Reflections on the Seven Sacraments

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The Seven Sacraments - by WEYDEN, Rogier van der - from Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

 

The Sacraments bring Divine Life or Grace. Christ's Reason for taking upon Himself a Human Nature, was to Pay for Sin, by Death on the Cross, and to bring us a Higher Life: "I have come so that they may have Life, and have it more Abundantly" (John 10:10). But, it may be said, that Man already has Life. Indeed he does; he has a Biological, Physiological Life. He once had a Higher Divine Life, which he Lost. Christ came to bring that Life back to Man. This Higher Life, which is Divine, distinct from the Human, is called Grace, because it is 'Gratis' or a Free Gift of God.

Over and above Human Life, then, there is the 'Divine Christ-Life'. The Seven (7) Conditions of leading a Personal Christ-Life, are the following:

(1) We must be Spiritually Born to it, and that is the Sacrament of Baptism

(2) We must Nourish the Divine Life in the Soul, which is the Sacrament of the Eucharist

(3) We must grow to Spiritual Maturity and assume Full Responsibilities as Members of the Spiritual Army of the Church, which is the Sacrament of Confirmation

(4) We must Heal the Wounds of Sin, which is the Sacrament of Penance

(5) We must Drive-out the Traces of the Diseases of Sin, which is the Sacrament of Anointing

(6) We must Live under the Spiritual Government of the Church, which is Holy Orders

(7) We must Prolong and Propagate the Kingdom of God on Earth, which is Matrimony

 

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D.

 

The Seven Sacraments

by Theologian, Father William G. Most

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Latin 'Sacramentum', first meant an 'Oath of Allegiance to a Military Commander'. Christians soon referred this to Christ, but also broadened the word to mean anything Religious and Mysterious. But more Precision was desired, and so by the 12th Century it was Limited to, meaning a Sacred Sign, established by Christ, to give Grace.

Only Baptized Persons can Receive the other Sacraments Validly, so that they count. Also, an Adult needs the Intention to Receive. For Valid and Fruitful Reception of Baptism, Penance and Anointing - Faith, Hope and at least Imperfect Sorrow for Sin, is required.

Sacraments Give, or Increase Sanctifying Grace, that is, Give or Increase the Ability of the Soul to see the Direct Vision of God in the Next Life. They also give Sacramental Grace, that is, a Title or Claim to receive Actual Graces, as needed to carry-out the Obligations imposed by the Sacrament Received.

In addition, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, produce a 'Character' in the Soul, which cannot be Erased. Hence, they cannot be Repeated.

 

Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation

Infused Gifts/Virtues
of the Holy Spirit
Baptism
(7 Virtues)
Confirmation
(7 Gifts)
Faith
Hope
Charity
Prudence
Fortitude
Justice
Temperance
Understanding
Knowledge
Wisdom
Counsel
Fortitude
Piety
Fear of the Lord

Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside within the Essence of Man's Natural Soul, giving its Facilities/Powers of Intellect and Will the Capacity for Supernatural Acts.

Baptism removes all Guilt of every Sin, and cancels all Punishment due to Sin. Penance can also Forgive all Sins after Baptism, but a Liability to Punishment may still remain.

The Infused Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are given, along with Grace, at Baptism, and a 'Beginning-of' the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is necessary for Salvation, though, when a Person, without any Fault, does not know of it, he can still be Saved by Faith, which includes Belief-in what God Teaches, Confidence-in His Promises, and Obedience-to His Commands. It is certain that Unbaptized Infants do not go to Hell, from the Teaching of Pius IX. Can they reach the Vision of God? Probably, but the Church has not Settled the Question.

Confirmation is the Second Stage of Christian Initiation. It is Especially Intended to give Strength to Hold-Firm in the Difficulties of Life, especially in a World, Hostile-to Christ.

 

Sacrament of Holy Eucharist (and Mass)

The Eucharist gives not only Grace, but the Author of all Grace. Christ is present in different ways to us -

where Two (2) or Three (3) are gathered together in His Name, and
in His Word in Scripture.

But, only the Eucharist gives the Physical Presence-of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. That 'Presence' continues as-long-as the Appearances of Bread are still Present-in the Recipient. So there should be some Time, Spent-in Thanksgiving, after Receiving.

Institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday at the Last Supper; first Holy Communion; Institution of the Priesthood; first Mass ...... et al.

Obviously, the Eucharist was Instituted at the Last Supper. Jesus said, if One does not Receive His Body and Blood, he does not have Life. But, as with Baptism, there can be an Excuse, in those who have no Chance and do not even Know-of the Eucharist.

The Mass is a True Sacrifice. For a Sacrifice needs Two (2) Things -

'Outward Sign', and
'Interior Dispositions'.

The 'Outward Sign' in Mass is the same as on Holy Thursday - Seeming Separation of Body and Blood, standing-for Death. On the Cross, there was the Physical Separation.

But in all, the 'Interior Sign' is the Disposition-of Obedience to the Will of the Father. Jesus said: "Do this in Memory of Me", providing-for the Mass, so we could join our Obedience, with His.

All Grace is Bought and Paid-for by His Death - yet, in His Love of Good Order, the Father Wills the Mass:

1) So we may Join our Obedience to His, as we said. We are Saved and made Holy, only in as-much-as we are His Members and like Him. Cf. Romans 8:17: "We are Heirs together with Christ, provided we Suffer with Him, so we may also be Glorified with Him".

2) In His Love of Good Order, He Loves to Provide a 'Title', for giving-out the Fruits of the Cross.

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Persona Christi
 

 The People can Offer-in the Mass, in Two Senses:

1) the Priest goes to the Altar, in the 'Person of Christ', Whose Members they are;

2) They Join their Dispositions of Obedience, Adoration, Contrition, Thanks and Prayer to that of the Priest, and that of Christ, on the Altar.

