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What are the sacraments, really? For centuries, the religious lives of Catholics and other Christians have revolved around church rituals with generally accepted individual and social effects. What, precisely, are those effects, and how are they produced? Traditional theology used Greek philosophy to understand the sacraments and how they work. But is there no other way to understand them? In fact, there are a number of ways, and this book invites you to look at the sacraments through a variety of lenses: psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, theology, morality, and spirituality. As the introduction to this volume challenges, If you read this book, and especially if you engage in the interactive study to which it invites you, your understanding of sacraments will be changed forever." To help personalize your investigation, the author has created a web site with thought-provoking questions that encourage you to interact with the ideas being proposed in this volume. To engage these topics more deeply, see www.TheSacraments.org. Joseph Martos is author of Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, which for more than a quarter of a century has been the most widely read book on the subject. Recently retired from full-time teaching, he has been a visiting professor in universities and theology schools in Canada and Australia as well as around the United States. "
Modern secular culture has severely eroded the religious foundations on which traditional sacramental practice was based. Built upon the sacramental bedrock, the very Christian identity and mission were affected. German Martinez looks at this challenge from the perspective of freedom as an opportunity to develop a sacramental worldview relevant to the new millennium. To this effect, he applies a series of methodologies and fresh pastoral approaches to the highly complex sacramental reality and to each individual sacrament. Beginning with ten key interpretative elements, he offers a coherent synthesis of the remarkable development of sacramental theology in our time. Envisioned for both scholarly research and pastoral ministry, this book presents the key issues of a renewed sacramentality--rooted in ordinary life and celebrated in the liturgical mystery. This theology is grounded in a biblical, patristic, historical and theological background. It tries to articulate especially the Christological, ecclesial, individual and social aspects of the celebration of the sacraments as a dynamic and organic whole, emphasizing their spirituality.
Catholic sacramental doctrine has lost much of its credibility. Baptized people leave the church, adolescents stop attending shortly after they are confirmed, supposedly indissoluble marriages regularly dissolve, few go to confession, and many do not believe in transubstantiation. Drawing upon his decades-long study of the sacraments, Martos reveals how teachings that seemed rooted in the scriptures and Catholic life have become unmoored from the contexts in which they arose, and why seemingly eternal truths are actually historically relative. After carefully constructing Catholic teaching from the church's own documents, he deconstructs it by demonstrating how biblical passages were misconstrued by patristic authors and how patristic writings were misunderstood by medieval scholastics. The long process of misinterpretation culminated in the dogmatic pronouncements of the Council of Trent, which continues to dominate Catholic thinking about the church's religious ceremonies. If the sacraments are released from their dogmatic baggage, Martos believes that the spiritual realities they symbolize can be celebrated in any human culture without being tied to their traditional rites.
The sacraments are at the heart of our life as Catholics, the way we celebrate together our continuing conversion and encounter with God. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing, Marriage, and Holy Orders 'al are activities that require preparation to bring us to the fullness of our life in community and in Christ. Chapter by chapter, Father Lawrence Mick puts these core experiences into their historical and theological context, and illuminates the ways the sacraments bring us together as God's people. Ever conscious of the complex history of the church and its dynamic relationship to ritual, as well as the varied histories of human communities, Understanding the Sacraments Today is a book to be visited and revisited, a companion to the ongoing and repeated practices that nourish us. Lawrence E. Mick, a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, is a liturgical consultant and writer whose numerous books include Living Baptism Daly, published by Liturgical Press. He has also been active in parish, retreat, and campus ministries.
Honest rituals are ceremonial actions that celebrate what is actually happening in people’s lives. Religious rituals, however, often celebrate beliefs and doctrines (e.g., the birth of Christ, God’s forgiveness of sins, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit) that have little to do with people’s experience. Martos argues that early Christian rituals were grounded in experiences such as conversion, community, commitment, and self-giving. Lacking a vocabulary to name such experiences, the authors of the New Testament and other early documents resorted to metaphors such as baptism into Christ, receiving the Holy Spirit, forgiveness by God, and the presence of Christ during worship. By the fourth century, however, those metaphors were taken to be unexperienced metaphysical realities rather than experienced realities. The medieval schoolmen developed philosophical explanations of what went on in church rituals, and the Catholic Church continues to teach that its sacraments are automatically effective despite growing evidence to the contrary. What if religious rituals were to regain their original authenticity? What if the guiding value in designing church ceremonies was honesty rather than liturgical correctness? After liberating the reader from doctrinal constraints, Martos invites Catholics into a re-visioning of the traditional sacraments and a reawakening of ritual imagination in non-Western cultures.
Catholic sacramental doctrine has lost much of its credibility. Baptized people leave the church, adolescents stop attending shortly after they are confirmed, supposedly indissoluble marriages regularly dissolve, few go to confession, and many do not believe in transubstantiation. Drawing upon his decades-long study of the sacraments, Martos reveals how teachings that seemed rooted in the scriptures and Catholic life have become unmoored from the contexts in which they arose, and why seemingly eternal truths are actually historically relative. After carefully constructing Catholic teaching from the church's own documents, he deconstructs it by demonstrating how biblical passages were misconstrued by patristic authors and how patristic writings were misunderstood by medieval scholastics. The long process of misinterpretation culminated in the dogmatic pronouncements of the Council of Trent, which continues to dominate Catholic thinking about the church's religious ceremonies. If the sacraments are released from their dogmatic baggage, Martos believes that the spiritual realities they symbolize can be celebrated in any human culture without being tied to their traditional rites.

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