Joseph Martos
Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 1
by Dr. Joe Martos - Friday, 17 February 2012, 1:44 AM
What are the spiritual realities or mysteries that early converts experienced through sacramental practices of sharing a meal, hearing the preaching of the good news, being immersed in water, and receiving the laying on of hands? Relate at least one personal experience of such a mystery that a sacramental ritual made possible for you. What should pastoral ministers and liturgy planners do to enhance the experience of spiritual realities through religious rituals?
Picture of arnetta sims
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 1
by arnetta sims - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:00 PM

Spiritual realities are experienced through sacramental exercises, but can not be perceived by the senses. Early converts shared meals and gave thanks to God and felt His love unite the community. An old Negro Spiritual speaks of breaking bread together. " Let us break bread together on our knees. When I fall on my knees facing the rising sun , O Lord have mercy on us."

At baptism the only visible element was the water. The rite of immersion allowed one to witness the performance while expecting renewal by knowing. The mystery does not rest on the movement , but on the one that causes it. The same thought can be given for the laying on of hands. It is by faith that we experience the transference of power. The laying on of hands becomes a conduit for the power of healing, often an oil of anointing is used. The oil becomes symbolic of the anointing that is poured on. In this ritualistic movement the experience is performed to represent change though one can not sense it, it becomes a reality.

My experience with the mystery of a sacramental ritual was I left the Church for a year to heal. During my time away I thirsted for something that I could not explain. Something was missing and I had an appetite that could not be satisfied. I spoke with a friend and told him what I was experiencing. The friend shared with me that the baptismal waters remain with us. And it was the waters that made me hungry for the Eucharist. He shared a psalm about the deer that runs after water and my soul thirsts for you O Lord. I reunited with my local parish and received the sacraments the void was filled. I could not understand it, but for certain the craving left. These realities remain with us we can not sense them , but we know they are real.

Pastoral liturgical planners could enhance the liturgy by using symbols that the particular community are familiar with. More explanation should be given to the use of symbols during a rite. At Easter my parish builds a water font that runs until Pentecost. The pastor invites the community to bring a jar to collect holy water for their homes. The water runs audible during mass and it is so soothing. One can imagine the cooling and healing waters of baptism. We are reminded of the living waters that run forever.

We also construct a St. Joseph's Altar where we encourage people to bring goods for the poor. They are also asked to spend time with St. Joseph and offer their petitions. In these actions the community better understands the experiences of sacramental rituals.

On Good Friday at the entrance of the Church we pass out nails. At the veneration of the cross the people drop their nails in a tin bucket. Each time a nail is dropped some one repeats "forgiven".

If the pastor allows room for creating and implementing the liturgical rituals can be very impressive.The above are examples that could possibly enhance liturgical expressions.

GRADE 4 (Personal, thorough, and creative.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Saturday, 23 June 2012, 07:51 PM)

Picture of Monica Okon
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 1
by Monica Okon - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:14 PM


Today the sacraments are known to have been instituted by Jesus Christ. This sounds as if to say Jesus handed down the sacraments to the church in the form and practices we have them now. This brief studies through “Doors to the Sacred” and Video talks by Dr. Martos have enlightened me on the historical studies of the sacraments. In other words at this point, I am convinced that other cultures prior to Christianity had practices of sacramental rituals which gave rise to what the early Christian practiced as well. Such communities as Ancient Greece, Israel, Romans, and some that are even unknown to us have existed with practices of both religious and cultural ritual through symbols which gave meaning to their lives both as individuals and as communal people. Dr Martos asked a question and gave the answer, “How did these sacramental practices originate? In many cases we simply do not know”(19). Some of the common practices of some cultures are ritual of sacrifices, telling stories together, ritual of initiating new members of the community etc. As we all may know, Christianity was born into these cultures. The early followers of Christ carried out some of these practices convinced of doing what God has told them to do. This is how it happened that Early Christians practiced some sacramental rituals and experience spiritual realities without calling them sacramental practices. . Some of the sacramental practices by the early converts include sharing a meal, hearing the Good News, immersed in water, and receiving the laying on of hands. From my understanding of the text and video, some of their experiences were first of all, visible which later developed into what was called a seal, or character, hidden in the soul.

