General and Introductory Materials
Part 3 Theological Issues

Chapter d31 Sacrament

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Sacramental Theology From St. Thomas Aquinas to Pope Francis

Contemporary Sacramental Theology

Overview of Sacramental Theology

A Brief History of "Sacrament"

EJWU #2 Sacrament

Life's Three Questions

Definitions of "Sacrament"

Michael Himes and the "Sacramental Principle"

Summary

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

If a catechumen asked you to define sacrament, what would you say?   What does it mean to say that there are "seven" sacraments? Why this seven?

Have your best experiences of God been at liturgy, at private prayer, during a retreat, or outside of prayer times? What sacrament has given you the most powerful experience of God?

What is "The Incarnational Principle"?  Identify: Mysterion, metaphor, symbol, allegory, ex opere operato.

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Bibliography

Some things I have published on sacraments

Thomas Richstatter.  Liturgy and Worship: A Course on Prayer and Sacraments (Sadlier:  Faith and Witness) 1998.  (Paperback.  New and used from $2.24)

Thomas Richstatter. The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1995.  (Paperback.  New and used from $3.37)

Thomas Richstatter.  Eucharist:  Source and Summit of Catholic Life.  St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009. 

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Changing Styles of Liturgical Law," The Jurist 1978:3/4 415-425.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. The Sacraments: The Church at Prayer. Ten, thirty minute audio cassettes. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1981.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. The Sacraments: The Church at Prayer. Ten, twenty-eight minute teacher training programs on video cassette. Archdiocese of Cincinnati Cable TV Communications Office, 1981.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Sacraments: It All Starts with Jesus," Catholic Update, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, August, 1993. C0893.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. Teaching segment and theological consultant for Understanding the Sacraments, Catholic Update Video, St. Anthony Messenger Press, January, 1996.

 

Some books I have found useful

Bausch, William J. A New Look at the Sacraments. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1983.

Boff, Leonardo. Sacraments of Life, Life of the Sacraments. Pastoral Press. ISBN 0-912405-38-4. $7.95.

Bradshaw, Paul F. The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy. New YORK: Oxford, 1992.

Chauvet, Louis-Marie. Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1995

__________.  The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2001.

Cooke, Bernard. Sacraments and Sacramentality. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1983.

Chupungco, Anscar J.  Handbook for Liturgical Studies (4 volumes). Collegeville: Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2000.

Fink, Peter. Praying the Sacraments. Pastoral Press. ISBN 0-912405-86-4. $12.95.

Glazier, Michael. A series of nine volumes; an introductory volume on the sacraments in general, volumes on each of the sacraments [volume 3A on Eucharist by Leo Hay], and a concluding volume on sacramentals.

Stasiak, OSB, Kurt. Means of Grace, Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2001 ISBN 0-8294-1727-4

Lawler, Michael G. Symbol and Sacrament: A Contemporary Approach to Sacramental Theology. New York: Paulist Press, 1987.Bernard Lee (General editor). Alternative Futures for Worship, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1987. (A volume on each of the sacraments.)

Martimort, A.G. (editor). The Sacraments. Volume III of The Church at Prayer. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, new edition 1987. ISBN 0-8146-1365-9. [Updates of the lecture notes from my master's level courses at the Institut Catholique.]

Martos, Joseph. Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Revised and updated edition. Liguori/Triumph: Liguori, MO. 2001. ISBN 0-7648-0718-8. $21.95.

Osborne, O.F.M. Kenan B. Sacramental Theology: A General Introduction, New York: Paulist Press, 1988. $7.95. ISBN 0-8091-2945-0.

__________.  Christian Sacraments in a Post-Modern World, New York: Paulist Press, 1999

Ostdiek, Gilbert. Catechesis for Liturgy, Washington: Pastoral Press, 1986. $9.95. ISBN 0-912405-23-6.

Rahner, Karl. The Church and the Sacraments. Translated by W. J. O'Hara. London: burns & Oates, 1963.

Schillebeeckx, Edward. Christ the Sacrament of Encounter with God, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1963.

Tad Guzie, The Book of Sacramental Basics, Paulist Press, 1981, 135 pp. $6.95. ISBN 0-8091-2411-4.

Vogel, Cyrille. Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources. NPM Studies in Church Music and Literature. Washington: Pastoral Press, 1986

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Some Useful Websites for Sacramental Preparation

http://www.pflaum.com/catalog/sacprep/firstrec.htm

http://www.webelieveweb.com/gather.cfm?page=faith&sp=list&lan=eng&id=225


http://www.faithfirst.com/RCLsacraments/reconciliation/rc.asp


http://www.faithcentral.net.nz/inclass/reconciliation.htm

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Sacramental Theology
 From St. Thomas Aquinas to Pope Francis

I presume you are familiar with these changes -- This will be a very rapid review -- If at any point you get lost or feel you are getting "left behind"  be sure to stop me and ask for clarification. 

0.  Aquinas
Aristotle - Things (Matter and Form)
Trent and Dominican secretaries
Trent to USA - Baltimore Catechism
"Outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace."

1.  Outward sign
requires a body
Incarnation -- Who is Jesus
Incarnation -- Who am I -- history, iceberg, etc.
angels don't need sacraments

2.  Outward sign
sign of God and who God is
Jesus - best of all signs
Baptism - "Christs" us - we become signs

3.  Baptism - basic sacrament
restoration of Baptism primary intent of Sacrosanctum Concilium

4.  Things / Static
Matter and Form
Valid / Invalid; Licet / Ilicit
Bottle Opener Metaphor

5.  Things to People / Process / Relationship

6.  "Instituted by Christ"
but not historically
no biblical "proof text"
Peter Lombard - Thomas - Trent - Baltimore
Sacrament of Rites of Burial

7.  Anamnesis
instituted in the past
We become present to the event... e.g. Lit year / Eucharist / etc.

8.  Give Grace - to Give
anabatic / katabatic
metaphor of child learning to say "thank you"
acts of worship - SC 59

9. Grace
Thing:  different kinds, quantities, etc
Love of God / Relationship

10.  Individual / private  to  personal / communal
acts of the Church
Liturgy always public - SC 27

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Contemporary Sacramental Theology

Metaphor of the Seven Shoe Boxes

The scholastic theologians (St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, etc) developed a sacramental theology that was objective and rational.  It dealt with "things" the people who posited these "things" (Matter and Form) and how this things caused other things (grace, character, etc).

Contemporary sacramental theology less ontological and more personal and relational.  It describes sacraments as elements of our theosis, divinization, our absorption into the Trinitarian love of God.  Sacraments are privileged moments in this relationship.   Whereas sacraments were formerly "nouns" now they are move "verbs".

The key to understanding the contemporary theological understanding of "Sacrament" is this: The basic metaphor has changed from seven shoe boxes to dropping a stone into a still pond of water.

The Baltimore Catechism asks: "How many sacraments are there? The answer is: "There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony." (Question 305) And when Mr. Jackson asks Fr. Smith "How many Sacraments did Christ institute?" he receives the identical answer. (Instruction 31)

At home in Tell City, I have seven pairs of shoes -- some for work, some for play, some for Mass, some for the garden. I store them away in seven shoe boxes in my closet. They are all "shoes"; they all go on my feet; they all have a "left" and a "right," but other than that they have little to do with one another. I wear one pair and then put them away and wear another pair.

I learned (and taught) sacraments in much the same way -- seven sacraments, each in its own box; I got one out when I wanted to teach it or administer it and then put it back. They had little to do with one another.

