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CEREMONY

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propriate to nature religions characteristic of pnm11lve peoples. The symbolism of water in baptism must be seen in terms of water as it was used by God in the history of salvation, interpreted by the words of God's prophets, and understood in faith. The water of baptism must be seen against the background of the water over which the Spirit hovered at the beginning of creation, the water of the flood which destroyed evil at the time of Noah, the water of the Red Sea through which the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt, the water of the Jordan through which they passed into the promised land, the water Ezechiel envisioned flowing from the Temple, and all the other instances in the history of salvation in which water figured and was interpreted by God's prophets. Not the least of these events is Jesus' own baptism in the Jordan and his reference to his passion and death as the baptism with which he must be baptized (Mk 10:38-39). Understanding of the sacraments, then, depends upon seeing them in terms of their biblical background which presents salvation history to us. The sacraments are not formal rituals which, if properly performed, unite us to God. They are, rather, the latest moments of God's saving word and action in Jesus Christ influencing us now. What God says to us now can be grasped fully only by looking back down the corridor of history to discover and understand what God said back in the past when he first began to speak to us. When we look down this corridor of history, we see God's saving intervention in history manifested first in the history of Israel, its institutions, its worship, its code of conduct, its ideals, hopes, aspirations, tragedies, and especially its prophets. Classical theology rightly paid more attention than post-Reformation theology to true sacraments in the Old Testament, visible symbols of God's invisible grace at work for men's salvation. Indeed, if a sacrament is an efficacious sign or symbol of God's saving grace, then Jesus, the man who is God's Son made flesh, is the sacrament of God's redeeming grace, the "primordial sacrament" or "primal sacrament." His Body, the Church, a visible community of men like Israel,

Profile for Chicago Studies

Spring 1968  

Volume 7:1

Spring 1968  

Volume 7:1

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