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A Sacramental Reality: Weekly Summary

Sunday
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. —Richard Rohr

Monday
The bread and the wine together are stand-ins for the very elements of the universe, which also enjoy and communicate the incarnate presence. —Richard Rohr

Tuesday
If Christ is the body of God, which he is, then the bread he offers is also the body of the cosmos. Look deeply and you notice the sunshine in the bread, the blue sky in the bread, the cloud and the great earth in the bread. . . . You eat it in such a way that you become alive, truly alive. —Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday
This is the purpose of the sacraments, of the church—to help us see, to point to the bread and wine, the orchids and the food pantries, the post-funeral potlucks and the post-communion dance parties, and say: pay attention, this stuff matters; these things are holy. —Rachel Held Evans

Thursday
Sacramentality is a quality present in creation that opens us up to the Sacred Presence in all things. Sacraments reveal grace.
—Christine Valters Paintner

Friday
The breath of the Spirit brings out the sacramentality of nature and bestows on it the fragrance of resurrection. —John Chryssavgis

Remembering the Creator

Richard Wagamese (1955–2017) is a beloved writer from Wabaseemoong First Nation (in current-day Canada). His life was transformed by returning to his Ojibwe family and culture after being separated from them for most of his young life. In his final book Embers, he shares meditations, reflections, and prayers that came to him during times of ritual and morning silence. He writes:

The words in this book are embers from the tribal fires that used to burn in our villages. They are embers from the spiritual fires burning in the hearts, minds and souls of great writers on healing and love. . . . They are heart songs. They are spirit songs. And, shared with you, they become honour songs for the ritual ways that spawned them. Bring these words into your life. Feel them. Sit with them. Use them.

Wagamese invites us to remember prayerfully both creation and the Creator: Remember. Remember that Creator is the wind on my face, the rain in my hair, the sun that warms me. Creator is the trees, rocks, grasses, the majesty of the sky and the intense mystery of the universe. Creator is the infant who giggles at me in the grocery line, the beggar who reminds me how rich I really am, the idea that fires my most brilliant moment, the feeling that fuels my most loving act and the part of me that yearns for that feeling again and again. Whatever ceremony, ritual, meditation, song, thought or action it takes to reconnect to that feeling is what I need to do today. . . Remember.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:
Richard Wagamese, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations (Madeira Park, BC: Douglas and McIntyre, 2016), 12, 101.

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.

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.

A Cosmic Icon

When we discern the sacramental principle in the world—the presence of God in every person and every place—then we can rejoice and celebrate the fullness of life and the joy of creation. —John Chryssavgis, Creation as Sacrament

Greek Orthodox theologian John Chryssavgis compares creation to an “icon . . . the epiphany of God in the world and the existence of the world in the presence of God.” [1] He writes:

Just as the Spirit is the “air” that the whole world breathes, so too the earth is the “ground” which we all share. Were God not present in the density of a city, or in the beauty of a forest, or in the sand of a desert, then God would not be present in heaven either. So if, indeed, there exists today a vision that is able to transcend—perhaps transform—all national and denominational tensions, it may well be that of our environment understood as sacrament of the Spirit. The breath of the Spirit brings out the sacramentality of nature and bestows on it the fragrance of resurrection. . . . [2]

Everything is in some way sacramental. All depends on the receptiveness and openness of our hearts. . . . Nothing is secular or profane; nothing is pagan or foreign. . . . Were God not tangibly accessible in the very earthliness of this world, then [God] would not be the loving, albeit transcendent author of the universe. This is surely the implication of the basis of the Christian faith, namely, that “the Word assumed [or became] flesh (John 1:14), which we all too often, in a reductionist manner, take to mean “became human.” . . . Unless Christ may be discovered “in the least of his brethren” (Matthew 25:40) and in the least particle of matter, then he is too distant to matter [emphasis added]. There is a wonderful saying attributed to Jesus, which expresses the reality of his presence everywhere:

‘Lift up the stone, and there thou shalt find me, cleave the wood, and I am there.’ [3] [4]

Centered in Orthodox theology, Chryssavgis urges all Christians to care for the earth as an expression of our faith:

No matter how carefully [humans have] sought to foster material prosperity and self-sufficiency, it is now clear that grave “fissures” and “faults” have appeared on the face of the earth. . . . The image of God in creation has been shattered; the face of God on the world has been distorted; the integrity of natural life has been fragmented. Yet, it is precisely in this shattered world that we are called to discern the caring nature of the Creator and discover the sacramental nature of creation. . . .

