There is meaning in Easter symbols.
There is meaning in Easter symbols.

OPINION: Symbols mean so much to people

AS WE approach Holy week, the week leading up to Easter I was thinking about the symbols of Easter that are more expressly Christian.

There are many, but the two that continue to resonate in me are the action of the washing of the feet, which traditionally takes place on the Thursday before Easter, and the symbol of the Cross.

They are both very rich symbols, but I have been recently struck with a sense that they are connected in a deeper way than I had previously thought.

The obvious connection is they are both symbols of love.

To wash someone's feet is an act of intimacy, which runs in both directions.

Have you ever had someone wash your feet?

It is deeply intimate with a part of us being exposed that normally we wouldn't want to expose.

As a person who normally wears closed-in shoes, I naturally worry about the impact of the odour on the person washing the feet.

Strangely when the role has been reversed, it has never once occurred to me that the person's feet might be dirty, or smelly, just that they are remarkably fragile for a part of us that takes so much pressure all the time.

This act of service echoes Christ who acted in the same way towards his disciples just a few days before his crucifixion.

The cross also is a symbol of love in that it speaks to a love that Christ experienced for his friends, for his followers and for all of us, a love that was an earthly example of the love of God for all creation.

Without diminishing the love that the symbols have and do carry, I believe that they also point us to fracture in our own lives.

The key to this is the cross, which becomes a symbol of the space in which the ongoing source of life is consumed by death.

By going through death, not by fighting against it, Christ becomes even more a sign of life in our every day lived experience than if he had continued to live, fighting the inevitable.

In the same way, going through the experience of washing feet becomes a breaking down of the hierarchical structures that define so much of our daily living.

We reserve true intimacy for the private moment, and here we do it in a church service.

We reserve acts of loving service for those that we know, and in church the other person may be truly a stranger. We protect ourselves in our daily lives, but here we bare our feet to someone other.

The point of this is, at least, twofold.

The first is to experience these moments as gifts from God, as sacred moments of living into the message of a God who loves.

The second is to somehow learn to live in that state of vulnerability and openness at all times, knowing that their may be pain, and believing that there will be resurrection, a resurrection that can only come through death.