Seven sacraments

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  • Human knowledge is acquired through the senses. To get to know things that are beyond the reach of the senses, we need to make use of images, symbols or comparisons which partly unveil those hidden realities. God acted in the same way by instituting the physical signs that we call sacraments, in order to express the supernatural realities of grace. God’s omnipotence reaches beyond our own possibilities: He has made these physical signs signify and produce grace.
    To better understand the effect of sacraments, we can compare them with natural life. We can say then, that in the realm of grace:
    we are born to supernatural life through Baptism,
    we are strengthened by Confirmation,
    we are sustained by the food of the Eucharist,
    we recover the supernatural life lost by sin through Penance,
    and we make ready for the journey that will end up in heaven through the Anointing of the Sick.
    In order to meet the needs of the Church as a society there are two sacraments:
    Holy Orders, which provide ministers for the Church,
    and Matrimony, from which children are born to perpetuate human society and, when regenerated by baptism, make the Church grow.
  • The sacraments are physical and efficacious signs of grace instituted by Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.
    A physical sign is something apparent which reveals something hidden; if I see smoke, I discover that there is a fire. But we also say efficacious sign, because the sacrament not only signifies but also produces grace (smoke only points to the existence of fire but does not produce fire).
  • We may wonder why Christ did things that way. He might have communicated grace directly, without turning to any physical medium, but He wanted to adapt Himself to our nature, bestowing divine gifts on us through the material things we use, so that it would be easier for us to receive those gifts. In the case of baptism, just as water purifies in a natural way, so the sacrament purifies too: the sacrament cleanses the soul in a supernatural way, removing original sin and any other sin through the infusion of grace.
    This was Christ’s teaching throughout His public life: He made use of material things, of actions and words. He touched the leper with His hand and said “Of course I want you to be cured” (Matthew 8:3); He spread clay on the eyes of the man born blind and he recovered his sight (cf John, 9:6-7). To convey to the Apostles the power to forgive sins, He breathed on them and uttered some words (cf John 20:22).
    The humanity of Christ is the instrument united to His divinity used to carry out the redemption of mankind. In the same way, the sacraments are the instruments separated from His divinity through which God sanctifies us, adapting Himself to our nature and understanding.
  • All the sacraments have been instituted by Jesus Christ –who is the author of grace and can communicate it through physical signs. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments meet all the needs of the spiritual life of Christians.
  • Christ entrusted the sacraments to His Church and we can say that they are “of the Church” in a double sense. On the one hand, the Church makes or administers or celebrates the sacraments. On the other hand, the sacraments make the Church (for example, baptism generates new faithful for the Church). Sacraments therefore are dispensed by the Church and for the Church.
  • The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, –that is, the Church– and, finally, to worship God. However, in so far as they are signs, they also have a teaching dimension. They not only presuppose faith, but also strengthen it, nourish it and express it through words and actions. That is why they are called the sacraments of faith.
  • The sacraments, if received with the required dispositions, produce the following effects:
    a) Sanctifying grace. The sacraments confer or increase sanctifying grace. Baptism and Penance confer grace, whereas the other five sacraments increase sanctifying grace and ought to be received only in the state of grace. He that receives those sacraments in mortal sin commits the sin of sacrilege.
    b) Sacramental grace. Besides the sanctifying grace, common to all sacraments, each sacrament confers something special which is called sacramental grace. As Christians, we have the right to receive from God at the appropriate time the necessary help to fulfil the duties upon receiving that sacrament. Therefore, baptism confers a special grace to behave like good children of God; Confirmation confers strength and courage to witness and defend the faith until death, if necessary; Matrimony’s grace helps the spouses to be faithful to each other and to educate their children in a Christian way.
    c) Character. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders also confer character, which is a spiritual and indelible “seal” that brings about a particular sharing in the priesthood of Christ. That is why these three sacraments can only be received once.
  • A sacrament consists of matter, form and the minister who performs it with the intention of doing what the Church does.
    Matter is the physical reality or action, such as natural water in baptism or the acts of the penitent in the sacrament of penance (contrition, confession and atonement).
    Form consists of the words uttered in order to perform the sacrament.
    Minister is the person who performs or administers the sacrament.
  • Following the analogy between the stages of natural life and those of supernatural life, sacraments can be divided into three groups:
    a) Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. They build the foundations of Christian life and give men and women new life in Christ.
    b) Sacraments of healing: Penance and Anointing of the Sick, which heal the wounds of sin and of human wretchedness.
    c) Sacraments for the service of the community: Holy Orders and Matrimony, established in order to meet the needs of the Christian community and of human society.
    The sacraments form an organic whole, in which each particular sacrament has its own vital place. The Eucharist occupies a unique place as the “sacrament of the sacraments”. We can say with St Thomas Aquinas that “all the other sacraments are ordered to the Eucharist as to their end”.
  • If we are to live a Christian life, the sacraments are not only important but also necessary. They are like channels that convey water: in this case they bring to our soul the grace that Christ won for us on the cross. We also need to have good dispositions in order to receive –or to receive more abundantly– the clear water of grace. The sacraments invariably confer grace if they are received with the appropriate dispositions. If we don’t receive more grace, we should not blame the sacrament for it, but our lack of proper preparation. Christians should endeavour to receive the sacraments with the best attitude they can, so as to receive grace abundantly.
  • Seven sacraments

