The use of sacraments is a debate that has lasted since the church’s initial split during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
Beginning with the seven sacraments of baptism, eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders implemented by the Catholic church under the Council of Trent, the sacraments have been a key component to the church’s foundations as well as symbolic rituals in representation of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And in one split, two sacraments remained – baptism and the eucharist – leading the rest of the protestant reformation toward the denominations we cling to today.
During this semester, I have began to question my beliefs and how I use those beliefs for the betterment of my relationship with Christ. However, the most important question I’ve had trouble answering is why do I believe what I believe? For the past three and half years, I have worn the badge of non-denominationalism in protest to hints of traditional, ritualistic or impeding Christian thoughts – even thoughts I would label as “too religious.”
And just how Saul was blinded by the light in lieu of his stubbornness, I was paralyzed in the realization that sacraments are not evil, religious or wrong. Rather, they are meant to used mere symbols and representations of how much Christ loves us. For far too long, I had judged members of the church councils, priests of the Catholic Church and apostles from the beginning stages of the faith. For the first time, I tasted a glimpse of the beauty sacraments can bring to the table – pun intended.
Sacraments, though they sound binding, were and are still used as symbols and practices which were given to Christians as gifts to represent and remember the life of Christ.
The Eucharist (communion) is the practice of eating the body of Christ and drinking His blood as commanded in Luke 22. Through this sacramental practice, we partake to remember the gesture and action Christ took for us on the cross. By taking the bread and wine, we, as Christians, come together as believers and take part in the body of Christ. In turn, we become the body of Christ. The Eucharist is something that goes beyond Sunday communion taken right after worship and before tithing. It is an action taken by christians around the world where for one moment we think about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ partaking in the same radical action. As German Catholic priest Romano Guardini once wrote “Man, with the aid of grace, is given the opportunity of relaying his fundamental essence, of really becoming that which according to his divine destiny he should be and longs to be, a child of God,” so through the Eucharist, our soul unites once again with God.
By learning the significance of such acts, one can begin to question the importance of other sacraments. If sacraments are used as symbols within Protestant churches, why should we partake in them? Are we still Christians if we choose to not partake?
With so many questions, I began realize that it is our pride that inhibits us to partake in sacraments. It is our pride within our denomination which makes us choose where we stand on the issues of baptism and the taking of the Eucharist.
The sacrament of baptism, though simple in thought is more complex when accompanied by conviction and practice. The immersing of a Christian in water is more than just an act of submersion, but also an act of salvation to some. Within the Churches of Christ, the sacrament of baptism is linked to the salvation of a person. When first learning about this, I was shocked. How could one’s submersion be a do-or-die situation? It wasn’t until I removed myself from what my denomination taught me where I began to see the beauty in such a deep-seated tradition.
As mentioned, the act of baptism is not the act one chooses to do to himself. Rather, it can be seen as an act done to someone. Just as grace is granted to us by the love of Christ without any action on our part, baptism is the action bestowed upon us. Someone submerges you through an act of faith, love and conviction. And through those elements, we spring for air into a new life. Whether our new life be in representation of what the Lord has done or what the Lord will do. Restoration and grace are the key elements shown through the act of baptism. Baptism cannot be bonded to the boxes we have placed alongside the walls of our church. Baptism is and will always be an act done on us as a sign of love, acceptance, restoration and faith in Christ.
The importance in questioning sacraments is healthy. By questioning our faith, we begin to draw closer to God. We allow our barriers to be lowered for the answers we desire. As Christians, we should seek the Lord in all ways and ask the questions set in our dogma that burn for answers. It through our constant questioning and seeking that we can find the Lord. Knock on His door for knowledge. I guarantee He will answer just as He has answered me.