The Sacraments

A sacrament is an outward efficacious sign instituted by Christ, In the sacraments, we meet Christ and he gives us Sanctifying Grace. Sanctifying Grace is a free gift of God which allows us to become children of God, to share in the divine nature, and to inherit eternal life.

The seven Sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Holy Matrimony.

They are broken down into 3 separate types of Sacraments.  The Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.  The Sacraments of Healing are Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. The Sacraments of Vocation are Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony.   Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are given only once, as they render a permanent seal or character upon one’s soul (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 4:30, Revelation 7:3)

Each Sacrament consists of a visible external rite, which is composed of matter and form, the matter being the action, such as the pouring of water, and the form being the words spoken by the priest.


Baptism

Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, as we are born of water and Spirit. Baptism is necessary for salvation (John 3:5), and conveys a permanent sign that the new Christian is a child of God. Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan River by Saint John the Baptist (Mark 1:9-11). Baptism is prefigured in the Old Testament through the saving of Noah and his family during the Flood (Genesis 7:12-23, 1 Peter 3:20-21), and Moses crossing of the Red Sea during the Exodus, leaving captivity for the Promised Land (Exodus 14:1-22).

The Greek word “baptizein” means to “immerse, plunge, or dip.” The infant or candidate is anointed with the oil of catechumens, followed by the parents, godparents, or candidate making the profession of faith. The essential rite of Baptism consists of the minister immersing the baby or person in water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The infant or candidate is then anointed with sacred chrism.

What has taken place in Baptism is indicated by the rites that follow it, the clothing in the white garment and giving of the lighted candle: the baptized person has “put on Christ” and has now become light. (See also Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22; Acts 1:21-22; Romans 6:3-4; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:11-13, I Peter 3:21):


Confirmation

Confirmation is the completion of Baptism and conferral of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Jesus instructed his Apostles that they “will receive the power of the Holy Spirit” and called upon the Apostles to be His “witnesses to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). At Pentecost, the Apostles were filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), and began to spread the Word of God.

Within the rite of Confirmation, the forehead is anointed with sacred chrism, together with the laying on of the minister’s hands and the words, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The recipient receives the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3).

The ecclesial effect and sacramental grace of the Sacrament give the recipient the strength and character to witness for Jesus Christ; mission. In the Roman rite this Sacrament is normally administered by the Bishop to children from ages 7 to 18, but most often to adolescents. (See also Acts 1:4-5, 2:1-4, 2:38, 10:44-48):


Communion

Eucharistia means thanksgiving, and the Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated in the liturgy of the Holy Mass. The Holy Mass is the principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. The word “Mass” comes from the Latin missa, as it refers to the mission or sending forth of the faithful following the celebration, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives.

The essential signs of the Sacrament are bread and wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked during the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper: “This is my body…This is my blood…” (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Jesus died once on the cross in sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 9:25-28). But Jesus is present for all time, as He is the eternal Son of God. What He did once in history also then exists for all eternity. What happened in time goes beyond time. In the heart of Jesus He is always offering Himself as the one eternal sacrifice to the Father in atonement for our sins, as He did on the Cross. When we celebrate the Mass, the saving sacrifice of Christ on the holy cross, that happened only once in history, but is present for all eternity, is made truly present through the paschal mystery.

The bread and wine through Transubstantiation become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and we receive the Real Presence of Jesus when we receive Holy Communion. Our soul is nourished, helping us to become like Christ. The Eucharist is the heart and source of community within the Church. Receiving Holy Communion with others during the Mass brings unity of the Church, the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 10:16-17).


Confession/Reconciliation

Jesus Christ gave His Apostles the power to forgive sins. The Sacrament is also known as the Sacrament of Conversion, Forgiveness, Penance, or Reconciliation.

The sacrament involves three steps: the penitent’s contrition or sorrow for his/her sins, the actual confession to a priest and absolution, and then penance or reparation for sins. The experience leads one to an interior conversion of the heart. Jesus describes the process of conversion and penance in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24).

The penitent confesses his/her sins to the priest in the confessional, and the priest then gives absolution to the repentant soul, making the Sign of the Cross, and saying the words ” I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It is Christ Jesus through the priest who forgives sins. As the penitent must make reparation or satisfaction for his/her sins, the priest gives a penance to the forgiven one, usually prayer, fasting, or almsgiving (1 Peter 4:8).

Confession gives one a wonderful sense of freedom and peace from the burden of sin. Sorrow, affliction, and a desire for conversion follow the remorse of sin in those with a contrite heart. In this Sacrament of Healing we can be assured of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness made truly present in the absolution of sins.  The experience brings a sense of gratitude to our generous Lord for His love, compassion and mercy.

As one is meant to be in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion, a child should first make his/her first Confession before first Holy Communion, generally at the age of reason. (See also Matthew 16:18-19, Luke 24:46-47, Acts 2:38):


Anointing of the Sick

Is this Sacrament given to ailing Christians special graces are received that unite the sick person to the passion of Christ. This Sacrament consists of the laying on of hands by the priest and the anointing of the forehead with the oil of the infirmed, with the minister  saying, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”

The ecclesial effect of this sacrament, once called Extreme Unction or Last Rites, is the incorporation of the faithful into the healing Body of Christ, with a spiritual healing of the soul, and at times a healing of the body. This sacramental grace helps us to accept sickness as a purifying cross sent by God, and the grace even to accept death.

Jesus healed the blind and the sick, as well as commissioned His Apostles to do so. See Mathew 8:1-17 and Matthew 4: 23-24


Holy Orders

Through this Sacrament of ordination the mission entrusted by Jesus to His Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church to the end of time. Saint Thomas Aquinas makes the important point that only Christ is the true high priest, the others serving as His ministers (Hebrews 8:4). Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and priests and deacons are his assistants in rendering service. Men are ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as the Sacrament confers upon the priest the character to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi.

Holy Orders is the Sacrament of Apostolic ministry. The rite consists of the Bishop’s imposition of hands on the head of the priest-candidate with the consecrating prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the gifts of the ministry. There are three dimensions to ministry, that of Bishop, Priesthood, and the Diaconate. See Matthew 16:18-19, John 21:15-17, Romans 10:14-15, 2 Timothy 1:6, and Titus 1:5.


Marriage

The Sacrament of marriage gives the couple the grace to grow into a union of heart and soul, to provide stability for themselves and their children. Children are the fruit and gift of Christian marriage.

The bond of marriage between a man and a woman lasts all the days of their lives, and the form of the rite consists of the mutual exchange of vows by a couple, both of whom have been baptized. The priest or deacon serves as a witness to this sacred Sacrament in the Roman rite; with the couple serving as ministers of the Sacrament itself.

Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God, and concludes with a vision of the “wedding-feast of the Lamb (Revelations 19:7, 9)”. The bond of marriage is compared to God’s undying love for Israel in the Old Testament, and Christ’s love for His Church in the New Testament.

Jesus stresses the importance of the marriage bond in His Ministry (Matthew 19:6, 8). The importance of marriage is substantiated by the presence of Christ at the wedding feast of Cana, where He began His public ministry at the request of His mother Mary by performing His first miracle (John 2). It is the Apostle Paul who identifies the marriage of man and woman with the unity of Christ and His Church.

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