Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Sacrament- For the Life of the World

Many approach the sacraments as some sort of magical trick performed by a priest. Actually it is quite the opposite. The sacrament, the mystery, is our participation in the body of Christ. The same Christ, who as the priest recites during the liturgy, "For being determined to give Himself up to death for the life of the world". Christ is the one who gave his life for the life of the world. This is the mystery in which we are called to participate in the sacraments. Our own "death", in participating in the sacraments is the same participation Christ gave us through his own life culminating in his death and resurrection. There is no separation in the life we are called to live within the body of Christ and the life we live for the world. There seems to be this preconceived notion that the sacrament is set out against, or existing outside the rest of life. There is a distinction between the sacred (sacraments) and profane (the world). This notion stands at odds with what Christ established as giving up our lives for the life of the world. The world has been sanctified by his death and resurrection. The idea of profane and sacred has been broken. All that we do and participate in has become sacramental. This explains why we must bring the conclusion of the liturgy (the Eucharist) to the rest of the world. This Christ who died and rose, in which we participate in through our own life, must be brought within the life of the world. The Eucharist represents our own death in the body of Christ, and if we accept this notion of death (which we do by participating in the Eucharist), then as we constantly are called to die we must live out this death in the world we are in constant motion with. Our lives then has, in a sense, become sacramental. We then become an offering made by our own death in the body of Christ that is constantly lived out.

The following quote that was e-mailed to me sums up these thoughts a lot more coherently. I would recommend Fr. Alexander Schmemann's book "For the Life of the World" as a good read on this very topic of the sacramental life.        

It must once again be emphasized that the sacrament is not something set over against, or existing outside, the rest of life, so that it is sacred while the rest of life and all other things are non-sacred or profane or non-sacramental; it is not something extrinsic and fixed in its extrinsically, as if by some sort of magical operation of Deus ex machina the sacramental object is suddenly turned into something other than itself and different from all other created objects. On the contrary, what is indicated or revealed in the sacrament is something universal, the intrinsic sanctity and spirituality of all things, what one might call their real nature. A recognition of the sacramental principle requires the recognition that nothing in life, in the created order, is, or can be, entirely profane or non-sacred; it requires the recognition of an essential “likeness”, a congeneracy or “identity in difference”, between the sanctifying power and what is sanctified, between the uncreated and created; it requires, finally, the recognition that the sacramental has a cosmic significance and is intimately related to every single aspect of created existence, and that therefore, while the way of looking at, or using, things may well be profane and non-sacred, the things themselves can never be.    

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