Understanding sacraments with poetry – July 8
Using poetry can help us grasp the invisible treasures of the Sacraments. Poetry often expresses in words things we cannot see – love, happiness, care and friendship. Poetic expressions to associate these things can help us to better understand them and visualize them. For example, think of a “teacup” of friendship or an “ocean” of happiness. Such poetic terms present the invisible and the abstract in a new light.
Poetry helps us to appreciate the Sacraments that give us the wonderful, fantastic, invisible gifts of God’s grace—the very life and joy of God, which we can’t know through our senses—taste, touch, sight, sound, smell. But because we are physical beings with bodies, we need visible, tangible things to help us grasp the gift of God’s grace, to remind us that God is truly present to us. Concrete things help us to know Jesus is still with us. In the Sacraments, we can taste, touch, see, hear and smell things that make tangible the presence of Jesus.
Just as poetry uses words that are signs and symbols with which our senses can relate and understand, Jesus uses down- to-earth, concrete and familiar things like bread, water, oil and touch, to bring to us the reality of his presence. In the Sacraments that Jesus gave us, we experience God’s love, friendship, healing, forgiveness, blessing, anointing and saving grace. The very tangible signs and symbols of the Sacraments make it possible for us to better understand and experience the wonder of God
Catechists and teachers can use the following procedure to help their students use their imaginations and poetic expressions to understand better the invisible power of the Sacraments. In their religion classes, they learn about Sacraments, seven gifts Jesus gives that bring grace. Grace is God’s life, God’s presence in us. We cannot see the treasures of the Sacraments, so Jesus uses visible, concrete signs and symbols. The Church uses these concrete signs and symbols in beautiful liturgies with deep meanings.
Let’s think about the symbols that come to mind with each Sacrament.
*Water is a symbol of Baptism..
*Bread and wine are symbols of Eucharist.
*The Sign of the Cross is a symbol of Penance and Reconciliation.
* A small flame (tongue of fire) is a symbol of Confirmation.
*The forehead being anointed with oil is a symbol of the Anointing of the Sick.
* Two interlocking rings symbolise the Sacrament of Matrimony.
* A stole is a symbol of Holy Orders.
Now that we understand the symbols of the Sacraments, what can we do to remember what we learned? We can use poetry with these symbols of the Sacraments to help us better remember God’s grace and what we celebrate in each Sacrament. Now unlike Mathematics for example, in which there are exact measurements and answers, poetry and art involve nothing exact, nothing to be right or wrong. Rather we simply express our thoughts and feelings, which are very important. One way we can be creative is with words, like those who had been inspired by God in writing Scripture. The Bible, especially the Psalms includes poems and prayers.
Catechists and teachers should encourage their students to write their own prayers and poems which could be used in the classroom, sharing their artistic skills and talent, their gifts from God.
Here are two examples:
ARiverofHope Hidden Wings
ARiverofHelpfulness Invisible Heavens
ARiverofGraceand Life Tongues of Fire
A Fountain of Future Circles of Light
A Font of Forever A Light on My Head
A Font of Belonging At Home in My Heart
Bright New Life Confirmed Into Light
(Excerpts from Catechist magazine article, January 2012 issue by Jeanne Heiberg)
Louise Zamora, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office