WE UNDERRATE the importance of signs in the sacraments at our peril. Yet that is precisely what Fr Michael Clifton (November 14) appears to do.
An old theological tag reads:
sacramenta significando efficiunt gratiam — sacraments effect grace by "signifying". Or, as the late Karl Rahner put it, "The sign is . . a cause of what it signifies by being the way in which what is signified effects itself." Outward sign and inward grace are but two aspects of the one reality.
It follows, therefore, that in diminishing, under-celebrating, the sacramental signs, we run the very real risk of diminishing the power of the sacraments.Mr Tom Coyle was quite right and fully in tune with traditional Catholic teaching. It is precisely that truth which underpins much of Vatican II's renewal of the liturgy.
Fr Clifton rather
incredulously wonders if next we will be proposing total immersion at baptism. Has he not read the official introduction the Church's Baptismal rite where total immersion is always presented as the first of the options? Or, in pleading for the familiar wafer at the eucharist, does he not recall the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (no 283) where the Church states: "The nature of the sign demands that the material for the eucharistic celebration appear as actual. food"?
A sacrament is a particular type of sign. Devalue the sign, and you end up with no sacrament at all.
Rev Edward Matthews Director of Liturgical Formation Secretary to the Bishops' Liturgy Committees London SW I