“An outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace” – St Augustine’s definition of sacrament. Sacraments are the acts within the church that seek to be visible symbols of the grace that God is at work within us. In my faith tradition, we recognize two sacraments – those of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Our Catholic and Orthodox friends recognize seven – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession/Penance, Marriage, Ordination, and Anointing of the Sick. Nouwen has been focusing on the sacraments the last several days – starting with the sacramental experience that we have “in the created order.” Nouwen says, “All that is is sacred because all that is speaks of God’s redeeming love. Seas and winds, mountains and trees, sun, moon, and stars, and all the animals and people have become sacred windows offering us glimpses of God.” He continued in the days following with this theme of how we experience God’s grace and love all around us and then yesterday and today moved into the specifics of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.
I was hiking today when I saw this leaf. It was obviously hanging from a spider’s thread, but no matter how closely I looked I could not see the thread from the spider, yet there it hung. It blew in the breeze, twisted around, and stayed there. It reminded me of the grace that God gives to us through the sacraments – we cannot always see the grace or the love, but we feel it and we see the evidence of it in our lives and in the lives of others.
So, today as I saw this leaf, I gave thanks for the outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible grace.