The aim is to induce personal and societal transformation in making choices that respect creation as sacrament. Such transformation is only possible through divine grace, the energy of the Holy Spirit, the creative and motivating force for everyone and everything. [5]

References:
[1] John Chryssavgis, “The World of the Icon and Creation” in Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and Humans, ed. Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 84.

[2] Chryssavgis, “The World of the Icon and Creation,” 91.

[3] Joachim Jeremias, Unknown Sayings of Jesus, trans. Reginald H. Fuller (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 95.

[4] Chryssavgis, “The World of the Icon and Creation,” 90.

[5] John Chryssavgis, Creation as Sacrament: Reflections on Ecology and Spirituality (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019), 1, 2.

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:

Soft soil silences my steps as if to say, “Shh, this is sacred ground” / Maples, sycamores, and elms line the trail, / limbs reaching heavenward, forming a perfect cathedral arch… / Their translucent leaves, a thousand hues of green… living stained glass. / A swallowtail butterfly bounces ahead like an excited usher, beckoning me forward. / Turtle doves sing a solemn call to worship, / And then… the sermon of silence, (God’s first language said John of the Cross) / Finally, a cardinal proclaims the benediction: / “Blessed are they who find God in nature, for they are truly blessed!”
—Joan V.

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.

 

Sacramental Vision

Contemplative author and artist Christine Valters Paintner honors the formal sacraments of the church while also inviting us to celebrate the sacramental nature of all life and all beings:

One of the classic definitions of a sacrament is something that is an outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace. In the Christian church there are different rituals that are considered to be sacraments. The Catholic Church has seven sacraments, while other denominations count fewer among their number. However, this idea of sacramentality extends beyond the formal sacraments such as Baptism, Matrimony, Communion, and the Anointing of the Sick. This sense of sacramentality, rooted in the Incarnation, extends our vision out to the world so that everything can be a sacrament, meaning every person, creature, plant, and object can be an opportunity to encounter something of the Divine Presence in the world. Sacramentality is a quality present in creation that opens us up to the Sacred Presence in all things. Sacraments reveal grace.

When viewed through this expansive lens, we discover that the more we cultivate intimacy with the natural world, the more we discover about God’s presence. All of our interactions with nature can be sacramental, and all the ways nature extends herself to us are sacramental as well. Sacramentality breaks through our surface obsessions in the world and plunges us into the depth of the Sacred at every turn. It is a spontaneous reminder of God’s creative upwelling and expansive love, calling us to love beyond boundaries. St. Isaac the Syrian [seventh century] defines a charitable heart as one “which is burning with love for the whole creation, for [humans], for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons—for all creatures.” [1]

Paintner talks about the shift that takes place when we see life in this way:

This discovery that every creature and every created thing can be a window of revelation into the divine nature is an invitation to fall more and more in love with the world. To see that teachers of grace exist everywhere means to bring a sense of reverence to the way we walk in the world. When we encounter nature as sacrament, we can no longer objectify it. We can instead create the circumstances that nurture and nourish this kind of vision. . . . Sacramental vision means not only that we grow in our love of God’s ways in the world but also that we grow in our sense of kinship with creation. . . .

There is a sense of God’s incarnate presence in creation that shimmers forth to reveal the holiness of all things. Notice how your senses come alive when you walk out in the world aware of its sacramental nature. What do your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin each reveal to you about how God is alive in the world around you?

References:
[1] See Hilarion Alfeyev, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2000), 43.

Christine Valters Paintner, Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2020), 93–94, 106.

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 flock of geese, and winter trees.

