Discovering the Sacraments

As Friends, we say that we do not observe outward sacraments be-cause all of life is sacramental. Recently, I felt the Spirit challenging me: Do I live a fully sacramental life, or is this merely a doctrine to which I subscribe? Accepting this challenge, I asked myself where the seven traditional Catholic sacraments can be found in my daily life. In searching for the sacraments, I have found my ordinary life to be sacred indeed.

Each day I have the opportunity for a new baptism. I can turn myself to God anew; I am beginning with God again. As I wake and greet the sun, I say with the Psalmist, "The heavens are telling the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). The sun’s light washes over me and reminds me of God’s Light within me. Each day is the opportunity to lay down my heavy burdens (Matt. 11:28), to put aside all regrets for my past, and to begin again. I can be immersed in God’s living water and be present with God in this day.

As he rose from the baptismal water of the river Jordan, the heavens opened to Jesus, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove to alight on him. A voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3: 16-17). Thus was Jesus confirmed. I also receive the sacrament of confirmation out of my baptism. As I turn myself to God to begin anew with God each day, God confirms me. I am God’s beloved, worthy of God’s love just as I am.

When the busyness of the day draws me away from God, I have the opportunity to recognize this without feeling guilty or berating myself. This is my confession: to recognize and articulate what draws me away from God. Then I can turn back to God; that is, I can repent. To confess and repent is to hold up to the Light everything that draws me away from God. I invite God into each place in me. As I offer my inner darkness to God’s Light, I open myself for the Spirit to work within and to transform me and mold me according to God’s will. I say with the Psalmist:

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth (Ps. 139:13-15).

When I eat, I have the opportunity to recognize the interdependence of all of creation. Food comes to my table be-cause God works through creation. Thus, the Psalmist prayed, "God causes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart" (Ps. 104:14-15, adapted). The essential act of eating is the sacrament of communion with all creation.

As he ate his last meal, Jesus instructed his disciples to eat "in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). How can I eat in remembrance of Jesus? I do this by—as early Friends expressed it—taking on the cross. That is, as Jesus accepted his crucifixion because it was God’s will for him, so must I accept God’s will in my life. To take on the cross is to turn from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. My communion of eating at God’s table is both gratefulness for creation and acceptance of God’s will.

To eat with others is to partake in a joint communion. A moment of silence before the meal helps us to be mindful of our communion. Nevertheless, in these busy times, the fellowship of the table is grace itself.

The sacrament of marriage endures beyond the wedding day. The human love that a committed couple shares is sacred, and I partake of this sacrament when I spend time with my husband and with each loving act and thought for him. I find the marriage sacrament in the special and in the mundane, from sharing a vacation adventure with my husband to sorting his socks. The unconditional love I feel for my child is an outgrowth of the marriage sacrament. Likewise, all human love is sacred, including the love shared between special friends; deeply listening to a spiritual friend is another way to partake in this sacrament.

We say that Friends have abolished the laity rather than the clergy; we are all ministers, servants of God. Thus, whenever we follow a leading to serve God, whether it is to speak in meeting for worship, participate in a peace demonstration, or wash up the dishes after potluck, we partake in the sacrament of ordination.

I am mortal. I will not occupy this body forever. Our youth-oriented culture encourages us to deny our mortality by hiding all signs of aging. But to accept our own mortality without fear is the sacrament of anointing of the sick at the time of impending death. I do not know about life after death, but I do know that death is a part of life. The God who is present with me each day of my life will not forsake me in death. That is all I need to know. My graying hair, wrinkling skin, and failing eyesight remind me of my mortality. When I accept and embrace them without fear, these signs of age become sacred. As the proverb says, "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." (Prov. 16:31)
This is my prayer of thanksgiving for a sacred life:

I thank you, O God, for my ordinary daily life.
Each day is your sacred gift.

Baptize me each morning as I turn to you anew;
and confirm me as yours.

Search out my inner darkness and help me turn to the Light;
let me feast at your table each day.

Thank you for that special human love
between family and friends.

What a joy to give and to receive it!

Ordain me into your service that I may
discern and follow your leadings,
and prepare me for the final journey.


©2003 Elizabeth F. Meyer

Elizabeth F. Meyer

Elizabeth F. Meyer is a member of Sandy Spring (Md.) Meeting and has served as its clerk. She is part of the leadership of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Spiritual Formation Program.