This week I’m down in Kerry with my family. Here is a snippet from the Youth Catechism.
Why are there so many signs and symbols in the liturgies?
God knows that we men are not only spiritual but also bodily creatures; we need signs and symbols in order to perceive and describe spiritual or interior realities.
Whether it is red roses, a wedding ring, black clothing, graffiti, or AIDS armbands – we always express our interior realities through signs and are understood immediately. The incarnate Son of God gives us human signs in which he is living and active among us: bread and wine, the water of Baptism, the anointing with the Holy Spirit. Our response to God’s sacred signs instituted by Christ consists in signs of reverence: genuflecting, standing while listening to the Gospel, bowing, folding our hands. And as though for a wedding we decorate the place of God’s presence with the most beautiful things we have: flowers, candles and music. In any case, signs also require words to interpret them.
Why do the sacred signs of the liturgy need words, too?
Celebrating the Liturgy means encountering God; allowing him to act, listening to him, responding to him. Such dialogues are always expressed in gestures and words.
Jesus spoke to men through signs and words. So it is in the Church, also, when the priests offers the gifts and says, “This is my Body … this is my Blood … .” Only these interpreting words of Jesus cause the signs to become sacraments: signs that bring about what they signify. (YOUCAT questions 181-182)