Story from Our Community:

Soft soil silences my steps as if to say, “Shh, this is sacred ground” / Maples, sycamores, and elms line the trail, / limbs reaching heavenward, forming a perfect cathedral arch… / Their translucent leaves, a thousand hues of green… living stained glass. / A swallowtail butterfly bounces ahead like an excited usher, beckoning me forward. / Turtle doves sing a solemn call to worship, / And then… the sermon of silence, (God’s first language said John of the Cross) / Finally, a cardinal proclaims the benediction: / “Blessed are they who find God in nature, for they are truly blessed!”
—Joan V.

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.

 

Where God Meets Us

Popular Christian author Rachel Held Evans (1981–2019) has an expansive understanding of how Christians, as the body of Christ, can celebrate the sacraments together:

Something about communion triggers our memory and helps us see things as they really are. Something about communion opens our eyes to Jesus at the table. . . .

“God works through life, through people, and through physical, tangible, and material reality to communicate [God’s] healing presence in our lives,” explains Robert E. Webber when describing the principle of sacrament. “God does not meet us outside of life in an esoteric manner. Rather, [God] meets us through life incidents, and particularly through the sacraments of the church. Sacrament, then, is a way of encountering the mystery.” [1]

This is the purpose of the sacraments, of the church—to help us see, to point to the bread and wine, the orchids and the food pantries, the post-funeral potlucks and the post-communion dance parties, and say: pay attention, this stuff matters; these things are holy. . . .

Enter one another’s joy, one another’s family, one another’s messes, one another’s suppers.

Evans also encourages us to recognize and celebrate the sacramental nature of Jesus’ ministry:

Indeed, the word sacrament is derived from a Latin phrase which means “to make holy.” When hit with the glint of love’s light, even ordinary things become holy. And when received with open hands in the spirit of eucharisteo, the signs and wonders of Jesus never cease. The 150-plus gallons of wine at Cana point to a generous God, a God who never runs out of holy things. This is the God who, much to the chagrin of Jonah, saved the rebellious city of Nineveh, the God who turned five loaves of bread and a couple of fish into a lunch to feed five thousand with baskets of leftovers to spare. This God is like a vineyard manager who pays a full day’s wage for just one hour of work, or like a shepherd who leaves his flock in search of a single lamb, or like a father who welcomes his prodigal son home with a robe, a ring, and a feast.

We have the choice, every day, to join in the revelry, to imbibe the sweet wine of undeserved grace, or to pout like Jonah, argue fairness like the vineyard employees, resent our own family like the prodigal’s older brother. At its best, the church administers the sacraments by feeding, healing, forgiving, comforting, and welcoming home the people God loves. At its worst, the church withholds the sacraments in an attempt to lock God in a theology, a list of rules, a doctrinal statement, a building.

But our God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things, scraps of food into feasts and empty purification vessels into fountains of fine wine. This God knows his way around the world, so there’s no need to fear. . . . There’s always enough—just taste and see. There’s always and ever enough.

References:
[1] Robert E. Webber, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1985), 45.

Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015) 132, 155–157.

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:

I have a deeper appreciation of the entire cosmos—creation as the first incarnation. Two years ago my husband and I left New England and moved to Florida. Here palm trees replace the pines of Maine and where we once loved the maples of Vermont, now the egrets, heron, and ibis entertain us all day long. Whether maples or live oaks, robins or egrets, it is all One along with me in this Christ-soaked world.
—Glenny D.

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.

 

The Body of the Cosmos

Father Richard continues to emphasize the centrality of the Eucharist in a Christian life:

The Eucharist—or what many Christians refer to as communion—becomes our ongoing touchstone for the Christian journey. It becomes a place to which we must repeatedly return in order to find our face, our name, our absolute identity, who we are in Christ, and thus who we are forever. We are not just humans having a God experience. The Eucharist tells us that, in some mysterious way, we are an ingested God having a human experience!

This continues in Romans 8:19–25 (as creation), 1 Corinthians 10:16–17, and 11:23–25 (as bread and wine), and in 12:12–13 (as people). In each of these Scriptures, and in an ever-expanding sense, Paul expresses his full belief that there is a real transfer of human and spiritual identity from Christ to Creation, to the elements of bread and wine, and through them to human beings.

