History And Theology Of Sacred Actions, Sacraments, And Ordinances

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The Significance Of Sacred Actions

Christian worship finds its meaning in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events take on significance for worshipers today through not only the proclamation of the gospel of Christ, but also through the sacred actions of worship. Called sacraments in some traditions and ordinances in others, these actions bear witness to the Lord of the church and testify to the world the Good News of Jesus Christ. The following entries outline some varied perspectives according to which worshipers in every tradition can examine their practice of the sacred actions of worship. They challenge worshipers to realize the importance of active participation in worship, to understand the power of ritual action in shaping faith and witnessing to the world, and to claim their place in the long line of Christians throughout history who have practiced the sacred actions of worship. Rituals are part of every human culture. Judaism was no exception. Jesus chose the setting of a Jewish ritual meal to express explicitly the meaning of his impending death as a sacrifice for the "life of the world" (John 6:51). After his resurrection, his followers took over the ritual structure of that meal together with the new meaning with which Christ had filled it: Christ's sacrifice once and for all put an end to the need for bloody animal sacrifice (e. g. , Hebrews 9). As Christianity ceased to be a persecuted Jewish sect and moved into the center of the late Roman culture, Christian liturgy and ritual incorporated elements of Roman public ceremony. The meaning Christians attached to these ritual actions was, however, purely Christian: In his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ fulfilled God's hidden yet revealed (mysterious) plan for the salvation of the world. In Christian ritual worship, members of Christ's body participate in the life of Christ.

  1. An Introduction To Ritual In Worship
  2. Historical Origins And Development Of Ritual In Worship
  3. Theology Of Ritual In Jewish And Early Christian Worship
  4. Worship As A Performative Act
  5. Recovering Symbolism In Worship

The History Of Sacraments, Ordinances, And Sacred Actions

Christian history can be divided into two main epochs: premodern and modern. In premodern culture, ritual, symbol and metaphor were employed to express realities that could not be fully expressed in words. For premodern cultures, symbols were not merely notions; symbols were powerful mediators of divine activity. Patristic Christian writers used words to discuss Christian sacred actions but they did so in a multilayered, metaphorical, evocative manner, frequently employing the symbolic language of Scripture. Patristic influence continued until the rise of university, scholastic theology in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Western Europe. Because Eastern Orthodox churches did not experience this scholasticism, Orthodox practices often more directly reflect the symbolic and metaphoric patristic usage. Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, scholastic theologians applied Aristotelian logic to theology and systematized all aspects of the church's life: canon law, doctrinal theology, pastoral care, and worship practice. In the sixteenth century, both Protestants and Catholics defended their views of sacramental worship by means of logical arguments. Anti-sacramental Protestants (Zwinglians, Anabaptists) argued with sacramental Protestants (Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans) using the same logic derived from scholastic methods. Words replaced symbolic rituals as the dominant mode of theological expression. The modern political, economic, philosophical, scientific, and technological culture of the West represents a further development of the logical and systematizing thrust of scholastic theology. The rational order of modern culture leaves little room for divine reality mediated through symbolic rituals. In reaction, several Christian renewal movements emphasize experience: inward, nonsacramental Pietism (seventeenth to eighteenth centuries); Wesleyan Holiness, Pentecostal and charismatic renewals (eighteenth to twentieth centuries); and Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Calvinist sacramental and liturgical renewal (nineteenth to twentieth centuries). In this section, the history of sacred actions is reviewed.

  1. The Meaning Of Sacred Action
  2. Sacred Actions In The Early Church
  3. Sacred Actions In The Medieval And Reformation Eras
  4. Sacred Actions In Modern Catholicism
  5. Sacred Actions In The Eastern Churches
  6. A Comparison Of Eastern And Western Practice Of The Seven Sacraments
  7. Sacred Actions In The Reformation Churches
  8. Sacred Actions In The Protestant Churches After The Reformation
  9. Sacred Actions In The Protestant Churches Today