The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
Signs of the human world.
In human life, signs and symbols
occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man
expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs
and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to
communicate with others, through language, gestures, and ac
tions. The same holds true for his relationship with God.
God speaks to man through the visible creation. The ma-
terial cosmos is so presented to man’s intelligence that he can read
there traces of its Creator.
Light and darkness, wind and fire,
water and earth, the tree and its fruit speak of God and symbolize
both his greatness and his nearness.
Inasmuch as they are creatures, these perceptible realities can
become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men,
and the action of men who offer worship to God. The same is true of
signs and symbols taken from the social life of man: washing and
anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup can express the sanc
tifying presence of God and man’s gratitude toward his Creator.
The great religions of mankind witness, often impres
sively, to this cosmic and symbolic meaning of religious rites. The
liturgy of the Church presupposes, integrates and sanctifies ele-
ments from creation and human culture, conferring on them the
dignity of signs of grace, of the new creation in Jesus Christ.
Signs of the covenant.
The Chosen People received fromGod
distinctive signs and symbols that marked its liturgical life. These
are no longer solely celebrations of cosmic cycles and social ges-
tures, but signs of the covenant, symbols of God’s mighty deeds
for his people. Among these liturgical signs from the Old Covenant
are circumcision, anointing and consecration of kings and priests,
laying on of hands, sacrifices, and above all the Passover. The
Church sees in these signs a prefiguring of the sacraments of the
Signs taken up by Christ.
In his preaching the Lord Jesus
often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mys-
teries of the Kingdom of God.
He performs healings and illus-
trates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures.
gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant,
above all to the Exodus and the Passover,
for he himself is the
meaning of all these signs.
7:33 ff.; 8:22 ff.