David Perrin here examines the role and necessity of symbol in one's understanding of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of renovatio and reconciliation. He re-examines the traditional symbols of stole, words, hands, cross and place, looking at their function and power.
Part 1 Symbolic life - the nature of the human condition: hierophany; the dialectic of the sacred; tending toward the universal; symbol in relationship to the profane environment; personal transformation offered by the symbol; unifying and integrating function of symbols; "coincidentia oppositorum"; secularization and infantilism of symbols; logic of symbols; symbolism of the centre. Part 2 Symbols in the Christian world: the Christian inheritance; Christianity and the symbol of the cosmic tree; newness of Christian symbolism; Jesus Christ - the centre of all symbols for the Christian; Christian sacraments; Christianity and the periodical recovery of the beginnings. Part 3 The symbol of reconciliation: an historical survey of the Christian sacrament of reconciliation from the first to the 20th centuries, including Vatican II to the present; in the tradition of new beginnings; what is sin? a model for the healing process; symbols for healing; some practical pastoral suggestions.