instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It sure ain't a sacrament

My parish has a church sign, the back-lit kind where you can change the messages around.

Usually, the messages are forgettable notes about when back to school night is and such. We might have some seasonal reminders that Christmas is coming or Easter was just here. Once there was a real groaner, something about "soul-ar power" from "The Son."

This morning, I drove past the church and saw that the sign says, "THIS IS A SIGN."

Who can dispute that?

This, I find, is my version of the old "how do you keep a moron in suspense" wheeze.

On the one hand, yes, it is in fact a sign.

But why does it say that it's a sign?

Was there some miscommunication with a literal-minded sign changer? Is this our pastor's Solomonic way of resolving the question of whether it's the Knights' of Columbus or the parents association's turn to advertise their event? Is it the work of a group of merry semiotic pranksters from the local high school?

Or is it the sign of a sign? Does the "this" refer, not to the back-lit thing with black letters, but to what's behind it? Is "This is a sign" the caption, so to speak, of the church and the school thousands of people pass every day, a way of saying, "These aren't just buildings, and folks moving about in them. Their presence and activity signify something, something we believe needs to be said, something we believe you need to hear. Please, come in and learn what we signify"?

Or, possibly, it signifies that I shouldn't be driving about at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning without even one cup of coffee in me.