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Symbols and Doctrine

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The Catholic Church, as Mother and Teacher, clearly teaches her children doctrines based on the supernatural truths revealed by Our Lord Jesus Christ. To this end, she also employed symbols to make it easier for all nations to understand them.

The cross is undoubtedly the clearest example of this way of spreading the Faith. It is a common symbol for all Catholics, but at the same time, the principal theological truth: salvation came to us through the Redemption that the Son of God purchased on Calvary.

Thus the cross, an ignominious instrument of punishment for thieves, became the highest and most sublime symbol of Catholics. It is under this sign that we enter the Church, that sins are forgiven, and that we leave this world.

Catholic theology on the role of the cross is so explicit that no member of the faithful has any doubt about the message transmitted by these two crossed timbers.

Thus, all Catholic teachings can be related to their respective symbols — the oil that anoints the sick, the water that purifies souls and bodies, the ashes that remind us that we are “dust and unto dust we shall return” etc.

The Church never imposed the use of a symbol without the backing of teaching that refers us to the highest truths of the Faith. She teaches us that Faith is “a gift of reason.”

In this sense, the teachings of the Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio,  are luminous: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

John Paul II goes even further by underlining that “It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition.”

These teachings come to mind concerning the statuettes thrown into the Tiber, which, like new Moses, were “rescued from the waters” and (as announced) will be set in a place of honor for the closing ceremony of the Amazon Synod in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Are they a Christian symbol at all? What teaching do they convey to the faithful? What truth of Revelation do they rely upon? For what reason do we owe them reverence and care? Why are they enthroned in Saint Peter’s Basilica next to the tomb of the first Pope?

All these questions remain unanswered.

It would seem they are trying to impose a “symbol” unbacked by doctrine. Even worse, they are trying to introduce a false doctrine through an ambiguous “symbol.”

Here, the warning that a faith that does not rely on a strong sense of reason “runs the grave danger of being reduced to myth or superstition” takes on dramatic importance.

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