Sacraments: What do they do?

th[1]The sacramental system of the Catholic Church comes to us and was instituted by Jesus Christ. The sacraments are actions of Christ and his Church, whereby the signs and means of “saving grace” is normally bestowed on souls. Each sacrament bestows a special grace and effects the soul in a particular way. A person’s soul is directly touched by the power of Christ in a special way through the sacraments.

When a person is baptized, grace enters the soul. But, if someone is not baptized, through no fault of their own, they may still receive grace. The Church teaches that for everyone, once they reach the age of reason, God gives them sufficient “actual grace” to enable him to lift his soul towards the love of God, to receive from God sanctifying grace if the person wills it. St. Augustine once wrote, “We are bound by the sacraments, God is not.”

It is God’s plan for us that we receive Baptism. In baptism, water is poured on the head, with these words being said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus stated to Nicodemus; “Unless one be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5).” St. Paul tells us in the book of Romans; “We were taken up into Christ by baptism…in our baptism we have been buried with him, died like him, so that, just as Christ was raised up by his Father’s power from the dead, we too might live and move in a new kind of existence (6:3-4).”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony…As she has done for the canon of Sacred Scripture and for the doctrine of the faith, the Church, by the power of the Spirit who guides her “into all truth,” has gradually recognized this treasure received from Christ and, as the faithful steward of God’s mysteries, has determined its “dispensation…” The sacraments are “of the Church” in the double sense that they are “by her” and “for her.” They are “by the Church,” for she is the sacrament of Christ’s action at work in her through the mission of the Holy Spirit. They are “for the Church” in the sense that “the sacraments make the Church,”35 since they manifest and communicate to men, above all in the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the God who is love, One in three persons (paragraphs #1113, #1117, #1118).”

th[9]

In and through all the sacraments, we receive sanctifying grace. Again, the sacrament of Baptism initiates it; Confession restores that grace when it has been lost because of mortal sin, or it increases it if the penitent’s sins are venial.

The Blessed Eucharist is the Sacrament. Baptism exists for it, all the others are enriched by it. The whole being is nourished by it. It is precisely food, which explains why it is the one sacrament meant to be received daily. Without it, one petition in the Our Father—”Give us this day our daily bread”—lacks the fullness of its meaning (pg. 153, Frank Sheed, Theology for beginners).”

In the sacrament of Confirmation, we become adult members of the Church. Through it’s graces, we are brought to maturity. It gives us the power to profess our faith through words and actions publicly.

The sacrament of Matrimony is, supernaturally, a high honor. It is a special way of receiving sanctifying grace. If we look to the Book of Ephesians, 5:23-30, St. Paul compares the union of a husband and his wife with that of Christ and his Church.

In the Letter of St. James (4:14), he describes the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick; “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

“Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate (CCC #1536).”

Until next time, God bless.

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