Kimberly Hope Belcher states the thesis of her Efficacious Engagement: Sacramental Participation in the Trinitarian Mystery early on. She says that the premise of classic Catholic sacramental theology is that God is at work in them. All other definitional discussions are subordinate to this basic conviction.
Citing Thomas’ insistence that the sacraments are first of all signs, she points out that he explains the purpose of signs by reference to the economy of redemption:
“Although Thomas does eventually treat them as signs and causes, they are more basically the ritual component of salvation history, the evidence that God uses culture to bring human beings into God’s own life. . . . What is distinctive about a sacrament, for Thomas, is the fact that in it God’s work is embedded in human culture, so that in the sacraments, God speaks human language. Human beings are changed by signs, so the sacraments – as a general category – are best considered under the category of sign” (3).
Now, the next step is simply to recognize that “the life of the Trinity is the gift of grace given to human persons in the sacrament.” To be saved is to be joined to the Triune fellowship, and the sacraments are God’s acts by which he brings people into this fellowship. Thus, “Sacraments are effective in two ways: culturally effective in organizing human life and theologically effective in integrating human persons into the life of GOd. Cultural efficacy is not divine power, but human beings encounter the Trinity in human culture, through the incarnation and through sacrament” (4).
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm
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