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sacraments

The Incarnation, for all its mystery, happened at a specific point in time and that point in time has come and gone. So how are we, besides naked faith, to maintain the understanding and experience of what the Incarnation meant, what we are to do, and how we are to flourish?

Through the healing presence of grace in the sacraments, which are the external rituals of the Church that were "instituted by Christ to give grace" as the old Baltimore Catechism says, dutifully quoting Aquinas. They are the acts thru time by which our souls are healed and we are helped in our recommitment to our ultimate goodness and to participation in the love and joy of the new model of consciousness.

healing and recommitment

If we could state how exactly a human soul is healed and what makes a person recommit to seeking their highest good, it would be much easier to explain what grace is and what sacraments do. But that is their purpose and function, to give grace, which is the healing of the soul, the recommitment to seek our highest good and "a kind of rebirth or recreation taking place in the nature of our soul.”

ritual

Sacraments are external rituals that have "things our bodies can touch and words our soul can believe" (3a, 60, 6) that make a unified sign of something sacred and holy; they are the words and things that both signify and cause the healing and recommitment that is at the heart of grace.

Aquinas thinks we need the concrete, physical nature of the sacraments to make the mysterious nature of God more real and more present; he thinks we need to touch the water, feel the holy oil, say and hear the words and eat the bread and drink the wine to both express and actually trigger the healing and recommitment happening in the soul. They are a continuation of the physical history and purpose started in the Incarnation and are the way in which humans, thru "rebirth or recreation taking place in the nature of our soul,” become blessed and capable of the bliss of the divine.

Some sacraments mark major life events: Baptism marks birth, Confirmation marks the passage to spiritual adulthood, Matrimony the blessing of a marriage, Holy Orders the ordination to the priesthood, and the Last Rites the passage to the next life. Reconciliation and the Eucharist, are the ones that are most important in our day-to-day lives and of all of them, the Eucharist is the greatest.

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Augustine on grace: "It leads by healing and follows on when what is healed lives and grows."

 

 
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