Metaphor of the Pebble Dropped into a Quiet Pond

Now I work out of a different metaphor. Have you ever dropped a stone into a pond on a quiet evening and watched the ripples go out in ever larger concentric circles, seemingly forever. That is how I teach sacraments today.

A sacrament is a visible sign of the invisible God. Jesus is the most perfect, the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, sacrament. As we pray at Mass at Christmas (again: Lex orandi...) "In the wonder of the incarnation your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory. In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see." (Mass at Christmas, Preface I) In Jesus the invisible God became visible. "In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, ... who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being." (Hebrews 1:1-3a). "For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily." (Col. 2:9) Jesus, in his humanity is the primal sacrament.  (Col 1:15-19. John 1:14. I Cor 12:12-13.)

Christ, raised from the dead, breathed this sacramental Spirit into the Church: "On the evening of that first day of the week, ... Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you. ... As the Father has sent me, so I send you.'" (John 20:19-22) Thus the Church becomes the sacrament of the Risen Lord. As the Second Vatican Council teaches in the very first paragraph of the Constitution on the Church: "the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race." (Constitution on the Church, 1)

Eucharist is the first sacrament  The Church is never more authentically and visibly "Church" than at Eucharist because the eucharist "is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church." (Constitution on the Liturgy, 2)  Always start with the Eucharist. The Eucharist says it all. Each of the other sacraments is an aspect of the central, primal, eucharistic mystery. Liturgically, the Eucharist is the model of all the sacraments. The shape of the Eucharist (Gathering, Storytelling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning) is the model shape of every sacrament.

I find this theology of sacrament embedded in the very structure of the Constitution on the Liturgy: Chapter 1. The General Principles for the Reform and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy; Chapter 2. The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist; Chapter 3. The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals; Chapter 4. Divine Office; Chapter 5. The Liturgical Year; Chapter 6. Sacred Music; Chapter 7. Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings. Jesus - Church - Eucharist - Sacraments - Hours - Year - Music - Art - Every Created Thing: visible celebrations of the invisible God. Like a stone dropped into a still pond and the ripples go out to the farthest shore.

"The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to build up the Body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God; but being signs they also have a teaching function. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called 'sacraments of faith.' They do indeed impart grace, but in addition the very act of celebrating them disposes the faithful most effectively to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God rightly, and to practice charity." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 59)

Summary:  St. Augustine speaks of a sacrament as a visible sign of invisible grace.  Consequently, contemporary theology sees Jesus, in his humanity, as the primordial sacrament. Christ breathes himself into Church. The Church is the primary sacrament. The Church is never more Church than when doing eucharist. Eucharist is the sacrament par excellence; all the other sacraments are ways of doing eucharist. Sacraments are primarily celebrations of the Church, not individual means of grace. Sacraments are celebrations of personal encounter, not merely "things" to be administered and received.  Sacraments tell us something about God.  Sacraments are acts of worship.  "This mode of thinking shifts from the mechanical to the personal metaphors of encounter, interpersonal relationships, and personal communication. [Gula 73] 

 

Who is Jesus?

(Remember that whatever we speak of these deep realities, our words are never sufficient, they always crack. Often the only way we can express ourselves is by metaphor, story, and analogy.)

How you answer that question will determine how you answer assignment number two of this course.

In my theological "living room" one piece of furniture that I have discarded and replaced with one I like much better is the Franciscan vision of the incarnation.

The piece I got rid of, was something like this in so far as I can imagine it under the iceberg. God created Adam and Eve. The snake made them sin and made God revises his plan. The second person of the Trinity took flesh to redeem us. The father was happy seeing his son suffer. And because we are essentially sinful Jesus gave us seven antibiotic pills, seven sacraments which give grace which is a kind of remedy for sinfulness. That was my old Jesus.

My new Jesus is something like this. God is Trinitarian love. Love tends to be generative. From all eternity God wished to create a creature outside of God's self who would be the perfect lover. In the fullness of time this dream took flesh and we have, in the mystery of Jesus, a visible glimpse of the invisible Godhead who is love. Through baptism into his divinity and feasting on his body and blood we are divinized, become church, his body, sacraments of God's compassion.

Just as I have grown to love that tell city Rocker that some friends gave me as a gift for my living room here in tell city, I have come to love this "new Jesus" among the "furniture" in my theological living room.

(Remember that whatever we speak of these deep realities, our words are never sufficient, they always crack. Often the only way we can express ourselves is by metaphor, story, and analogy.)

 

Appendix:

1.  Definition of Sacrament.  Notice the development in the way the term sacrament is defined.  The Baltimore Catechism defined sacrament: in this way:  Question # 304.  "What is a sacrament?"  "A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace."     The second Vatican Council speaks of sacrament in this way: 

The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to build up the Body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God; but being signs they also have a teaching function. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called 'sacraments of faith.' They do indeed impart grace, but in addition the very act of celebrating them disposes the faithful most effectively to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God rightly, and to practice charity.

It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life. (Constitution on the Liturgy, 59)

Note:  The purpose of the sacraments is enlarged.  From:  "to give grace"  to:  "to make people holy, to build up the Body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God."

2.  Seven  (quantity) expanded to seven (quality);  seven shoe boxes to concentric ripples in a pond; seven things to multiple manifestations of the Mysterion (God's Great Dream for the World).  From:  Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, etc...  To:  Jesus, Church, Eucharist, Sacraments, Hours, Year, etc...

3.  (Matter and Form).  Matter  expanded from a specific material object (water, bread, oil, etc) to the entire sensible experience of the celebrating community (which includes the experience of the very community celebrating).

3.  (Matter and Form).  Form  expanded from the "essential words" to the entire "story" of the Jesus event as proclaimed in the Scriptures and the lived witness of the community.  This remembering (anamnesis) makes us present to the mystery celebrated.

4.  Causality   expanded from "efficient cause of grace" (grace often understood quantitatively)  to the work of the Sanctifying Spirit (epiclesis) which enables the celebrating community to be divinized, i.e. taken into the remembered mystery.

These elements are not only applicable the eucharist but to all sacramental celebrations.

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Overview of Sacramental Theology

1. God  
God / Love / Trinity
"In the beginning when God created...." (Genesis 1:1 NRSV)
"God is love ..." (1 John 4:16b)
"In the beginning was the Word ..." (John 1:1)   Parents are attentive to their infant's "first word" and celebrate it.  What was God's "first word"?  "Jesus"

2. Plan
Plan (
Mysterion in Greek; Sacramentum in Latin) / Incarnation / Creation
God's "plan" - Mysterion
The plan is Christ
[Note: Christ prior to "the snake and the apple" (Grace is more original than Sin)
Thomistic Theology / Franciscan Theology (an alternate orthodoxy)]

Jesus in his humanity makes God visible (see Preface for Dec 25)
Jesus is visible sign of who God is = Sacrament

3. Paschal Victory
Christ passes through Death
Paschal Victory
Christ hands over the Spirit (John: Good Friday / Easter Sunday. Luke: Pentecost)

4. Eucharist
The Spirit gathers people (us) to gratefully "remember" (Eucharist)
By remembering (anamnesis) we become present to the paschal mystery
By meal sharing we become Church
Eucharist is the visible sign of God's abiding love = Sacrament
Eucharist makes Church

5. Church
Continues the mission (mystery) of Christ
Giving thanks and praise to the Father in the Spirit
Bring all creation into the Mysterion, (all is "summed up in Christ)
Church is the visible sign of Christ = Sacrament

God → Plan → Jesus → Mystery → Sacrament → Eucharist  → Church → Liturgy → Sacraments

