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
and we are helped in our recommitment to our ultimate goodness
and to participation in the love and joy of the new model of
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
Sacraments are external rituals that have "things our
bodies can touch and words our soul can believe" (3a, 60, 6)
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
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.
Augustine on grace: "It leads by healing and follows on
when what is healed lives and grows."