Sacraments are a beautiful way in which God meets us Continued from first page of section one divine person of the Son of God. The theological term for this great mystery — that in Christ one person subsists in two natures — is the “hypostatic union.” As the Scripture puts it, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and again Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). God, the creator of both matter and spirit, used both to redeem the world. God continues to use matter for our redemption in the sacraments. In short, matter matters. In each of the sacraments, God not only instructs us but gives the grace the sacrament signifies (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1084, 1127, 1131). For example, baptism “not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte a new creature, an adopted son of God, who has become a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1265). In the case of baptism, water matters.
The grace received from the sacraments is a sharing in the life of the Trinity. This grace is an undeserved gift from God, whereby God acts and we receive. We are not alone, he is with us. God takes the initiative by making the offer of grace (“ex opere operato”; cf. Read CCC 1128). The believer then accepts the offer and opens himself up to the intervention of the divine (“ex opere operantis”). When you participate in a sacrament you are swearing an oath, thereby renewing your covenant relationship with the Lord. You are, in fact, pledging your life and fidelity to the Lord. “Sacramentum” is the Latin term used in antiquity to designate an oath. Each time we partake of the sacraments, for example receiving the Eucharist, we are swearing an oath to uphold the terms of the covenant and receive the benefits of God. The Latin word “sacramentum,” which is the translation of the Greek word “mysterion,” speaks of something that is known, seen or revealed, yet at the same time, in some sense, conceals something else
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leaving it a mystery. In the case of the sacraments, the mystery is the life of the Trinity. Because of the Incarnation, matter matters and thus God can use it as a sign of something greater, the divine. The amazing thing is that in these signs we encounter Christ. He’s really there. He’s really present with us. The sacraments are a beautiful way in which God can meet us and strengthen us on this journey — this journey that participates in the life of the Trinity. As you rediscover Christ, make it a priority to live your life around the sacraments. For us as Catholics, it’s a matter of fact! For a full explanation of the sacraments, such as what is required for a valid sacrament, who administers them and how often you can receive them, read paragraphs 1210-1666 in the catechism. Cavins is founder of the Great Adventure Bible Study Series and director of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute.
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