"Whenever I celebrate a Requiem Mass, as I did this Wednesday, I am once again aware of the importance of symbols in our faith. As the coffin arrives at the altar, it is draped with the white pall. When we are baptised we too are wrapped in a white garment – new life, cleansing, Baptism – essentially God’s love poured out over us at our beginning and our end. On the pall are placed the Bible – the Word of God by which that person lived their life – and the Crucifix – Jesus gave his life not just for us all generally, but for each of us individually. And standing alongside the coffin burns the Paschal Candle – light in our darkness, the Light of Christ lit on Easter Night and relit at every Baptism and Funeral. As I observed at Tom Quinn’s funeral recently, our lives like candles are meant to give out light even as they slowly burn away.
Symbols are central to faith and worship as they can convey so many things that words cannot – and do it more simply. The sacraments themselves are a particular and unique kind of symbol which bring about what they symbolise. Water, oil, bread and wine, rings – these things and many others in our Catholic lives speak of the God-dimension of reality."
Meanwhile, I'm very grateful to those who are starting to send me links to videos that I might want to post here also. So, thanks Mike for sending me this rendering of "Amazing Grace" by Trinidad-born American singer and Seventh Day Adventist minister (it's OK - he has performed at the Vatican according to Wikipedia!) Wintley Phipps at Carnegie Hall. First he gives some interesting history of the hymn, suggesting that it was based on African melodies that John Newton, the composer and former slave-ship captain, heard on the horrific transatlantic voyages. Nice little line too "If the mountain were smooth, you couldn't climb it". Then Phipps sings over sounds reminiscent of ocean waves, and as the end of the hymn approaches, lifts the whole audience up with a powerful change of key and a great Alleluia and Amen. As the Americans have taught us to say "Awesome!"