September 1, 2014

Treasures of Divine Life

On September 6, 2014, Archbishop Aquila is hosting a special catechetical event to repropose the ancient order of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.   The Catechetical Congress draws its name from a passage in the Catechism, "Treasure of Divine Life."  These are notes from a presentation in which we will consider how the signs used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist have a certain order in the Bible, and this order reveals the splendor of what it means to be fully human and fully alive.

"Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life" (CCC 1210).

Analogy between life and the spiritual life serves as a basis for understanding the order of the sacraments, including the order of initiation.   Yet to understand this analogy, it is not enough to appeal to the visible elements and gestures as we know them outside the logic of our faith.  It is true that the elements of water, oil, myrrh, bread and wine belong to the sphere human activity from ancient times.  Thus, when Christ and the Church raised them for use in the mystery of Christian initiation, they did so building on ancient meanings already deeply part of human experience.   Yet, to understand the wisdom of the Church, among the manifold of signification contained in these products of the earth and human industry, there are also those special meanings we find in the Holy Bible.   It is a contemplation of these special meanings that reveals a deep truth about the order of initiation in the life of the Church.

Because the salvific meaning there is not only inspired but inerrant, the Bible contains the deepest and most important meaning of these sacred signs.  The Word of God reveals the heart of the Sacraments.  The heart is a drama, a contest, a testing of love.   Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are three moments in this divine story - a story that is at once the story of all humanity and that has the possibility of being the story of each soul.  The story of the victory of good over evil, of the triumph of the Lamb over the powers of sin and death.