Thus Eucharist, like Resurrection, is not a unique event or strange anomaly. Eucharist is the Incarnation of Christ taken to its final shape and end—the very elements of the earth itself. It is all one huge continuum of Incarnation. It is indeed one sacred universe, all things turning around one thing (uni versus), the divine. [1]

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn (1926–2022) wrote about “Jesus and Buddha as brothers.” On the Christian communion ritual, he writes:

The bread that Jesus handed to you, to us, is real bread, and if you can eat real bread you have real life. But we are not able to eat real bread. We only try to eat the word bread or the notion of bread. Even when we are celebrating the Eucharist, we are still eating notions and ideas. “Take, my friends, this is my flesh, this is my blood.” Can there be any more drastic language in order to wake you up? What could Jesus have said that is better than that? You have been eating ideas and notions, and I want you to eat real bread so that you become alive. If you come back to the present moment, fully alive, you will realize this is real bread, this piece of bread is the body of the whole cosmos.

If Christ is the body of God, which he is, then the bread he offers is also the body of the cosmos. Look deeply and you notice the sunshine in the bread, the blue sky in the bread, the cloud and the great earth in the bread. Can you tell me what is not in a piece of bread? The whole cosmos has come together in order to bring to you this piece of bread. You eat it in such a way that you become alive, truly alive. . . . Eat in such a way that the Holy Spirit becomes an energy within you and then the piece of bread that Jesus gives to you will stop being an idea, a notion. [2]

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019), 137–138.

[2] Thich Nhat Hanh, Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers (New York: Riverhead Books, 1999), 106–107.

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:

I have a deeper appreciation of the entire cosmos—creation as the first incarnation. Two years ago my husband and I left New England and moved to Florida. Here palm trees replace the pines of Maine and where we once loved the maples of Vermont, now the egrets, heron, and ibis entertain us all day long. Whether maples or live oaks, robins or egrets, it is all One along with me in this Christ-soaked world.
—Glenny D.

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.

 

Real Presence

In his book The Universal Christ, Father Richard shares that he wrote this teaching on the Eucharist on Easter Sunday 2017 with “great joy”:

When Jesus spoke the words “This is my Body,” I believe he was speaking not just about the bread right in front of him, but about the whole universe, about every thing that is physical, material, and yet also spirit-filled.

Seeing the Eucharist as a miracle is not really the message at all. I can see why we celebrate it so often. This message is such a shock to the psyche, such a challenge to our pride and individualism, that it takes a lifetime of practice and much vulnerability for it to sink in—as the pattern of every thing, and not just this thing.

The bread and the wine together are stand-ins for the very elements of the universe, which also enjoy and communicate the incarnate presence. Why did we resist this message so much? Authentically eucharistic churches should have been the first to recognize the corporate, universal, and physical nature of the “Christification” of matter. While Catholics rightly affirm the Real Presence of Jesus in these physical elements of the earth, most do not realize the implications of what they have affirmed. The bread and wine are largely understood as an exclusive presence, when in fact their full function is to communicate a truly inclusive—and always shocking—presence.

A true believer is eating what he or she is afraid to see and afraid to accept: The universe is the Body of God, both in its essence and in its suffering.

The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart when we recognize Presence through our own offered presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery anymore; we begin to chew on it. Jesus did not say, “Think about this” or “Stare at this” or even “Worship this.” Instead he said, “Eat this!”

We must move our knowing to the bodily, cellular, participative, and thus unitive level. We must keep eating and drinking the Mystery, until one day it dawns on us, in an undefended moment, “My God, I really am what I eat! I also am the Body of Christ.” Then we can henceforth trust and allow what has been true since the first moment of our existence. The Eucharist should operate like a stun gun, not just a pretty ceremony. We have dignity and power flowing through us in our bare and naked existence—and everybody else does too, even though most do not know it. A body awareness of this sort is enough to steer and empower our entire faith life.

This is why I must hold to the orthodox belief that there is Real Presence in the bread and wine. For me, if we sacrifice Reality in the basic and universal elements, we end up sacrificing the same Reality in ourselves

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019), 131–132, 134, 136, 137.

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.

 

The Sacramental Principle

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.

 

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