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  • Sarah Beth Dippel


The Catholic Church has seven sacraments. For a sacrament to have validity, there must be the correct form and matter. (I'm going to keep things simple for those who are already saying, what is she talking about?!)

Form and matter are the how and what of the sacraments. Form refers to the words that are spoken in prayer of the sacrament. Matter includes tangible objects or perceptible actions performed.

For the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the formula is the prayer of Consecration offered by a priest over the matter, which is unleavened bread and grape wine. (I love quizzing second graders about to receive the sacrament for the first time. Can I consecrate the Body of Christ? nooooo. Can we use goldfish and Coke? noooo.)

Why does it matter if the priest doesn't say the whole prayer or if the bread isn't wheat? Well, there are lots of reasons actually, but for our purposes, no one person has the authority to change the form and matter of a sacrament. Christ instituted the sacraments, and he established them in a way that we, as human beings, can come in contact with Him. The Body of Christ is natural to see this in; we consume Him in the appearance of bread and wine. We are physical beings with a spiritual soul. In the sacraments, God engages both our body and soul.

The physical aspect of each of the sacraments helps us to see our faith in a tangible way. It's the reason when we walk into a church; there is a bowl of holy water there to remind us of our baptism. We need the physical to help us see the invisible, the spiritual. #livinglent2

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