UNDERSTANDING SACRAMENTS THROUGH HISTORY OF SACRAMENTOLOGY Periods Key Figures/ Significance Sacraments Descriptions1. Pre-Christian Gk. “mysterion” These rites called “mysterion” Gk. “mysterion” Writings This term is used by Greeks were used to insure in the description of new birth and vitality after cultic rites (Mithras, death. Isis and Osiris). This was used also For Plato, tangible things were by Plato, an ancient symbols of heavenly reality and Greek philosopher the initiated learned secret (c. 428-347 B.C.) teachings which brought them wisdom.2. Scriptures “mysterion” It refers to God’s saving action “mysterion” enacted in history which gives Old Testament wisdom to save (Wis. 6:22); the Its meaning is wisdom revealed looks toward broader than that of an eschatological mysterion that the sacraments, as God will reveal (Dan. 2:28, 47). we know them today. Synoptics It refers to “the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11; Lk. 8:10), which Jesus reveals through parables. Pauline Literature It often refers to Christ, (1Cor. While the rites of 2:7-10; Rom. 16:25-26; Col. Baptism and 1:26-27, 4:3; Eph. 1:9-10, 3:3- Eucharist are 12; 1Tim. 3:16) who reveals the known in the N.T. divine will to save all people, era (Acts 2:41; 1 who Himself is the mystery Cor. 11:17-34) and through whom all things are their usage is restored, and who dwells in reflected in the those who believe. Christ N.T. texts, neither crucified is the supreme of them is called manifestation of God’s wisdom sacrament at that (1Cor. 2:1f.; Col 2:2). time.
3. Patristic Age Runs from near the end of the first century of the Christian era until roughly the middle of the eight. a. Apostolic They are so called Sacramentology emerged in Fathers because of their their writings. Their polemic nearness to the time of against the Gnostics (Gk. Gnosis the apostles. This or “revealed knowledge,” they period extends promised a secret knowledge of from the earliest the divine realm) and the writer to around the Manichees (an ancient religion) middle of the second brought about the earliest century. systematic reflection on the sacraments. b. The Or defenders of the Apologists Faith: 1. Justin Martyr He describes the reality of both Baptism and Holy (d. 165) baptism and eucharist but he Eucharist does not use the word sacrament. The baptized are called “reborn” and “enlightened.” 2. Tertullian He introduces the term “Sacrament,” (c. 160-220) sacrament into Christian means Christian language when speaking about initiation. Christian initiation. For him, sacramentum means a sacred Sacramentum action, object or means. In is the Latin for sacramental rites, there is a two- Sacrament. fold reality in their visible dimension: element and word. Word is the word of God which has a determinative role in sacraments as to the things used in their celebration.
c. 4th & 5th Patristic authors dealt Their works described the Rites of initiation centuries with the question of the various rites of initiation and (with some sacraments in their elaborated on their meaning. developed catechetical instructions Some terms used at this time catechetical delivered for the would influence later theological Instructions) candidates for Christian reflection: typos (symbol) and initiation. Cyril of aletheia (reality). While no Jerusalem, Ambrose of systematic doctrine of Milan, John sacraments has yet evolved, Chrysostom and these catecheses evidenced the Theodore of Mopsuestia important role which are examples of commentary on the rites plays in Patristic authors. understanding what the sacraments are. St. Augustine (d. 430) He reflects a fluid notion of O.T. Sacraments: sacrament and mystery, which rituals of words he allies closely with the circumcision, terms figura, allegoria, sacrifices, prophetia, symbolum, etc. offerings, the temple altars, All sacraments pertain to the pasch, anointing, magnum sacramentum- etc. mysterium, Christ and the Church. Augustine does not N.T. Sacraments: develop a systematic treatment baptism, eucharist, of sacramental doctrine but he the paschal leaves a terminology and mystery, understanding about sacraments imposition of which later theologians would hands, ordination, develop. He calls sacrament a the Lord’s prayer, sacred sign, a signaculum, a symbol of faith, visible work. He introduces the feasts, etc. term res in connection with sacramentum to distinguish between the sacrament of Christ’s body and the reality or effect of the sacrament when received. Reality or res means the ultimate effect of the eucharist, that is, the grace of union with Christ. For Augustine, sacraments are effective because Christ and the Holy Spirit act through them. He
maintains that baptism and certain other sacraments have permanent effects: later theology would call this the sacramental character. For Augustine, a sacrament is a celebration in which the things commemorated, the passion of Christ, are applied. He teaches that sacraments are instituted by Christ after the resurrection.4. 6th – 12th Centuries. Isidore of Seville (d. He was clearly influenced by There are three 636) Augustine. He contends that sacraments: beneath the covering of bodily baptism, chrism things used in these sacred and eucharist. actions “the divine power works secretly the salvation proper to these same sacraments”; these are fruitful when administered in the church by the Holy Spirit who works the effects of sacraments. Carolingian reform (2nd Two problems arise: half of 8th Century) How to describe sacraments sought to unify in a way that preserved their liturgical practices in reality as both symbolic and the Western Church and real at the same time. By this to insure codification in time the notion of symbol all area of church life. had lost its meaning as something real, and the This is the reform language of substance was brought by used to describe what was Charlemagne (742-814 real. From this time on AD). theologians search for a satisfactory explanation of how sacraments are both signs and realities at the same time. Theologians also continue to distinguish sacraments from other sacred rites and to determine their number.
