopagite: “Visible objects and phenomena are in fact the icons of the objects and phenomena that are invisible”. The complex system of symbols used in the Church and expressed through the Holy Sacraments, through rites and church art, helps the believer, who lives in the material world, to harmoniously enter into the spiritual world, to learn its laws, to discern the mysterious connections between the spiritual and material dimensions. Such knowledge is accompanied by a growing union between God and the believer, which is based on mutual love and is often compared to marriage.

It is believed that sacred symbols are not invented people but are granted to us from on high. As a result, they cannot be fully and unambiguously defined from a purely rational perspective. Their significance can only be sensed or interpreted, although such an interpretation will be no more than another symbol, though one that has been somewhat rationalized. .

Because of their supernatural origin and role, sacred symbols can have an unusually strong influence on our soul. They help establish a connection between a person and the unseen spiritual realm, which may vary vastly depending on the nature of the symbol and the person’s spiritual state or attitude. Therefore, one ought to be cautious while choosing such symbols. At the same time, a superficial interest in religious symbols could be the first step toward a deeper, more conscious faith. Those who initially begin to wear the cross for reasons unrelated to faith (for example, due to the fact that they like its external shape or belong to a youth subculture), can then be encouraged to find out more about Christianity and may eventually join the Church. As for Christians who find themselves drowning in everyday concerns and troubles and cannot devote much time to the Church, wearing a cross or icon on a permanent basis can encourage them to stop more often to pray, to reflect on the meaning of life, to distance themselves for a short while from the usual work or family responsibilities and think about God.

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