Something that I have noticed recently is the use, lack thereof, of symbols in our Canadian culture, but also in other cultures around the world. While in Asia, these symbols were especially prevalent. Symbolic significance is all around you when travelling throughout Asia. Nearly everything can, and often does mean something. For example, the placement of certain rooms around the homes of indigenous Vietnamese tribal people, signifies different levels of importance in relation to the other rooms of the house. Or how about in China, where historically, the number of beams that would stick out of your house symbolized your status in society. In Central Asian countries, when praying it is customary to open your eyes while looking up, and holding out your hands. This is symbolic of the relationship between the person prayng and God. I vividly remember an experience we had as a team while visiting Central Asia. As we were driving a, seemingly homeless, man was sitting beside the road as we were passing by. As we passed he lifted up his hands and covered his face briefly, he then brought them down and looked at us with a large smile. I didn’t understand what it meant at first until our friend told us that it was his way of blessing us as we passed by. This experience is something that will always stick with me when I think about travel, blessing, or symbolism. The man on the street did this because in that culture it is customary to “wash your face” with the blessings of God after prayer. I look back at my time spent in Asia and I realize how rich many cultures are with symbolism. I wonder now about Christianity? I am writing this on the evening of Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. This day, and season, is full of symbolism for the Christian life. Now this was my first time observing Ash Wednesday. The symbolic nature of this service with it’s liturgies, and marking with ashes, make this a very powerful ceremony. I sat in my chair realizing the significance of this, though still not to it’s full extent, and I began to wonder if there are other symbolic evets, ceremonies, or celebrations, that Christian culture has downplayed to the point of apathy towards them. I know in my life Christmas has been more about the gifts than the birth of Jesus on more than one occasion. Or how about Easter? I’ll admit that I do look forwardto this time of year for more reasons concerning chocolate, than concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I think about symbols, I think about them as just that, symbols. I do not mean, for a minute, to say that symbols can save you, or make you a better Christian. However, I do think that observing symbols that help us reflect on what it means to be a follower of Chist can help us to gain a better perspective and avoid becoming indifferent to something that should exude from every part of our lives. In short, symbols are so important to many other cultures and religions around the world, so why aren’t they to us?
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