Reflection on the Seven Sacraments
by Father Don Thomas
God has established His ancient covenant by signs and wonders (for example, the rainbow), but He has also used many other signs to establish His love for us, and for us to reciprocate our love for Him. All of us are keenly aware of man's ordinary way of communicating, namely, the spoken word or the written word. However, when some people, like many deaf individuals, cannot speak or write, they can still express their ideas very effectively through their own sign language, and they are really good at it. In the following lines, I would like to write about God's own Sign Language that we call the Seven Sacraments. The very word "sacrament" comes from the Latin, sacramentum, meaning "a sign".
As a helpful approach in striving to understand the sacraments that Christ has given us, I think it is both clever and useful to consider what a talented and genius-like gentleman by the name of Walt Disney did with animals. He has thrilled millions and millions of people all around the world with his giftedness. Looking at the world around him, Disney noticed the various stages of life, comparing each to a step or a rung on a ladder. Noticing the beautiful trees, flowers and grass, he had plant or vegetable life to serve as the first step of the ladder. Then upon noticing little dogs and cats, rabbits and deer running all over and through the grass, he noticed another form of life that was higher than the vegetable form and he called it animal life, letting it serve as the second step or rung of the ladder. Once again, upon observing little boys and girls running over the grass and chasing the rabbits, the dogs and cats, he noticed they could do many things that the grass, plants and trees could not do. This was also true of the animal form of life. Thus, human life would serve as a third step or rung on the ladder of life, posing as a higher stage than that of the animal or vegetative forms. Continuing up the ladder, it became clear that the life of angels as revealed in Scripture was a still-higher form of life and on the highest step of the ladder, far superior to every other form of life was the divine life of God. Then a fantastic thing happened. Realizing that the word "super" simply means "above", he took the creatures with the animal nature and he elevated or raised them to the level of human beings and allowed these animals to share in the nature of humans so that they could laugh, talk, think, cry and speak just like humans. Actually, what he did was to raise the nature of animals to the nature of humans — super-naturalized them from one level to the next. That is how we got Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and all the other wonderful characters.
Consequential to the acceptance of the above, we can now more readily see how the love and goodness of God has been manifested so cleverly in His dealings with mankind. Man was created, sharing life with God in Paradise. Through sin, man lost that gift or privilege and was doomed for all eternity. Prompted by His infinite goodness, understanding and love, God decided to give man another chance by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world as our personal Savior. The word "redeem" means "to buy back" and at the age of thirty three, Jesus Christ bought mankind back from the captivity of the devil by dying on the cross. That was the price He was willing to pay, and through His death and resurrection, He made it possible for man to strive for salvation. In His infinite wisdom, Christ came up with the idea of taking all that love and wrapping it up in seven packages that we call the seven Sacraments. The gift of grace, which would make it possible for man to share life with God once again, was made available. It was like putting money in the bank, to be drawn upon. Man's challenge was and continues to be his acceptance and appreciation for these seven gifts of life, of grace and of God's love. These sacraments, instituted by Christ Himself, are Baptism, Confession (now referred to as Reconciliation), Communion, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony and the Sacrament of the Sick. In subsequent Reflections, we can explain more about each of them for the sake of clarity. It is so important to understand these seven sacraments were instituted not by the Church, or by some Pope, but by Jesus Christ Himself. They have frequently been compared to seven tanks of spiritual oxygen. What natural oxygen does for the body, the spiritual oxygen of grace does for the soul. The first tank of spiritual oxygen we get hooked up to is Baptism, and from then on there is a perfect parallel between the natural life of the body and the supernatural life of the soul. As we care for the body over a period of time until death, so Christ provides a sacrament or tank of spiritual oxygen to care for the soul from the time it is born again through Baptism until the moment of death with the Sacrament of the Sick. It is a perfect parallel — the supernatural life with the natural.
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