Fresh insights in sacramental theology

My summer reading this year included Fr. José Granados’s excellent book Introduction to Sacramental Theology: Signs of Christ in the Flesh, which Catholic University of America Press has recently made available in English. (The Spanish original Tratado General de los Sacramentos came out in 2016.)

Like the Church Fathers, Granados emphasizes the rootedness of the sacraments in the Incarnation of Jesus. This means giving due importance–too often lacking in theology–to the human body, which is the locus for all of our relationships.

The sacraments tell us that the message of Jesus is always rooted in the concrete relations that we form in our flesh.

José Granados, Introduction to Sacramental Theology, xiv

The book’s preface eloquently identifies the fundamental desire to which the sacraments respond, our need for the presence of Jesus:

“We have his parables, we lack the sight of him; we have his commandments, we lack his voice; we have the strength of his commission, we lack the touch of his arms. Without the second, the first loses its foundations: doctrine that is clear but abstract; morality that is superior but utopian; mission that is great but irrelevant.” (xiii-xiv)

The sacraments provide what is missing.

This leads to surprising conclusions about the need for a sacramental basis for today’s evangelization. A fairly common error is to think that responding to the needs of the modern world means conforming to the modern world; really, it means offering what contemporary life lacks.

“In fact, the great evil that afflicts the postmodern subject is his isolation in the cell of subjectivity. What remains is a weak individual who moves to the tune of his most intense feeling, with no relations to sustain him and with no path to bring him to his destination. We will not cure this sickness by proposing that he encounter God in the depths of his soul. For his real problem is the lack of relational environments that would enable him to understand his true identity, which is always discovered and forged in an encounter and a communion.” (383)

On the Annunciation

Detail from Botticelli’s Annunciation.

A beautiful piece for today’s feast from Fr. Robert Imbelli, a fine theologian and teacher, “Annunciations are Frequent, Incarnations are Rare.”

Here’s an excerpt:

You may understandably object that I project too much into a scant fifteen-minute encounter passed almost entirely in silence. I concede the complaint. Yet the Spirit radiates where he wills. And the new Eve leads a multitude of daughters (and sons) to compassionate being, which manifests itself in courteous demeanor and directness of gaze. Mary continues both to enchant and to challenge.

Indeed, let me insist: bodily demeanor and gaze. For in an incarnational spirituality the body assumes a dignity and importance that is unique. It is no rarefied “spiritual” assent that we celebrate on Mary’s feast: but a fully embodied “yes” to God’s call.

Read the whole article at The Catholic Thing.