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“God speaks to the world largely in symbol and sacrament. The direct assault on reason is rarely effective…The heart is too often on guard and unable to receive what is being given. As such, I think that symbol and sacrament have a way of speaking “laterally” (or some way that I do not have words for) such that the heart hears what the mind (or emotions) reject…Unfortunately, the language of the “heart” (kardia in Greek) has been co-opted in our culture and enlisted in the soppy sentimentalism of Hallmark and thus equated with a kind of emotivism. This is not what the biblical language of kardia suggests...Instead, think of the heart as the fulcrum of your most fundamental longings—a visceral, subconscious orientation to the world.” (Father Stephen Freeman, James Smith)

“Art, like religious faith in general and prayer in particular, has the power to help us transcend the fragmented society we inhabit. We live in a Babel of antagonistic tribes—tribes that speak only the languages of race, class, rights, and ideology. That is why the intuitive language of the imagination is so vital.” (Gregory Wolfe)

“Our Enlightenment demand for fact, for validity fades. It fails us when we come to the realm of God, ourselves, and others. Here the language is that of metaphor and symbol, the richness of poetry. Both fundamentalist and atheists demand literalism, which is why the central symbol of resurrection does not work for either.” (Fr. Richard Rohr, Father Michael Plekon)

“There are many forms of knowledge – or many kinds of knowing which our limited language describes as “knowledge.” For Christians the most dangerous form of knowledge is that which we simply acquire through reading and study. It is largely just information. Of course, if you have enough information you can manage the illusion of actual knowledge.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“An unacknowledged but powerful presumption guides a great deal of today’s theology, whether it appears in the popular press, in scholarly journals or in Sunday morning homilies. It is the conviction that language and images that depict transcendent rather than empirical reality are mere metaphors. They are “symbols” in the modern, popular sense, which means they are mere “signs” that point beyond themselves to something else. To ancient Christian theologians, on the other hand, words and images are genuinely symbolic: they actually participate in the reality they depict. They have the capacity, under the right conditions, to take part in the very existence of the person, object, event or promise to which they refer. It is this capacity that enables words and images to become vehicles of divine revelation.” (Fr. John Breck)

“Symbolism is probably humanity’s most ancient and universal language because its linguistic rules are based on a combination of cognitive processes: generalization and specialization. Abstract principles are grasped from tangible experience, and multiple experiences are seen as instances of a single principle. In this manner, spiritual reality is united with corporeal reality to form symbols…Unlike the English language, the language of symbolism does not attribute meaning arbitrarily. Instead, it follows the basic patterns of knowledge itself. This is very different from our phonetic language, which provides no logical connection between words and the concepts they express.” (Matthieu Pageau)

“The miracle (I do not use the word lightly) of language allows us to contemplate things, objects, and ideas, not immediately present in the physical environment, and then to manipulate them in our heads. It is, therefore, the foundation of our capacity for abstract thinking and reason. Language allows us to render an account to God of our stewardship of His creation.” (Donald Williams)

“…we have lost our sense of soul because we have lost our respect for symbols; our modern mind is trained that symbols are illusion. We say, “It is only your imagination,” not realizing that all the missing parts of ourselves that we long for, the “lost lane into heaven,” are constantly mediated to us in the forgotten language of the soul: the symbols and images that emanate through dream and imagination.” (Robert A. Johnson)

“The perversity of our time is that we insist on using the language of theology (Being, Truth, Goodness, Beauty) while imagining that such terms need no divine referent. As such, we both exalt that which should be relative while diminishing that which should be absolute. That someone might not know God (agnosticism) is a world removed from this question. However, without God, we fail to escape the traps erected by our own minds and transcendence disappears in the mists of the imagination.” (Father Stephen Freeman) 

“… the strategy of returning to the language of transcendence in order to overcome the deracinating and hollowing effects of secularism was a mistake bound to be futile. For, in fact, secularism can accommodate transcendence language. As long as a “feeling” for transcendence does not impinge on the autonomy of a world that has “come of age,” that has left behind Christendom, secularism embraces the idea of transcendence.” (Vigen Guroian)


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