Sacraments Impart GraceThe Problem: Sola scriptura Christians have lost most, if not all, of the aspects of sacramental theology. If faith alone is sufficient for salvation, then no creature is necessary for salvation. Therefore, nothing created can save us. They forget that the Body of Christ is created, and it saves us.
The Truth: The Body of Christ acts and moves in the world today as Christ Himself acted in the world two millenia ago - He heals and sanctifies us through the things of the created world, in an economy of salvation created and instituted in His Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection. These special actions of the Body of Christ in the world are endowed by God with salvific grace, and heal the recipient, for it is Christ who heals through the sacraments.
The following exegesis of Jeremiah 33, Genesis 6, and Genesis 9 is an extremely short summary of research on early Jewish commentaries on Genesis presented by Dr. Scott Hahn in lecture at Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio.
Jer 33:20-22 Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time,
21 then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me."
God has a covenant with creation. It is a covenant as strong and meaningful as the covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob, and with David. This covenant with creation can also be seen in Genesis, in which God brought forth all of creation in seven days. The Hebrew word for "covenant" also means "to seven oneself." The covenant with Noah (Genesis 6 and 9) was not a new covenant, but rather a renewal of that original covenant with creation, made through the created representative of all creation, Adam, completed on the seventh day, the Sabbath.
Gen 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
Mt 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him;
The wind of God moved over the waters at the beginning of the first creation and at the beginning of the New Creation. The sacraments are how God honors His covenant with creation - He uses the things of the created world in order to bestow graces and blessings upon all of creation. This is the essence of the Incarnation. Each of the seven sacraments is an aspect of the Incarnation, each bestows grace upon us in Christ Jesus, as a result of His coming into the world and His sacrifice on the Cross.
Gal 6:15-16 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
16 Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
1 Cor 10:1-4,6 I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same supernatural food 4 and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ... Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did.
The sacraments were prefigured in the Old Testament, pre-eminent among these figures were the figures of Baptism (the Wedding) and the Eucharist (the Consummation, the Wedding Feast). The Hebrews mis-used the sacramental types which were given to them, and were punished.
1 Cor 10:7-11 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance."
8 We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come...
The people mis-used the prefigured types and were punished. How much more culpable are we who live with sacramental grace available to us, but do not use them or actively mis-use them? God acts through creation in order to save us, His creatures, by using things of the created world to pour grace into our souls.
The New Creation is also demonstrated by John:
Jn 1:1, 14, 26, 29, 35, 43, 2:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us [day one]... John answered them, "I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know,"... The next day [day two] he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!... The next day [day three] again John was standing with two of his disciples;... The next day [day four] Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me.".... On the third day [day seven] there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee,...
The wedding takes place on the seventh day after the beginning of John's Gospel, which was the third day after the previous four days had been completed. This marriage account does not give us the names of the couple being wed, it gives us the names of the Bridegroom and the Bride, Jesus and Mary, the New Adam and the New Eve at the New Creation, a wedding.
Jn 2:3-6 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
4 And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
What does this mean? The stone jars contained water for ritual washing....
Num 19:11-12 "He who touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days;
12 he shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean; but if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean.
In order to be clean, ritual washing with this water, called "baptismoi," had to be performed on the third day and on the seventh day. According to John 2:1, Christ's first public miracle, which relied on "baptismoi," happened on the both third day AND the seventh day. Further, Christ's hour is tied in not only with the washing away of impurity, but with a gift of finest wine. The reason He gives for not providing wine is that His hour has not yet come. This implies that when His hour does come, the request will be granted. Where else does Christ speak of His hour?
Jn 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.
The next use of the word is when He talks to the Samaritan woman at the well. Abraham, Isaac, and Moses all find their wives at wells. The word used for "husband" here is "ba'al" - the word a concubine uses to address the man who keeps her. A wife would say not "ba'al," but "adonai". The word "ba'al" also means "lord," "master," and "god."
Hos 2:16 "And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal.'
But that isn't all we know of Christ's hour...
Jn 5:25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."
Jn 12:23-24 And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Christ specifically links His "hour" with the baptismoi, with marriage, with resurrection, with wine, and with the "fruit" of the wheat, which is bread. Through these things, men will come to worship "in spirit and truth." Christ's hour is the hour of the New Creation.
