Divine Wisdom: From Symbolism to Reality

Symbols help us to understand the realities hidden under the veils of supernatural mysteries.

Newsroom (31/10/2021 3:30, Gaudium PressThe presence of symbols permeates the daily lives of any of us; whether they are symbols of convenience, organization, culture, or religion, they are always with us.

For example, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church all gestures and attitudes seem to have more than one ‘dimension’ – implements that vary in color according to the liturgical time or celebration, the introduction of incense for the most solemn Masses, vows, and gestures made by Priests, among others.

Pragmatic spirits might object to the use of these symbolic elements; after all, what is the use of what has no practical function? Besides, don’t all these symbols obscure the real meaning of things behind their sieved veil?

A very valuable and useful element

A sign, as St. Augustine teaches us, is something that leads to the knowledge of something other than itselfaliud videtur et aliud intelligitur. Thus, when we see the tracks of an animal, we know that it has passed through a certain place; when we see smoke, we immediately correlate it to fire.

And symbolism becomes an element of great value and usefulness in the life of human beings when they know how to use it well. Therefore, the symbols contained in the liturgy are an agent used by the Church to make us attentive to higher things, raising our souls to God.

In His acting, God does not contradict the laws that He Himself has placed in us.  In this way, he does nothing but treats man in the manner of man: consisting of body and soul, it is necessary to perfect his spiritual knowledge by means of sensible and material things. The constant use of metaphors in our language proves this. Indeed, we have all experienced how often a reality that is difficult to understand becomes much more accessible when accompanied by a metaphor that illustrates it.

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Therefore, St. Thomas Aquinas states that divine Wisdom provides for each according to his way of being, as for man it is enabled to reach supernatural realities by means of sensible ones, notably through symbols.[2]

By Jerome Sequeira Vaz

[1] Latin: One sees something and understands another.

[2] Cf. S. Th. III, q.60, a.7, co.

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