The Seven Sacraments
Sign and symbol remain close to the human heart for communicating meaning and close to the Church’s heart are such sacred ways to express a life worth living.
Christ as the source of sacramental living
Christ by his life, death and resurrection roots in word and deed, God’s action in our world. It is the vocation of the Church to call to mind Christ’s focused way and offer each and every person His way of communicating God’s presence among us to discover our faith and ultimate direction in life.
The reality of people’s lives from birth to natural death through the combination of sign and symbol is embraced by seven sacred mysteries called sacraments.
Constantly tempted as we are to root ourselves in unreality i.e. in all that is not leading to God, the sacraments call, direct and nourish a person’s faith journey by communicating that God is not dead, God is here desiring to participate in each person’s life by offering help each step of life’s journey. The sacramental life is a graced life.
To begin this sacramental lifestyle it stands to reason that a person must first be attracted to the person of Jesus. The sacraments assume a person has faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
“Sacrosanctum Concilium” on 4th December 1963 declared:
“The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify, to build up the body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only pre-suppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen and express it; that is why they are called sacraments of faith…. “ (SC59)
So a person begins their sacramental journey through growing their faith in Christ which then guides a person to grasp something of the nature of a sacrament and enkindles a desire to receive the gift of Christ in ways suitable for their journey.
From earliest times the Church grew gradually in her missionary understanding and relationship in the world.
Imagination is needed to see the role of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist within the early days. Anyone who wanted to know more about Christ and His teaching and then how they might follow Him had first to make contact with his disciples or followers of the Way (Acts of the Apostles 11). Not an easy task as death threats surrounded the early Christians.
A link was needed. We witness this in Paul’s journey to be a Christian. He in particular, “the persecutor” of the Church, needed Barnabas to connect him to the larger community and vouch for his character and conversion. Barnabas exemplifies what today we call a Sponsor. He took the risk of meeting Paul and hearing his story and believing in his conversion.
An enquirer, like Paul, rubbing shoulders with other Christians, would be helped in this way to discover Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God and would be ready to take part further in the life of the believing community.
There are traditionally three basic ways by which the sacraments offer and effect this relationship with God-with-us:
- Participation in the life of the Church – The Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist
- Healing – bringing love – Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick
- Vocationally: presenting the face of Christ – Matrimony and Holy Orders