Laudato Si 235: Sacraments, “A Privileged Way”

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Pope  Francis makes the case for sacraments utilizing the substances of nature.

235. The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life. Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane. Water, oil, fire and colors are taken up in all their symbolic power and incorporated in our act of praise.

Some of the “stuff” of sacraments are wholly natural–like water. Sometimes human hands are at work in the making of bread, wine, and oil.

Pope Francis also mentions the human hand:

The hand that blesses is an instrument of God’s love and a reflection of the closeness of Jesus Christ, who came to accompany us on the journey of life. Water poured over the body of a child in Baptism is a sign of new life.

These natural aspects of the sacraments connect them–and us–to the natural world.

Encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature. This is especially clear in the spirituality of the Christian East. “Beauty, which in the East is one of the best loved names expressing the divine harmony and the model of humanity transfigured, appears everywhere: in the shape of a church, in the sounds, in the colours, in the lights, in the scents”.[Orientale Lumen 11] For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation. “Christianity does not reject matter. Rather, bodiliness is considered in all its value in the liturgical act, whereby the human body is disclosed in its inner nature as a temple of the Holy Spirit and is united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation”.[Orientale Lumen 11]

The document cited here is John Paul II’s 1995 apostolic letter on the eastern churches. There is also testimony from the West; I think of that fine verse by the Irish poet Joseph Plunkett.

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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