The lady on the bus
Since watching Touch, my boyfriend has had a habit of reading number plates and, now that he’s Catholic, relating them to the faith. One day he was riding a bus when he noticed “MAS” on a car, and chuckled to himself, seeing it as a reminder to go to Mass. His seatmate asked what he was chuckling about, and after he explained, a little old lady piped up.
“Are you Catholic?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“This is for you,” she smiled, handing him a laminated cruciform prayer card.
The Orthodox in the Holy Land
While I was on a Lenten pilgrimage in the Holy Land early this year, my parish group stayed at the Saint Gabriel Hotel in Bethlehem. It was my childhood dream to visit the lands where Jesus walked, but now that I was there, I was constantly troubled by a deep regret from the past; I couldn’t put it out of my head, even though it was really stupid and futile.
At breakfast, I was wearing my Annunciation leggings from a hipster store in Melbourne. An Eastern Orthodox priest (probably Serbian) came up and gave me two holy cards: one featured an icon of Christ, and the other, Mary. He couldn’t speak English, but through those holy images, he communicated a world of meaning to me: though things might seem bleak and disordered, Our Lord and Our Lady are with us always, and so are our brothers in Christ, including our separated brethren. It was a warm dose of heavenly joy amidst grotty modern-day Bethlehem.
Some days later, at Jacob’s Well, after venerating all the icons in the Orthodox church, I followed my tour group to the bus. I waved goodbye to the portly Arab gentleman manning the book store, and he beckoned me back.
“This is for you,” he said, handing me a jewelled Jerusalem cross, set with red and white stones.
“Shukran!” I gasped, giving him a bear hug, and sprinted up the courtyard stairs to my waiting group. I didn’t ask his name, but I wear that cross each day, and pray for him and his people.
Sacramentals: Binding us to Christ and one another
Jesus’ existence was a scandal: how could the transcendent, omnipotent God lower himself to become man, bound by the limits of earthly existence? Yes, the Incarnation is a mystery of love, and central to our faith. We are enfleshed souls, not Gnostics who spurn the body for the spirit; Christ has redeemed our flesh, and God touches us through our senses. That is why Catholics, the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox have always expressed our faith through physical objects. God created the world good, and everything can be sanctified and become a means of growing closer to Him.
As secular gifts are tokens of love and reminders of those who love us, so are sacramentals tokens of the heavenly love which binds those who live in Christ. What are some sacramentals which are important to you? And can you find people in your life who may appreciate a spiritual boost through a physical reminder of God’s grace?