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My last post was pictures from my Beatles Christmas door. I still have to do the records, plus I want to post pictures of some of my competition... but (prepare for vanity) MINE IS ALREADY THE BEST. Ha. :)

I'm sitting her *for hours* trying to rip all my CDs to iTunes so that I can bundle up the disks and store them out of sight. My version of "cleaning." Anyway, while I'm sitting here I might as well be productive and journal, making this my chance to catch up on my catechism journaling. I have two classes to catch up writing about plus two topics I didn't really write about, so we'll see how well I do. Last Tuesday was on Mary and two weeks ago was the Sacraments and Sacramentals. We don't have class next week thanks to Thanksgiving, I think I have a real shot at catching up...

Sacraments and Sacramentals This may have been my favorite class so far, possibly because I love the mechanics classes and the discussion group portion rocked. (In our discussion groups it felt like we really tackled the concepts, worked through them, and came out of the discussion with a deeper understanding of the concepts. Also, we were much more focused and didn’t wonder off topic at all and no one dominated the group.) I also really like our presenter because he’s very organized and likes handouts, so I can follow along pretty easily and know what to expect. Unfortunately, if I don’t review/retype my notes within a timely manner, no matter how organized his presentation was I still lose whatever concepts I didn’t fully write out in my notes, so this is what I retained after two weeks.

The Methodist church also has Sacraments, which is where I learned my definition for the word: an outward sign of an inward grace. I was pleased that in class we used basically the same definition. Well, we used it as one of the definitions. They added there are many definitions for Sacraments. Many of the Sacraments should be familiar to any Protestant as almost all do baptism, communion, and marriage. The Catholic church has “seven”: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (communion), Reconciliation (confession), Anointing of the Sick (also done in my old Charismatic church), Marriage, and Ordination (priests, nuns, but also lay people to a lesser extent). These are not to be confused with Sacramentals, which could be doing the Sign of the Cross, a medallion on your necklace, Holy Water, prayer cards, etc. I think the Sacramentals are confusing for non-Catholics (certainly they were to me) because it’s easy to think of them as magic items, especially to fantasy book addicts and D&D players like myself. In class they went out of their way to stress the Sacraments were more important than the Sacramentals and to stress the Sacramentals were tools and not an end unto themselves, so I must not be the only one with that magical mindset. Thinking of them both as tangible *reminders* of an intangible God, it clicks more into place. It is hard to grasp intangible concepts. If you are trying to describe to someone what is LOVE or what is a TABLE, it is a lot easier to fully grasp and believe in the concept of a table. Especially if there is one in the room so that you can just point. There’s an order to love God more than your family – but you can see and touch your mom. I am closer to my mom than I am to God. Right now I can't even envision myself not feeling this way. How do you relate to and communicate with someone who is mostly intangible? I mean, I’ve never encountered a burning bush and I have never been struck blind on my way to Defuniak, let alone Damascus. For me personally, hanging a cross so that it is the last thing I see as I walk out my door or praying the Rosary and feeling the beads in my hand really does have the effect of making it a more concrete experience. I need more of those concrete experiences. I want to make it a more tangible relationship. Catholic Update said any action, object, or prayer that draws us to God can be considered a Sacramental. Our instructor broke Sacramentals into three categories: 1) Sacred Actions (Sign of the Cross, Sprinkling, Kneeling, holding hands while praying); 2) Blessings & Abundance (the blessing at the end of mass, the blessing at a wedding); and 3) Material Objects that aid us in worship (Holy Water, candles, rosaries, medals, crucifix). Finally, they said the Sacrament is the experience when you are receiving the grace, the Sacramentals are a reminder of that moment or a tool used to get to that moment.

Muddled memories of our discussion group. The Sacraments themselves are more important because they are time when you actually experience God, they are conscious decisions on your part, they have a unique meaning to each individual, they change as we progress through life (as we change and grow, but also each time is different, i.e. your baptism vs your child’s baptism vs watching a family member’s vs watching a friend’s vs watching a stranger’s – each has a different meaning to you), and they always contain a past, present, and future component. That was the heart of our discussion group questions: Why the past/present/future important? The other questions were “How are Sacraments different from ordinary ceremonies?” and “What Sacramental means the most to you?” We came up with reenacting the past in our present to work toward the future; the mystery of faith contains a P/P/F; we ourselves have a P/P/F; the Sacraments themselves contain it (one example could be Past – Baptism, Present – Marriage, Future – Annointing of Last Rites/World to Come); life is a journey, not a onetime event. My notes get too messy after that. Question two triggered a real debate because some of us argued the definition of “ordinary ceremonies.” My argument was that if the Eucharist was the heart of the Mass, then there were no “ordinary ceremonies” therefore every ceremony was a Sacrament. We never could pin down an ordinary ceremony, but if there were one, we decided maybe the difference was in the degree of the experience. I think we decided this was a trick question.