6. Liturgy
Liturgy: The Church gathers as Church (Christ) and with the voice of Christ, celebrates the anamnesis of the paschal victory.
Liturgy embraces the totality of the prayer of the Church

[Note:  after the 4th century, Liturgical begins to be distinguished from Devotional Prayer]

Note the chapter titles of Sacrosanctum Concilium
   
1. General Principles for the Reform and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy
    2. The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
    3. The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals
    4. The Liturgy of the Hours
    5. The Liturgical Year
    6. Sacred Music
    7. Sacred Art And Sacred Furnishings

Today the text and rubrics of the Roman Liturgy is found in the Liturgical Books of the Roman Rite
    1. The Roman Calendar
    2. The Roman Missal
    3. The Roman Lectionary
    4. The Roman Pontifical
    5. The Roman Ritual
    6. The Liturgy of the Hours
    7. The Book of Blessings
    8. The Martyrology

7.  Key Terms   An understanding of the following terms is a prerequisite for the study of sacramental theology:   1.  Sacrament / Mysterion / Sacramentum   2.  Berakah   3.  Anamnesis   4.  Epiclesis   5.  Lex Orandi   6.  Ritual    7.  Structure and Elements   8.  Liturgical Law / Valid / Licit   9.  Real Presence   10.  Res et Sacramentum

8. Signs and Symbols  Sometimes theologians take great efforts to explain "symbol" by distinguishing it from a mere "sign".  However, most of the time when speaking of "symbol" we use the word "sign"!!!  Why?  Shorter?  Force of habit?  For example:  "A sacrament is an outward sign..."    Obviously, "sign" here means "symbol."  "Visible sign of invisible love" (Saint Augustine).  Again, "sign" here means "symbol."

9.  Jesus as Sacrament

God → Plan → Jesus → Mystery → Sacrament → Eucharist  → Church → Liturgy → Sacraments

Jesus is the Sacrament of God (e.g. sign which makes visible).  The Church is the Sacrament of Christ.  Each of the seven sacraments is an expression of the sacrament "Church."   Marriage is a Sacrament (e.g. sign which makes visible) of God, especially of God's love for us.  The mutual love of husband and wife is "an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves [us]."  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1604).  Reconciliation is a Sacrament (e.g. sign which makes visible) of God, especially of God's mercy.  The Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament (e.g. sign which makes visible) of God, especially of God's healing love for us.  Etc.   

10.  Christian Initiation  Jesus is the Sacrament of God.  The Church is the Sacrament of Christ.  By Baptism (Confirmation and Eucharist) we become Church and we become sacrament.  (Check under the iceberg to see if Jesus / Church / Baptism are in separate "boxes" or wither you are beginning to see the continuity / unity of Sacrament.) 

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A Brief History of "Sacrament"

For an explanation of the "Ten Finger History Grid" click here

1. Apostolic [0-399]   That "the Word took flesh" is the origin of "sacramental worship" (embodied prayer).  Jesus himself used actions and objects -- especially meals --  as signs of God's activity in the world.  ("Good is the flesh the Word has become!"  from the cantata "Wonder of All Wonders")

2. Patristic [400-799]   Jesus himself is the principle "sign" of God's activity in the world.  Jesus is the original and principal sacrament. 
God → Plan → Jesus → Mystery → Sacrament → Eucharist  → Church → Liturgy → Sacraments

3. Early Medieval [800-1199]   The idea of sacrament is polyvalent.  Many objects and gestures are seen as "sacrament."   Some lists enumerate as many as 125 sacraments.  e.g. foot washing. 

4. Medieval [1200-1299] 

Step one:  In 1150 the great scholastic teacher Peter Lombard writes a "text book" ("Sentences")  in which he defines sacrament more precisely and names seven ritual actions (of the many sacraments with which he and the Church of his time was familiar) as sacraments "coming from Christ." 

Step two:  Thomas Aquinas O.P.   ("Order of Preachers" = a member of the Order founded by Saint Dominic = Dominicans) appears at the University of Paris and writes his text book.  Thomas comments on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and Lombard's "seven" enter into Thomas' thought.

Step three: Thomas Aquinas becomes the most popular of the scholastic teachers.  He is studied by all Dominicans [and all future popes].  The Dominicans were the secretaries at the Council of Trent.  Thomas Aquinas becomes THE authority.  His (Lombard's) seven become "Catholic Teaching."

5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]   Thomas' students are not always as bright as Thomas and his commentary gets commented on.   Sacrament becomes a objectified ("mechanical" / "magical" ?)  result of "matter" and "form" (that is "an object" over which "words" are pronounced by an authorized minister (e.g. the priest).  The priest becomes the one who puts matter and form together.   The priest can "do it" all by himself (e.g. Mass).  The priest administers the sacraments; the rest of the Church receives sacraments.  The priest says Mass; the rest hear Mass.  The sacraments are removed from their ecclesial context.   The sacraments become "private" events.  But we knew that they were not "private"  theologically, and so there developed the theory that the priest, in himself, made the whole Church present and when he did a sacrament privately, it was therefore, theologically public; it only looked private.  (Private Confession and Private Mass, were not really private, they only looked private.)  Sacraments are commonly understood as seven things.  Sacraments become nouns rather than verbs

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6. Reformation [1500-1699]   Among many needed projects, it was time to "clean house" and "get back to basics."  Many "magical" practices (e.g. indulgences ? ) had entered into Church practice and worship.  It was time for "spring cleaning."  The Question:  What to throw out and what to keep?  Progressives answer:  Let's keep only what is in scripture and throw away the rest (which is from the Church).  Conservatives answer:  Good idea, but we don't know enough about the history of these things ("History" as we know it today hasn't been invented yet!).  We might throw out the baby with the bath water.  So let's keep everything.  Progressives say:  But the cleaning is really necessary.  We have too much "stuff".   Two or three of our rituals can go back to the beginning (e.g. they are found in Scripture:  the meal, the initiation in water, and the forgiveness of sins -- therefore there are three sacraments -- or perhaps, since the forgiveness of sins doesn't have any "matter" (e.g. material object -- these people all studied Thomas) but only "form" (e.g. the words), perhaps there are only two sacraments:  Eucharist and Baptism.   Conservatives answer:  That is true as far as it goes, but we don't know enough about the history or about the scriptures to make such a radical "amputation" and so we are going to keep everything.  There are seven sacraments, just as Saint Thomas taught. 

7. After Trent [1700-1899]  The positions "harden" and the two sides simply don't speak to each other. The Reformers have 2 sacraments.  The Papists have 7 sacraments.  (This is a Western  (e.g. Roman) issue; it is of little importance to the rest of Christians because 1) they didn't have a reformation and 2) numbers are qualities, not quantities and no matter how many sacraments there are there are enough, all we need, a complete number (in the bible this is signified by "seven"  -- seven gifts of the spirit, seven Churches in Asia minor, etc...)

8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]   The missing history is rediscovered and studied (by all in the West).  The liturgical movement among Romans and Protestants sets the stage for the Second Vatican Council.

Liturgy (and sacraments) carefully distinguished from Popular Devotions.  The liturgy is the official prayer of the Church, with the words prescribed for the whole (Roman) Church in the liturgical books, in Latin, performed by one deputed for worship (e.g. cleric / vowed religious).  The liturgy is for God; devotions are for the people. 

