For the last several months I have been engaged in a creative endeavor of sorts. I have been spending a great deal of my time creating a new offering for our catechist-formation process, Pathways. This course is entitled “Sacraments: Immersed in the Mystery,” and delves into the study of the Sacraments by way of a reflective and prayerful stance.
While developing a course like this, a great deal of my time is spent reading, reflecting and praying. I know that I am never alone in this endeavor and that the Spirit always takes the lead, not only guiding me in what is to be shared but also awakening me to the new insights waiting to be discovered and challenging me to grow as I go.
Early on in my reading, I came across these words from the book “Sacramental Theology: Life Means of Grace, Ways of Life:”
“The sacraments are visible words, as St. Augustine wrote in the fifth century: they are words we can see and touch, words we can act out, words we can act upon. The sacraments are not rituals we perform when we go to Church. Rather, they are sacred actions that we do because we are Church. And what we do in a church building misses the mark if it does not influence — orient, guide, challenge and support — what we do with our lives in the world.” These words from St. Meinrad Archabbot Benedictine Father Kurt Stasiak captured my attention, for I believe he spoke to the heart of how I have always envisioned how sacraments “work.” It has never made sense to me that sacraments would be celebrated with the intention of being isolated events with no connection to the rest of life.
This understanding was confirmed as I researched the history of how the sacraments evolved. Signs, symbols and rituals in the lives of the early Christians were not something contrived, but instead, emerged as an expression of a people’s experience of God in their lives. These expressions were so meaningful and intrinsic to their very existence they naturally flowed to all aspects of life.
When thinking of this reality, my mind quickly turns to Acts 4:32-33: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of their possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.” This scripture depicts the marriage between what they celebrated when they gathered to worship and the life they lived in common.
As we celebrate the sacraments in 2020 may we recognize how they sustain us and provide all we need to live a life fully rooted in Christ. May we join our spiritual ancestors in accepting God’s invitation to be in union with him and always be open to the limitless grace showered upon us. Let us live in the awareness and confidence that this grace will allow each of us to move and be in this world in a way that reflects His endless love.
As we experience Holy Week, I invite you to reflect on the words of Archabbot Kurt: Asking what does being Church in our world look like for me? How does the reception of the sacraments provide what I need to continue His work in our world?
May the blessings of the Risen Lord be yours as you journey through Eastertide!