Archive for November 2nd, 2009

What are the Christian “sacraments”? The meaning varies from Catholic to Orthodox and Protestant theologies, but, put simply, they are the indwelling sacred mysteries of being.

Western Catholic tradition delineates seven: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Matrimony, Ordination, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick. For Protestants, there are generally fewer, as many of the customary seven are simply considered rites. For each, there is a unique ritual through which space and time is surcharged with special significance in preparing for a meeting with the Divine.

Eastern Christian (or Orthodox) tradition avoids stipulating a number of sacraments but, instead, sees Divine presence in many moments throughout life, viewing the ennumeration of seven as a convenient historical accommodation .

In the West, especially, the Mysteries have become socio-sacraments, or social rites of passage, and occasions for public celebration. This reflects the ongoing externalization of what are, in  essence,  special encounters in real-time with the “Mysterium Tremendum”. What we need is a renewal of the esoteric or mystical character of the sacraments that embraces the heart of each sacramental charism, the state of post-modern consciousness and consciousness research, and the revelations of contemporary science.

In the coming days, I will publish to this blog a more expansive set of essays on the sacraments viewed with a mystic’s eye.

For now, I offer a brief meditation on the first of the usual seven:


All life began in the seas of a younger Earth. The seas dominated the planet proportionate to landmass, and run as much through our veins as down our rivers and into the world’s oceans.

Water figures prominently in all world religious traditions, signifying life itself, ritual purification, and initiatic cleansing. Looked at more deeply and archetypally, water is the source, the root of all mystery, the concealed dimensions of Mind, and the collective unconscious. By virtue of the energy of intention, the blessing by water after birth transmits a spiritual quickening, and potentiates the first great opening to Spirit.

Water, sanctified by energy, excited and projected through the intent to bless, conditions matter for the quickening of consciousness. In Christian ritual, the newborn ( or late initiate in adult Baptism) is named, and the name is sealed within a covenant with the Beloved. As in the first moments of the Universe, at 10-43 seconds, the universe, as we know it, began its evolution. Light emanated from the first singularity into an infinite and ineffable sea of darkness. Particles congealed according to an implicate order, or field, to form stars and galaxies, as the force of gravity and cooling joined to create systems.

All was fire. As Earth was formed later, and the planet cooled, the seas were formed, and rudimentary life began as offspring of fire and water.

Over millenia, life also developed along the force lines laid down by an invisible system of inter-dependent fields, and culminated in matter becoming aware of its own Being. So, the “looking-glass” universe was born, and into the mystery of the pattern on which all rests , moves, becomes organized, and evolves, so too was consciousness congealing in the form of concepts of mystery.

All people seek the Divine in diverse forms, guided in this core passion by an essential spark of recognition that dwells in the deepest recesses of ontological memory. As consciousness evolved, so, too, our notion of the sacred evolved from pantheistic to polytheistic and then monotheistic. In the structure of consciousness, an archetypal pattern at the Center became available to mind and in language: “Anointed Ones.” These are persons who embody Sacred consciousness in human form. The Anointed ( the Christ) is the exemplar of the full maturation and complexification of consciousness that mirrors the Mind of the Beloved as human.

In Baptism, water blessed with the intention to enliven consciousness is energized and poured over the head, or entire body, of the seeker. In that sacred moment, in the deepest and most mysterious heart of the one being named, at a moment of alchemical identity, a pre-figured transfiguration is set in motion. “Ein Sof, אין סוף”  the “Endless Infinite” of the Kabbalah, the Heart of the Cosmos, arouses the first of the seven sefirot (energy emanations) of the Kabbalistic Tree Of Life, Malchut, or מלכות.

We then live out our lives, hopefully seeking, both consciously and unconsciously, the paths  that lead us to the next leap in our consciousness of the Divine toward Union with the Beloved.

tree-of-life-riversJoachim PATENIER The Baptism of Christ (1515) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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