9. Vatican II [1960-1975]  Attempts a more biblical, less mechanical notion of sacrament.  Jesus is the original sacrament.  The Church is the fundamental sacrament.  Rediscovery of key concepts:  Sacrament    Mysterion   Sacramentum   Berakah   Anamnesis  Epiclesis  etc.  Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church.  The Episcopate and the Deaconate are restored as sacraments.  The sacraments are restored to the Church.  Authenticity is a sacramental principal:  Things that are public should look like they are public.  Baptism deputes one for worship.  The priest is the one authorized by the Church to pray in the name of the Church.  (E.g. The celebrants at the Eucharist are the gathered community; the priest presides at the gathering and leads the worshiping community in prayer -- always in the first person plural, "we").   [Note:  by 1974 reaction had already set in, and some cardinals were getting fearful.  Consequently Jounel was not able to put the "we" back into the Sacrament of Reconciliation nor shape the principle prayer in the  Berakah   style as in the other sacraments.]  Lines are blurred between "liturgy" and "devotions" (CSL 13).  Vernacular.  Inculturation.

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]  Facts, Attitudes, Behavior, Group Behavior.  Some get it; some don't.  Development of a Contemporary Sacramental Theology

Relics that are no longer useful:

If I were teaching young Air Force fighter pilots at the Air Force Academy how to fly from Colorado to Afghanistan, I probably would not begin by telling them how to do it back in the days when we thought the earth was flat. We simply do not live in that world anymore. Today the world is round.

If in today's world I were teaching catechumens about the sacraments I would presume that they live in a world of personal relationships. A world in which becoming fully human is a process. A world in which we understand ourselves to be created in the image of a Trinitarian God: lover, beloved, and bond of love. There is no reason to present them with definitions and instructions that come from a world which no longer exists.

For example: the definition of sacrament as found in the Baltimore Catechism comes from a world which no longer exists. "A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give Grace." The definition was formed in a world of static realities. Signs are things. Where as Christ is a person, a person existing in relationship, and interpersonal relationship of love. "Instituted by Christ." This gives the impression that the sacraments were instituted personally by the historic Jesus. Indeed the sacraments are instituted by Christ, but Christ living in the church, and rituals developed as society and needs change. To give the impression that the sacraments were established by the historic Jesus is to give information that will need to be unlearned once the person becomes familiar with history and will need to be unlearned once the person study Scripture and no longer uses the Bible simply for proof texting. "Give Grace" this implies that grace is a thing, an object. Formerly we spoke of grace in this way: there were different kinds of grace; we could get more or less of it; we could lose it, and get it back again. Today grace is understood as an interpersonal relationship with a Trinitarian God. It is more verb than noun. In the instructive phrase of Father Michael Heims, "Sacraments are not something we receive, but something we are." [Note that in the word "something" the "thing" part of the word is used in two very different senses -- the first is a noun and the second a verb.]

Because of the deficiencies in this definition, I see no reason why it should ever be mentioned again. It belongs to a world that no longer exists. It is like teaching navigation presuming the earth is flat.

Civil rights metaphor:

There was a time in parts of our country where persons of African descent were considered inferior human beings and this understanding had "ritual" consequences. For example they could only ride in the back of the bus. As time moves forward and we came to realize the radical dignity of every human being, these "rituals" changed and people could sit wherever they wanted on the bus.

If we move to a third period in which we attempt to balance the two previous periods and enforce rituals in which African Americans can sit in the back of the bus and the middle of the bus, this is not progress, this is not a compromise, this is simply moving backwards.

To quote the definition of sacrament from the Council of Trent and the Baltimore Catechism and then to quote the definition of sacrament from Sacrosanctum Concilium, and then to say that the definition given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compromise, is this not similar to the situation above?

Before quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1) study carefully pages pp 14-31 in "Real Presence" by Mitchell; 2) note that sacraments are treated in part two of the book, following the creed -- this offends the principle Lex Orandi by placing the Credendi prior to the Orandi; 3) also note that the Catechism treats and sacraments in two distinct sections: "Section One" 1066 to 1209 and "Section Two" 1210 to 2300. I find  no indication that the author(s?) of section 2 read or believed the theology presented in section 1. (Personal note: 1066ff is based on the metaphor of the "ripples from the stone dropped into a pond" and 1210ff is based on the metaphor of the "seven shoeboxes."

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The First and Greatest Sacrament

Eucharist: Jesus With Us #2, March 2005, Q0305

The following is a draft of a published article ©2005 by St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 w. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.  1-800-488-0488.  The article may not be reproduced or sold without written permission from the publisher.

The First and Greatest Sacrament
Fasten your seatbelts for a really quick trip through history, Scripture and theology because in these four short pages I want to explain the meaning of life! But before we begin this overly ambitious adventure, please complete the following sentence: "The Eucharist is..."

Typical of the responses I receive when I ask this question are: "The Eucharist is Sunday Mass." "The Eucharist is the sacrifice of Calvary." "The Eucharist is Holy Communion." These are all accurate statements. But the issue I want to treat in this article is this: Can you fit all the various correct responses together so that when you think about the Eucharist the multiple meanings of this mystery come together into a unified, consistent vision? That's what I want this article to help you accomplish.

Creation as God's work of art
Let's start at the beginning '' the very beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth. Now, as we know, God didn't have to create anything. God created freely out of love. God, who is the very essence of love (I John 4:16), planned from Day One to share the love, harmony, communication and unity of God's own inner Trinitarian life with the persons and things that God would create. (After all, isn't that what love does? It wants to propagate itself.)

Just as an artist is always embodied in his or her work of art '' we can look at a painting and say "that's a Monet" or hear a piece of music and say "that's Mozart" '' the Divine Artist is embodied in the beautiful universe we see around us. And of all God's works of art, God's masterpiece is Jesus! If God's inner Trinitarian life and love spill over into creation, nowhere is this more evident than in Jesus who is "the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being" (Hebrews 1:1-3).

God's plan for creation
Usually when we make something, we have some plan in mind. For example, imagine you are building a house and you begin to measure the land, dig the foundation and pour the footings. If someone were to ask you, "What are you doing?" you wouldn't say, "Well, I don't know yet; I'm just pouring concrete. We'll see what happens." No, from the very beginning, your mind's eye is on the finished project: "I'm building a house."

Similarly, God had a plan for all of creation. Little by little that plan was revealed in the history of God's people. As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews: "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son...the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being" (1:1-3). When the time was ripe, God's plan was revealed in all its wonderful mystery in the birth, life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The plan God had in mind from the very beginning was Jesus Christ!

Jesus: sacrament of God's plan
When the inspired authors of the New Testament describe this amazing plan of God for the world, the word they use for plan (they were writing in Greek) is "mysterion" ("mystery" in English). They tell how this mystery, this wondrous plan of God for the world, is "summed up" in Christ. "I want [your] hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that [you] may have...the knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ himself (Col. 2:2, italics added).

When the Greek New Testament was translated into Latin, the Greek word "mysterion" was often translated into the Latin word "sacramentum" ("sacrament" in English). St. Augustine taught that a sacrament is a "visible sign of invisible grace." Today, when we Catholics think of sacraments we usually think of the seven sacraments  '' but in Augustine's broader understanding of sacrament, we see that of all the visible signs we have of who God is, the best, the most complete, "visible sign" (sacrament) is Jesus himself. For Jesus "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15). In Jesus "we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see" (Mass of Christmas, Preface I). It is in this sense that we can speak of Jesus himself as a "sacrament."

Unity of mind and heart
At Mass we pray: "You sent Jesus Christ your Son among us / as redeemer and Lord. / He was moved with compassion / for the poor and the powerless, / for the sick and the sinner; / he made himself neighbor to the oppressed. / By his words and actions he proclaimed to the world / that you care for us / as a father cares for his children" (Mass for Various Needs, IV).