Heb 9:2,9-10 For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place.... (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,
10 but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
Paul, in describing the Old Law, says that the prescriptions of the Old Law, being merely "a symbol of the present time," affected the flesh only. He implies that the New Law will perfect the conscience of the worshipper as the Old Law did not. Paul's epistles speak of a new washing, baptism, and a new food and drink, the Body and Blood of the Lord, in the new order.
2 Cor 1:21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us...
The work of the sacraments are the work of God through Christ. They are a human act only in a sense similar to saying the writing of Scripture is a human act.
Jn 6:57 ff "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
Acts 2:37-39 "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"
38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him."
Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 8:17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
1 Pet 3:18-21 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;
19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,...
1 Pet 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,...
2 Pet 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
The sacraments allow us to share in the divine nature. Christ united Divinity with the creature whom God gave dominion over the physical world, man, so that through the things of the created world, men could be united with the divinity of Him who saves us.
A sacrament is a physical sign which carries with it real, healing, sanctifying grace.
Mt 8:2 and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean."
3 And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Mk 1:40-41 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."
41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."
Lk 5:13 And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him.
Mt 8:14-15 And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever;
15 he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him.
Mk 1:30-31 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.
31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.
Mt 9:24-25 he said, "Depart; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him.
25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.
Mk 5:40-42 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.
41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi"; which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." 42 And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.
Lk 8:53-55 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.
54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, "Child, arise." 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once; and he directed that something should be given her to eat.
Lk 7:13-15 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep."
14 And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.
Mk 9:26-27 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead."
27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
Lk 13:12-13 And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity."
13 And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God.
Lk 14:2-4 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy.
3 And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?" 4 But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go.
Mt 9:28-30 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord."
29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly charged them, "See that no one knows it."
Mk 8:22-25 And they came to Beth-saida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him.
23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" 24 And he looked up and said, "I see men; but they look like trees, walking." 25 Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly.
Mk 7:33-35 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue;
34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
Jn 9:6-7 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay,
7 saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
Christ could have chosen never to touch or feed a single person. Without even a spoken word in the created world, He could have willed hunger and thirst to miraculously abate, the sick to heal. He had no need to put his fingers into the deaf man's ears or rub mud made of dust and spittle onto a blind man's eyes, or even to vocally command demons begone. Yet He did these things. He did not do them just a few times: every miracle involved at least a spoken command, the vast majority of His healing miracles specifically record Him touching the recipients. Indeed, the very word "rebuke" may imply a touch, for Luke records only that Christ rebuked the fever in Peter's mother-in-law, while the other two synoptic Gospels tell us that He touched her and her fever left. Why? Why does Christ put such emphasis on His created body, on the desire to speak with, to touch His people in order to heal them? Why did Christ wash the Apostle's feet?
Mt 17:27 "However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."
Even the temple priests are satisfied through a miracle of creation. Note Christ pays the temple tax not only for himself, but also for Peter.
Lev 15:25-26 "If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days... all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness; as in the days of her impurity, she shall be unclean. 26 Every bed on which she lies, all the days of her discharge, shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her impurity. 27 And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.
Lev 17:14 ...the life of every creature is its blood
Mt 9:20-22 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; 21 for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well." 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.
Mk 5:27-34 She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.
28 For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well." 29 And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, "Who touched my garments?" 31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."
Lk 8:43-48 And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one,and had spent all her living on physicians,
44 came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, "Who was it that touched me?" When all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!" 46 But Jesus said, "Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me." 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."
Luke provides the archetype for sacrament. Blood is the source of life - the woman's life was draining away in uncleanness. She (we) come to the Body of Christ in search of healing - we must reach out and touch Him as a sign of our faith, and so that our faith may increase. He is not defiled by our touch, rather, He makes us clean and heals us by His intimate presence, our response to His call. We must respond, we must touch Him, but only He can heal and cleanse us. He heals us now as He healed us then, through the things of the created world, in which He took on created form. Jesus Christ is the only Sacrament, the source from which the seven sacraments flow. The Resurrection means this - Christ moving among us in the created world. He is with us always, until the end of the world.
Lk 4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.
Mk 6:56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well.