My tradition isn’t remotely high church, but my brother is studying for the Catholic priesthood, and so I’ve come into up close contact with a liturgical faith.
Some days I long for a church tradition that more obviously embraces the sacraments than mine does. I don’t mean in the liturgical service itself—though sometimes I think about that too—but I mean in the everyday, the day by day.
Some days I wish that those who are sick would be visited by extraordinary ministers carrying communion. Though in this life death and brokenness have laid claim to your body, so too they have done with him. Body broken. Blood shed. Through this, new life is coming.
Or sometimes I wish that we had an ordained clergy—a clergy in more than just function—ordained to a special ministry by those who hold the care of the flock in their hands. No better or worse than those you serve, just called to a particular vocation. In persona Christi, you will bear their burdens: wear well the stole.
I long for those special messengers of God to anoint the sick and the dead, to hear confessions and grant absolution, to kneel at the altar and proclaim the Mystery of Faith. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
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The Sacraments are means of grace—ways in which God saves his people.
But there are other means of grace, too. Other ways in which God is saving me. A sacrament is a piece of the ordinary that has been set aside, made holy, by a life-giving God.
The Quakers, for instance, don’t have official Sacraments because they believe all things are sacraments, that all things are holy. And I tend to agree that all things are holy—all things are filled by God’s Spirit. All things mean.
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Lately Amanda (and sometimes my roommate Zach and I) has been painting the house that she will move into soon. In seven months, this will be the house that she and I will live in together as married people. And so each moment of painting and preparation is a moment of preparation for the life we will build together.
And as I lay on the floor of the house yesterday while she painted (no furniture, yet) and read for class, I was struck by the goodness of grace. The constant renewal. The joy in simplicity.
We are doing more than making the house a nice place for us to live. We are doing more than adding color to stark white walls.
We are bringing out the life already present in the house, prophesying over the future life our home will give rise to.
Life is recursive. There is life and new life. Birth and rebirth. Constant newness and renewal.
Which is what resurrection is: the renewal/rebirth/re-living of something dead. Reclaiming from Death the life and beauty created by God. And re-creating it.
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The smell of new paint, for me, will forever be associated with the resurrection. And while new paint is not a Sacrament, it is a sacrament. For Grace has been enacted.
And so, today, I am thankful for new paint.