At its core Christian theology is an incarnational theology. The Christian faith is derived from the unique and cosmic contribution that Christ brings the human community in expressing the fullness of human dignity. This theological basis flows from the concept that Jesus expresses the divine nature “within the flesh” (incarnate). In so doing Jesus Christ reveals the fulfillment of humanity. Borrowing from a famous dictum by St. Athanasius, “God became human so that humans might become God.”
Sacraments are means or signs of grace that exist within our earthly existence. Traditionally within the Catholic Church sacraments are identified as specific institutionalized rituals and practices that emanate God’s grace to the people. However in a broader sense we also realize through Christ that humanity becomes a sacrament or a vehicle for God’s grace in our world. As Leonardo Boff tells us:
Each person is actually a brother and sister to Jesus and in some way participates and deepens Christ’s participation in each human being. He, as glorified and present in each being and in each person, is acting and fermenting the goodness, humanity, brotherhood, communion, and love in all human being.
… Without the sacrament of brother and sister no one can be saved.[i]
Within this broader definition of sacramental theology the human experience in its totality are moments of grace. Within these grace filled moments of our humanity the divine becomes immanent and the human experiences transcendence. Latino/a spirituality has a tradition of emphasizing this point culturally within its practice of popular theology. Popular theology is generally defined as the faith that is expressed and ritualized by the people within their daily lives or what is sometimes called lo cotidiano or “the daily.” Latino/a theology has embraced popular Catholicism as a locus theologicus, or a central point for doing theology. This holistic and relevant way of doing sacramental theology will be gift to both the church and society as we embrace a global transition that is caught between two very different cosmological worldviews.
We are experiencing a fragmented secular society. As I will explain in another post this social reality exist for many reasons but primarily we are understanding the fundamental dynamics of our cosmic interaction to be extremely different from our former cosmological model. One of the major shifts that we must contend with is an idea that the universe as a whole is deeply interconnected and very relational. This will challenge the deeply individual cultural paradigm that has prevailed in western society. The Latino/a gift will be to offer our changing world a sacramental model that will not resist this new cosmology but will help find an interconnected spiritual and social paradigm from which we can respond to this reality and heal the fragmented social wounds that culturally challenge us.
There are many elements that Latino/a sacramental theology will offer and in other posts I will unpack some of the following major elements such as:
- Interconnected relationships/global family model
- Meaningful suffering in the midst of transitions
In the meantime I will conclude by reiterating that a sacramental theology is very much appropriate for helping us re-envision our incarnational Christian faith during these times of transition. Sacramental theology will remind us how interconnected social moments within our human community cannot be adequately expressed within isolated compartmentalized religious practices. These moments of grace must be seen and witnessed by the community who shares and celebrates a universal reality in the experience of the individual.
To suggest that the particular mediates the universal is to suggest that there is no such thing as an isolated, individual entity that is not intrinsically related to others: every human person is a concrete, particular, and unique mediation of the universal. In other words, every “individual” is a particular, unique mediation of universal humanity, universal creation, and, in the last analysis, a unique mediation of the Absolute.[ii]
[i] Leonardo Boff, Jesus Christ Liberator: A Critical Christology for our Time, (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 1995) pg. 218-219
[ii] Roberto Goizueta, Caminemos Con Jesus: Towards a Hispanic/Latino Theology of Accompaniment, (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 1995) pg. 49-50