We also have two liturgical celebrations which do not communicate well to many contemporary Catholics: Christ the King and the Immaculate Conception. Over the years I have observed some confusion generated by these feasts, and considerable indifference. Complicating matters, to be considered later, is the tension between preparing for Christmas and celebrating Advent as a season of longing for God. (“Why should I long for God?”) In short, we are inundated by symbolic language that may perplex more than enlighten, confuse more than lift our hearts and minds to God. I will try to help us draw some spiritual nourishment out of these celebrations as they arise. For the present, a general comment seems in order:
Symbolic language meant to communicate some truth or (as with apocalyptic), someone’s strange imaginings must be interpreted in light of the experiences that engendered it. The experiences give meaning to the words. A madman’s ravings, for example, must be understood in light of his mental illness; a prophet’s warnings must be understood in light of the prophet’s experience of God and of human reality. Unless we share the experience, or imaginatively “put ourselves in the other person’s shoes,” we cannot rightfully understand the symbolic language. Christian religious language is highly symbolic, and requires that the hearers have a living faith in God in order to understand the words. For example, a person lacking in experience of God’s incarnating presence in his or her soul misunderstand talk about God’s “incarnation” in Christ. Without spiritual experience, religious language is taken literally, misunderstood, denied. In all such cases, it fails to nourish. The soul open to God receives; the closed mind or soul remains empty.
Without an ongoing spiritual life, you will not understand, or appreciate, the reality of God being communicated to you in Christian worship. Each of us has the task to trust God, to seek the truth about God, and to be thankful for divine benefits constantly received. Otherwise, what is our Eucharistic celebration, but words, songs, and weird bread? How does one give thanks to God unless one trusts and loves God in one’s daily life? The more one is attuned to God, the more one receives; the less attuned to God, the more empty one remains.