Welcome to my blog! I'm so glad that you've visited my webpage and are interested in learning more about my journey to Cap-Haitien in the coming fall. I am entitling it "An Inward and Spiritual Grace," which I found online after googling "Book of Common Prayer" quotes and found part of the updated version of the 1662 BCP's Catechism on the website of an Anglican church (not sure if it's technically affiliated with the Episcopal Church USA).
What's an Anglican/Episcopal Catechism? From what I barely, barely recall from my confirmation, it's the Q&A section in the back of the BCP that gives the Sparks' Notes version of everything you need to know re: the Christian faith. There are tons of sections on topics like the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments, Sin and Redemption, God the Son, the New Covenant, the Creeds, etc. (P.S. If you're not an Episcopalian and not sure what the Book of Common Prayer is, either, I've found that Wikipedia actually has a great page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Common_Prayer).
One line that I found from the Catechism in the section on sacraments was a part of the response to the introductory question, "What do we mean by the word Sacrament?" (The two most important sacraments of the Episcopal Church seem to be Baptism and Holy Eucharist, but marriage, confirmation, private confession, ordination and unction for the sick/dying are included as well). The answer is as follows: "We mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive that grace, and a pledge to assure us that God is truly gracious to us." Another question follows: "What is the inward and spiritual grace?" The answer: "Death to sin, and a new birth to righteousness: though we were born in sin, and were the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3, in Baptism we are made the children of grace."
So, it seems to me, then, that an "inward and spiritual grace" proclaimed in the sacraments is a kind of mysterious transformation that we as God's children seem to undergo by way of knowing Him. In fact, the text suggests that the Sacrament of Baptism itself can bring about this sudden directional change, from going down the path of death to the path of eternal life.
I use the word "mysterious" because the phrase "an inward and spiritual grace"-- words which we now know have a powerful significance--seems ambiguous none the less. Especially when you first come across it with no context to understand its true meaning. But even after you read the Catechism, it still seems to lack concrete definition. Yes, we know that "an inward and spiritual grace" denotes God coming into our hearts and changing them for the better somehow, but what exactly does that entail in the physical sense? When he changes us from sinners to believers in Christ, for instance, does he change us to have a fiery passion for Christ's teachings and declare it to the world? Or does he instead change us into more reflective beings, with an equally powerful love for Christ, but one that isn't so much declared as it is contemplated in silence?
What I learned, as you can probably imagine, is that it can include both. I happened to look up the word "grace" on the online Mirriam and Webster dictionary and one of the definitions that was specific to Christian belief was, "the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings." That seems like a pretty broad statement, like it could include both the loud passion and the quiet reflection. The declaration to the world and the solo contemplation.
Still, I have to say that I was hoping "grace" as defined within a Christian context would be more similar to what I think of as "grace" or graceful. I'll start off by saying that I've always been a girly girl and have always enjoyed graceful things and people, like ballet and Kate Middleton. Art like ballet and glamorous women like Kate were always what I thought of when I thought of grace. I won't brag, but I've had people tell me in the past that I'm quite graceful, and I can assure you I've never received a better compliment. Grace implies beauty. It implies an elegance in subtlety and modesty, in humility. Maybe in Christianity grace doesn't imply pretty clothes or hair (Kate Middleton!) or even pretty jumps and twirls (ballet!), but I think it must have some strong connection to beauty, modesty and humility.
Because of the way I think of the word grace, I like to think of "an inward and spiritual grace" being more about introspection and becoming manifest through a more personal, more subdued awakening to God. The fact that it is "inward" makes me think of inward searching and introspection, but it also adds to the mystery of it all. Because it is so specific to each person, because it is so deep within us and impenetrable, the transformation that God creates in each one of us is largely incomprehensible; it is an enigma that might as well serve as a symbol for God himself. We know that whatever happens to us when we are placed in God's image is good and powerful, but we don't really know how it happens or any of the elements at play. I suppose that's how Baptism is, really. We don't really know how a baby suddenly becomes God's child, but we as the Church try to recognize that transition that we know to be a great blessing.
I still feel like I can't quite place my finger on what it is that my YASC experience will bring me. I can think of words to describe what I expect to garner, such as spiritual growth and a greater cultural awareness, but those words aren't as compelling as what I've felt from the very moment that I learned about YASC, which is something very strong, very urgent and very present, but that still remains fuzzy in my mind. I know it has something to do with my desire to become more dependent on my faith and to somehow share my faith with others, but I'm not quite sure yet how I am meant to go about doing that. I suppose I can only trust that God will be there to unravel it all for me, and that what I am hoping for in this journey, whatever it really is, will be fulfilled.