Each of the great mysteries or sacraments of the Church consists of a ritual celebration involving a complex of gestures and words that together form the mystery being celebrated. Yet the various gestures and words can also be mysteries in themselves, even though they are building blocks from which is formed the structure of the larger celebration. Often these foundational mysteries are common, every day gestures or words that receive added meaning because of the context in which they are used.
Jesus recognized the extraordinary significance of ordinary things: a simple touch, a gentle word, a shared meal. Throughout his ministry, great significance was given to what may at first have seemed to most ordinary of gestures, objects, or words – and this transfiguration of the ordinary fills us with awe.
The foundational mysteries common to nearly all the sacraments – such as placing a hand on a person’s head, standing in reverence, walking in procession, greeting and responding, sensing the fragrance of incense or Sacred Chrism – draw us deeper into the great sacramental mysteries we gather to celebrate. Since these gestures and words are so common in our ritual celebrations, we may tend to overlook their significance. Yet without them, the great mysteries evaporate into nothingness.