Friday, March 30, 2012

The Symbols and Gestures of Worship

Worship, understood as response, inevitably takes form in symbolic activities. Quite simply, symbolic activities are actions that speak for themselves while pointing beyond themselves. Like hugs and kisses, they do not need to be explained, certainly not by words, and yet they are carriers of meaning, often shaping our lives in ways of which we are not fully conscious. To be human is to act symbolically and to symbolize though actions.

The most pragmatic humans alive engage willy-nilly in "useless" ceremonies, cultural habits, social customs, and rituals. Human life is marked, defined, and given shape by symbolic activities. Even such rudimentary social gestures as nodding a greeting, shaking hands, embracing, conversing, and waving good-by, represent social commitments of momentous significance and are styled according to cultural patterns of behavior. Friendships, various social relationships, business agreements, and religious beliefs are expressed in symbolic acts.

Burkhart, John E. 2002. Worship: A Searching Examination of the Liturgical Experience. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers (reproduced with permission from the Westminster Press, pg 23)

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