The Sacramental Principle — Center for Action and Contemplation
×

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

A Sacramental Reality

The Sacramental Principle

Sunday, April 24th, 2022

Father Richard Rohr introduces the heart of sacramental theology, that our particular and ordinary circumstances are the places where we meet the Universal Christ:   

Every resurrection story found in the Gospels affirms an ambiguous—yet certain—presence of the Risen Christ in very ordinary settings, like walking on the road to Emmaus with a stranger, roasting fish on the beach, or looking like a gardener to Mary Magdalene. These moments from Scripture set a stage of expectation and desire that God’s Presence can be seen in the ordinary and the material, and we do not have to wait for supernatural apparitions. We Catholics call this a sacramental theology, where the visible and tactile are the primary doorway to the invisible. This is why each of the formal sacraments of the church insists on a material element like water, oil, bread, wine, the laying on of hands, or the physicality of marriage itself.

By the time Paul wrote the letters to Colossae (1:15–20) and Ephesus (1:3–14), some twenty years after Jesus’ era, he had already connected Jesus’ single body with the rest of the human species (1 Corinthians 12:12–31), with the individual elements symbolized by bread and wine (1 Corinthians 11:23–26), and with the entire Christ of cosmic history and nature itself (Romans 8:19–23). This connection is later articulated in the Prologue to John’s Gospel (written decades after Paul’s letters) when the author says, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of humanity” (John 1:1–4), all grounded in the Logos becoming flesh (1:14).

The core message of the incarnation of God in Jesus is that the Divine Presence is here, in us and in all of creation, and not only “over there” in some far-off realm. The early Christians came to call this seemingly new and available Presence “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

The sacramental principle is this: Begin with a concrete moment of encounter, based in this physical world, and the soul universalizes from there, so that what is true here becomes true everywhere else too. And so the spiritual journey proceeds with ever-greater circles of inclusion into the One Holy Mystery! But it always starts with what many wisely call the “scandal of the particular.” It is there that we must surrender, even if the object itself seems more than a bit unworthy of our awe, trust, or surrender. The purest form of spirituality is to find God in what is right in front of you—the ability to accept what the French Jesuit and mystic Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675–1751) called the sacrament of the present moment. [1]

References:
[1] Jean Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, book 1, chapter 1.2.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019, 2021), 29–31; and

Just This (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2017), 32.

Explore Further:

Image credit: Patricia Duncan, Flight of Lesser Sandhill Cranes (detail), 1975, photograph, Nebraska, public domain, National Archives. Morgan Winston, Bread and Goblet of Juice for Communion (detail), 2020, photograph, Florida, free use. Jenna Keiper, Winter Trees (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: God’s sacramental reality is much bigger and more ordinary than what we often consider “holy.” The Divine Presence is found in bread, wine, a sedge of sandhill cranes, and trees in winter.

Story from Our Community:

When I think of the Christ / It is the blue of the jellyfish / The depth of the ocean / The song of the bird / Reflection in the waves / It is the leap of the dolphin / The dance of the mangroves / The time of the lichens / Stars overhead / The breathing out / The breathing in
—Sandra

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.


Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.