Today is Maundy Thursday, today is the day when many rituals take place supposedly pointing back in time to the festival of Pesach (passover), the seven day Jewish festival. Of course for many of us it points to a specific years celebration, the last Pesach celebrated by Jesus.
On the news today there is much coverage of the Queen performing the traditional symbolic service... well some of it! Historically this would have included the Monarch washing the feet of her subjects - a sign of her service to them - but of course this has been abandoned. One has to question then if this symbol (A symbol is something such as an object, picture, written word, sound, or particular mark that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention.) has been abandoned, why has it? Of course there will be voices crying "Security" etc. etc. but has it been abandoned because in our world it's message is simply unpalatable? The idea of the Monarch (or anyone else in power) so visibly declaring an attitude of humility may simply be so counter cultural that it is impossible to even symbolise!? Our society has been so infected with individualism and ideas about personal security - looking after number 1! - that washing feet is deeply uncomfortable for all of us, not just those with visible power!
There is one symbol the Queen will do, she will give 84 (her age) bags of money to pensioners - the purpose of the money is of course intended to be 'symbolic' and not to be spent by the recipients, but is it really symbolic? I'm not sure it is, it is an act which has replaced a real act - the Monarch giving real help to the poorest in society - and as such it represents something which no longer happens, one could even say it assuages tradition but enables the removal of real responsibility to act! It makes one feel secure in the believe that the act is/has been done but in reality it hasn't. So in effect it becomes an excuse for the avoidance of the real meaning, not a symbolic representation of an actual truth. A symbol is not a tradition it is a representation of something real, it points to something bigger, marks it's reality, communicates it. A symbol ceases to be a symbol when it replaces the thing it is intended to represent, when it becomes the act itself.
Note, though I am not a monarchist this is not specifically a dig at the Royals, it is more a reflection of how we all can use the language of symbolism to hide our avoidance of uncomfortable reality. Easter is full of symbols, many of them make uncomfortable demands on us; for sacrifice, for humility, for forgiveness, to allow God to do God's work as God intends not as we want, to become imitators of Christ - living for others and giving our life for others, becoming a servant - a living sacrifice! Not simply making symbolic representations of the above, excusing us from real change, but actually living the reality of Easter. Referring to my previous post, it seems that the last supper was a far more public act than I previously thought, it wasn't a private, personal act, likewise "religion" is not a private affair, nor simply a weekly symbolic celebration, Easter calls us to live our faith & hope in a certain way but it also calls us to live it openly and in public and for it to make a real and radical difference to the world we live in.