Friday, 4 February 2011

Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ: Sacred Signs

I have been praising the DVD Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ, as I have found the sections that I have viewed very useful and informative. I continued my exploration of the DVD by looking at the section on Sacred Signs. This can be found by following the path Exploring the Mass-Theological Reflections, and clicking on the link to Sacred Signs.

This section of the DVD did raise a concern in my mind, that concern being more of a catechetical nature than of a stricly theological nature. The video clip in this section gives an explanation of the significance of the  water, of bread, of wine, of light and darkness in the Liturgy of the Church. It is at one level a very neat and well presented explanation. It's approach can be summarised by a phrase used part way through the clip:
[they are] signs out of the world, but used as sacred signs in the Liturgy.
At the very end of the clip, the speaker makes the connection between the symbolism of light and darkness, and what they tell us about the person of Jesus, and the Scriptural origin of this symbolism in St John's Gospel. And, whilst the presentation of the other sacred signs in the video clip is good, it does not indicate for us this aspect of each of those signs. One can look at them not only as "signs out of the world" but also as signs that are designated for us in the history of salvation, in the Old and in the New Testaments. It is this designation that gives the signs their "sacred" character though, as the video clip very ably shows, nature has in a way prepared them to receive this character. From a catechetical point of view, this Biblical origin of our sacred signs is more determining of the Church's use of those signs in its Liturgy than their being "signs out of the world", and it is the aspect that is missing from much contemporary catechesis for first Holy Communion. It is this origin that enables a catechist to teach them as being something that is "of God" rather than just being a "special" form of what we do in every day life.

This is not to say that the Biblical aspect of the signs used in the Liturgy is absent from the DVD. The text resources in this section, for example, include the prayer for the blessing of water used at baptism:
O God, who by invisible power
accomplish a wondrous effect
through sacramental signs,
and who in many ways have prepared water, your creation,
to show forth the grace of Baptism;

O God, whose Spirit
in the first moments of the world’s creation
hovered over the waters,
so that the very substance of water
would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;

O God, who by the outpouring of the flood
foreshadowed regeneration,
so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water
would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue;

O God, who caused the children of Abraham
to pass dry-shod through the Red Sea,
so that the chosen people,
set free from slavery to Pharaoh,
would prefigure the people of the baptized;

O God, whose Son,
baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan,
was anointed with the Holy Spirit,
and, as he hung upon the Cross,
gave forth water from his side along with blood,
and, after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples:
“Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit,” look now, we pray, upon the face of your Church
and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.

May this water receive by the Holy Spirit
the grace of your Only Begotten Son,
so that human nature, created in your image,
and washed clean through the sacrament of Baptism
from all the squalor of the life of old,
may be found worthy to rise to the life of newborn children
through water and the Holy Spirit.

May the power of the Holy Spirit,
O Lord, we pray, come down through your Son
into the fullness of this font,
so that all who have been buried with Christ
by Baptism into death
may rise to life with him.

Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

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