I just ran across these thoughts by Reverend Jesse Brett over at my favorite electronic library. Oftentimes on Wednesdays I like to feature a poem. But after reading these few paragraphs on the Sacraments, I realized that I should share them with you.
Brett is a bit of a mystery too, though I found out that he was the chaplain at All Saints Hospital in Eastbourne in the U.K. (in the 1920’s), I haven’t been able to uncover anymore information about him. How was he to know that almost 100 years after he wrote his book, I could share it with you via the interwebs?
Reflection time. I remember when I was a Candidate in the RCIA class at my parish. Even though I was in the process of being brought into the Church, I also knew that I still had many, many, questions about the saints, the Church, the Sacraments, etc. etc.
I was embarking on what I have discovered will be a lifetime of study and practice. Frankly, I am happily continuing to peel the onion of the Faith, as I diligently work at conforming myself to the heart, mind, and soul, of Christ. Because as Blessed John Henry Newman said, and I’ll paraphrase him gladly,
Catholicism is deep. You can’t take it up in a tea cup.
Reading the following words of Fr. Brett won’t answer all of my questions about the Sacraments, or yours. But they ring as true as a clarion call about the importance, nay, the absolute necessity, of the Sacraments in the spiritual life of the followers of Jesus Christ.
In this regard, the following thoughts are pure “signal” without any interference or “noise.” Tune in.
From The Hidden Sanctuary: Devotional Studies
Sanctifying grace is the Divine gift to the soul through the Sacraments; and upon that as a foundation is built the superstructure of the spiritual life and, we may add, of true mystical life. Catholics do not need to be taught this. They know the mystery of the Sacraments through the very clearness of their love. Their mystical knowledge, whatever it may be, is an integral part of their sacramental experience.But for the sake of others be it said: there is no true Christian mysticism that ignores the Sacraments; while a truly lived sacramental life must always be open to mystical experience. The Catholic can never define a line of demarcation between the sacramental and the mystical. There should be a will to recognize, and a readiness to receive, the mystical. If there has been, and is, a tendency to neglect the mystical in the natural and proper protest against much that is false or pernicious in popular mystical teaching, we are also in some danger of going too far.
There is a true mysticism which the Catholic Church knows, approves and protects. It is not fantastic, but sober and balanced, because the Saints, in whom it has been most remarkable, have been so trained and disciplined that their very teaching concerning it has been too severe for such as are weakly imaginative. It is the science of the spiritual life as tested by heroic souls. It is the science of Divine love in its strength and beauty.
In the New Testament Scriptures sacramental and mystical teaching are intimately related. The apostles who are foremost in proclaiming sacramental truth, S. John and S. Paul, are themselves mystics of the highest order. The Old Testament writers also, whose teaching and experience were most clear and definite, were likewise mystics. Catholic mysticism is no new discovery, but rather the continuation of that which runs through Holy Scripture from its beginning to its end. It is the experience of souls in their relation to God, conveyed in language which they understand who pursue the same spiritual way, inspired by the same compelling love.
It is all-important, therefore, that we should know ourselves and realize our advantages and blessings in the way of the Sacraments. It is our sure ground of safety. It makes all, after experience, the more reasonable. If the soul is strong in sacramental grace, and burning with love to our Lord, Who is known in His sacramental presence, there is a development of interior life; and it will in some ways be advanced on the mystical side. What is that reality of life and power which we feel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament but a Divine certainty apprehended by a developed mystical sense? This is an aspect of the sacramental life which we should not forget, though we must be careful not to exaggerate it.
In Holy Baptism we were born again, and the new life was none other than that in which we are to know God, enjoy Him, attain to high union with Him. In Confirmation we received the fulness of spiritual gifts, and were made strong for spiritual endeavour. In Penance we are renewed in cleanness of heart, the state essential to the vision of God. In Holy Communion we are nourished by the Heavenly Food, the Divine Sustenance given continually to souls in the wilderness way of this world. Reverent attention to the truth of this, and loving effort to realize the spiritual dignity, and richness, and power which are the immediate effect of the sacraments upon prepared souls, and the humble, yet joyous, recognition of all within ourselves, should lead to a profound sense of possibilities and responsibilities.
What is the purpose of all we have received if it be not that we should enter into simply loving, and actively living, experience of God? And that which follows will be mystical knowledge of God.