So cool: NUMEROLOGY! We say “SEVEN Sacraments” but we also say both Jesus and the church are Sacraments, so there really are nine or more. It’s not the quantitative number seven; it’s the qualitative number seven! How cool is that?!?!? Numbers have qualities as well as quantities – for example, many of us already associate 13 with “unlucky.” The number 7 is “totality” because it is the sum of the number 4 (“earth” from the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water) and the number 3 (“heaven” from the three Persons of God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit) When you join heaven and earth (the material and the spiritual) you get all there is, so “seven” means complete or total. Therefore it’s not the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 Sacraments. It’s the Complete Sacraments, in that all created things are windows to the divine. That is also, by the way, where you get Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Seven Churches of the Revelation. The Torah is big on numerology, too, from what I understand. So I was excited to see it also being used in the Catholic Church. I likes the mysticism stuff.

Participating in the Sacraments Finally, I was talking to Toaster and some of the others in class about being extremely excited and extremely nervous over the prospect of my first Eucharist and my first Confession. Toaster’s going to let me practice with her, as she’s been my confessor on many an occasion already. It was nice to know some of the others were feeling the same way as me, and it was nice to hear the encouragement and funny stories (or the OMG how awful!) stories of some of their more unusual communion or confession experiences. I’m curious how my feelings toward the Eucharist will change, or if they will change. I’m not sure how I feel about transubstantiation. I don’t know that I could fully believe in that. A part of me thinks it’s icky, and I finally got the nerve to ask Toast if the wine and wafer *tasted* like wine and wafer. We haven’t gotten to that or some of the areas for which I may not agree 100% with yet. Still, I continue to be encouraged by the classes and do feel like I’m growing in my depth of response at Mass from these mechanics classes. I have some Catholic and Baptist friends who are so enthusiastic about their religion that they almost appear to have no life outside of it. I have others who seem to have a balance, seem to see the good areas while not clouding over areas that need help (honest assessments of the state of the Church). I find hope in that balance. I don’t know who said this (it may have been Al Franken), and I’m not saying it’s true, and I’m totally butchering the quote because I only remember the sentiment – regardless, someone said something like a certain political party loves their country like a child loves his mother – with utter devotion and eyes that see no flaws, your mother is a superwomen and perfect. The other political party loves their country like a lover – they can see flaws and don’t always agree with everything their lover does, but they feel the good points outnumber the bad, they love them completely, and they want to help their lover grow and become a better person. Often Jesus is called the groom and the Church his bride. That is a “lover” relationship, as well. I liked that idea of an unblind unconditional love. Love shouldn’t be blind. I want to walk into this experience with eyes wide open.

I feel so exposed right now! And kind of silly. *Sigh.*
Besides, this is crazy long and choppy. I'm taking a break. :)

Other stuff - saw the movie Twilight on Friday. Read the book after seeing the movie. Close to finishing Hiding in the Mirror, the Krauss book on string theory - probably should go grab that now. Oh, no - I should make the records for the door. I'm tired. EDIT - Oh, and last night I got to see The Last Action Superhero - awesome. We also watched Big Trouble in Little China. And, I have a living room again, for a little while at least. I need to take pictures of the TARDIS improvements. I'm given to understand more shelves and a light will go up next weekend.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
Last Action Hero: Cool concept, but I thought it was a mess in execution.

The magic thing has been a problem for a long time: One of my history books argues that one of the reasons the faith in magic hung around was that to the laypeople of 1500 or 1000 years ago there wasn't much distinction between saints working wonders and pagan magicians or witches doing it, so why not believe both?

The Al Franken quote reminds me of a favorite line by GK Chesteron (I think) that anyone who says "My country right or wrong" is admitting a problem--"it's no different than saying 'my mother, drunk or sober.'"
Nov. 24th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Funny you mention GK Chesteron. The chapter I just started in Hiding in the Mirror led with a quote by Chesteron. That's a GREAT quote, by the way.

I adored Last Action Hero! But Raven knew you weren't fond of it, so we watched it while you weren't here. :)

I got the impression from class that potential converts would be more likely to accept the new religion if they related it to something familiar, so it was helpful blending experience.
Nov. 25th, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
I greatly appreciate the scheduling on LAH.

Yes, the idea of weaning people from one set of magic to another was supposed to be a big part of Christianizing the pagans.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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