Saint John develops the sacramental notion well–the primordial sacrament: Christ the earthly sign of the Father. Christ in turn is communicated through all the sacraments:
§ 25 § Christ, taking on human flesh, reveals the Father. “No one has ever seen God” (1 Jn 4:12). The only begotten Son, living in the Father’s heart, has revealed him. Indeed, Jesus said, “Whoever sees me sees the one who sent me” (Jn 12:45). Christ is himself the sacrament of the Father. In his risen glory, he is no longer visible in this world and Leo the Great testifies that “What has been visible of our Savior has passed over into the sacraments”: Quod igitur conspicuum fuit Salvatoris Nostri in sacramenta transivit (Sermo. 74, 2: PL 54, 398). And so washing and anointing, breaking the bread and sharing the cup, raising arms in blessing and imposing hands are visible signs by which Christ manifests and accomplishes our sanctification and salvation in the Church. (Cf. CCC 1148; 1152) To the central signs and word, the Church adds gestures and material elements such as incense, ashes, holy water, candles, and vestments to dispose us for the heavenly gifts of our crucified and Risen Lord and to deepen our reverence for the unceasing mercy and grace that come to us in the Church through the passion and death of Jesus, our Lord.
These visible signs are vital to the possibilities of grace in the sacramental life of the Church.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.