Sacred Signs: The Sign of the Cross

Authored by Romano Guardini in Issue #30.2 of The Sower

In 1927, the great theologian Romano Guardini wrote his introduction to a short series of meditations which he collected under the title, Sacred Signs. He explained the purpose of these ‘little essays’ as ‘intended to help in opening the door to the liturgical world’. They are not intended as catechesis in the usual sense; they are not explanations of the meaning of the signs we use in liturgy, nor are they descriptions of how they came to be used in the liturgy. Rather they are are simple aids to helping us ‘to read in outer form the inner state: to read from the body what is in the soul; to read from the earthly process what is spiritual and hidden.’ These are the living signs, objects and actions through which we can begin to grasp the invisible grace at work in the liturgy. ‘The liturgy is a world of sacred and hidden events which have taken visible shape – it is sacramental.’

This, Guardini says, in ‘liturgical education’ – to provide a ‘living vision’ of the sacred in and through these signs. ‘Seeing and doing are the groundwork’, he claims, on which teaching can most properly be founded. We can then illustrate with clear doctrine and accompany our explanations with a historical perspective. But first of all, let us try to give something of the vision of the sacred.

The entries in the short book tell us what he means: ‘The Hand’, ‘Kneeling’, ‘’Walking’, ‘Standing’, ‘Striking the Breast’ – simple and basic actions which accompany all liturgy. And then the objects we see around us – ‘The Steps’, ‘The Door’, ‘The Candle’, and so on. The Sower will be presenting a selection from this beautiful and compelling book in its forthcoming issues, as a further aid to catechists for use in their liturgical education and catechesis, hoping both to inspire and to inform.

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