It has been a little while since I have participated in Jennifer Fulwiler’s Friday Quick Takes. This morning I got the urging to participate with a short post on the Sacraments. Since there are seven of them, it seems like the perfect fit. I hope you will appreciate my quick takes on the Sacraments and will share your own.
After having celebrated hundreds of baptisms, I can still say that my favorite part of the rite is the post-baptismal anointing with holy chrism and the prayer that accompanies it.
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.
This prayer is a beautiful reminder of our call as Christians to manifest Christ by our lived faith and announces for those baptized as children that they will later be sealed with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. It is unfortunate that many Catholics have forgotten this connection between the two Sacraments.
It’s not the Catholic version of a Bar Mitzvah. It’s not a teenager’s chance to choose whether or not he wishes to continue practicing his faith. It’s not the end of one’s Christian education and formation. The Sacrament of Confirmation is one of the three Sacraments of Initiation. It saddens me that there is so much confusion surrounding this Sacrament in the West, due mostly in part to our current practice being out of order. While all Sacraments must be freely chosen, it seems to me that the emphasis ought not be so much upon us choosing God, but rather upon our thanksgiving for being chosen by Him. Confirmation is meant to be a strengthening of Baptism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have already received in Baptism. It is meant also to be the beginning of our life of faith, not a graduation from it. The sooner we can restore the order of the Sacraments of Initiation, the better the Church will be in its understanding of Confirmation.
As difficult as it is to write “quick takes” on any of the Sacraments, it is especially difficult with regards to the Eucharist. I’ll simply say that we will never be able to thank God enough for the the gift of the Incarnation. The Eucharist is our opportunity to thank him every week and to be physically united to God and one another. It boggles the mind that so many people can fail to see what we must mean to God for Him to freely offer all that He has to us at each celebration of the Eucharist.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
These words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans are the best ones I can think of to describe the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is nothing that the love of God cannot heal. There is nothing that any of us can do to put ourselves beyond the forgiveness of our loving Father. Are there consequences for our sinful actions? You bet. Separation from God’s love is not one of them.
Sickness and death are two of the biggest consequences of the Fall. Have you ever been so sick, whether it be physical sickness or the sickness that comes in the struggle with sin and temptation that you want to throw yourself at the feet of Christ and say to yourself like the woman in Matthew’s gospel, “If only I could touch the hem of His garment, I would be cured?” There is desperation in her words, but also great faith. I am happy that we have this Sacrament of healing that allows us to overcome our weakness and fear by placing our trust in the Lord.
Last week there was great interest here on the topic of celibate marriage. Today I will simply comment on the type of marriage that most of us are familiar with, the type that involves sex. One way to understand the sacramental nature of marriage that often crosses my mind is an analogy between this Sacrament and the Eucharist. I have a friend who believes firmly that no one but a married couple themselves should ever enter their bedroom. For him the bedroom is analogous to the holy of holies, or a church sanctuary and the bed is analogous to the altar. It is a good comparison. In the same way that receiving communion at mass represents God’s love for us, so does sex within a marriage. It is a holy act to be treated as such. And I hope that those reading this don’t think I mean sex shouldn’t be fun. Holy and fun need not be mutually exclusive.
This past week we celebrated the feast of the Birth of Mary. At daily mass we sang the hymn Sing of Mary. There is a line of the hymn that beautifully sums up what should be at the heart of those called to Holy Orders.
Sing of Jesus, son of Mary, in the home at Nazareth. Toil and labor cannot weary love enduring unto death. Constant was the love he gave her, though he went forth from her side, forth to preach, and heal, and suffer, til on Calvary He died.
The life of every Christian should be an imitation of Christ, but this is especially so for a priest. Priests are called like Jesus to go forth to preach, to heal and to suffer. They are called to give up their own lives for the sake of others and in doing so to discover a life of richness.
These are my 7 Quick Takes on the 7 Sacraments. I look forward to your comments.