Growing up in an evangelical world, the word sacrament was rarely used, and if so, with a negative connotation. It was not until the past three years, attending our neighborhood Episcopal parish and researching my book Sex, Lies & Religion that the enormous implications of this word came to light.
I began to realize the essence of the word sacrament is a visible sign of an inward grace. Sacraments aren’t merely religious rituals as I was brought up to think. Alexander Schmemann in his extraordinary book For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy says, “They inject sanctity into the plan of man’s humanity and they penetrate the soul and body…”
The Sacraments make Christ’s creation, incarnation, passion and resurrection a living reality in our lives. In the Sacraments, Schmemann says, God’s love is “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Like the Eucharistic feast called Holy Communion that many Christians celebrate regularly, sexual communion contains amazing parallels and is also a powerful and sacramental celebration of love, both human and divine. God celebrates the mystery of intimate love, and one of the best ways to commune with Him is to be a part of a loving, committed, mutually giving and receiving sexual relationship.
Throughout history, religion has treated human sexuality with a mixture of mystery and control. But selfless and dynamic lovemaking—particularly in the context of marriage—is not only a richly satisfying experience, but also one of the sacramental ways of encountering the mystery we call God (1 John 4:16). The Radio Bible Class teaches that, “Being captured by our lover will give us a taste of being caught up in Christ’s love in a way that we feel deeply enjoyed without shame. In essence, sexual communion within marriage should draw us to deeper worship of God who initiated sexuality [both] for His glory [as well as] our delight.”
In light of the previous words, it becomes clear why the Orthodox and Catholic Churches recognize marriage as a Sacrament. Could it be that the sexual relationship enjoyed in a marriage relationship provides a bridge from the human to the divine? A way to see, touch and yes, love a holy God.
What does Sacrament mean to you?