The love that is the inner Trinitarian life of God is revealed in everything that Jesus said and did, but nowhere is this love so clearly expressed as in his passion, death and resurrection. Jesus Christ empties himself on the cross to be in perfect union with the will of his Father through the Holy Spirit.

Perfect union of mind and heart! This is the goal, the purpose of sacrifice: joyful union with God. Nothing could separate Jesus from the Love of God, not even Death. Victorious over death itself, Jesus "rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures." This is Christ's Paschal Victory!

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Christ's reconciling sacrifice
The events of the days we have come to call Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at the very heart of God's mysterious plan to embody his own Trinitarian love and harmony in creation. This plan is perfectly accomplished in the self-offering of Jesus by which he reconciled all things to himself.

And while Jesus accomplished this reconciliation once and for all on the cross, his sacrifice is not something that only happened in the past '' as is the case with ordinary past events that happened once and now are over and done with. By means of the sacred meal which Jesus celebrated with his disciples before he died, we are enabled to participate in, and indeed to be mysteriously present to Christ's offering. The Eucharist is the sacramental "door" though which we can personally enter into Christ's reconciling sacrifice.

Transformed by the Spirit
Each time we gather for the Lord's Supper we ask God to send the Holy Spirit to transform our bread and wine into that sacrament of reconciliation, communion and love, which is Christ himself. And that same Holy Spirit comes upon us who eat and drink and takes us up into the sacrifice of Christ. "Lord, look upon this sacrifice which you have given your Church; and by your Holy Spirit, gather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise" (Eucharistic Prayer IV).

This Holy Spirit '' the spirit of wisdom and understanding, of right judgment and courage, of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe, which the prophet Isaiah said would be the hallmark of the Messiah (the Christ)  '' permeated and sealed the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is this same Spirit which Christ gives to us. After his resurrection, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said "Receive the Holy Spirit ... As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21-22).

Eucharist makes Church
We receive that Spirit in Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Through these sacraments Christ commissions us to continue his work. Christ, through the Holy Spirit has "given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). We are to free creation from slavery by working to improve the quality of life for all, to alleviate hunger and disease, injustice and conflict. We are to be ambassadors of reconciliation until that perfect union of Creator and creation, which was planned by God from the beginning of the world and achieved by Christ on the cross, extends to the ends of the earth.

We cannot accomplish this alone; we cannot accomplish this divine plan together with the help of other people, even thousands of other people. We can only carry on the mission of Christ together with Christ. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we become Christ's Body; we become Church. The Eucharist makes the Church. That is why the Church is so much more that merely the sum total of its members. The Church itself is a sacrament, "a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #1). And that sacrament which is the Church is never more visible than when we are celebrating the Eucharist. The Eucharist "is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #2).

One unified vision
I have friends who returned from a visit to Russia with one of those Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka). I always enjoy watching the amazement on the faces of their grandchildren as they open the doll to find another slightly smaller doll inside, and another inside that, and so on until all 10 are displayed on the table. Perhaps this can serve as an image for an integrated vision of the Eucharist.

Picture the dolls as being transparent so that you can see through the outer one to the next and the next and the next. Look at the Eucharist and see not only the consecrated host but see your own mystery and the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ. See Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. See the mystery of Christ, the sacrament of God, God's plan for the world, and the Trinitarian love of God's very self. All of this is really present in the Eucharist.

When we view the Eucharist as the embodiment of the whole mysterious plan of God for the universe, then we can understand why the Eucharist is the first and greatest Sacrament, indeed, the "Sacrament of sacraments" (CCC, #1211).

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Life's Three Questions

(Text of the first part of talk #12 of my CD's on the Sacraments published by www.NowYouKnowMedia.com )

We have come to the end of this course on the sacraments, so I guess there ought to be a test! Well, I am not going to give a test right now; but back in the days when I taught high school -- many, many years ago -- I warned students about the BIG test, the final exam -- the very final exam that they would have to pass at the end of their lives. The results of this exam determine not just whether they passed to the next grade, or could go to college; this exam determined where they went for all eternity. And I explained to the highschoolers that this was such an important test that God gave them the questions ahead of time so that they could prepare and get ready -- Actually they are to use their whole life to get ready for this final exam

The exam has three questions: 1) Who is God? 2) Who am I? 3) What am I going to do about it (that is, questions 1 and 2)?

Even though this began as a gimmick to interest the students in the course material -- sophomores are more interested in "identity" and "career" issues than in the literary forms of the Old Testament -- over the years I have found that the three questions have proved helpful to myself and to many other Catholics with whom I live and work. Who is God? Who am I? What am I going to do about it?

And I guess it is not "merely a gimmick" because they are the same three questions Pope Benedict XVI addresses in his first encyclical, God is Love. Benedict writes: "These words "God is Love" express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God [Who is God?] and the resulting image of humankind [Who am I?] and its destiny [What are we going to do about it?]" (God is Love, #1)

The key to answering these three Final Exam questions correctly is the insight that they must be answered in order -- the first questions first, then number two and then number three. Usually, the most pressing issue is question number three "What am I going to do..." What am I going to do in this circumstance, in that circumstance. Many times during our lives -- indeed many times each day -- we have to make decisions. Should I buy this? Should I wear that? What should I say to this person? How best to use my time and my money and my talent?

Sometimes we ask little children: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And as the children grow older, they ask the question themselves. What is it that I really want to do with my life? While this is a very important question, I have come to the firm conviction that we cannot answer that question unless we first answer the questions: "Who am I?" and "Who is God?"

"Who am I?" Did you ever need to remove a screw from a piece of wood but couldn't find a screw driver, and so you go to the kitchen drawer where there is always a supply of table knives and use one of them as a screw driver? The knife can perhaps help you remove the screw, but it is usually not very good for the knife! "Removing screws" is not was the knife was made for. What something does flows from what something is. What I intend to do with my life depends on how I answer the question, "Who am I?" How do I understand my self as a human person?

Self-awareness is basic to my decisions in my ministry as a priest, in my preaching and teaching, and in the informal counseling I do. I am frequently amazed at how often people make important decisions about their lives with very little self awareness. So often people are unaware of how they are influenced by external events, persons, and things, -- and how decisions that they think are their own, are really not.

And if we truly believe, as I do, that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we cannot answer the question, "Who am I?", unless we first answer the question, "Who is God?" Who is this God in whose image and likeness we have been created. Let's explore this first, and all important question.

Who is God? What does God look like? In the prologue to the Gospel according to John we read: " No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known." (John 1:18 NRSV) And later in that same Gospel, when Philip asks Jesus: "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" (John 14:8-10 NRSV)

Again, we return to Augustine: Visible sign of invisible Grace. Jesus is THE Sacrament. The

"visible sign" "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." Go back to the beginning of these talks when I spoke of the "Metaphor of the Ripples from a Stone Dropped into a Pond" and we considered God's "Mysterious Plan" for creation and saw how "it all starts with Jesus": God Jesus Plan Mystery Sacrament Paschal Victory Eucharist Church Body of Christ Seven Sacraments.

The reason why "sacraments" are some important is not just that they are "something we do" as Catholics -- something we "receive" or something we "go to now and then" -- Sacraments are the window through which we get a glimpse of "Who God is" -- They are key to answering that FIRST GREAT QUESTION on the final exam: Who is God?

