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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. "
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.
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.
We are here on earth not to guard a museum but to cultivate a garden flourishing with life and promised to a glorious future, John XXIII exhorted the Church at the dawn of the Second Vatican Council. In an age when some skeptics suggest that the reformed liturgy has lost the wonder and spiritual depth of previous ages, Standing Together in the Community of God affirms that we need not look back; the Sacred Mysteries are already in our midst. Their wellspring and summit is the heart of God, shared in the Trinity's own communion, announced now as pure Gift. Praising God for God's saving acts in Jesus, as Vatican II reminded us, we encounter Christ's sacramental presence in four modes: in the person of the priest who gathers the community into communion, in the elements and actions of the sacraments, in the word proclaimed and preached, and in the assembly praying and singing (SC #7). In rhythm and harmony, these modes invite us to encounter the multivalent depth of the Mysteries that announce Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). Together they proclaim the Risen One among us, the totus Christus, hope for a hungry world. Allowing each mode its respect as a bearer of the sacred, these focal words and actions in the liturgy echo a communion song that announces Christ's real presence to us and for us and with us. Beginning deep within, this is a spirituality and piety for the twenty-first century, ever ancient and ever new. Paul A. Janowiak, SJ, has been an associate professor of sacramental and liturgical theology at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University in Seattle, Washington. He now teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California.
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.
A reprinting of Schillebeecks classic work. A standard in understanding the relationship between Christ, Sacrament and the Church. A positive and constructive ecclesial theology.
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