“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.