Knowing who God is, is key to knowing who we are .. And what we are to do. God is revealed in Jesus. And Jesus tell us clearly: "I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10 NRSV) This is what sacraments are REALLY about -- not merely about ceremonies and rituals -- but about ABUNDANT LIFE.

If we had to put into one sentence all that Jesus said and did -- all that Jesus tells us about God -- I believe that sentence would be simply: "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." (I Jn. 14:16 NRSV)

At the very beginning of these talks I introduced the "Iceberg Metaphor." The top part -- the tip of the iceberg -- corresponds to our consciousness: the facts, the definitions. The bottom part -- the BIG part, the UNSEEN part -- corresponds to our unconscious images, assumptions, prejudices, and values. Once again, I am going to ask you to put on your wetsuit and stick you head under the water and examine that "unseeable" part of your "sacraments iceberg" and find out how you REALLY answer the question "Who is God?" What does your God look like? Is it a loving and forgiving God? Is it a vengeful God? Is it a God who is a busy accountant, keeping track of your assets and your debits -- your good works and your sins? Think for a minute: of all the pictures you have seen of God -- paintings, holy cards, frescos, movies -- which one most clearly captures the image of YOUR God?

By my desk at home, I have a copy of the photo L'Enfant by Spencer Rowell. Perhaps you know the photo. It shows a young man holding his infant son in his lap; they are gazing into each other's eyes; the dad with love; the infant with trust, confidence, and joy. I think that when I first saw this print for sale in a book store in London, the thing that attracted me to it was that of all the pictures I have seen, Rowell's L'Enfant comes closest to what the God I carry in my unconscious looks like.

Another way to tell if your answer to the question "Who is God" is maturing and developing down there under the waterline, is to examine the type of prayers you say. For example, Saint Francis of Assisi began, as most of us do, by asking God for things. As he grew in his understanding of God -- as his "God grew larger" -- as his God grew more and more into a loving Father who loved him so much that God would provide him what whatever would be best for him without Francis even asking -- his prayers become simply prayers of praise and thanksgiving which, by the way, would be "Eucharist" if we were speaking Greek here: "eucharistine" = to give thanks and praise" -- which by the way -- to return to the top of the iceberg -- is the basic stance of the Christian: Gratitude.

If I may digress bit -- just a word about gratitude and reverence -- the reverence that some Catholics feel has disappeared from Mass and the sacraments.

I have heard some Catholics say that they find the Mass, when celebrated in English, lacking in reverence. I do not know whether this has been your experience or not, but I do know that reverence is certainly something that we want to experience at the Eucharist -- and indeed, at all sacramental celebrations. And I know that the opposite of reverence is not so much irreverence as it is arrogance.

Arrogance reveals itself when we are so certain that we are right that we dismiss the opinions and feelings of others. The other day while vesting for Mass I noticed a new clock in the sacristy. "I see we have a new clock," I said to the sacristan. "Yes," she replied. "It's an atomic clock. It is always right!" Being "always right" may be fine for a clock, but for humans it tends to bring out a certain arrogance.

When friends invite us to their home for a meal, they expect us to arrive hungry -- not just physically hungry, but hungry for friendship, conversation, new experiences, flavors and tastes. They want us to be open to being amazed. This is the very opposite of arrogance. When we come to the Lord's table, we must come with that same hunger if we are to experience a sense of reverence, transcendence, beauty and mystery. Only if I come hungry, will I be grateful when I am filled. And gratitude is fundamental to reverence.

The iceberg metaphor helps me guard against arrogance. It helps me remember that there is more to an argument than what appears on the surface, and it helps to keep me from being like that atomic clock: always right!

We are to be a grateful people, a thankful people, an Eucharistic People. When we see who God is, and in that light see Who we are -- note by the way, that once we answer the first question correctly, the second and third questions become plural: who are WE and what are WE going to do about it -- When we answer these questions correctly we see how the Eucharist is not merely something we do or something we celebrate, it defines who we are.

The first time we come to Eucharist, it is through Baptism and Confirmation. We mentioned that the "pattern" of Jesus' baptism is the pattern of our own: We go down into the water, hear the voice that we are loved, and come up transformed. "Hearing the voice" is key to answering the second question "who am I / who are we?" I am LOVED. I am God's own child. I have God's very life.

The answer to the third question then becomes clear. What am I to do about it? I am commissioned to become a lover -- even as Jesus was a lover, even as God is a lover.

Years ago, when I was in music school, I would spend hour after hour at the piano learning the two pieces required for the end of semester recital. And after weeks of practice, I could play those two pieces rather well. But just because I could play two songs didn't mean that I was an artist at the piano! A real artist isn't limited to a couple of pieces. Artists can play whatever music is set before them. Artists can play all the pieces. Similarly, to be good at the art of loving, you have to be able to love "all the pieces." You have to be able to love everyone -- even as God loves everyone and invites people of every race, language, and way of life to the great Nuptial Banquet of the kingdom.

We come up out of the waters of Baptism and "follow Jesus." "Following Jesus" doesn't mean that we have become carpenters, or fishermen, or charismatic preachers. "Following Jesus" means that we have to become great lovers!

Jesus was a real artist when it came to loving. He could play all the pieces -- he could love the rich people and the poor people, the saints and the sinners. As a sign of that universal love he opened his arms on the cross and shed his covenant blood "for you and for all."

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Definitions of "Sacrament"

1. St. Augustine. A sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace.

2. Baltimore Catechism. A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.  This definition has several deficiencies:

1) outward sign– this can imply that a sacrament is an object, a static thing, like a stop sign. For example: marriage is a sacrament. It is not so much a “thing” is the name given to the unique, dynamic of interactive love between 2 persons. It is not so much a thing as a process; a loving celebration of a relationship.

2) instituted by Christ– this can imply that Jesus of Nazareth instituted the sacraments at specific times during his earthly life, and we can find (at least hints of) these occasions in the 4 Gospels. In reality, sacraments are post resurrection events that are instituted by the Church, the Body of Christ. It is true that they are instituted by Christ, as the church is the sacrament of Christ.

3) to give – this indicates only the katabatic dimension of the sacrament, the downward movement, the “what we get”. It makes no mention of the anabatic movement, the upward movement: sacraments are primarily acts of worship and Thanksgiving. (Just as babies and children cry when they need something and have lots of “give me this” good parents little by little teach their children to say thank you. Christians should experience a similar growth.)

4) grace – this can imply that grace is a thing, something that can be quantified. St. Bonaventure speaks of grace as God’s very self, our loving relationship with his divinity. Graces understood in terms of theosis, divinization.

3. Basil of Caeserea.. Worship is a mystery in which, through the light of the Spirit, Christians contemplate the revelation of the Father in the icon of the Son, and then through the Son in the Spirit render glory to the Father. (Basil of Caeserea. Treatise De Spiritu Sancto, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 8. New York: Christian Literature, 1895, pp 1-50.)

4. Theodore of Mopsuestia.  Every sacrament points to invisible and ineffable realities by means of signs and symbols. (Doors to the Sacred. Liguori/Triumph, 2001, p 3.)

5. Pope Leo the Great.  What was visible in the Lord has passed over into the sacraments. (Doors to the Sacred. Liguori/Triumph, 2001, p 3.)

6.  St. Bonaventure:  Sacraments are "sensible signs divinely instituted as remedies in which, under the cover of material realities, divine power operates in a hidden manner."  (Breviloquium VI, 1.2 V:265 a)

7. Pius XII. The sacred Liturgy is consequently the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the Heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members. (Pius XII. Encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy, Mediator Dei 1947, Nov 20. NCWC translation, number 20.)

