“The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated… Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate.” (Pope Benedict XVI, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, 64)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Lesson of Abortion to Understand the Sacraments

I caught the end of a radio presentation by Dr. R.C. Sproul this morning on my way to work concerning the horrors of abortion. I'm not going to get into the abortion issue too much in this post, although it is a worthy topic. Rather I'm going to extend Dr. Sproul's analogy to something that he probably wouldn't like: the Sacraments.

You see, in my country and in other countries around the world, abortion is legal. In fact, as Dr. Sproul noted, the most dangerous place to be in the world today is inside a woman's womb. Why is abortion so acceptable? As Dr. Sproul noted, you can't see it happen, you can't feel it happen, you can't hear it happen, so to the uninformed bystander, which would be most of the general public, its as if it didn't happen.

Now, to make my point, I wanted to iterate a bit of truth about what our seperated Protestant brethren believe that we do not: that what we call sacraments, in particular (to them) Baptism and Eucharist (they often call it "The Lord's Supper") are nothing more than a symbol. That is, they have no effect whatsoever on the person receiving them. They are simply an ordinance that they are to do just because Christ said to. In fact that is not true at all.

When we are baptized, what we see is a person having water poured over them, or a person immersed in water. The water is poured three times, or they are dunked three times. They get a little wet (or very wet), they feel cold, and they hear the words invoking baptism. However, the sacrament of baptism is more than this.

Likewise, when the priest performs the consecration of the bread and wine, we hear the words, we taste bread and wine. It tastes like regular bread and regular wine. However, the Most Holy Sacrament is much more than this.

Sacraments are physical representations of spiritual realities. You may have heard the word "mystical" used before. Even this blog is entitled "Lay Mystagogues" where the word 'Mystagogue' is someone who ponders the 'mystical'. Something that is mystical is not 'magical' as I believe some incorrectly interpret the word. Magic is just slight of hand, illusion, or worse. In fact something that is 'mystical' refers to that which is most real. The most real thing in the world is the spiritual realm, something that we cannot perceive with our senses.

The Sacraments are mystical realities. In baptism, we mystically experience the spiritual reality of being washed clean from original and all actual sin through the physical washing in water. In the Eucharist, we receive (physically) the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, a spiritual reality that, when we are properly disposed, infuses us with supernatural grace, wipes clean our venial sins, and draws us in to the body and life of Christ. Likewise, all sacraments are physical representations of the spiritual.

Jesus gave us the Catholic Church and the Seven Sacraments so that we could perceive the spiritual world through our senses. If we were to abandon the Church, we would be turning a blind eye to that which is most real, and the result would be an utter disaster. As our country has gone blind to the tragic, horrific realities of abortion, let us not also grow blind to the realities experienced in and through the Sacraments in the Church that Jesus founded. In particular this day, let us ponder Christ's love for us shown through the Eucharist, and duly prepare ourselves to meet him in a real way in the Catholic Mass.

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