Sacraments give us God’s life, call for response

By Brian Pizzalato


I would like to look at some profound truths that relate to all of the sacraments.


The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” draws our attention to what is known as the “sacramental economy.” First, we must note that the catechism is not referring to money when it talks about economy.


What then does “economy” refer to? “The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). ‘Theology’ refers to the mystery of God’s inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and ‘economy’ to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life” (CCC 236).


So when the terminology of sacramental economy is used, it is referring to how God reveals himself and communicates his life to human persons by means of the sacraments, which are the “works of God.” When we talk about the sacraments and the sacramental economy, we are talking about the history and accomplishment of our salvation and sanctification.


What is God’s plan for the accomplishment of our salvation? God’s plan for our salvation is, of course, very Trinitarian.


Liturgy and the sacraments are first and foremost works of the Holy Trinity.


God the Father is the one with the plan, which is nothing less then our participation in divine, Trinitarian, life both now and in eternity.


God the Son is the one who makes the Father’s plan effective through the Incarnation and his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.


God the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son and is sent upon the church at Pentecost, is the one who effects the plan in our lives.


God the Father sends the Son. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is poured out on the church Christ established. And it is the church that is the dispenser of the mysteries of salvation.


The church then makes the Trinitarian life – which the Father planned to give us, the Son died to give us and the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church to give us – abundantly available in the liturgy and the sacraments.


It is through the sacraments that the salvation wrought by the Paschal Mystery of Christ is made accessible to us here and now. We, too, can have a real share in Christ’s life, work and love. It is first and foremost through the sacraments that we do so.


We must always keep in mind that the Father, not human persons, is the source and goal of the liturgy. Liturgy is Christ’s work, not humanity’s. The Holy Spirit, not man and woman, is the “artisan of ‘God’s masterpieces,’ the sacraments of the new covenant” (CCC 1091). God is the author of the sacraments and liturgy. They are not humanly instituted rituals.


This being the case should change the way we respond to these mysteries, and indeed understand that this demands nothing less than a response of faith. What comes to us from the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit to the Church in the sacraments is meant to elicit in us a response to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The sacramental economy includes such a response, what St. Paul calls “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26).


We are given nothing less than Trinitarian life in the sacraments. As participants in the church Christ established through the power of the Holy Spirit, with the authority given to him by the Father, we are called to give a very Trinitarian response of faith. “…The Church, united with her Lord and ‘in the Holy Spirit,’ blesses the Father ‘for his inexpressible gift’ in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving” (CCC 1083).


In our lives, we are to give the response of adoration. “Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator…homage of the spirit to the ‘King of Glory,’ respectful silence in the presence of the ‘ever greater’ God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications” (CCC 2628). The response of faith, in adoration, must, by necessity, include a humble disposition because “…humility is the foundation of prayer” (CCC 2559).


In our lives we are also to give the response of praise. “Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds [praises] God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God before seeing him in glory” (CCC 2639).


Further, in our response of faith we are to give the response of thanksgiving. St. Paul tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As the Psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose love endures forever! Let that be the prayer of the Lord’s redeemed, those redeemed from the hand of the foe…” (Psalm 107:1-2).


The response of faith must also include, living a life “…worthy of the calling you have received…” (Ephesians 4:1). Our daily life must be lived out worthy of the Trinitarian life we receive in the sacraments, a life of faith, hope and love. Let’s us not deceive ourselves like those in Isaiah’s day, being ones “…who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!” (5:20).


Prior to our next reception of the sacrament of sacraments, the Eucharist, “a person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28).


We must always remember to “be on your guard, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).


Printed with permission from the Northern Cross, Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.


Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate for the Diocese of Duluth. He is also a faculty member of the Theology and Philosophy departments of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England. He writes a monthly catechetical article for The Northern Cross, of the Diocese of Duluth, and is a contributing author to the Association for Catechumenal Ministry's R.C.I.A. Participants Book. Brian is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute and is also in the process of writing the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition program at the Maryvale Institute.


Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.