8. Søren Kierkegaard. "Many Christians tend to view the minister/priest as the actor, God as the prompter, and the congregation as the audience. But actually, the congregation is the actor, the minister/priest merely the prompter, and God the audience." (Søren Kierkegaard. Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, New York: Harper & Row, 1956, pp 180-181. Quoted in Erickson, "Liturgical Participation" Worship 59 (1985) p 232.)

9. C. S. Lewis. "As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning how to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you do not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect liturgy would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God." (C.S. Lewis. Letters to Malcolm, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, p 4.)

10. Robert F. Taft. Christian liturgy is a religious rite of the Church in which the whole Church renders visibly present and publicly celebrates the mystery of our salvation already accomplished once and for all by Christ i.e., the mystery of his life in us, thanking and glorifying God for this gift of divine life in order that this life might be intensified in those that participate in the sacred mysteries of the liturgy for the remission of their sins and the fulfillment of the kingdom to come, and in order that this life might be communicated to all men and women, for the building up of the Church into a kingdom of salvation for all, to the perpetual glorification of God according to God's own express will. (Robert F. Taft S.J. Unpublished lecture notes, University of Notre Dame, 1981.)

11. Tad Guzie. A sacrament is a festive action in which Christians assemble to celebrate their lived experience and to call to heart their common story. The action is a symbol of God's care for us in Christ. Enacting the symbol brings us closer to one another in the church and to the Lord who is there for us. (Tad Guzie. The Book of Sacramental Basics, New York: Paulist Press, 1981, p 53.)

12. David N. Power. The liturgy is an action wherein the testimony of God is heard and appropriated, the experience of the community is transformed, and a godly presence disclosed. (David N. Power. Unsearchable Riches: The Symbolic Nature of the Liturgy, New York: Pueblo, 1984, p 146.)

13. Richard M. Gula. Sacraments are symbolic actions manifesting the offer of God's saving love for us in Christ and through the Spirit in the Church. In the sacraments, we respond to God's self-giving and draw closer not only to God but also to one another in the Church. (Richard M. Gula, S.S. To Walk Together Again. Paulist Press, 1984, p 77.)

14. Paul Tillich.  Any object or event is sacramental in which the transcendent is perceived to be the present.  Sacramental objects are holy objects, laden with divine power. (Doors to the Sacred. Liguori/Triumph, 2001, p 3.)

15. Second Vatican Council. For the liturgy, "making the work of our redemption a present actuality," most of all in the divine sacrifice of the eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. (Vatican Council II. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, article 2.)

16.  Second Vatican Council. "The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to build up the Body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God; but being signs they also have a teaching function. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called 'sacraments of faith.' They do indeed impart grace, but in addition the very act of celebrating them disposes the faithful most effectively to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God rightly, and to practice charity." (Vatican Council II. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, article 59.)

17.  The Second Vatican Council defines liturgy by the very way the chapters of the text are arranged: Christ, Eucharist, Sacraments, Hours, Time, Music, Environment.

1. General Principles for the Reform and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy
2. The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
3. The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals
4. Divine Office
5. The Liturgical Year
6. Sacred Music
7. Sacred Art And Sacred Furnishings

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Michael Himes and the
Sacramental Principle

The Michael Himes' Principle of Sacramentality states: That which is always and everywhere true must be noticed, accepted, and celebrated somewhere, sometime.

Example:  Mother's Day.  Because we love mother always, on all days, we have one day when we notice, accept and celebrate that love. 

Example:  Birthday

Example:  Sacred Place   A place (a church, Lourdes, etc) is not holy as opposed to other places which are not holy.  All places are God's places.  All places are equally present to God. But if all places are God's places, there must be a sacrament of God's place.  There must be some place where we notice, accept, and celebrate God's Presence.

Example:  Sacred Time  All time is God's time.  Sunday is the day of the Lord.  Sunday is the day we notice, accept, and celebrate the fact that all time is God's time.  Sunday is the sacrament of God's omni-presence. 

Implications for Soteriology:   A sacrament is an outward sign of invisible grace. [St. Augustine] Sacramentality presupposes that all reality is graced.  There is no limit to grace.  The whole world is rooted in grace. 

[Notes from a lecture "Jesus Yesterday, Today and Forever: A Christology Update, (Pathways to the Third Millennium Breaking the Catechetical Impasse) by Rev. Michael Himes. Father Himes is here speaking of the universal salvific will of God and the specificity of salvation through Christ; he sets out to update Anselm's Cur Deus Homo with the Second Vatican Council's enlarged vision of sacrament.]

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Summary

59. The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith."

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To Think About

During the 2007 summer course "Introduction to the Sacraments" I asked the participants write an essay (of between 800 and 1200 words) in which they would define "sacrament" and defend their definition showing its richness theologically and its usefulness pastorally and catechetically.  After reading the 15 essays, I have the following observations:

As I read the essays I was struck by how operative (even if unconsciously) the teaching of Trent is after 500 years of theological development!   When speaking of "theological development" the Second Vatican Council stated: 

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness [PLEROMA] of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.  (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, #8.   Emphasis added)

Look into your "unconscious" (under the iceberg) and see if -- despite the definition you elaborated in your essay -- the operative definition of "sacrament" is "1) an outward sign 2) instituted by Christ 3) to give grace."  If so, examine each of those three elements.2. Is the definition large enough to include "Jesus in his humanity" and "Church" as sacraments? 7 meaning of seven, 3 orders, etc.

1.  an outward sign    The "sign" function of the sacrament is key.  The definition must include a visible and an invisible element and a "bridging" between the two.  

1.2.  A mechanical worldview or an interpersonal worldview   Trent received its vocabulary from the scholastics who spoke a language which they received and adapted from the ancient Greek philosophers.   Vatican II uses a more biblical vocabulary.  This has many implications for the sacraments:

1.2.1.  Noun / verb   Ask:  Is "sacrament" envisioned as a dynamic event/interaction (e.g. verb) or envisioned as a static "thing" (noun)?   How is "sign" understood?  It is in some way a "bridge" activity uniting two persons (here: Church & God).  In my own reflections on sacrament, the most helpful metaphor I have found is sexual intercourse between two loving persons.

1.4.  Rooted in Scripture  Vatican II uses a biblical vocabulary.  This has many implications for the sacraments:

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.   (Constitution on the Liturgy, #24.  Emphasis added.) 

In the definition of scripture which you posted for homework, how often do you quote Sacred Scripture as one of your principal sources?  Does your definition include key biblical concepts such as "mysterion" "anamnesis" "epiclesis"?  Or is your definition primarily philosophical?   Is your definition large enough to include "Jesus in his humanity" and "Church" as sacraments?

3.  to give grace   Is grace envisioned as a thing, or quantity of something or as the interpersonal relationship of love with God? E.g. Is grace seen as God or as something apart from God? Has God moved?

3.1.  Metaphor: Grace is like Electricity

3.1.1.  Council of Trent Grace: There is an electrical socket in the wall. And I have a lamp I want to light up. I plug the lamp cord in the wall and electricity flows from the socket in the wall through the cord to the light bulb and the bulb lights up. When the sacraments are properly administered -- when the proper minister puts "matter" together with "form" -- grace flows from God (the wall socket) to the recipient (the lamp) and the recipient receives grace (lights up).

3.1.2.  Vatican II Grace: A young couple is celebrating the first anniversary of their marriage. He tells her that there will be a surprise and when he arrives home from work he shows her reservations at her favorite little restaurant where -- over great wine and good food -- they remember their wedding day and reminisce about the wonderful life they have together. They return home and have awesome, ecstatic sex. It's electric!

