Sacraments - What Are They

Catholic Crusader

Kyrie Eleison
(NOTE for the record: I wrote this; it is not copied. So there is no link.)

People talk a lot about sacraments, but do they know what they actually are? There's lots of discussion about Baptism in this forum, and some about Marriage, Forgiveness, and other things. The Ancient churches (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, etc..) recognize these as Sacraments. There are seven of them. So what is a Sacrament? Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

1131 - The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.

So, what does that mean? Well, God has always worked through men and things: Always. Men were prophets and men wrote the scriptures, with God working through them. A good example of the sacramental principle is when Moses raised his staff over the waters and split the Red Sea: Who really parted the waters, God or Moses? It was God of course. BUT: The visible sign that the people could see was Moses raising his staff. God provided the people with a visible sign so that they could see the action of his performing this miracle. Basically, that is the sacramental principle: A visible sign which God works through.

Another interesting example of this principle is Jesus rubbing mud in the blind man's eyes and granting him sight. What was it that cured the man's blindness, the mud, or Jesus? Jesus did of course. So why did he bother with the mud? Because God always works through men and things.

So today it is the same. Take Baptism for example: The visible sign we can see is the water being poured over the person, and what we do not see is the miracle of God washing away that person's sins. Again, \this is the sacramental principle.

So, the Seven Sacraments (with links) are:

Confirmation (or Chrismation)
Reconciliation (or Penance)
Anointing of the Sick
Holy Orders

The Sacraments are each weighty subjects in their own right, and each one can take up a whole thread.

How about the "word" itself, Sacrament: The English word "sacrament" is derived indirectly from the Ecclesiastical Latin sacrāmentum, from Latin sacrō ("hallow, consecrate"), from sacer ("sacred, holy"). This in turn is derived from the Greek New Testament word "mysterion". In Ancient Rome, the term meant an "oath."

In Old Testament times, entering into a kinship covenant binding two parties together in a mutual relationship was done with an oath, a shared meal, sacrifice, and concepts denoting mutual affiliation.

Likewise, an Oath is what we "swear to God" when we become a Christian, that we believe in Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior; a shared meal is shared whenever we receive the Eucharist, the "Bread of Life". We are brought into kinship with God: We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father,

1 John 3:1-3 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.