Sacrament is traditionally explained by use of the definition given by St. Augustine of Hippo a Christian theologian who was instrumental in many of the formative ideas of the church through his writings in the 4th century. The definition is simple:
"Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace"
Although it was expressed in a Christian context, I feel this definition can explain why ceremony and rites of passage are so important in all human experiencing. They are the both the evidence of and the facilitators of evolution.
Last month my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary with a vow renewal and a party for our friends and family. As I prepared for the event, I wondered why I had decided to celebrate this way.
The details of the event had become overwhelming, food, flowers, travel, schedules, iced tea! I could not remember why we didn't just go to Cancun or something. I mean who cared that we were renewing our vows. Why did it matter to anyone except for us? Why did I feel the need to create such a public display of our private life?
I know from the inside of my marriage how much love we have put in to our partnership. It is extremely hard and beautiful work. We have changed and grown so much together over the years and I am grateful to have a partner who is just as committed to development as I am. We are not the same people or the same relationship we were ten years ago.
By inviting our community to witness and honor our development with us, it becomes a hundred times more real. We are a hundred times more accountable to it. People can see how renewed we are and confirm that yes, it is real.
The cool thing is when they see that we have grown, they also grow. They think about their relationships, their life ten years ago, the things they have to be grateful for, the challenges yet to come. In that way, our one sacrament shared could set in motion a domino effect of growth.
Love is meant to be shared...and so is grief, so is joy, so is truth.
If human beings horde those inner graces (experiences) by keeping transformation and learning private, it all just ends there.
The lesson of the change sits inside the heart like a seed in the earth. We have rites, ceremonies and sacraments because the light of community must shine on that seed in order to fulfill it.
I argue that to fully receive the grace of the change, we must invite it to be both inward and outward; to become a sacrament.
The script is simple. Stand up in front of those you trust and say; "Look at me...I am different than I was".
Thus a grace is not just confined to one soul's evolution. Everyone who sees and says "Yes, you are", also grows.