Spiritual Realities or Mysteries that Early Converts Experienced Through Sacramental Practices: Sharing a Meal:

Sharing meal means they usually would come together and eat together in response to what they believed Jesus asked them to do even in his absence. Martos points to the description of this sharing by St.Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthian chapters 10-11. He says, “They ate some meals in common, and during the meal they would share bread and wine in memory of Jesus, as he had told them to d ”(25). How do we know this was a sacramental ritual? The items for the meal such as bread and wine were not understood just bread and wine. They were symbols pointing to sacred reality. In this case, the converts through sharing bread and wine and constantly doing so (rituals), “experienced oneness with the Lord” (25). The spiritual realities or mysteries experienced by through the sacramental practices by the early converts through sharing a meal include oneness with the Lord, unity with each other and God.

· Hearing the Good News/ immersed in water:

The preaching of the Good News by the apostles were also sacramental words because it was on Jesus whom they have come to believe. For example, they preached that Jesus though had died, rose again and will come back (early chapters of Acts). Again the gospel was a sacramental word, “for it had a profound effect on many people, and it was often followed by a ritual washing which both symbolized and solidified the change that they felt in their hearts” (25). What did they experience? They experienced both visible and invisible “Mysterion or Metaphysical” reality as later understood by the fathers. That means according to Martos in the video talk, they experienced both observable and non observable effects because there was change of heart, change of the spirit, change of the behavior that means live a better life, and a change in attitude (happy). All these were as a result of God’s spirit through Jesus being poured out through preaching and ritual washing. The early believers accepted and identified themselves with the message of Jesus’ mysteries of death, resurrection and coming back and found it worthwhile to follow his footsteps. They were already familiar with the symbols of water (life/death), fire (light and destruction). For that reason accepting to be immersed in water means, “they died to their sinful ways and were reborn into a new life. For many, of them it was indeed the start of a new life, the beginning of a new way of living”(25). Another way of saying the same thing is they were rescued from the way they used to live prior to hearing the Good News and being plunged into water. Martos summarizes this by saying, “they experienced salvation both in the conversion of their own attitudes and in the shared live of their newly found community” (26). What did they experience? They experienced salvation.

· Laying on of Hands

The laying on of hands were sacramental practice because it it also involves some symbols. What did it symbolize? The effects were both behavioral visible and invisible. The laying on of hands is connected to the events of Pentecost. The apostles received the Holy Spirit which enabled them to preach and baptized new converts. It is believed that the outpoured of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had many effects such as God’s spirit being given to the apostles. It is believed that it was the same spirit God gave to Jesus that they also received because it gave them boldness, encouragement, ability to speak in a language they did not know before this experience. This experience also enabled them to impart the same spirit to others, “after the listeners would accept Jesus as Lord and be baptized, they would lay their hands on them and as the Holy Spirit to fill those persons as well” 26). These rituals performed by the apostles and the effects of the new converts praising God and make this a sacramental practice. What did they experience? They experienced the Spirit of God, the power to bring the spirit to other.

My personal Experience:

A few weeks leading to graduation, the college administration organized number celebrations for the graduating class. Some were limited only to graduating students, another was presidents’ celebration, and alumni celebrations. All the celebrations mentioned above, involved sharing a meal. Interacting, and sharing experiences for the last 4 or more years. These coming together of all students of the same class, eating together, and sharing experiences together gave me a sense of belonging. For example I can proudly say I am a Spring Hill College Alumni.

Suggestions to Pastoral and Liturgical Planners:

My suggestions are: It is good to let candidates of the sacraments know the historical foundations to the sacraments they about to embrace. Instructors or other members of the Church can carry out some of the rituals in the sacraments example, (baptism) and may be the priests conclude the final part of the rituals.

GRADE 4 (Accurate and well developed.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Saturday, 30 June 2012, 02:38 PM)

Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 1
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:17 PM

It may be difficult to describe the exact spiritual realities or mysteries the early converts experienced through the sacramental practices of the early church, but we can speculate. The first major example of the changes experienced by the first Christians is the effect the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had on the Apostles. They went from at least twelve men huddling in an upstairs room, hiding from their fellow Jews and possibly the Romans, to a group who boldly spoke about Jesus whom the Jews had crucified and declaring him the messiah. That was a most remarkable change. And the change continued. Peter, James and John regularly preached in the Temple precincts oblivious to the reprimands and eventual imprisonment by Temple authorities.

