Monday, July 21, 2014

Sacramental Theology

I met with a Catholic priest to discuss an event for our homeschool group. Our conversation went from the event to C. S. Lewis, and before I knew it, I had in my hands a copy of A Guide to the Sacraments by Anglican Oxford professor, John Macquarrie.

I'm only five chapters in, and so far what I like most about this book is how Macquarrie addresses the tension we experience between the spiritual and physical, the eternal and temporal. I also like his thoughts on how the immanence and transcendence of God come together in the sacraments.

Macquarrie points out that Jesus Himself is the ultimate sacrament. Being God Incarnate, He is not only whom the sacraments point to, but He is the Sacrament--the mystery of the Physical enveloping the Divine, Son of God and Son of Man.

Macquarrie says that we can have faith without the sacraments. However when we refuse them, we are denying a richness of our Faith. With each sacrament from baptism to communion to unction, we actively submit to Jesus--His life, death, and resurrection. We are more than just random atoms without purpose and without a Maker, and we acknowledge our frailty and sinfulness in the humble act of receiving Him through the sacraments.

One Sunday, years ago, a lay minister spilled wine from the chalice. It was an accident, and the contents of the Cup of Salvation made a small puddle on the floor.

I didn't see it happen, but my friend did. To my friend's horror, the confused lay minister decided to pretend it never happened and walked through the crimson liquid. No one else noticed, and so for the rest of communion, lay ministers and priests trampled the Blood of Christ.

The first thing I thought of when my friend told me of the spilled chalice was the crucifixion. The cross cost Him so much, yet He willingly poured out His love for us knowing what wretches we are. We trample in His blood, oblivious to our sin, and yet still He calls us to Himself.

The transcendent yet immanent God beckons us to humble ourselves and partake, not because He needs us but because He loves us. We kneel and receive again and again, not because His death and resurrection were insufficient, but because our human flesh needs to act, to touch, to consume until the veil of this fallen world is lifted and we at last see Him face to face.

©2014 Emily Woodham

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