The Egotism of Symbolic Value

June 16, 2016 at 11:03 AM (Uncategorized)

As much as I’d like to satisfy my own desire for self-satisfying arrogance by claiming that this perspective blossomed from my own thought process, I’ll have to admit that I first heard of the egotism that motivates infusion of symbology in a homily at the Sunday Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi where the priest observed that believing in the Eucharist as merely a “symbol” rather than as the Real Presence of God through transubstantiation and recognized through the “eyes of faith,” is an act that wrests all power from God and removes the instrumentality of an act of spiritual faith and puts the power and control into the hands of the person attributing the symbolic value to the sacramental host, that which appears to the senses to be an unleavened wafer and sacramental wine.   If the Eucharist employed for the religious ritual is primarily that of a “symbol,” then each individual interpreting that symbol is empowered with the ability to characterize that symbology to a greater or lesser extent.  My interpretation will differ from that of each other person in the congregation although own symbology will share some characteristics, the most obvious being those which correlate and contribute to the ritualistic practice within the religious ceremony.  I might even mistake my ability to infuse symbolic value with that of my depth of faith and self-righteously congratulate myself for the intricacies and particularity of my individual symbolic interpretation.  I might envision myriads of angels gathered around the symbolic host or I might imagine that the host is pulsing with a heartbeat.  Perhaps I will recall the last Supper of Jesus and the apostles at the Passover meal when my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ spoke those words that are repeated by the priest and minister at communion: “Take this, all of you, and eat it.  This is my Body which will be given up for you.”  In the omniscience of my symbolic control, I recognize Jesus to be speaking with the same symbolic reference that I am applying at that moment when I symbolically worship my Savior, Jesus Christ, in the communion wafer.  But to do all this, to bring my imaginative power to infuse symbolic supernatural value, is to place the power and control within my purview and practice, my responsibility performed within the confines of my own mastery of the process to conform with my intellectual understanding of the metaphysical as it is played out in the New Testament account of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my Lord and Savior, because of whom I consider myself to be Christian.   If the fellow in the church pew in front of me or behind me is not as astute or skilled at fleshing-out the symbolism as imaginatively or as intellectually-sophisticated as I am able to do, then that is either a shortcoming in his/her faith or in his/her intellectual capacity or spiritual acuity.  This establishes my superiority to others in the congregation, feeds my arrogance, and provides a self-satisfying self-righteousness that makes Sunday worship a worthwhile endeavor because of its magnificent and consistent ability to feed ego gratification with an abundance that far exceeds the sub-standard gratification of interacting with others who all too often disappoint and fail to satisfy.   To see the individual responsibility of infuse spiritual value into something which only possesses that value symbolically, appears to me to be pure egotism, an act of self-righteousness and arrogance, and an inversion of the Christian practice which emphasizes humility and service to others.

I have been told by Protestant Christians which utilize a ritualistic practice nearly identical to the Catholic Eucharistic service that the Eucharist, what the Catholics consider to be the Sacramental Host, is not just a symbol, but it is “more than a symbol” in the way that a wedding ring is more than just a symbol of two people agreeing to enter into marriage and married life.  Likewise, if I wear a religious symbol as a piece of jewelry, a necklace, bracelet, earring, it too is more than merely symbolic of what it represents.  Although this makes the infusion of symbolic value easier to swallow as necessary and integral to the process of “communion,” it does not remove the ego from the process.  In fact, the ego’s role intensifies and moves from necessity to responsibility.  In the process, the mental act of invoking spiritual value from symbolic content becomes a self-righteous mandate that carries with it certain gratification of the ego that is likely to be characterized by false humility and an arrogant estimation of one’s own faith.

The process of interpreting symbolism then becomes an act like that of the Emperor’s New Clothes, responding to group-think and peer-pressure, catering to wish-fulfillment and the desire to “fit in” by equating compatibility with acceptance and relegating the interpretation of dogma and truth to that of majority opinion and fifty-one percent of the democratic vote.   Much of academia falls victim to pseudo-intellectualism in the same process where published interpretations must be addressed in spite of its ludicrous or fallacious foundation merely because of its notoriety and prominence in the critical world that forms around the interpretation of any esteemed work of literature, commentary, or documented account of events or processes.   As is evident to even the most casual observer, this quickly results in an obfuscation of any defined truth, every argument being a conflict in perspectives since there can be no absolute fact or truth in which ultimately, opposing viewpoints which refuse to concede to the other are forced to “agree to disagree.”

How fortunate are those, who by the grace of God, have the eyes of faith to recognize as fact and see as undeniable truth, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Consecrated bread and wine which are transubstantially changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ without being limited or restricted by the power of imagination and the responsibility to intellectually infuse spiritual value into the symbol represented by the bread and wine.  How fortunate are the faithful Catholics who earnestly and sincerely believe that what appears to be bread and wine, looks like, tastes like, smells like, feels like bread and wine, is in all actuality the true Presence of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus of Nazareth born in Bethlehem in a stable, who was crucified by Pontius Pilate and rose from the dead, and the same Jesus Christ who gave the power to his disciples, his apostles, his first bishops, his priests, to change bread and wine into His Body and Blood through the act of consecration and have passed that power to ordained bishops and priest, the Episcopate and the Presbyterate, through the years and right to the altar at each Catholic Mass.  To believe that the bread and wine actually become the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, what is immediately rejected as impossible by those who cling to the self-righteous practice of infusing spiritual value in the sacramental host as a symbol, is to demonstrate a Divine Faith that is neither enhanced nor limited by intellectual capacity, a Faith that makes all worshippers equal before God, master and slave, king and subject, officer and enlisted, rich and poor, all equally in awe of the God Who became man in Jesus Christ, crucified, died, and resurrected, and the same God for Whom nothing is impossible, even in the non-symbolic implementation of the Eucharistic celebration when Jesus Christ proclaims, “This is my Body; this is my Blood. Do this in remembrance of Me.”



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January 4, 2010 at 9:27 PM (Uncategorized)

“Semper Agens: Semper Quietus” appears to have its origin in the writings of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.  It is translated in a variety of fashions, with varying connotations, but can be summed up in the loose translation, “Always busy: always at rest.”  As used by Saint Augustine, it was one of many apparent contradictions given as attributes of God, Who outside of time and unburdened by mortality, is able to exhibit hyper-activity, to be ever vigilant and at peak productivity while remaining at rest, in that God is unable to expend energy and is incapable of exhibiting any diminished level of power or capability.   My personal interest in exploring life from the semper-agens-semper-quietus-perspective is the examination of what comprises a life that is lived in busy-ness, in what is considered to be work or labor, while remaining at rest, by deriving the satisfaction of repose from the performance of the productive activity itself, to work and be at rest simultaneously.

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