An initiation is a process through which a community of people introduces new members into its ranks. In every culture in our world a series of elaborate rituals and sites of initiation have been developed as a means of passing on the acquired wisdom, knowledge and beliefs that are so vital to the survival and future well-being of the community. The rituals present to the initiates the myths and symbols which define the identity of the group, and set it apart from other groups.
It is through effective initiation that a community guarantees its cohesiveness and security, and ensures that future generations will be well supported by committed members of the community. At the same time if initiation is non-existent or ineffective then a community will gradually die out. An ineffective initiation rite, while incorporating individuals into the community, will not introduce the type of individuals that will make them worthy and fruitful members of the group. As members of the Catholic Church there are many who can bear witness to the fact that although there may be numerous validly initiated members of the Church many of them no longer identify with the teachings, nor do they regularly attend the rites of our Christian community. If this is to change then initiations into the Catholic Church must signify something that encourages the initiates to live their lives differently than they did before the initiation. Some would put it more bluntly by saying a person should not undergo the initiation process if they do not believe in the teachings of the Church and are prepared to make a change in their life afterwards.
There are some members of our community who believe that our Church rituals, as they now stand, are too full of words and require too much interpretation. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Catholic Church is an apostolic, missionary Church and we are fully aware that proclaiming the word of God does not necessarily mean the use of endless words. St. Francis of Assisi advised us all “Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.” In our ancient rituals we realise that there is a need to be creative if we are to make our rituals more relevant to the modern world, but we must immerse the people in the story behind the rituals which underpins them. All the sacraments of the Church, particularly the sacraments of initiation, have been created to turn our attention to our own human experiences, but in a new way. For each participant to truly encounter God in the sacred rituals they must first treasure their own humanity and mortal experiences.
To fully understand just what a sacrament is we must first look into the word itself and from where it was derived. The word "Sacrament" is derived from the Latin word "Sacramentum", which simply means "a sign of the sacred". In its original form scripture had been written in Hebrew because it was the holy book of the Jewish faith and relevant to them alone. But, the coming of Christ was the fulfilment of the Hebrew bible and he instructed his disciples to go out into the world and teach all nations. If this task was to be effectively completed the deeds and words of Christ, and the teachings of St. Paul and the other evangelists had to be transcribed into a more universal language. In the Middle-East and Asia Minor almost everyone could speak or, at least understand, some Greek because it was the common language of trade and commerce. But, the real power in the world at this time was the Roman Empire and, as a consequence, the language of law and scholarship was Latin. Unsurprisingly to ensure the Christian story and teachings survived and spread their influence throughout the entire Empire they were translated from Greek to Latin. As the scriptures were translated to Latin so Latin words were adopted to describe specific things. In this way the Latin word "Sacramentum" was a word that was more than adequate to signify something that is sacred. Within Imperial Rome this word was used to describe the sacred oath taken by all soldiers of the Roman Legions that bound them to Rome and their Emperor. At the same time, within the Roman legal system the word "Sacramentum" was used to describe a bond that was deposited by litigants in a court case as a sign of good faith. With the accession of Constantine to the Imperial Throne Christianity became the dominant religion within the Empire and the word "Sacramentum" became the standard word to describe the sacredness of the Christian rituals.
A sign is usually regarded as something that represents or stands for something else e.g. smoke may be regarded as a sign of fire. But the Church has determined that three things are required for a rite to be considered a sacrament i.e. an outward sign, an inward grace, and be divinely instituted. We are taught that "Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism; Confirmation (Charismation); the Eucharist; Penance; the Anointing of the Sick; Holy Orders and Matrimony."(CCC1210).
What is a Sacrament<br />“... The sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life; they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith.”<br />(CCC. 1210)<br />“The Sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace instituted by Christ for our sanctification.” <br />(Council of Trent)<br />7<br />
9<br />God in the bits and pieces of every day life.<br />
10<br />"the purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify mankind, to build up the body of Christ and finally to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it."(CCC1123).<br />
14<br />“They give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith.”<br />(CCC. 1210)<br />
15<br />A Body made up of many different parts!<br />
What is the Necessity?<br />“efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church by which Divine Life is dispensed to us.”<br />(CCC. 131)<br />16<br />
Conclusion<br />“The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of confirmation and receive in Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of the sacraments of Christian Initiation they this receive in increasing measure the treasures of divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity.”<br />(CCC.1212)<br />17<br />
Next Presentation <br />The Sacrament <br />of <br />Baptism<br />Presented By: Jim Woods<br />18<br />