The human quest for experiencing the transcendent lies at the core of every religion. Ritual symbolic celebrations are crucial mediators of this transcendent reality. The worshiping assembly experiences the divine through these ritual symbolic enactments. This paper intends to explore these ritual symbolic dynamics that evoke and embody the divine presence with specific focus on the Sri Vaishnava worship and the Christian/Catholic liturgy. This is done by a comparative engagement of the theology of Arcāvatāra (divine presence in the idol/image) in Sri Vaishnavism and the notion of symbolic efficacy in contemporary Christian/Catholic theology. While the sacramental mediations in different religions take diverse forms of expressions and meaning, there seems to exist a collective identity in the scheme of realizing the divine-human encounter for the believing community. Finally, I will show how studying these various forms of divine-human encounter in a ritual symbolic mode across religious borders can promote better understanding and mutual respect among religious traditions.
Ritual, Symbol, Mediation, Realism, Divine-human Encounter, Religious Traditions, Transcendent
Religious Commonalities and Differences
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Associate Professor, Theology, Duquesne University, United States