Many who heard the words of the Apostles accepted this idea and decided to enter into the community of believers. The ritual immersion in water that the Church calls Baptism was usually followed immediately by anointing with oil and laying on of hands. The immersion signified death to an old way of life and entrance into a new community. It also signified acceptance of Christ as the messiah and unity with Christ’s death and Resurrection. Laying on of hands was invoking the Holy Spirit to become present in the newly baptized. Even today it is not uncommon for an adult who has been baptized at the Easter Vigil in the Catholic Church to report having some sort of change, an experience that frequently is difficult to express in words.

In Judaism the sharing of the Passover meal was a type of sacrament in itself, so the practice of the new Christian community of sharing a meal was natural progression. The worship of the Greco-Roman gods involved the ritual slaughter of animals and the meat was sold to the general public, therefore the sharing of sacred food was an easy transition. But the sharing of the meal, the breaking of the bread in the Christian community meant more. It served as a connection, a sign of unity with the Lord, and it strengthened the sense of community.

Personal Experience

As part of a course in faith community nursing we had a chaplain from a local hospice program come and talk about the theology of health. At the end of his lecture he anointed our hands with oil to consecrate them for healing. As he prayed over me I was startled to hear him call me a teacher. He could not have known I was one of the instructors; I had not introduced myself as such. Likewise I had no idea that in the years that have followed I have become more involved in adult religious education. But I was most aware of having been truly blessed at that moment. A special awareness flooded through me, the anointing of my hands was a special sign from God.

Enhancing the Experience

This third part of the question should be restated: How can liturgy planner and pastoral ministers help instill a sense of the sacred in people in world that is constantly looking for instant gratification? How can these ancient practices be made meaningful in a society that thinks it just found the “God Particle?” I would agree with my classmate who suggested some teaching of the history of the rituals involved would be a place to start, but many people get easily bored with history. For adults and older children receiving the sacrament of Baptism and for Confirmation careful attention should be paid to encouraging the spiritual aspects. Several mini-retreats should occur during the preparation period to allow the candidates to sense the growing change in their relationship with God and the community.

For the Mass, the sharing of the Eucharistic Meal a little bit of drama could be effective. The music should be appropriate to the community who generally attend the service and if the congregation is meant to sing the music should be easy to sing. Even the architecture and interior design of the church building play a role in the perception of the sacred. In Western culture a church building that looks like an auditorium would not be conducive to experiencing sacred realities. The interior needs to reflect a sense of intimacy in order to draw the community closer to their Lord.

GRADE 4 (Perceptive connections between historical and contemporary examples.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Wednesday, 4 July 2012, 10:12 AM)

Picture of Tim Talbott
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 1
by Tim Talbott - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:22 PM

Although the understanding of the reality (at least the literal practice) would have been different, I believe the mystery and effect would have been equally present even then. Of course, just as with our understanding of the development of the papacy, the Sacraments went through development since their inception. Especially due to this reason, there was probably an even more perceptible sense of mystery.

As I mentioned previously, and just as the text states, Christianity was introduced on the backs and heels of the Greek and Roman cultures which came before them. It should not come as a surprise to us but should be viewed as the natural progression. Prior to Jesus’s coming, people were searching for God. God was revealed to humanity at last when Jesus came into the world. The mystical sense of mystery that was present in the pagan religions would inevitably have been experienced in early Christianity as well.

Regarding sharing a meal, many people are unaware of the significance that this had in the Jewish culture (and still has to include many other cultures). In our hindsight (or short-sightedness) as modern day Catholics/Christians, I know many who are not aware of the importance. The Last Supper, serving as the basis and institution of the Eucharist, is a fine example of just this. It can be observed that this is mentioned often times in scripture. The feeding of the five thousand, Jesus cooking the fish on the shore while speaking to them, the Last Supper are just a few examples. This continued on with the early Eucharistic celebrations. The same could be said of both baptism and laying on of hands. Where the theology might have been less developed, the mystery might have been even more intense.

