Gandalfs staff

• the Palantiri [seeing Stones]

• the Athelas [plant with healing power]

• the Elvish cloaks

• Sam's small Galadriel garden-box.

This is also true of satanic curses being placed on objects or people. Satan always mocks and perverts some truth or good about God or man. Satan wishes that all matter [especially man as matter and spirit] be pulled to his own perversion.

There is a profound mystery at the heart of Christendom of the Fall of Man and the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. What God created was 'good' and through original sin has become twisted and corrupted, but not entirely corrupted, so that all of his creation, even the earth itself yearns for salvation, the return of the Creator and union with the Creator.

St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, two of the greatest scholars in the Catholic Church, wrote much on these topics, of the Natural and Supernatural, of the Fall from Grace and Restoration. [see First and Last Things].

As has already been mentioned, the Catholic Church celebrates what it calls Sacraments which is derived from the Latin:

sacramentum - meaning visible form of invisible grace.

And where did this Latin term sacramentum come from? In the scriptures St Paul uses the Greek word mysterion when referring to the visible reality of the hidden mystery of God revealed to us in Jesus. When this term was translated into Latin it rendered two words: mysterium and sacramentum.

This is where the sacramentum part of the Church comes from. Christ took on our flesh, he became the visible form of All Grace and Salvation to redeem us in our matter and spirit, and the Church [the Body of Christ] perpetuates this as a visible sign in the world of God's Love.

And the Seven Sacraments within the Church are the specific visible signs of God's presence: they are the visible symbols of the conference of His Invisible Grace, but they are specifically caught up with the mystery of created matter.

Why is this?

The Church, very much evolved from the Jewish tradition, uses created things to signify God's presence; this sacramental understanding has rightly come through from Judaism and into the early Church. Now this isn't just some lovely idea but comes from God himself who then fulfils this in the Incarnation, the Greatest Sacrament, in coming to his people; i.e. Jesus took on the form of human flesh, created matter, to redeem that very thing, Creation.

He used created matter [visible and real things] to become Salvation for the World.

This union of Nature and Grace is critical in the overall understanding of who we are and our relationship to God. If we misunderstand the relationship between body and soul, matter and spirit, we will fail to grasp the reality that the Word became Flesh. Jesus reconciles fallen humanity [matter and spirit, body and soul] by uniting it to his Divinity: Jesus is the God-man.

The human being, created matter & spirit, is not evil, or entirely corrupted. Our nature is fallen, yes, it is bent, but it is still good, because God has created it ... and he has also redeemed it: Christ redeems every part of us: so that as we are transformed through his grace throughout our lives [if we open ourselves to that] our whole being is being redeemed -including our bodies.

This theology [understanding of revelation] is extremely important; it is very holistic and is the Truth. It is the way God has always worked. God's Grace always works through and beyond the natural, never against it.

Grace elevates not divides the natural.

God uses natural things to show his presence e.g. in the Old Testament:

• Water being parted by Moses at Red Sea

• Manna in the desert for Jewish people

• the Standard in the desert with snake on it for Moses.

• the Gentle Breeze in the Bush.

In the New Testament:

• the person of Jesus in true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity come on earth.

The Church has been born from this, a physical [from created matter] and mystical [spiritual] institution and sign of Christ in the world. And from the Church comes the Seven Sacraments, which are the great channels of God's Grace through his Church to his people. They are,

• Eucharist - the Sacrifice of Calvary & Jesus present under the appearance of Bread and Wine.

• Baptism - the removal of original sin and the influx of God's Grace through the sign of Water.

• Marriage - Christ present in the union & sign of a Married Couple which signs and points to the Trinity.

• Holy Orders - special sign of Christ's presence in a consecrated Person or Priest.

• Confirmation - anointing with Holy Oil to signify a person's adult decision to follow Jesus.

• Confession or Reconciliation - Christ present in the confession of sins to a Priest and the sign of absolution of sins.

• Anointing of the Sick - Christ present when a Priest anoints a sick person with Holy Oil.

In all of these Sacraments, Christ is present in many ways and often simultaneously. Through the Priest, the person receiving, and through the sign of what is taking place in the invisible world. This is not superstitious, like using a magic potion, but is a visible sign of Christ's presence and action of Grace.

The key difference between the Seven Sacraments and other sacramentals (holy objects, creation etc...) is that sacramentals signify that grace that is available by them but do not actually effect it. Whereas Sacraments actually effect and confer the Grace available through them when celebrated correctly; according to the way that the Church has deemed them to be.

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