Peter Damian (d. 1072) There are 12 sacraments: - baptism, - chrismation, - anointing of the sick, - anointing of a bishop, - a king, - canons, - monks and - hermits, - the dedication of a church, - penance, - consecration of virgins and - matrimony.Peter Abelard (d. 1142) He distinguished between major He listed 5 and minor sacraments: the sacraments: spiritual are the major Baptism, sacraments, the minor are not. chrismation, eucharist, anointing, and matrimony.St. Bernard (d. 1154) For him, there are eleven sacraments, including the washing of the feet.New definitions of The Augustinian formulasacrament developed. sacrum signum was adjusted to sacrae rei signum, i.e., a sacrament is a sacred sign because it is the sign of a sacred reality.Huge of St. Victor (d. He maintained that the key to The restriction of1141) interpreting sacraments was the number of God’s interventions in history, sacraments to seven especially in creation and the (7) was still incarnation. He notes the things unknown at this that are sacraments in the strict point. Huge sense since not every sign of a counted such rites
sacred thing is a sacrament. He as the use of holy writes that a sacrament “is a water or blessed corporeal or material element set ashes, the before the external senses, consecration of representing by similitude, monks and burial as signifying by institution and “receptacles of containing by sanctification, grace.” some invisible and spiritual grace.” He contextualized his treatment of sacraments by speaking about the incarnation and the church as the body of Christ.Berengar denies the true It leads to the formulation of thepresence of Christ in the expression res et sacramentumeucharist. in the 12th century. Res (Augustine) signifies the grace of union with Christ as the ultimate effect of eucharistic participation.Huge of St. Victor and These theologians addedPeter Lombard (12th c.), sacramentum et res to theendorsed by Pope sacramentum tantum. InnocentInnocent III at the III stated that the form of thebeginning of the 13th c. eucharist was bread and wine (a sacrament and not the reality), the truth is of the body and blood (both sacrament and reality) and the power is of unity and charity (reality). During this period sacraments continued to be understood as self-expressions of the church and as part of how the divine economy of salvation is experienced in the present.12th century Sacrament. The dominant theme is the notion of sacrament as a remedy for sin.Peter Lombard He states that “a sacrament is He determined that(d. 1160) properly so called because it is a there are seven (7)
sign of the grace of God and the “sacraments of theexpression of invisible grace, so New Law”:that it bears its image and its baptism,cause. confirmation, theThus, begin the notion of cause bread of blessing,and causality into the definition i.e., the eucharist,of sacrament. penance, extremeA sacrament is invisibilis unction, orders,gratiae visibilis forma, i.e., a marriage.sacrament is the visible form ofan invisible grace, and that a Significance ofsacrament efficit quod figurat, seven:i.e., a sacrament produces [the A significanteffect] which it represents. number of completion,Beginning of the hylomorphic totality andinterpretation of sacramental inclusivenesssign: (eg. 7 days of function of “matter” to the creation in Gen) sensible things used in the It is the sum of celebration, three, the function of “form” to the symbol for the words that accompany the divine, and application of matter to the four, a symbol subject of the sacrament. of cosmicAs a result, the terms valid and perfection (orinvalid appear in connection the threewith the sacraments. persons in God and the fourThere came also the emergence seasons).of the principles of Thus, the sevenex opere operato (by the work sacramentsdone) means that sacraments are demonstrateeffective by means of the God’s savingsacramental rite itself not presence at allbecause of the worthiness of the times.minister or participant and notjust ex opere operantis (by thework of the doer) which meansthat the effectiveness ofsacraments depends on themoral rectitude of minister orparticipant. It is from Lombard’sworks that the formula emerged,“the intention of doing what thechurch does.”