I’m uncertain if this fits into this category, but my Catholic grammar school held a Seder meal every year. This was very intriguing to me and actually served as an impactful experience of a meal together. It was separate but related to our Eucharistic celebration, ultimately serving as the basis for it, and turned out to be a spiritual experience for us. After this, whenever I attended the Sacrament of Eucharist I was reminded of this alternate experience.

I think that pastoral ministers and liturgy planners need to provide more education to the laity as to the theology involved in the Sacraments. I am truly convinced that it is a lack of understanding which leads to the lack of appreciation of the profoundness present in Catholic ritual. Not all attempts, but many, seem to attempt bring God down to my level rather than elevate me. I believe that I must attempt to wrap my head around the truth and not just try to make it small enough to fit into my head. This is aptly put on page 31: “…incumbent on the educated Christian leaders to explain the meaning of these ‘awe-inspiring liturgies,’…”

GRADE 3 (Good in generalities, but lacking in particulars, e.g., the spiritual reality experience during the sharing of eucharistic meals.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Thursday, 12 July 2012, 11:54 PM)

Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 1
by Marvin Fitchett - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:28 PM

The outer symbolism and the inner spiritual realities experienced by early Christian converts through their religious practices were observed through the reoccurring events they performed. The reoccurring events were the hearing the preached word, baptism, laying on of hands, and participating in the Lord’s Supper.

The outer symbolism of hearing the preached word was transmitted via speech about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Hence, Jesus Christ’s life and his teachings are the initial symbols of the early Christian converts. Additional symbolic concepts extracted from the preached word and what Jesus Christ taught was repent for the Kingdom of God (Heaven) is at hand, and being born again into the Kingdom of God.

The effect of hearing the preached word on the early converts’ inner person was stirred toward the process of transforming their deadened spirit into a re-generated spirit. The early converts recognized the condition of their lives and the contrasting symbolism of a renewed spirit and the life they could obtain through Jesus Christ. The early converts believed the preached word, thus changing their inner reality.

The outer mystery of baptism for the early converts was a recreation of the sacrament John the Baptist instituted. The act of submerging and lifting a convert out of the water was a visual symbol attributed to Christians.

The inner reality of baptism signifies early convert submergence under water was dying to their old way of thinking/old life. When the convert was raised from the water, this suggests the convert's elevation into the new life/way of thinking.

The symbolic mystery that lies in lying on of hands has a visual and/or physical component. The character of both the visual and physical components is classified as a ritualistic event. Their origin is depicted in the Jewish heritage leading to the early converts. The lying on of hands is a demonstration of transference and a sealing action.

The inner reality of lying on of hands is transferring or bestowing God’s spiritual blessing upon or to the early convert. This is performed when God’s representative touches the convert, usually accompanied by a prayer. The spiritual blessing may have a notable or obscure effect on the early convert.

The mystery of the Lord’s Supper is an exclusive ritual ascribe to the early converts (apostles). It was a ritual that Jesus Christ instituted and the symbolism found in it were fellowship, closeness, and sharing. From this time of fellowship, closeness, and sharing the concept of community was developed.

The inner reality of the Lord’s Supper is integral to the original Lord’s Supper. Jesus introduces the concept that the wine would represent his shed blood, and the bread would represent his broken body. As often as the early converts repeated the ritual of the Lord’s Supper, they would remember Jesus Christ. They remembered the spiritual significant of the broke bread-Jesus’ assaulted body-all that he endured in his body, and the wine- Jesus’ shed blood was the sacrifice to cover their sin and the price for them to enter this spiritual reality. The inner reality of this ritual was the entrance of covenant with Jesus Christ.

In summary the outer symbolism of each sacrament, introduced the early converts to a hidden knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Christian way. The hidden knowledge was the entrance into the inner realities or spiritual dimensions of Jesus Christ.

Therefore pastors and liturgy planners must ensure their messages, homilies, teachings, and curriculum are presented with a sacred perspective of the significant of the sacramental practices. This sacred perspective must enlighten the new converts of the outer and inner importance of the rituals thus properly preparing them to experience the sacredness of the sacramental practices.

GRADE 4 (Thoughtful and thorough. Shows progress in learning.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Sunday, 15 July 2012, 08:01 PM)