Signs & Symbols in our Advent Journey

Jeremy with the Posada figures

Jeremy with the Posada figures

On their Advent journey our Posada figures visited the Central Manchester Hospitals Multi Faiths’ Centre. It was lovely to be greeted by Fr Jeremy Law, who many years ago had been a parish assistant at St Chrysostom’s. For our church blog Fr Jeremy gives a shortened version of the thought provoking address he gave at the Eucharist attended in our Posada visit:

The master of black comedy Martin Amis tells an interesting story of life inside the concentration camps in Eastern Europe in his latest novel: Zone of Interest. The story is narrated by four principal characters all of whom are reacting to and trying to make sense of the utter awfulness that is the holocaust experience. One significant character Szmul, a Jew turned German collaborator, is rewarded for his collaborations by a cell of his own with pencils and paper to record his compromised and harrowing existence. Through the character Szmul, Amis is keen to inform the reader that the holocaust is an event that defies description, defies categorisation. At one point in the story Szmul states:

Zone_of_interest_cover “I am choking, I am drowning. This pencil and these scraps of paper aren’t enough. I need colours, sounds – oils and orchestras. I need something more than words.”

In response to the utter horror and awfulness of the holocaust words are not enough to encapsulate this abject event in our human history. In working as a hospital Chaplain I can also testify to this necessity to enable people to express their pain and trauma of loss or illness in ways beyond the limitations of words and storytelling. Like Szmul my patients often need colours, sounds – oils and orchestras to make sense of the things that defy ordinary narrative. And is this not the case in comprehending the God of grace who came down to earth in the mystery of the incarnation.

In Advent we are invited to embrace God in ways that defy a simple narrative explanation. The mystery of God’s love is a mixture of God’s love, power, vulnerability and grace. Can we explain the incarnation by a few choice words? Rather, it is through the signs and symbols of our inherited faith that we can enter fully into this mystery with all our mind body and soul. In the Nativity scene, the enacted family drama of Mother, Father, new born baby, a few livestock thrown in and the context of a poverty struck manger that we can begin to comprehend the shocking truth.  The very ordinariness of human beings and the divine presence are brought creatively together in altogether new ways and for changed times.

It is colourful and noisy, it is oils and orchestras, it something much more than words.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
This entry was posted in Anglican, Anglo Catholic, Art, Catholic, Christianity, Faith, Manchester, Posada, Spirituality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s