Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sacramentality and Islam

Again, Kenneth Cragg (former Anglican bishop mind you), on Islam. (The book is great, I mean, I've read a lot about Islam and this book is still teaching me all sorts of interesting things!)

Though Islam prides itself upon its freedom from sacramentalism and priesthood, in that all worshippers worship for themselves, it is evident that the salaat postures are profoundly sacramental in a general sense. Protration, in particular, proclaims and serves to actualize a totality of surrender. The face, the proudest thing in human personality, comes into contact with the dust, the lowest thing in nature. The physical thus embodies and expresses the spiritual.

Kenneth Cragg
P. 98
The Call of the Minaret

By sacramentality he means that there is an outward sign for an inward grace. The notion of sacramentality is present in all of Christianity, even in anti-sacramental traditions like Baptist-ism or non-denominationalism. (Not trying to insult Baptists there by attaching the -ism.)

Baptism and Communion/Eucharist are the two main sacraments, but our churches are replete with sacramental acts. The altar call is one of the most sacramntal rites one could come up with: you approach the front of the church, the "altar", which is a place for offering sacrifices. Your inward decision to receive the grace of Christ's sacrifice and also offer yourself as a "living sacrifice" is enacted and made actual by your going to "the altar." Never mind that evangelical churches never have altars at all--they have, if much, a pulpit and maybe a communion table. (Oh yeah, and of course a huge sound system and multimedia screen :-)

But that is how it is, you can never escape sacrimentality. Muslims can't, as Cragg notes here, and Christians can't, but then again we don't need to.


SocietyVs said...

All religions of the world that become structured have sacraments within them - it's that weird process of trying to explain the divine in the easiest way (ex: communion) and by actually doing something to show that interaction. I am a little in-between about sacraments (good or bad?) - all I know as humans we like symbols.

Abu Daoud said...

I understand why certain branches of Christianity resist the impulse towards sacramentality. I mean, it can certainly engender some pretty bizarre aberations, and if we let it move us too far we can become totally disconnected from the Word as something that interracts with the mind as well as the body and spirit.

That having been said, I see more danger on the side of resisting sacramentality than accepting it. As long as there is a balance between the word as preached and the Word as received in the sacrament, both side keeep eachother honest, so to speak.

It is part of being human, like you say. We need sacraments, we need ritual. Why deny that? It does not benefit us at all.