The Second pillar of the YouCat (and the Catechism of the Catholic Church) is all about “How We Celebrate the Christian Mysteries (Sacraments).” One of my favorite metaphors to understand the progression from the Creed to the Sacraments is looking at our faith as though it were a story. In the Creed, we affirm the main moments of the story – believing in God as Father who created everything, Jesus Christ who redeems us, and the Holy Spirit who continues to work in our lives. These make up some of the key points of our creed – the story of our faith. But this story isn’t just one we watch… it’s one we’re invited to take part in, and one of the most beautiful ways we are able to do so is in the Seven Sacraments of the Church.
Sacrament comes from the Latin word Sacramentum, which is how we usually translate the Greek word for ‘mystery.’ It could also be translated as ‘a military oath of allegiance.’ From that perspective, there are two key thoughts here:
1) The Christian idea of ‘mystery.’ When we talk about a mystery (ie the Mystery of faith), we’re not trying to be Sherlock Holmes and solve something, but instead are invited to discover the many layered ways in which God is working in our lives.
2) The idea of an oath, pledge, guarantee, or promise: In every Sacrament, God renews His promises to give us grace (strength to do what we need to do), and we are invited to promise to love and follow Him.
YouCat explains further:
Celebrating the Christian Mysteries (Sacraments) is about encountering Jesus in Time. Until the end of time He is present in His Church. The most profound encounter with Him on earth is liturgy (divine worship.) …just as a man breathes air in order to stay alive, so too the Church lives and breathes by celebrating the liturgy. God himself is the one who breathes new life into her day by day and enriches her with gifts through His Word and His Sacraments. -YouCat 166
One of the places young people often struggle with our faith is that it’s boring and repetitive. Some say that the music isn’t very inspiring, the pews are uncomfortable, and they don’t understand what’s going on. But no one would ever comment that our breathing or heartbeat are boring, even though they are repetitive and we may not completely understand what they are doing. It is these functions of our human body which keep us alive. The same can be said about the Sacraments: it is the celebration of these seven mysteries which breathe life and act as the heartbeat of our Church. You could also say that they are a divine appointment – moments we know that we can encounter Christ within our day, week, or lifetime (depending on the Sacrament.) The Eucharist, as the “Blessed Sacrament” is one of two places Jesus promised we could always find Him (the other being in the poor.) In the Eucharist, “we run directly to His arms, and when we let Him get close to us He teaches us, feeds us, transforms us, and becomes one with us” (YouCat 168).
When it comes down to it, the Sacraments are 7 privileged moments where God continues to manifest his saving love through the action of the church; and they are also 7 ways of responding to God’s love with worship & thanks, because Sacraments are not meant to be celebrated as a spectator sport. They are meant to engage us, to unfold the mystery of the love of God, and to serve as a renewal of His pledge of love for us. But love which is offered is only truly complete when it is returned: and so it is our participation in the Sacraments and the Liturgy which allow us an avenue to sing, pray, worship, adore, listen, love… it is the moment when we are able to enter into the story and encounter the God who is writing it. Over the next few weeks, we’ll unfold a little about each of the Sacraments and the way in which we are able to relate to God through them… but remember, God offers each as a gift to us, pouring His grace in these celebrations of the Church:
The sole purpose of all liturgies of the Church and all her Sacraments is that we might have life and have it abundantly. -YouCAt 169