3.4.  Do the sacraments do more that just "give grace"? 

The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify us, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.  (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #59.  Emphasis added.)

3.5. To build up the body of Christ  The "mission" dimension of each sacrament needs to be given its proper emphasis and value.  The Eucharist has four movements:  Gathering / Story Telling / Meal Sharing / Commissioning.  The Eucharist is the first sacrament and gives its shape to all the sacraments; consequently the MISSION element (commissioning) is important in each and all of the sacraments.  (Refer to 3.2 above --too many think the sacraments are "for the recipient", meaning one person.)

3.6  Catechesis  In today's overly busy world, if we are to hand on the faith to the next generation, we have to make every word, gesture, moment "count".  

3.6.1  In our celebration of the sacraments, the signs must communicate clearly and efficiently.

Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.  (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #33.  Emphasis added.)

In "What, Then, Is Liturgy?" Anscar Chupungco OSB reminds us that in the midst of the current, often fierce, debates about the nature of the liturgy:  "At the end of the day what matters are not personal opinions but what truly contributes to making the prayer of the Church an encounter with the person of Christ."   "Encounter with the person of Christ" is the heart and soul of our contemporary understanding of sacrament.  Jesus, the primordial sacrament is not only an "outward sign" of the divinity, he is God.  And the Church, as sacrament, is not just a society or an international organization which points the way to God, the Church is the Body of Christ. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me."  The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church's life is not just an outward sign of God's love, it embodies God's Love; it is Christ's Body.  And we who have been baptized are not merely followers or imitators of Christ, we are his body, we who eat and drink the one bread and one cup become, by the Holy Spirit, one Body, one Spirit in Christ.  Sacraments are not merely something that we "receive"; sacraments are something that we are!  And like the first sacrament, Jesus, we too are destined to pass through death and rise to a life absorbed into Trinitarian love -- theosis!

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 06/10/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org

ItemTrentVatican II
MetaphorSeven shoe boxesRipples from stone in a pond
DefinitionOutward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.The sacraments worship God, build up the body of Christ, and sanctify men and women. They are signs of faith. They nourish, strengthen, and express Faith.  (SC 59)
Agent (celebrant)PriestWorshipping community
Outward signminimalism -- essential matterrich symbolism....
Wordminimal -- essential formulaScriptural context
EssenceSomething we receive
having
Something we are
being
PurposeKatabatic [down] -- give graceAnabatic [up] -- acts of worship
Effects...one personthe entire worshipping community
Essencenounverb / [gift exchange]
Descriptionadminister/receivecelebrate
Sacraments of the ChurchChurch = priestChurch = community
ChristInstituted for us by ChristTransforms us into Christ

Anscar Chupungco OSB reminds us that in the midst of the current, often fierce, debates about the nature of liturgy and the sacraments:   "At the end of the day what matters are not personal opinions but what truly contributes to making the prayer of the Church an encounter with the person of Christ."   "Encounter with the person of Christ" is the heart and soul of our contemporary understanding of sacrament.  Jesus, the primordial sacrament is not only an "outward sign" of the divinity, he is God.  And the Church, as sacrament, is not just a society or an international organization which points the way to God, the Church is the Body of Christ. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me."  The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church's life, is not just an outward sign of God's love, it embodies God's Love; it is Christ's Body.  And we who have been baptized are not merely followers or imitators of Christ, we are his body, we who eat and drink the one bread and one cup become, by the Holy Spirit, one Body, one Spirit in Christ. Sacraments are not merely something that we "receive"; sacraments are something that we are!  And like the first sacrament, Jesus, we too are destined to pass through death and rise to a life absorbed into Trinitarian love -- theosis!

Return to the top of this page -- Return to General and Introductory Materials Index -- Return to Fr. Tom's Home Page

To Think About

As I teach courses on the sacraments I am continually struck by how operative (even if unconsciously) the teaching of Trent is after 500 years of theological development!   When speaking of "theological development" the Second Vatican Council stated: 

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness [PLEROMA] of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.  (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, #8.   Emphasis added)

Look into your "unconscious" (under the iceberg) and see if -- despite the definition you elaborated in your essay -- the operative definition of "sacrament" is "1) an outward sign 2) instituted by Christ 3) to give grace."  If so, examine each of those three elements.2. Is the definition large enough to include "Jesus in his humanity" and "Church" as sacraments? 7 meaning of seven, 3 orders, etc.

1.  an outward sign    The "sign" function of the sacrament is key.  The definition must include a visible and an invisible element and a "bridging" between the two.  

1.2.  A mechanical worldview or an interpersonal worldview   Trent received its vocabulary from the scholastics who spoke a language which they received and adapted from the ancient Greek philosophers.   Vatican II uses a more biblical vocabulary.  This has many implications for the sacraments:

1.2.1.  Noun / verb   Ask:  Is "sacrament" envisioned as a dynamic event/interaction (e.g. verb) or envisioned as a static "thing" (noun)?   How is "sign" understood?  It is in some way a "bridge" activity uniting two persons (here: Church & God).  In my own reflections on sacrament, the most helpful metaphor I have found is sexual intercourse between two loving persons.

1.4.  Rooted in Scripture  Vatican II uses a biblical vocabulary.  This has many implications for the sacraments:

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.   (Constitution on the Liturgy, #24.  Emphasis added.) 

In the definition of scripture which you posted for homework, how often do you quote Sacred Scripture as one of your principal sources?  Does your definition include key biblical concepts such as "mysterion" "anamnesis" "epiclesis"?  Or is your definition primarily philosophical?   Is your definition large enough to include "Jesus in his humanity" and "Church" as sacraments?

3.  to give grace   Is grace envisioned as a thing, or quantity of something or as the interpersonal relationship of love with God? E.g. Is grace seen as God or as something apart from God? Has God moved?

3.1.  Metaphor: Grace is like Electricity

3.1.1.  Council of Trent Grace: There is an electrical socket in the wall. And I have a lamp I want to light up. I plug the lamp cord in the wall and electricity flows from the socket in the wall through the cord to the light bulb and the bulb lights up. When the sacraments are properly administered -- when the proper minister puts "matter" together with "form" -- grace flows from God (the wall socket) to the recipient (the lamp) and the recipient receives grace (lights up).

3.1.2.  Vatican II Grace: A young couple is celebrating the first anniversary of their marriage. He tells her that there will be a surprise and when he arrives home from work he shows her reservations at her favorite little restaurant where -- over great wine and good food -- they remember their wedding day and reminisce about the wonderful life they have together. They return home and have awesome, ecstatic sex. It's electric!

3.4.  Do the sacraments do more that just "give grace"? 

The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify us, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.  (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #59.  Emphasis added.)

3.5. To build up the body of Christ  The "mission" dimension of each sacrament needs to be given its proper emphasis and value.  The Eucharist has four movements:  Gathering / Story Telling / Meal Sharing / Commissioning.  The Eucharist is the first sacrament and gives its shape to all the sacraments; consequently the MISSION element (commissioning) is important in each and all of the sacraments.  (Refer to 3.2 above --too many think the sacraments are "for the recipient", meaning one person.)

3.6  Catechesis  In today's overly busy world, if we are to hand on the faith to the next generation, we have to make every word, gesture, moment "count".  

3.6.1  In our celebration of the sacraments, the signs must communicate clearly and efficiently.

Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.  (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, #33.  Emphasis added.)

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 06/20/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org