Saturday, May 12, 2012

Article 25: Of the Sacraments

Today's article is one of the longest in the Articles of Religion. I am not sure word count wise, but it certainly has the most paragraphs. So, marching headlong into the issue of Sacraments:

XXV. Of the Sacraments
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

The final paragraph of this Article, has to do with monstrances and processions. This goes back to the notion I discussed earlier about the misunderstanding of veneration and worship. There is also a difference between adoration and worship. Adoration is a type of prayer. I won't go into all that again, but be aware of it.

Needless to say, I categorically reject this definition of what is a Sacrament. A sacrament according to the catechism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." I think all of the 7 sacraments clearly fit into that definition, though I know many Anglicans would would vehemently disagree, but given the definition in the Prayerbook, I don't see on what grounds they can. 

To say that marriage or healing is not outward and visible or inward and spiritual is preposterous to my mind.  
Likewise, Jesus clearly heals people in the gospels and tells his disciples to go out and do that same, so to argue that annointing of the sick is not a sacrament ordained by Christ is nonsense. Likewise, Jesus is always telling people to "Follow Me." If that's not a call to ordained ministry, I don't know what is. I can do one, but you get my drift.

A sacrament is just that: a sacred-ment, a making of something sacred. As such, I have no problems with saying that there are seven sacraments. I would note that the same catechism also refers to the other 5 sacraments of "sacramental rites." What exactly is meant by that cutesy Anglican linguistic fudge, I have never figured out. How something can be a 'sacramental rite' and not a sacrament per se is beyond me but many Episcopal priests believe that. 

Many say that Anglican tried to be a middle way or via media. That's all well and good, but via media does not mean "stick your head in the sand and hope no one notices" nor does it mean "these things do not really matter." They do matter. Not everything flows out of baptism, despite the Episcopal church's mantra on that. 

I think the Episcopal church needs to revisit its teaching on sacraments because if we believe that the church is that place were the "Word of God is duly preached and the sacraments duly ministered" as it says in a previous article, then to say that these things are not sacraments calls into question their sacramental validity and our very witness to being a part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. 

No comments: