The sign-giving does not aim to take us back to the first century; the eucharist is not a time machine.
Rather, it catches us into the stream of God’s continuing and liberating activity. It goes without saying that only the signs, rather than the symbols, can do this. The signs speak of a God who is humiliated, cursed and spat upon.
They take us into the heart of the darkness of the gospel, the folly which is wisdom and the wisdom which is folly, the weakness which is strength and the strength which is weakness. No symbol rooted in the order of creation could do this.
The symbols speak to us of God’s love but do not lead us into the mystery of redemption. They are ambiguous about the threat to creation by death, disease, wickedness.
The signs take us to the heart of that darkness and illuminate it with the light of redemption.
The Sign of Love, Reflections on the Eucharist
Timothy Gorringe, SPCK