Our Life’s Journey through the Sacraments
Sacraments are those occasions in which God makes himself present in Creation and changes us. The church has come to recognize seven such occasions, practiced by Christians in community from earliest times, as particularly significant. These occasions span the whole of our life’s journey and become a way for us to recognize God at work not just in Church, but everywhere at all times. They allow us to comprehend and experience God’s presence with us in every aspect of our lives.
Acknowledging the unconditional love of God we find in and through creation and giving thanks for it is something we are called to do. This is especially true at moments of transition; moments about which we need to make meaning; moments in which we are overjoyed and moments in which we are sad, afraid. In each of these moments we need to know that God—the available, self-giving love of God—is near. This is the power and importance of the Sacraments. Each acknowledges we are “dearworthy darling” children of God (to paraphrase Margery Kempe). It acknowledges our core identity as both human and made in the image and likeness of God.
The Eucharist—also known as Holy Communion and the Mass—is the central act of Christian worship. It is that sacrament in which God in Christ becomes present with us in the bread and wine that we offer to God. At the Eucharist we gather to hear the stories of God’s mighty acts, offer our prayers of praise and thanksgiving (the word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for Thanksgiving) and take into our very bodies Christ’s presence so we may go out into the world transformed into his Body at work in Creation.
The Eucharist is a meal we share at which all are welcome—rich and poor, young and old, from all the peoples of the earth. If each of us, out of our differences, is drawn into community with Jesus Christ; if each of us is drawn, out of our own context, into community by the vision of Love and reconciliation which Jesus showed us to be possible; if each of us is drawn, out of our opinions and ideas, to be united with God and others and be changed by him into something new, then God can transform us into ministers of his Gospel of Love.
Who may receive: The Church teaches that Baptism is the only requirement for admission to Holy Communion. All persons, regardless of age or from what denomination they come, who have been baptized with water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” are welcome to receive the Sacrament in this Church. Parents are especially encouraged to speak with the Rector about introducing this practice to their children.
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Holy Baptism, in which the candidate is sprinkled with water “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” is the rite of initiation into the Christian Church. More than that, in Baptism we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit” and “marked as Christ’s own for ever.” In Baptism we are changed and enter into a new relationship with God in Christ. We now share in his death so that we may share in his resurrection. We now participate in the love that is stronger than death and nothing can change this.
This is why we are Baptized just the once. Baptism is complete in and of itself and is the only requisite for admission to Holy Communion. It is in our practice of Eucharist, when we come to the altar and take Christ’s body into our bodies, that we constantly recommit ourselves to our Christian life and vocation. We also recommit ourselves to our baptismal vocation each time a new Christian is baptized as the Prayer Book asks us all to reaffirm our own baptismal promises.
In baptism we promise (or our parents promise for us) to live in relationship with God and come back to him when we have gone astray. We promise to participate in the life of the Church, tell people about the God who changes us, and “to seek Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.” When baptizing an infant or small child, the parents and godparents promise to help the child “grows into the full stature of Christ,” which really means that he or she will become a person who loves as generously as possible.
Like all the Sacraments, Baptism is something to be experienced, something we do with our whole bodies, consequently the Rector feels very strongly that there not be complicated tests or barriers placed before candidates for Baptism. Those who feel drawn to the waters of Baptism, either for themselves or for their child, should simply contact the Rector.
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In Confirmation, we publicly reaffirm, in the presence of our local community and the Bishop (whose presence represents that of the whole Church), the promises we made—or which our parents made on our behalf—at baptism. We then receive the laying on of hands of the Bishop, who prays God to send the Holy Spirit upon us to bless and strengthen us in our ministry. Confirmation, the Episcopal Church teaches, is not the completion of our Baptism. It is, rather, a separate act of Christian recommitment.
For teens it can be an important rite of passage, marking an adult decision to participate in the life of the church and make for yourself the promise your parents made for you when you were a baby.
Although membership in this parish and participation in many ministries of the Episcopal Church is not dependent upon Confirmation, for adults it can be a significant way of reconnecting with your faith and formally “joining” the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. It is a way of saying this branch of the Holy Catholic Church is where I am going to make my home.
Those who have been previously Confirmed by the laying on of hands of a bishop in another communion of the Catholic Church, may be Received into the Episcopal Church. Those Confirmed in another branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion need not be re-confirmed (there is no such thing) or Received.
Confirmation and reception normally take place during the visitation of one of our Bishops. If you wish to be Confirmed or Received into the Episcopal Church, please speak with the Rector. There will be classes for both youth and adults in advance of a visitation and these will be publicized well in advance. Please click here to see if classes are currently scheduled.
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In Confession, we seek God’s forgiveness for “those things done and left undone” which have taken us out of relationship with God and our neighbors. This is what sin is, after all.
