What is a Sacrament? Some Catholics may know what it is, but if you were to ask any Catholic what the word SACRAMENT means, they would probably get the answer wrong, or give different definitions of what a Sacrament is and does for a Christian.
The way the Church sees it, a Sacrament is a Mystery, given to us by Jesus Christ. It was never invented by the Church, nor is a SACRAMENT a performance for a magic spell – the Church believes that Jesus gave each SACRAMENT to the Church for our Salvation. In other words, Sacraments are there for each of us to live a profound personal relationship with Jesus.
As a MYSTERY, the Sacraments bind us so closely to the Birth, the Life, the Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each Sacrament can transform our lives, inviting us to believe and live out our faith in Jesus daily, connecting us to Him. and to His family - the saints in Heaven, on Earth, and in Purgatory. This is why the authors of the Catechism of the Catholic Church truly believe, celebrate, and teach us by their own testimony that the Sacraments give power to save and transform our lives. Central to the Sacraments is the Eucharist we receive on Sunday, and daily. Pope Paul VI wrote,
Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also He sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This He did that, by preaching the gospel to every creature, they might proclaim that the Son of God, by His death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan and from death, and brought us into the kingdom of His Father. His purpose also was that they might accomplish the work of salvation which they had proclaimed, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves. Thus by baptism men are plunged into the paschal mystery of Christ: they die with Him, are buried with Him, and rise with Him; they receive the spirit of adoption as sons "in which we cry: Abba, Father" (Rom. 8 :15), and thus become true adorers whom the Father seeks. In like manner, as often as they eat the supper of the Lord they proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. For that reason, on the very day of Pentecost, when the Church appeared before the world, "those who received the word" of Peter "were baptized." And "they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread and in prayers . . . praising God and being in favor with all the people" (Acts 2:41-47). From that time onwards the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things "which were in all the scriptures concerning him" (Luke 24:27), celebrating the eucharist in which "the victory and triumph of his death are again made present", and at the same time giving thanks "to God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:15) in Christ Jesus, "in praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12), through the power of the Holy Spirit. (1)
The word SACRAMENT comes from two words in Latin: "sacra", which means "to devote", and 'mentum", which means "ment" or shall we say, "a state", or "quality", or "condition." In other words, if you had been given a SACRAMENT you had received a profound gift that would transform your life. You are called to live it with devotion - that being our life in Christ. You and I are called CHRISTIAN, because our life has been consecrated to Jesus. It is He who we "devote" our lives to, and in this state, quality, or condition, we Christians are joined to Jesus' Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection, Name, Blood, Words, Actions, and Blessings.
When the Church invites us to enter into the Eucharistic Celebration, we believe that this MYSTERY celebrated gives us daily strength and life, promising us life with God and His people. Think of it like a computer that has all the "bells and whistles" to make it work - all the components and hardware, including programs, exist to allow the computer to perform. To make it better, a physical change needs to be added to allow it to perform according to newer technology or programs.
Experiencing a slow down on the computer, one simply looks into the system to see if a chip or hardware needs upgrading, or a software is not performing correctly. Changing the hardware makes the difference for high performance, but the computer remains the same. The hardware and coding are MYSTERY to us, because we don't see the inner workings of the coding, or how the hardware reacts to the simple clicks of the key board or mouse. The SACRAMENTS act the same way, but looking at it from a spiritual perspective, nothing is moved, removed, or modified - the SACRAMENTS give strength to the Christian to live a good life or shall we say, "a life of holiness." The only thing that we can say is removed or changed is that the person, connected to God by way of the SACRAMENTS, is living a personal relationship with God. God is the one who makes the Christian “Holy”
WHAT ARE THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS?
The Church teaches us that Jesus gave to us SEVEN SACRAMENTS and they are broken down into three Categories – Sacraments of Initiation, Sacraments of Healing, and Sacraments at the Service of Communion and Mission. They are:
The Sacraments of Initiation:
The Sacraments of Healing:
Anointing of the Sick
The Sacraments at the Service of Communion & Mission:
In three Ecumenical Councils, the Church mentions and defends the number of Sacraments Christ gave to the Church. In the 2nd Council of Lyons (1274), the fathers of the Council teach that “the ecclesiastical sacraments are seven.” (2) In the Council of Florence (1439), the fathers of the Council defend the number of Sacraments stating, “There are seven sacraments of the new Law: namely, baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony, which differ a great deal from the sacraments of the Old Law.” Same defense is made by the Council fathers at the Council of Trent (1547), which stated, “If anyone shall say that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, or that there are more or less than seven, namely baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, order, and matrimony, or even that anyone of these seven is not truly and strictly speaking a sacrament: let him be anathema” (3)
You and I may see this as academic and unimportant for young Catholics to know – but we need to know! Members of our youth group or ministry may not find this appealing, but it should be understood that we have a rich history that can “back up” what we believe.
What’s more important is that youth begin to trust the Lord, encounter Him by way of the power of the Sacraments, and they experience Christ in their joys, and troubles. The Sacraments are Spiritual Signs or “Markers”, reminding us that “He is with us”, no matter our circumstances. This blessing kept deep in mind and heart is alone a saving moment when despair “beats us to the ground”, Christ’s strength will flow through the Sacraments, “raising us up”. This is part of the Gospel Message!
Each week, DHT will focus on the word SACRAMENT, taking a paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We will put our attention on the Sacrament of MATRIMONY, since it has been misunderstood by some in youth and young adult leadership.
Join us for our next topic: “My Mysterious Love – The Sacraments of Jesus.”
With DHT – We Dare You To Believe!
INTERESTED IN SOME CATHOLIC RESOURCES? Check out these sites
Catechism of the Catholic Church – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM
Ecumenical Council Documents – http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/index.htm
Denzinger - http://patristica.net/denzinger/
(1) Sacrosanctum Concilium 6 (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – Vatican II)
(2) 2nd Council of Lyons (1274), Denzinger 464
(3) Council of Florence (1439), Denzinger 695
(4) Council of Trent (1547), Denzinger 844