Nature and Symbol in the Gospel Books
The comprehension and interpretation of the Gospel books is usually achieved through the rational judgment and language. To enter the inner significance and the mystery of Jesus’ sayings seems possible only through intellectual intuition related to the symbolic sense of divine utterance.
It becomes obvious that Jesus speaks in parables not so much for keeping aside from the limited mob, which in any case, is not capable of grasping too much of his sayings, but because such an allegoric saying may include and express the heavenly mystery. Identifying the sense of the symbols becomes the key for the acknowledgement of mysteries.
But for such symbolic knowledge to be true the symbol cannot constitute a convention, an allegory or even a poetic metaphor. The symbol must contain in itself facets of the real. From this perspective, every item existing within the creative act becomes a symbol, and the support for the divine sparkle, capable of lighting up the sacred fire. The symbol completes the gap between the earth and the sky, making the nature talk to us even in a secretly kind of way.
Many times the language used by Jesus seems to be indirect, and we may find it allegorical and even paradoxical. The three modes of the Christian language reveal the three levels of reality, corresponding, lato sensu, to the rational comprehension, to the symbolic perception, and to the intellectual intuition, with an inherent mixture between one mode and the other. By using a symbolic language, Jesus reveals other new profound meanings, giving life to the human creation and existence, and transcending the nature, which apparently seems to be motionless. In reality, everything that exists speaks in itself and for the glory of God, and the God answers with His blessing.
As we could hardly think of bringing to an end all the symbolic meanings emerging from Jesus’ sayings, in the manner they are presented in the Gospel books, we will resume to the main symbols of which we will try to pursue only a few of the most important interpretations. As examples, we will refer to the tree regnum: mineral, vegetal and animal, as well as to the four traditional elements.
The most banal and static item in the nature is perhaps the stone. This what the demon thought of, the moment it asked Jesus to turn the stone into bread. Jesus could perform this miracle, but He does not let himself lured by the demon. From the inert stone to the nourishing bread and to words such as spiritual food, there is a hiatus interrupted by Jesus when creating a stairway from earth to heaven, which became impossible for the demon to climb.
Using the same constructive language, Jesus defines Himself as the stone at the end of the angle. Another symbol of the mineral regnum is used by Jesus when talking about the salt, the moment he addresses His disciples: You are the salt of the earth… (Mathew 5.13). The salt becomes first, a way of preservation, whereas the apostles are the ones who have to preserve and transmit the meaning of the divine word. On physical level, the salt is transformed through sacrifice, into spiritual fire.
Analyzing the symbols of the vegetal and animal regnum, we will resume only to two examples. The lily is, in many countries the symbol of royalty. Its white cover is the representation of the light. But this flower is also a cup, a chalice and a symbol of the heart, representing the spiritual sun. This flower keeps in itself a sacred deposit, just like the Holly Graal. The representation of the Virgin Mary as a rose results from this perspective, thus symbolizing a sacred receptacle.
Another vegetal symbol is the grapevine representing the Tree of Life, and the carrier of the fruit producing the wine as Eucharistic immortality beverage. Since the flowers represent a terrestrial symbol, the birds are a celestial symbol, with further interpretations as angelic lights. The language of the birds is the symbol of the divine Word. The transfiguration may be extend to the interpretation of the Holly Spirit present at Jesus’ Baptism ceremony, as a dove.
An animal, whose signification is pretty much malefic, is the donkey, which due to its stubbornness and its misleading kicking, manifests certain demonic characteristics. Yet, its presence at Jesus’ Birth, as well as at Jesus’ entering the Jerusalem, may be interpreted as the sign of its submission to man. A negative connotation is related also to other animals, such as the pig and the dog. Upon the healing of the possessed one from Ghergheseni (Luca 8. 26), the demon crowds (legions) are turned by Christ into so many pigs that will then drown in a lake (lower water). The third animal assisting at the Birth is the sheep. Commonly accepted as flock, the sheep represents the crowd waiting for its Shepard. In a supreme representation, the lamb, due to its kindness and acceptance of the sacrifice, is one of the most commonly known symbols of Christ. Another symbol of Christ is the fish. The fish is the seed of the higher waters, the one regenerating the world. It is well-known the resemblance of the initials IH and the beginning of the Greek word Ihtios (“fish”).
The Earth, as raw material represents the essence when it comes to germination and fertilization of the seed. The earth constitutes the human soul or the entire world, as Christ once said. The seed is the word of God, and together, earth and seed, result in the acknowledgement of the kingdom of God. On another occasion, while taking about the seed, Jesus stated that the seed cannot bear fruits until it become rancid, revealing this way, the symbols of death and resurrection. The water is another purifying element, or an element that includes in itself the sacred, as it is the case of the baptismal water. The third element with symbolic characteristics is the air. On the level of a superior connotation, the air is an ineffable wind, a symbol of the spirit, of the soul that “blows whenever it whishes.”
The fire has also a complex symbolic character. As purifying element of everything that is adulterated, it becomes the main sin –eradicating agent. But the fire also represents the symbol of the sacrifice, of the corporal transformation into spiritual. But the maximum representation of the fire is the symbol of the spiritual light and of the Holly Spirit, who came upon the apostles under the shape of fire tongues during the Whitsuntide.
This is the way in which the four elements of the traditional cosmology transcend their limits of significance, from the depth of the world up to celestial spheres, following specific classification processes.
The coronation of Creation is symbolized by the two ontological aspects of the Being: the Word and the Light. Christ – the Word and Christ – the Light. Together they give Life to the world. The light and the word become the symbols of the original Creation, the manifestations of the Supreme Being:
In our analysis of the symbol, we may notice that any creature is a symbol in itself, because it becomes the support for certain significant qualities. These qualities are virtual qualities, and their symbolic meaning must be up-dated if we want them to reveal themselves to us. Such maximum replenishment could be achieved only through divine grace that gives quality the attributes of the Idea, up to the ultimate acknowledgment. The real presence of the spiritual influence surpasses any support, by approaching it to the God. Then, the bread and the wine turn into the body and the blood of Christ; then within the windstorm and the fire on the Sinai Mountain (pyre in fire) manifests the Holly Father; then the dove present at the baptismal ceremony carries the presence of the Holly spirit. From mere virtual symbol any creation may become an experienced symbol. It exists within our thoughts and hearts and extends upon us its holly grace.