It is almost universally agreed that the church’s sacraments are in some sense constitutive of the church’s being and identity. However, the sacraments are not merely immanent practices of the church, but are in some sense singular events that “happen” to the church in the act of gathering. Indeed, we could even say that the church’s act of gathering is an ecclesial practice designed to establish a posture of communal openness and fitting reception of the gift of God in the sacraments. The church gathers as an act of hospitality towards God’s dynamic act of gift-giving that occurs singularly in the sacraments.
What this yeids is an apocalyptic construal of the church’s sacraments. Clearly the sacraments are in some sense “internal” to the church’s life and definition, and yet they constitute a divine apocalyptic intrusion into the church’s life, an epiphanic manifestation of God’s invasive eschatological presence. Herein lies the paradox: the sacraments are intrusive and outside of our control as divine apocalyptic action, and yet they are not erratic but dependable and constant (i.e. faithful) within our common life as the ecclesia.
This points to what we might want to call a transcendental mark of the ecclesia of Christ in all its practices: hospitality. The church itself is a gathering of persons in utter poverty before God who, through the Spirit’s gift name themselves truthfully as the recipients of God’s unprecedented grace. Thus the church lives in and as a space of emptiness, openness, and receptivity towards God’s apocalyptic gifts which exceed, shatter, and transfigure ourselves and our conceptual idolatries.