Thursday, November 20, 2008


For the next few weeks we are going to head off in a new direction. The body of symbolism is really quite vast and here is the heads up on what we will be looking at. We will be looking at the corpus of symbolism involving the body starting with the part designed perfectly for hats: the head.

The head is the part of the body that often symbolizes the whole person. It is the chief member that governs the rest. Hence Christ is the Head of the Body: the Church. Just as the our heads sends messages throughout the body coordinating movement and giving direction, our life in God comes to us through Jesus Christ, our Head.

Did you ever see one of my favorite comedy movies (though you can only really watch once) Soap Dish? “You don’t understand. You won’t have a brain!” The funny part of this line (at least in context) is that obviously there is no life without the head. You could lose a hand but you would still live and be recognized as a human being, but lose your head (as some people I know are want to do) you cease to be – at least in this world. So what happens to the head can be rather significant.

A bow which is done periodically at the Mass (at the mention of the Trinity, at Jesus’ name, at Mary’s name, at the saint of the day, before receiving Communion, at the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .) the head is lowered whether is a simple or profound bow. In essence we are bowing our person then to show respect to these august personages or in appreciation for theological wonders.

At baptism, Sacred Chrism is placed on the crown of the head and a person is consecrated priest, prophet, and king. Ashes are placed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. At various times the sign of the cross is traced on the forehead of person such as at confirmation. Baptism is conferred only when water covers over the top of one’s head (hence you simply pour water over the head of a person or completely soak them validly, but you could not, for instance, only poor water over a person’s feet or elbow and consider it valid.)

You might be able to recall a number of Biblical persons by the placement of their severed heads. The phrase, “I’m gonna have your head on a platter” comes from the story of the beheading of John the Baptist. A head on a platter of course refers to him and the person carrying it is most likely Salome. A head by the feet of a young handsome man brandishing a giant’s sword would of course be Goliath losing his head for David. (Further recognized by the stone imbedded in the forehead.) Judith is recognized by her holding the head of Holofernes whom she dispatched. Otherwise a head in the hand (is worth two in the bush) is a saint who may have been beheaded. So John the Baptist might be carrying his own head to show how he was martyred.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting! Most of which I did not know.

And so learning this ... we all go to the head of the class. We're heads above the rest. Then we'll head on to something else next Friday?

Fr. V said...

As my sisters used to torment me with:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes,
knees and toes.
Eyes and mouth and ears and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
knees and toes.

Anonymous said...

So I take it the hokey pokey on roller skates is out??? LOL