The Sacraments

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1113-34, 121012, 1667-79:

  • Christ instituted the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
  • Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of initiation because they lay the foundations of Christian life; Reconciliation and Anointing are sacraments of healing; Holy Orders and Matrimony are ordered to loving service of others.
  • Sacramentum is the Latin rendering of what the Eastern Fathers called “mysteries” in Greek; the Latin had the connotation of an oath, as a sacred pledge.
  • The sacraments are by the Church, in the sense that Christ works through her; at the same time, they are for the Church, because the sacraments make the Church, by generating, nourishing, and revitalizing Christian life in the faithful.
  • Because we are human beings composed of both body and soul, it helps us to have physical, tangible ways of grasping spiritual realities; Christ gives us this help through the sacraments, which He instituted as outward signs to confer grace.
  • Prefigured in the Old Testament, and by the words and actions that Jesus performed during His earthly ministry, the sacraments are truly powers that come forth from the Body of Christ.
  • Christ Himself acts through the sacraments to apply to us personally the fruits of his Paschal Mystery – His Passion, Death and Resurrection; He is present in such a way that when anyone baptizes, He baptizes, and so forth for all the sacraments.
  • Because Christ is at work, the sacraments are efficacious by the very fact of being performed (ex opere operato); i.e., grace is conferred, regardless of whether the minister is worthy, or holy, or not.
  • Yet our dispositions as recipients can affect how open we are to that sacramental grace, and how much we might benefit from it.
  • The seven sacraments are distinguished from other practices called sacramentals, such as blessings; instituted by the Church, sacramentals do not confer grace, but dispose us to receive and cooperate with grace.

Live Your Faith

If the Risen Lord were scheduled to make a public appearance, to offer a healing embrace to anyone who sought Him, there would be extraordinary excitement and overflowing crowds.

Yet this is the same offer that Christ makes to us, continually, through the sacraments. Christ is there to touch and heal us. How faithfully do we go to meet Him?

Let us not neglect these great gifts of grace, but instead receive them with due preparation and reverence.

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