Saturday, October 19, 2013

Symbolism

Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 39:
This means that in the final analysis the true and original symbol is inseparable from faith, for faith is "the evidence of things unseen" (Heb 11:1), the knowledge that there is another reality different from the "empirical" one, and that this reality can be entered, can be communicated, can in truth become "the most real of realities." Therefore, if the symbol presupposes faith, faith of necessity requires the symbol. For, unlike "convictions," philosophical "points of view," etc., faith certainly is contact and a thirst for contact, embodiment and a thirst for embodiment: it is the manifestation, the presence, the operation of one reality within the other. All of this is the symbol (from simballo, "unite," "hold together"). In it - unlike in a simple "illustration," simple sign, and even in the sacrament in its scholastic-rationalistic "reduction" - the empirical (or "visible") and the spiritual (or "invisible") are united not logically (this "stands for" that), nor analogically (this "illustrates" that), nor yet by cause and effect (this is the "means" or "generator" of that), but epiphanically. One reality manifests (epiphaino) and communicates the other, but - and this is immensely important - only to the degree to which the symbol itself is a participant in the spiritual reality and is able or called upon to embody it. In other words, into the symbol everything manifests the spiritual reality, but not everything pertaining to the spiritual reality appears embodied in the symbol. The symbol is always partial, always imperfect: "for our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect" (1 Co 13:9). By its very nature the symbol unites disparate realities, the relation of the one to the other always remaining "absolutely other." However, real a symbol may be, however successfully it may communicate to us that other reality, its function is not to quench our thirst but to intensify it:"Grant us that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never ending day of Thy Kingdom." It is not that this or that part of "this world" - space, time, or matter - be made sacred, but rather that everything in it be seen and comprehended as expectation and thirst for its complete spiritualization: "that God may be all in all."