Sunday, May 8, 2016

Quotidian Apologetics--7: Sacred Tradition--Part Two

   When we were Protestant Christians we assumed that the word liturgy referred to the readings of the Scriptures.  We were not wrong in that understanding we were just too narrow in our scope of understanding the word.  We have always valued the Sacred Scripture as God's Word to us and rightly believed that it is the reading of the Word of God that we learn the nature of God. One of the several reasons why we journeyed out of the Protestant Movement was because we hungered for more of God and the authentic worship of him.  It is in the liturgy of The Catholic Church that we discovered the more of what we longed for.  
    The word "liturgy" originally meant a "public word" or a "service in the name of/on behalf of the people." In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in the "work of God." Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church. CCC1069
   Years ago we were listening to an interview of one of our favorite authors who happens to be a Benedictine nun.  We latched on to a phrase in her description of how Catholic Christians are taught to understand life. "All of life is sacramental" by that she communicated that as Catholic Christians we have a deep sense that our identity is defined and completed by the whole of liturgy.  We worship God in the sacrament of the Eucharist for it is the source and summit of The Faith. And we worship God through the sacramental life.
   Your Protestant friend probably won't quibble much over this truth. But it is in how the worship of God through the sacraments and sacramentals ("devotionals" in Protestant speak) of our Catholic Faith that the Protestant Movement has diffused and watered down the celebration of Christian Mystery. The very word "mystery" causes the modern thinking of Protestant Christianity to doubt. The history behind that is complex but we leave that to the historians and theologians.  All we need to be aware of as we are relating to our Protestant and unbelieving friends is that it is the acknowledgement that God is mystery is a long step to take. If that seems impossible to them then understanding the Sacred Tradition will be a long climb up hill.

   The Catechism refers to the purpose of the sacraments by stating that they are to sanctify humanity. The body of Christ everywhere present through The Church is nourished through what is referred to as the "sacraments of faith." The ultimate purpose of the seven sacraments is to give right worship to God in all things...all things! Every word and action is the currency of the Sacramental Economy. 
   You may have been a Catholic Christian for so long that you have forgotten how these precious sacraments nourish your faith in and worship of God. Your Protestant Christian friends may appreciate some of the sacraments but have not connected the dots of the Sacramental Economy to why the worship of our Triune God in The Catholic Church remains faithful to biblically ordained worship.  They may not realize that wherever they worship they are seeing what "worship" devolves to when Sacred Tradition is tossed aside. All manner of variations and dilutions have replaced what is the source and summit of our Christian Faith. Yet in The Catholic Church the sacramental life culminates in the worship of our Triune God in the Mass and the worship of our Triune God in the Mass nourishes and sustains our sacramental life. What a sacred and treasured mystery!

   "The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby 'dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.' For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth 'the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'" For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation. CCC1067 

    Let's begin by revisiting what the seven sacraments of The Church are as we continue in our exploration of The Sacred Tradition. If the Sacramental Economy is where our faith in God and our identity as his Creation moves and lives and has our being, then the sacraments are the currency that obtains the fruits of Christ's Paschal mystery that we celebrate at each Mass in the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.  If our heavenly Father is the source and goal of the liturgy of the people, then we are investing our lives in the here and now and most importantly in eternity where adoration and thanksgiving will be the culmination of our existence as God's created image. 
   "From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one vast divine blessing" CCC1079
   "In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father's vine which bears fruit on its branches....CCC1108

   It is in us living the sacraments of The Faith that the vine of Christianity is nourished. So what are the these seven sacraments that serve us in honoring and worshipping our Triune God in the Eucharistic sacrifice of our worship as Catholic Christians? The first three sacraments will be familiar to your Protestant friends, no doubt their part of the Movements accepts parts of the truth of these sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. The other four sacraments are secure signposts to guide us on our path of faith toward eternity.  They are the Sacrament of Reconciliation, known by most Protestants as Confession, but we know it is so much more than simply an act of confessing our sins to our priests. The vocational sacraments--Sacrament of Marriage and Sacrament of Holy Orders-- are given to us who live our lives within these sacred vows as a way of imparting God's life in us. The last sacrament is the Sacrament of Healing that aptly complete the life of Faith.  It is the sacrament that strengthens us as we journey into our full identity as a child of God in this life into "real" life--eternity.
   GetFed is one of our favorite go-to sites for succinct descriptions of The Catholic Faith. You may access their excellent one page article on understanding the seven sacraments here:
The article sums up the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church as "injections of divine grace to help us live our lives, from birth to death, in harmony with the will of God."  It is in this harmony that true happiness and well-being are ultimately found. These injections of grace is what we will turn our attention to now, beginning with the Sacrament of Baptism.


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