    1. 1. The sevenThe seven sacramentssacraments of the Churchof the Church WEYDEN, Rogier van der Seven Sacraments Altarpiece 1445-50 Oil on oak panel Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp SacramentsSacraments
    2. 2. Compendium of the Catechism  224. What are the sacraments and which are they?  1113-1131  The sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses . Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
    3. 3. Introduction  God instituted the physical signs that we call sacraments, in order to express the supernatural realities of grace:  we are born to supernatural life through Baptism,  we are strengthened by Confirmation,  we are sustained by the food of the Eucharist,  we recover the supernatural life lost by sin through Penance,  and we make ready for the journey that will end up in heaven through the Anointing of the Sick.  Holy Orders provide ministers for the Church,  and Matrimony, from which children are born to perpetuate human society and, when regenerated by baptism, make the Church grow. DOLCI, Carlo Christ Blessing the Sacraments Bridgeman Art Library Corsham Court, Wiltshire
    4. 4. Main ideasMain ideas
    5. 5. 1. What are the sacraments?  The sacraments are physical and efficacious signs of grace instituted by Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.  A physical sign is something apparent which reveals something hidden; if I see smoke, I discover that there is a fire.  But we also say efficacious sign, because the sacrament not only signifies but also produces grace (smoke only points to the existence of fire but does not produce fire). CARPACCIO, Vittore (1450-1525) The Baptism of the Selenites Tempera on canvas, 1502-1507 (141 x 285 cm) Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice
    6. 6. 2. Why were the sacraments instituted?  Christ wanted to adapt Himself to our nature, bestowing divine gifts on us through the material things we use, so that it would be easier for us to receive those gifts.  The humanity of Christ is the instrument united to His divinity used to carry out the redemption of mankind. In the same way, the sacraments are the instruments separated from His divinity through which God sanctifies us, adapting Himself to our nature and understanding. POUSSIN, Nicolas The Sacrament of Ordination 1636-40 Oil on canvas Collection of the Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle
    7. 7. 3. Jesus Christ instituted the seven sacraments  All the sacraments have been instituted by Jesus Christ –who is the author of grace and can communicate it through physical signs. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments meet all the needs of the spiritual life of Christians.POUSSIN, Nicolas The Seven Sacraments: Marriage 1647-48 Oil on canvas, 117 x 178 cm National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
    8. 8. 4. The sacraments of the Church  Christ entrusted the sacraments to His Church and we can say that they are “of the Church” in a double sense:  the Church makes or administers or celebrates the sacraments,  the sacraments make the Church (for example, baptism generates new faithful for the Church).  Sacraments therefore are dispensed by the Church and for the Church. POUSSIN, Nicolas The Seven Sacraments: Eucharist 1647 Oil on canvas National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
    9. 9. 5. The sacraments of faith  The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, –that is, the Church– and, finally, to worship God.  In so far as they are signs, they also have a teaching dimension. They not only presuppose faith, but also strengthen it, nourish it and express it through words and actions. That is why they are called the sacraments of faith. CARRENO DE MIRANDA, Don Juan The Miracle of the Holy Sacrament 1423 The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham UK
    10. 10. 6. Effects of the sacraments  The sacraments, if received with the required dispositions, produce the following effects : a) Sanctifying grace: The sacraments confer or increase sanctifying grace. b) Sacramental grace: As Christians, we have the right to receive from God at the appropriate time the necessary help to fulfil the duties upon receiving that sacrament. c) Character. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders also confer character, which is a spiritual and indelible “seal” that brings about a particular sharing in the priesthood of Christ.
    11. 11. 7. What does a sacrament consist of?  A sacrament consists of matter, form and the minister who performs it with the intention of doing what the Church does.  Matter is the physical reality or action, such as natural water in baptism or the acts of the penitent in the sacrament of penance (contrition, confession and atonement).  Form consists of the words uttered in order to perform the sacrament.  Minister is the person who performs or administers the sacrament.
    12. 12. 8. Diversity of sacraments  Sacraments can be divided into three groups : a) Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. b) Sacraments of healing: Penance and Anointing of the Sick. c) Sacraments for the service of the community: Holy Orders and Matrimony.
    13. 13. 9. The sacraments are necessary for salvation  If we are to live a Christian life, the sacraments are not only important but also necessary.  The sacraments invariably confer grace if they are received with the appropriate dispositions. If we don’t receive more grace, we should not blame the sacrament for it, but our lack of proper preparation.  Christians should endeavour to receive the sacraments with the best attitude they can, so as to receive grace abundantly. SASSETTA The Miracle of the Holy Sacrament 1423 The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, UK
    14. 14. ResolutionsResolutions for Christianfor Christian lifelife
    15. 15. Resolutions to move forward  Thank Our Lord for the institution of the seven sacraments and show that we appreciate it by preparing very well to receive them.  Receive often the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.

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