The Seven Sacraments of the Church lighting our way. If we look at what the Catechism says a sacrament is: “An Efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which the Divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.” Great! What in the world does that even MEAN!?
For many Catholics we hear over and over about the sacraments. “The Sacraments are the most important part…..” Of what? I can go down the street to the Methodist Church and get the same thing can’t I? Baptist have most of these. With the exception of a few. Each religion is a little different anyway right? For example I can go to my friends church and sit in a seat like at a movie theater, get a coffee and relax while I listen to the preacher. I get a little cup of grape juice and a piece of communion bread, they call it communion. Is it not the same?
These are the typical questions many Catholic’s have. As a result of their lack of understanding, the next big mega church grows with clueless Catholics. I was once one of them. I would say most of our fallen away brothers and sisters are not fully aware of what they are walking away from.
A Personal Relationship with my Lord and Savior, In the Sacraments?
This phrase use to get under my skin. Man would it drive me crazy when my protestant friends or their parents would ask, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”. I never knew really how to answer it. “Yes?” I guess, I knew it, but I don’t know what exactly that meant. In the same vein, I know what I receive was more authentic, but was unsure how.
My grandmother grew up in the deep south. She would share stories of some of the trying times she went through as a Catholic in Alabama. She remembers waking up one night to a cross burning in her front yard. As a result, her faith became like iron. She would always say, “Just tell them you’re a Catholic, they will go away.” if anyone came knocking to invite us to their Church.
During my reversion back to the faith, and during much time reading and studying I was able to find out what. We had the Sacraments. I realized now the answer to the question of: “Do you have a personal relationship with your Lord and Savior?” was YES! I not only have a personal relationship but an intimate one. I meet him face to face every time I take part in any of the Sacraments! Our relationship with Jesus is tangible! It is a real exchange of authentic love. WE HAVE THE SACRAMENTS! Not symbols. These are real moments in which Christ to brings us into a relationship with him. He gave them to the Church for this reason. So that we would have a personal relationship with him.
A personal theory on the Sacraments of the Church
I came up with this theory sometime during prayer, many years ago. The protestant churches have Baptism and Marriage and they have a “Communion” which in symbolic but not Eucharist. I kept wondering, why did they have these two sacraments, why did they only keep these two. Why communion, if its just a symbol?
My theory is simple. When Martin Luther broke from the Church he was a Priest and a very studied one at that. As a result he knew that the only two sacraments he could have present in the new faith were Baptism and Matrimony. They are the only two which do not require ordination to perform. Luther knew that once he separated from the Church that no longer would ordinations be possible since he did not carry the apostolic line of succession. So he also lost the Eucharist. In return, he used signs to compensate. As a result, the focal point could not be Word and Sacrament, but they could only sustain themselves on the Word of God.
The Seven Sacraments of the Church listed below with a brief outline of how God has provided them for us, to help with our weaknesses.
Here is each sacrament and a over view of why it is different and how it is in place to help us along our path to eternal glory.
The Sacrament of Baptism
The first of all Sacraments and the doorway to the other sacraments and into the Church. It is one of three of the Sacraments of Initiation, with Confirmation and the Eucharist. This sacrament washes us clean of the stain of original sin and imparts onto our souls an indelible mark. This sacrament washes us clean but can not take away all our human struggle. Our desire to do wrong is still present. The Church calls it concupiscence, its our strong desire to do wrong. It is an effect of original sin. Because we continue to fight against this, God knew we needed help to restore our self to the original blemish free state of our Baptism. So he provided for us, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Our protestant brothers and sisters perform Baptism over and over in some cases. Using it as a symbol of forgiveness, and repenting of their sins. Baptism done the first time correctly, can not be done again, or undone. The mark which it leaves on the soul is forever present.
The Sacrament of Confirmation
Confirmation is a completion of your baptismal promises. It seals, in a special way, the graces we received at Baptism. It prepares us to spread the Gospel Message. A strengthening for the mission in front of us. It can be compared to when the Apostles were in the upper room and the Holy Spirit first appeared to them. They had seen the Savior, they had seen his Crucifixion and His glorious resurrection. There was no doubt they had faith in him and what he said. But they still hid. Like them, we too need to receive in a special way, the Holy Spirit. We are sealed in the faith by the Bishop, the successor of the Apostles. The same apostles that received the sprit at Pentecost.