5. 13th – 16th Thomas Aquinas With him, Catholic teaching on The 7 Sacraments Centuries. (d. Mar. 7, 1274) the notion of sacrament are appropriate and advances far beyond anything significant for each that had yet been achieved. of them deals with For him, the function of a facet of human sacraments is to initiate, restore, life. preserve or intensify the life of grace in believers. He describes a sacrament as the sign (Augustine) of the Incarnate Word, His passion and resurrection, which sanctifies the participant. The effects of sacraments are not only remedies for sin. They produce new life, the life of Christ in the Church. The Council of Florence Gives the first authoritative The 7 Sacraments (1438-1445) statement of the church on are maintained and sacrament. based on the Thomasian perspective. The Council of Trent The Council Fathers did not (1545-1563) intend to formulate a systematic doctrinal summary on sacraments. Instead, they dealt with individual areas of concern brought about because of the Reformers’ criticisms. Hence, the statement of Trent was said to be clarifications on controversial matters, but not a systematic treatment of sacraments.6. 16th – 19th While much Post- The 7 Sacraments Century. Tridentine theology become definite in followed the Council’s terms of: Teaching with - Number (i.e. 7) commentaries and - Efficaciousness catechisms, some works - Institution by of this period dealt with Christ issues raised by the - Matter and Form Reformers. - Role of the Ordained
Ministers Melchior Cano (d. He dealt with the faith- 1560) sacrament question debated at the Council. He affirmed that the sacraments are undoubtedly necessary but in the same measure in which and explicit faith, expressed in sensible signs, is necessary for a person to be saved. Robert Bellarmine (d. Spoke of the necessity of faith 1621) for the efficaciousness of sacraments. Suarez (d. 1617) His work represented a kind of manual that noted the Reformers’ objections and then presented the analysis and comment of the scholastics. 19th century Works on sacraments began to development appear and they reflected the revival of interest in scripture, patristics, and in the history of theology.7. 20th Century A certain liturgical This was the main stimulus movement arose in this within the Church for the period. contemporary renewal of sacramental practice and for a revived understanding of sacraments. Liturgical scholars in the late 19th c. and early 20th c. reawakened the importance of liturgy as public worship which by its nature required the active participation of the participants. Benedictine monks These monks were the main contributors to the success of the movement especially in the publication of important works on sacramental teaching and in the celebration of the liturgy.
New Approaches:These are the results ofthe works of recenttheologians asinfluenced by theliturgical movement. The language of Christ is the original sacrament encounter and (ursakrament) and the church is phenomenology. the ground sacrament (Raymond (grundsakrament) of the seven Vaillancourt and ecclesial acts. Kenan Osborne) This approach signals a shift from emphasizing Christ’s presence in sacraments to the community’s transformation through sacraments. It also marks a shift from emphasizing sacraments as things to sacraments as event. Symbolism. States that sacraments are (Louis-Marie essentially symbolic actions that Chauvet and David affect participants on many Power) levels with their ambiguity and polyvalence. Sacraments are respected as real symbolic encounters. In the sacraments, God reveals and grants salvation through Christ’s paschal mystery in symbolic acts and words; at the same time the Church worships God through Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit by means of active participation in gestural speech and symbolic action. Secularization Sacraments are viewed as strong theologies. moments of God’s self- (influenced by disclosure which occur Rahner) throughout human life. Human nature has been redeemed and grace is always available to redeemed creation
through Christ. Sacraments are not the exclusive channels of God’s grace. Yet they are central moments and privileged means of encountering God through Christ. Liberation Tried to determine the life theologies. relation of sacramental (Juan Luis Segundo) participation. Too facile celebration of sacraments can numb consciences to the social and political realities of living the christian life. The challenge, which engagement in sacrament entails, is to live the justice and peace of God’s kingdom which is experienced in sacraments.Some post-Vatican II The fact that some Christians nodevelopments. longer participate regularly in sacraments because they see little or no value in them led theologians to attempt to articulate the importance of sacraments such as the relationship of evangelization and sacramental practice; the relationship between sacramental celebration and a vibrant experience of Church life; question of prerequisite faith for admission to sacraments; and method employed in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults a model to follow in other sacraments. Official bilateral and multilateral dialogues on the sacraments in ways that are often grounded in the tradition which had been neglected in the post-
Reformation era. E.g., therevival of the term Anamnesis asa way of describing thememorial experienced insacraments and of transcendingthe terms of disagreement overthe Eucharist betweenProtestants and Roman CatholicChurches.The restoration of the Word to aposition of prominence in therevised sacramental rites sincethe Catholic and Protestantcongregations share the sameWord in worship. Karl Rahnerargues that sharing in the Wordis to share in what sacramentsare at their foundation, signs ofGod’s self-communication andself-revelation.The traditional maxim lex Understanding theorandi, lex credendi (the law of 7 Sacraments isprayer establishes the law of beyond text andbelief) has been revived so that prayer. This is tothe liturgy becomes a major consider thesource of theological reflection. meaning of gesture,The clear reference to the Spirit symbol, singingin almost all sacramental and silence.formulas and examples of theEastern tradition inunderstanding sacraments as thework of the Holy Spirit helpsWestern theology today toaddress its absence in itsinterpretation of sacraments.Satisfactory approach to thestudy of sacraments in the Post-Conciliar Church is still a workin progress.