A General Confession, said by all the faithful, has been part of the Anglican Eucharist since Archbishop Cranmer prepared English language rites in 1548 to supplement the Latin Sarum Mass. Private confession was, however, until the Current American Prayer Book rather controversial. Indeed, the presence of a secret confessional in this church is evidence of this. There is however, much authority and truth in the statement on the subject of confession attributed to Elizabeth I, “all may, none must, some should.”
Private Confession, known in the 1979 BCP as the Reconciliation of a Penitent (pp. 446-452), is an important element in the great English Pastoral tradition. It can be an important part of our spiritual growth and development as we seek to deepen our relationship with God. Opening ourselves to God in this sacrament and receiving absolution creates more space for love and forgiveness in our hearts that we can then share with others. Confession is not so much an act of restoration to wholeness or a wiping clean of the slate, as a way to keep moving on our life’s journey with God. And you don’t even have to do it in a box.
Anyone wishing to make a Sacramental Confession to a priest is invited to contact one of the clergy. Anything said in the context of this Sacrament is held in absolute, unbreakable confidence. The priest may, however, encourage or seek acts of reconciliation and repentance as part of pronouncing absolution.
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The Episcopal Church teaches that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of two persons, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong (paraphrase of Title I, Canon 18.1.b). All weddings must also conform with civil law (Title I, Canon 18.1.a).
The liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer reflects this theology. In the service the couple present themselves before their friends, family, and the whole community and state their intentions to be faithful to each other “as long as ye both shall live.” The priest then asks everyone present if they will support the couple in their life together. Then several passages from scripture are read and a homily is preached. The couple then stand-up once again before everyone and make solemn vows to each other. This is the marriage and the couple are, in fact, themselves the ministers of the sacrament. The priest may bless rings, which the couple then exchange as outward signs or tokens of the promises they have just made each other. The priest then, speaking for the Church, proclaims to the world the fact of the new relationship and blesses the marriage. Marriage may be celebrated with or without Holy Communion, although the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ in the context of Christian marriage is a significant and effective symbol of God’s transformative presence.
The service is a beautiful expression of the Christian hope that we may all live together in unity and relationship with God and with each other. It is also a powerful reminder that our close, personal relationships are very much outward signs of God’s love for us and for creation.
Couples who wish to be married in this church must speak with one of the clergy, usually the Rector, who will explain about our guidelines and fees. A wedding takes careful planning and couples will be required to meet with a priest at least three more times before the service both to plan the liturgy and to discuss Christian Marriage. It is our expectation that at least one member of the couple is a member of the parish, and Canon Law requires that at least one be a Baptized Christian. The Episcopal Church allows remarriage after divorce. A judgment and permission from the Bishop of New York must be obtained, however, before this can take place. At the 2015 General Convention the Episcopal Church formally moved forward with full marriage equality, a move we at Saint Ignatius has welcomed with enthusiasm.
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Jesus in his ministry both healed the sick and was anointed himself. In the Gospel of Mark (14:3-9 and parallels), we learn that Jesus was anointed by an unnamed woman, acknowledging him as the Christ, the anointed one, setting him apart as special. When we are anointed, we too are marked as special and beloved by God. We are acknowledged as creatures who need and receive the healing love and support and prayers of both God and the Church.
The Church celebrates this sacrament both publicly and privately. Each week here at St Ignatius on Wednesday evenings we celebrate Mass with special prayers for healing, anointing, and the laying on of hands. If you are ill and cannot come to Church, a priest would be pleased to visit you, both to bring Holy Communion and to anoint you with Holy Oil. Please let us know either be email or phone (212-580-3326) if you, or a friend or family member would like a visit. In these days of strict privacy laws we will not know you or a member of your family is in the hospital unless you tell us.
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A word about Holy Orders
All Christians are called in their Baptism to a life of ministry. In our Baptism we are all made ministers of love and reconciliation, all are called to “seek and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.” Each of us has a Christian Vocation and we can always deepen our understanding of this through study and practice.
Some Christians are also called to the particular life of service to the Church as deacons, priests, and bishops. At the Eucharist, deacons proclaim the Gospel and send the people out into the world. Deacons are also called particularly to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized, holding-up the needs of the world to the Church. Priests, by teaching, preaching, and the celebration of the sacraments work to “build-up the Body of Christ and equip the Saints for Ministry.” In other words, priests help all people recognize and live out their varied Christian vocations. Bishops act as Chief Priest and Pastor in a particular geographical part of the Church, and represent the unity of the whole Church, especially in their sacramental role by their ordaining candidates for Holy Orders and Confirming adults and children.
You may feel called to Holy Orders, but the call is discerned in community and affirmed by the Bishop. The process is long and can be difficult. For more information about discerning your Christian vocation—ordained or lay—please speak with one of the clergy.
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