Christ died on the cross to save us, to buy us back, to pay our debt of sin. I think all Christians believe that. Christ died for all. And yet that is too universal: Christ died for all humanity. And although I am a member of the human race, how do I become a member of Christ\’s body? Yes, I know he is the Redeemer; however, how does he become my Redeemer? Abbot Vonier, a 20th century spiritual giant, wrote a wonderful work A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, explaining the answer to this problem. And I will simply paraphrase it and add a current analogy along the theme of linking up. Abbot Vonier quotes St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica III. 62 a6):
The power of Christ\’s passion is linked up with us through faith and through the sacraments. This, however, in different ways: for the linking up which is by faith takes place through an act of the soul, while the linking up which is by the sacraments takes place through the use of external things (p2-3).
I need faith, and the Sacraments.
First, I need Faith. Faith, which is a real psychological contact with Christ. Without it, as Vonier puts it, \”we are dead to Christ, the stream of His life passes us by without entering into us, as a rock in the midst of a river remains unaffected by the turbulent rush of waters\” (p3). I must believe in redemption, in Jesus who suffered, died, and rose to conquer sin and to restore friendship between man and God, or redemption is not mine. To be a member of Christ\’s body, I must first have faith.
I also need the Sacraments. Faith is definitely necessary to make Jesus my Redeemer. But I being human am not just a soul with an intellect and will (a mind that can think and choose). I am also corporeal, a body-soul unity that needs both spiritual and physical things to achieve faith\’s goal: charity (union with God). I also have a tendency to forget about the spiritual world and need physical reminders, a physical redemption of my senses. I need exercises to strengthen and live out my faith. God strengthens our faith through the sacraments.
I need faith. But, \”Help my unbelief.\” Vonier adds:
Now, the sacraments are truly another kind of means for man to get at Christ\’s redemptive life. Once more let it be emphasized that through the possession of charity we do not only contact Christ, we are actually in Christ…The sacraments complete and render more efficacious that instrumentality of faith just spoken of: they do not supersede the instrumentality of faith, but they make it more real, if possible, and certainly more infallible in its effects.
The sacraments are, as St. Thomas puts it, \”Sacraments of Faith.\” They establish the link to the \”treasure-house of Christ\’s redemption\”. In the week preceding Corpus Christi, I remind myself that the Eucharist is the Sacrament of Charity, which actually unites me to God. And I pray that I may be ever more incorporated into the Body of Christ until we are forever united with him in heaven.
I compare linking up to Christ and redemption to linking up to the internet. How do I make the invention of the internet not just a universal truth but my very own? I need belief in the internet. But this was created some 40 years ago. My belief needs also something physical before I can link up and access the fruits of the invention of the internet. I\’ll even say that faith in the internet gives wifi connection and all the routers and modems necessary. But still, I need an external instrument to link up, to make the \”treasure-house\” of the internet mine. I need a computer, or an iPhone or iPod, some device or instrument to \’link-up\’. I need both the faith in the invention of the internet as well as the external hardware (and an ISP…) to use it. Our redemption is similar. I need faith in Jesus\’ redemptive act (invention), the external hardware (sacraments) and perhaps a good reliable ISP, viz. the Catholic Church, supplying both faith and sacrament for millenia.
© 2013. Fr. James Melnick. All Rights Reserved.