ALLEGORY & THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

Monday, July 20, 2015

 


“Rejoice, star that shows forth the sun… Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which did God Himself descend…” (From the Akathist-Hymn to the Mother of God).

 

In various church-services of the Byzantine Rite, including the services in honor of the Mother of God, we have “allegorical” images. That is to say, we have poetical imagery called “allegory,” which is “another” way of expressing reality.

 

The word “allegory” comes from the Greek words “allos” and “agorevein,” which together mean “to explain/say in another way.” The allegorical images of this hymnography take certain, central figures and moments of Salvation History, and cross-reference them to one another, or compare them to certain physical realities of our surroundings. For example, one takes the physical reality of a star and the sun, and “sees” them to signify the Mother of God and Her Son. This can be compared to poetry about love, in which one “sees” the face of the beloved in the sunset, or “hears” their whisper in the wind. All this can seem mildly ridiculous to outsiders; to those not in love.

But I don’t have to be an outsider today, regarding liturgical allegory. Because, as a reminder of central figures/moments of Salvation History, which inspire me to focus on God, liturgical allegory is simply an aid to heartfelt prayer. It teaches me to see all things in His light and His truth. All things can “remind” me to re-focus on Him. So, at the risk of sounding mildly ridiculous, today when I observe the clear blue sky, for example, I can have it remind me of the liturgical color of the Mother of God, which is light blue. I can be reminded of Her “protection” of the world. I am reminded She is a part of my life, and there to help and protect me, as I ask Her to intercede for me, day to day.

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