Definitions: Sacrament

“What is a sacrament?”
He looks around the table at us with his eyebrows raised. I leaf through the pages of the book we are reading together, looking for the “right” answer. Words sift through my mind. I know what a sacrament is, don’t I?
None of the others in our tiny group respond either, so he grins and recites:
“A sacrament is an outward, visible sign of the inward, invisible grace of God.”
He waits for us to respond. We all nod, but there seems little response to that.
“I think that might be the one thing I memorized from seminary,” he says.
We are talking about compassion—what that looks like—but I keep repeating his definition of sacrament to myself. In our Reformed tradition, we are taught that there are two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion. The Catholic Church has seven. But after our discussion, all week long I keep naming more sacraments.
If a sacrament is the way Christ is revealed to the world…are they not endless acts of grace?
When I set the table for dinner, I think to myself, sacrament.
Kiss my son goodnight, sacrament.
I touch the shoulder of a patient as we say goodbye, sacrament.
My husband reaches for me in the night, sacrament.
The way the sun breaks through the fog as I drive to work in the morning, sacrament.
This breath going in and out of me, these legs walking effortlessly through life, a petal falling from the bloom, the sprinkle of salt crystals from the shaker…
Are these not the sacred moments? Why do I not always receive them as such?
I remember what I used to say to my sons when they were little and still new to receiving Communion.
Prepare your heart, I would lean over and whisper in their ear. And they would sit up straighter, close their eyes, hold the tiny bread cube suspended before a prayer. I’ve heard it taught that a recipient’s lack of proper posture to receive the grace can yield a sacrament’s effectiveness in that person null and void.
I think about this as Lucy Mae and I take our evening walk down to the creek. The recent rains have created a muddy, swirling creature where our happy stream used to be. I lean over the bridge.
Could it be that the holiness of each moment depends on my willingness to receive it as such?
There are buttercups on the creek bank and Lucy steps through them carefully.
But if, I think, the holy depends on my posture…isn’t that in direct opposition to what grace really is?
Christ, who is holy, acts in this world. Whether I notice this or not.
Tiny dimples appear in the swirling waters—raindrops. We turn around to head back home and a fine mist falls–making my skin silk; casting Lucy’s coat a shimmering sateen.
Sacrament, I think. Sacrament.


  1. Shelly Miller says

    I’ve thought about this a lot Laura. That sacraments abound but I often don’t have eyes to see them. And my ability or lack thereof to take notice doesn’t change the holiness of the sacrament. Thankfully.May we all have ears to hear them, eyes to see them because when we do, we are changed and transformed. Love the way you think and write. Beautiful sacrament indeed.

  2. Sharon O says

    Beautiful, perhaps every day is a ‘sacrament’ to a Holy God who gives us breath.I love this concept.

  3. Jody Collins says

    “The holiness of each moment depends on my willingness to receive it as such.”
    Oh, so true Laura.
    And this line, “But if, I think, the holy depends on my posture…isn’t that in direct opposition to what grace really is?”

    I imagine our only posture should be hands upraised and welcoming hearts.
    This was beautiful.

  4. says

    Truly lovely, Laura. Yes – there are sacraments for corporate worship, but with Christ in us – the very Grace of God, everything we say and do as we love and live like Jesus where ever He leads us are opportunities for the display of the “outward, visible signs of the inward, invisible grace of God.

  5. dramaticelegance1009 says

    each precious definition of sacrament was balm to my soul. such worship in the day to day, in the reaching for at night, the kisses, the table setting, in every word and deed.

    just beautiful, friend.


  6. Nancy Sturm says

    Lovely. If only we were all more aware of the sacraments, the living grace of God that surrounds us every moment.

  7. Linda Chontos says

    “……whether I notice it or not” It is Grace Laura. I so want to be aware of it flowing all around me. You are a gift.
    Have a lovely weekend dear friend.

  8. kingfisher says

    Oh, Laura, how beautiful. What a beautiful mind you have, the way you’re training yourself to see Him in everything. To make even the tiny daily things into sacraments and grace. To share your world of grace and beauty with us so we can participate in sacrament, as well.

    Much love to you, friend.

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