The Sacrament of Communion
Continuing our sacraments of initiation is our reception of Holy Communion, the Eucharist (which means thanksgiving). Jesus does not mince words on the institution of the Eucharist. He say’s this IS my body, this IS my blood. The connection of the sacrificial meal he was celebrating and the moment in which he chose to reveal this mystery is telling.
For example, Jesus’ intentions and words at that very moment in the supper reveals the pre-figerment of this meal. The meal which coincides with their departure from Egypt. Subsequently, Egypt is associated with sin in scripture. We receive this life saving meal, and it leads us out from the desert of sin. Reception of the body and blood of Jesus, is also receiving his soul his divinity. I can not help myself when it comes to recommending books, I am a huge book nerd, and I am a lover of Scott Hahn and the way he teaches, with his past in Protestantism. The Lambs Supper, another amazing read.
A great read is Eucharistic Miracles! It is AWESOME! I believe these are truly telling stories about the Eucharist. They are so neat and proof beyond a doubt of the real presence!
For another raise your hair lesson watch this video on how St. Justin Martyr describes the Mass in 155AD
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Confession is our pathway back to holiness. God knew we would struggle and occasionally fall. We would stain our baptismal garments through sin. To help us and to sustain us in our struggles we have the sacrament of reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus in the confessional. The priest acts as “Persona Chrisi” in the person of Christ. Jesus gave the authority to bind and loosen or earth and in heaven, he personally ask Peter to tend his flock.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our sins are forgiven and we are returned to our state of grace. I wrote a blog on a Step by Step Guide to a good confession.
A wonderful book that I enjoyed reading was: 7 Secrets of Confession By Flynn it gives some great insight into the Sacraments. If your into Audio another CD which Lighthouse media put out was their “Confession” CD. I do not have access to their stuff, most of you may have access to it through your parish. It is REALLY good! I have to include one of my favorite authors and theologians in the mix. This book by Scott Hahn on Confession is amazing. Again, from a Protestant’s viewpoint of the sacrament is great it is called: Lord, Have Mercy
The Sacrament of Marriage
Jesus blessed marriage in a special way. His very first miracle was at the wedding feast of Cana. The sacrament of marriage is a holy union between a man and woman with the intentions of procreation of children. The Domestic Church, as the family is referred to, is where the seeds of faith are nurtured and grow. God could have chosen any form to come as the savior of the world. He chose to come as a child, and live and learn as a boy in the Holy Family. We are called to live in this image of holiness.
Through marriage we are given the graces necessary to live out this calling. When the couple comes together as husband and wife in the procreation of children, the Holy Spirit is called down upon the couple in their union of self sacrifice. The marital act is therefore a holy and special act, and not to be exploited for personal satisfaction, outside of marriage.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders
Deacon, Priest, Bishop are all three examples of Holy Orders. Through this Sacrament the church provides men who nourish us with the other sacraments. Through this sacrament the apostolic secession is passes down through the generations by the laying on of hands. The same Spirit that was passed down from the apostles. This Sacrament also leaves an indelible mark on the receiver.
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick
Often times incorrectly referred to the sacrament of the dying, this sacrament is there to help those who are sick or are dying. Through special graces the individual receives strength in order to overcome the difficulties which lie ahead. In some cases, even a physical healing can occur. This Sacrament can be received more than once.
Sacraments are the most treasured gift we could ever receive. That is to say, sharing in God’s divine mercy and love through and with our participation in them. I know I would take them for granted. It becomes all too easy really doesn’t it? When we find ourselves taking part in them robotically, as it is just something we do. In line for confession like your in line at the grocery store waiting for your turn. Consequently, we do the same thing when we are in line for communion like in line for a hotdog at the stadium. I do the same thing, it happens without realizing that you are in the almighty presence of God.
So together let’s resolve to focus more on the special privilege we have as Catholic’s. Notably our personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.