advent 2009

To live in the world
without becoming aware of the meaning of the world
is like wandering about in a great library
without touching the books.

With these words, quoting Manly Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Dan Brown begins his latest best-selling thriller, The Lost Symbol. Hall’s original quote goes on to say “It has always seemed to me that symbolism should be restored to the structure of world education. The young are no longer invited to seek the hidden truths, dynamic and eternal, locked within the shapes and behavior of living beings. The present volume is itself a symbol made up of many symbols gathered from rare sources. It invites the thoughtful reader to explore the meanings of these emblems and devices with his own insight. Because spiritual growth is the goal of all human aspiration, symbols that help us to grow are precious things for they open the doors to life everlasting.”

Unlike Hall’s 1928 self-published work, which is a remarkable encyclopedia of ancient mythology, ritual, and symbolism, this devotional booklet is not intended to be scholarly nor controversial. Rather it represents the musings of some of our congregants on the subject of “Symbols of Our Faith.” The Music and Arts Committee, as part of their effort to celebrate the 35th anniversary of our magnificent Chrismon trees, chose to devote this issue to the broader subject of symbolism.

As a musician, I could not begin to do my job without symbols. A piece of sheet music is covered with signs and symbols that are meaningless to those who have not studied music. Even a professional musician will sometimes encounter an unfamiliar symbol, and have to seek out its meaning, in order to be true to the score. But that printed or handwritten page is not music – it becomes music only when the performer, using the symbols as a guide, seeks to interpret the composer’s intentions.

That is one of the reasons that some performances move us so intently, while other presentations of the same music may leave us cold. The symbols on the page may be the same for two players, but the resulting music can vary tremendously.

So it is with all symbols of our faith. We each look at a cross, or a dove, or a fish, and know instantly what it is. But what it means to us, and how it impacts the way we live, varies greatly from person to person. Symbols can be an excellent resource in the sharing of our Christian faith, if we use them carefully. And it would be a shame to come out of that great library without ever even touching the books!

– James Richardson, editor

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