Thursday, 24 July 2008

Talking About Sacraments (Part 2)

The church has found some sacraments particularly meaningful, and in the celebration of these particular sacraments we are opened up to the presence of God all around us, and within us. Seven of these sacraments are often listed: eucharist, baptism (and confirmation), anointing, ordination, marriage, and reconciliation (confession & absolution).

But why celebrate particular sacraments over and over again? If everything is sacrament, why not celebrate any or all sacraments? There are a few reasons. First, the ritual celebration of these particular sacraments is not meant to exclude the sacraments of everyday life. It is more that we need particular celebrations to remind us of our sacramental universe and lives. By celebrating these sacraments the church is encouraged to find God everywhere. If God can come to us in the humble form of eating and drinking bread and wine together, we are reminded to look for God in the smile of our neighbour.

Second, when we humans do not make particular celebration of what is always and everywhere around us, we soon forget. If we do not stop to find the beauty somewhere, we will not find it anywhere, even though it is all around us! If we do not celebrate and cherish our love by another, we will soon take it for granted or even forget it, even though we are always carried by that love!

Third, repetition brings fluency and skill in recognising and living the sacramental life. These particular sacraments become the doorway to sacramental living all the time. Moreover, intellectual familiarity with what we are doing repetitively allows us to get out of our heads and into our hearts. The problem with variety is that we never have time to get much further than intellectual analysis.

Of these particular sacraments, eucharist and baptism are the two most important, and this for at least two reasons. First, Jesus commanded us to practice them. (See Matt 28:16-20; 1Cor 11: 23-26) Second, they are the two crucial sacraments of initiation and sustenance in the Body of Christ, recalling for us in dramatic form the death and resurrection of Christ, and our participation in him.


  1. I know that this is sort of 'off the track' but I wonder what the value is in making some sacraments more important than others.
    With the exception of the Eucharist, around which the whole of Church Life seems to have been structured, why say that Baptism is more important than marriage.
    They all, it seems to me, are uniquely important.
    The 39 articles make the distinction about sacraments of the gospel. (Baptism and Holy Communion) But why is Penance and indeed Marriage not a sacrament of the Gospel.

  2. Oh yess, and it has been pointed out to me by one present at London SW2, that you don't love the Eucharist enough!

  3. I can see why the Eucharist is singled out. (I think he actually said about me that I don't love the Eucharist enough in and of itself! Which I am trying to rectify!) And baptism because it is the sacrament of union with Christ once and for all. But I take the point about singling each of them out for their unique connection to Christ.