Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Sacramental World

Names are important.  Many instances in the Old and New Testaments, God seems to go out of his way to name or rename certain individuals. Abram becomes Abraham; Sarai becomes Sarah; Zachariah became the father of John; Saul becomes Paul.  Certainly this emphasis on names was shared by the culture -- Adam named the beasts and Jacob named his sons, and these names had real meaning. My own name is meaningful: my parents named me Alexander David, meaning "leader of men, beloved of God."

Whether names are primarily social constructs, or whether they hearken to something spiritually or metaphysically real, I can't really say.  But, though Shakespeare reminds us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, we should remember that we would not remember the smell if a rose went by another name.  Words have a rhythm and a timbre, and some words just mesh perfectly with they object they denote.

All that to say, I've struggled with the name of this blog.

It was originally "Confessions of a Protestant Medievalist" -- the latter being my personal self-description, based on my encounter with medieval (Catholic) theology and doctrines.  But it was so much of an "inside joke" that it won't convey the meaning of this blog to those not already conversant in those doctrines.

At times I considered switching it to "Heterodox Reflections" or something along those lines, indicating that my approach to certain problems and doctrines tend to shy away from the norm of my evangelical Protestant background.  But I find value in tradition, and I wanted to emphasize that I believe any shift away from my Protestant roots would arise in conformity to a deeper or earlier Christian tradition.

Thus, most recently, the name changed to "Orthodox Reflections." But I was not contented.  For one, the title was so staid -- so boring -- that it didn't really describe anything significant about this blog.  It would discuss issues, and it would be grounded in Christian principles, but the name lacked any information to differentiate this blog from any other.

However, I think I finally found the name, a phrase to suit this blog's purpose. After a lot of theological reflection I've found that perhaps up to half of my theology is now rooted in Catholic understandings of God and the Church. I can't consider myself Catholic, when I still diverge so strongly from certain doctrines of theirs, but I am increasingly influenced by Catholic ideas.

Chief among these is the notion of "sacrament" -- of physical objects or deeds being not only signs but also vessels of God's grace. The Roman Catholic Church officially recognizes seven such sacraments  -- baptism, confirmation, communion, confession, last rites, ordination, and marriage.  However the doctrine of sacraments is far broader than that.  While these seven rites carry unique importance in Catholic tradition and Christian practice, they are by no means exclusive.  The world itself is a Sacrament.  It was not necessary that God create, and therefore Creation itself was a vessel of His grace bestowed upon the created for His glorification.

We live in A Sacramental World.  And now my blog has a name.

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