It's been awhile, but the fat, white flakes have me in a reflective mood. All week long I have been waiting for the snow to accumulate and I've been thinking about my maternal grandmother.
My grandma taught me how to make snow cream- a delicious combination of evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla and snow. Since I grew up in North Carolina, the opportunities for snow cream were few and far between- but the sweet, creamy goodness is a strong gustatory memory of my childhood. I've been waiting this week to make this year's first batch of snow cream.
Thinking about that taste memory led me down a dreamy path of other reflection. The scent of Deep Woods Off makes me think of summer camp. The smell of cold jet engine fuel takes me back to deplaning in Nome. The sound of studded tires slowly rolling over pavement reminds me of the crunch of gravel under my bike tires when I was young. The sight of children playing with dolls outdoors brings to mind how my sister and I would sneak our "babies" out the window to each other and bring them inside the same way- thus evading the fact that dolls were supposed to remain indoors.
Our senses play a strong role in our lives- both in memory and in day-to-day living. We are usually astonished and impressed by people who live without one or more of the five main senses because we are so accustomed to them and the life we are able to live with those faculties.
I think this is why the earthly elements of the sacrament are so important. These are tangible realities to which God has attached promises of forgiveness, faith and forthcoming blessings. As we experience the touch of water and the taste of wine and bread again- the spiritual memory is formed to associate those experiences with God's word. When we receive the body and blood of Christ and hear the words "for you"- we experiencing a miracle most of us can see, hear, feel and taste. It's an experience God made for us- so we can remember what has been done for us and to create a way for us to encounter God.
It's a tiny meal and a tiny bath, but large in significance. The sacraments are the washing of our hearts and food for the good of the soul. We're grateful for the tangible impression that they make, which also helps us remember that grace is God's gift. We might be able to bring the elements, but God brings the promises- making God the Host, the Guest and the Presents.