Skip to comments....but Mindful Mystery: On the Fruitful Reception of the Sacraments [Catholic Caucus]
Posted on 09/09/2012 6:44:51 PM PDT by Salvation
A fundamental principle of the seven Sacraments is that they have a reality that exists apart from the priests holiness or worthiness. They work ex opere operato (ie.. they are worked from the very fact of the work). One need not doubt therefore that a sacrament is in fact given just because a bishop, priest or deacon seems less than holy or worthy. Neither can the disposition of the recipient un-work the work. For example, Holy Communion does not cease to be the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ merely because the one who steps forward is unworthy or even an unbeliever. The Sacrament has a reality in itself that transcends the worthiness of the celebrant or recipient.
However, sacraments are not magic in the sense that they work effects in us in a manner independent of our disposition or will. Sacraments, though actually conferred by the fact that they are given, have a varying fruitfulness dependant upon the disposition, worthiness and openness of the recipient. One may receive a sacrament to great effect or lesser effect depending on how well disposed they are to those effects. This is referred to as the fruitfulness of the sacraments.
To illustrate fruitfulness lets take a non sacramental example. Imagine two men in the Fine Arts Museum and lets us also imagine that they are looking at a Rembrandt painting: Apostle Peter Kneeling of 1631 (See photo at right). Now one man is a trained artist. He knows and understands the use of shadow and light. He can observe and see the techniques of brush strokes. He knows of Rembrandt and his life and times. He also knows the Bible and a good bit about hagiography. He knows about St. Peter, the significance of the keys, of Peters penitence and how he finally died. The second man knows none of this and is actually rather annoyed to be in the boring museum. All he thinks is, Who is that guy and why is he sitting on the floor? .Why dont we get out of here, go to a sports bar and hook a few brews or something more interesting?
Now, both men are actually standing before a Rembrandt painting. It has a reality in itself apart from what either man thinks. It is, in fact, what it is. But the experience of beholding the painting is a far more fruitful experience for the first man than for the second. The first man gains a lot from the experience, the other gains little and may in fact have an experience that is adverse or repelling.
It is like this with the sacraments. They have a reality in themselves that is objective and real and they actually extend the graces they announce. But how fruitfully a person receives them is quite dependent on the openness and disposition of the recipient. Sacraments are not magic as though they zap us and change us independently of our disposition.
Consider some examples:
Sacraments therefore are not magic acts. They convey a reality, but internal disposition, worthy, mindful reception and faith are all essential factors for the sacraments to be received more and more fruitfully. Perfunctory and mindless reception yields little fruit. Devout, mindful and worthy reception yields increasing fruit. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold (Mark 4:20).
More can be said on this topic and I invite your comments and questions to fill in the details.
In this video clip Fr. Francis Martin discusses the depth of the word mystery which is an essential component of all the Sacraments. In fact many of the Eastern Churches call the sacraments the Mysteries for in every sacrament there is dimension far deeper than what is merely seen or sensed. Enjoy this brief and profound explanation.
Actual title: Not Mindless Magic, but Mindful Mystery: On the Fruitful Reception of the Sacraments
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