Vatican II spoke of Spiritual Sacrifices (Lumen Gentium 10 and 34), which means offering-up the Difficulties of Ordinary Life, along with Him.

At Mass, it is Good to Recall the Participation-of His Mother. She joined-in the Sacrifice on Calvary by her Obedience to the Will of the Father. In the Mass, her 'Interior Disposition' is still the same. And the Body and Blood Offered, came from her.

The Sacrifice itself is Complete, when the Double (2) Consecration is Completed. All else is not essential-to the Sacrifice. Yet Holy Communion follows, and is Required. Lack-of preparation-for it, and Lack-of Thanksgiving after it, may Result-in no-Gain in Grace at all, perhaps even a Spiritual Loss.

 

 

Sacrament of Penance

Jesus established this on His very-First Appearance-to the Apostles, after His Resurrection, as told in John 20: "Whose Sins you Forgive, they are Forgiven them; whose Sins you shall Retain, they are Retained". The Priest cannot Forgive, without knowing 'What' he is to Forgive. Hence, Confession of all Mortal Sins, is required, as Minimum. Doubtful Mortal Sins, need not be Confessed, but it is Good to Confess them, as Doubtful. It is also Helpful to Confess even Venial sins. The Priest will also Assign a Penance, to Help make-up for the Temporal Punishment left-over, even after Sins are Forgiven.

Sorrow for Sins is required-of the Penitent. Best, is Sorrow for having Offended God, Who is so Good in Himself, not only Good to us. Even Sorrow, out-of Fear of Hell will Suffice, if there is at least, some bit of the Higher Contrition, for Offending God, Who is so Good to us.

If a Mortal Sin is Committed, One must go to Confession before Receiving Holy Communion. In an Emergency Pressure Case -- One must Receive to avoid giving away the fact he is in Sin -- One may spend a few minutes thinking over the Reasons for Contrition. Then, he may Receive, but should get to Confession, as-soon-as Reasonably Possible.

 

Sacrament of Matrimony (Marriage)

God Himself established Marriage in Paradise. Jesus raised it to the Dignity of a Sacrament. Not clear just when He did so, perhaps at the Wedding of Cana, or else in Matthew 19:9, when He made it Indissoluble.

The Ministers of the Sacrament are the Two (2) Parties. The Priest, or Deacons, is only the Official Witness. However unless the Bishop dispenses, Catholics must Marry before a Priest, or Deacon, or it is Invalid.

Since it is a Sacrament, it gives an Increase-of Sanctifying Grace, and also Sacramental Grace - the Grace to carrying-out the Obligations the Marriage Imposes.

Marriage is in the Form of a Contract. Cf. especially 1Corinthians 7:1-4.

The Proper use of Marriage is Morally Good, as Vatican II taught-in 'Church in Modern World' #49. So to take all the Difficulties in it, which are so-common, as something in-accord-with the Father's Plans, is Sanctifying. Pope Paul VI wrote that, "Marriage is a Long Path toward Sanctification". Since the Psychology of Male and Female are so-different, even though it does not show during Courtship, it does show Later. Then, each one can Honestly say: I need to give-in most of the time, to make it Work. That is, the Opposite-of Selfishness, is Sanctifying. And Care of Children, if taken as part-of the Father's Plans, is also so. And if there is need to take Care of Baby at 3 AM, with this Intention, it could be called a Holy Hour.

The Indissolubility of Marriage is needed, by the Nature of Things, for the sake of the Children.

Sadly, we must Fear, some Parties today grow up as Psychological Infants - they do only what Feels Good, as-long-as it Feels Good, and then Stop. They are hardly in shape for the Permanent Commitment, and the give-and-take, that Marriage must be.

It used to be said that the Primary Purpose of Marriage is Procreation and Rearing, and the Secondary, Mutual Love and Support. Vatican II changed the Language, but said the same thing in 'Constitution on Church in Modern World' 49 and 50.

Saint Paul, in Ephesians, says that Marriage is an Image-of the Union-of Christ with the Church.

The Church, by the Authority of Christ, has set up certain Impediments to Marriage. We must Observe these.

 

Sacrament of Holy Orders

The Council of Trent defined that, at the Last Supper, when Jesus told the Apostles: "Do this in Memory of Me", He Ordained them Priests. On Easter Sunday Night He gave them the Power to Forgive Sins: John 20:22-23.

There are Three (3) Degrees of the Sacrament of Orders:

Deacon,
Priest, and
Bishop.

The Holy Spirit is Received in each. A Character (Mark) is Imprinted, which makes it impossible to repeat the Sacrament.

So all Three (3) are Members of the Hierarchy, a word that does not mean 'Higher-Archy' , but Sacred Government.

This Sacrament, Conforms them to Christ. But more important still, is the Personal Holiness that this Sacrament calls for. Even in speaking of His Mother, when a woman in the crowd said: "Blessed is the Womb that bore You", He replied; "Rather, Blessed are they who Hear the Word of God, and Keep it". He was comparing Two (2) Dignities,

that of the Mother of God,
that of 'Hearing', and 'Keeping' the Word of God.

She is, of course, at the Peak, in both Categories.

 

Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

The Council of Trent defined that Jesus Instituted this Sacrament. It said, it was Insinuated-in Mark 6:13, but Promulgated-in James 5:14-15.

oil361.gif (6714 bytes) The Anointing with Oil stands for Strengthening the One Anointed. So it is to Strengthen the Sick Person for his Last Illness and Death. But, it need not, and should not, be put-off until almost the very End. Special Aid is needed against the Assaults of Satan, that are apt to come, near the End.

If the Sick One cannot Confess, this Anointing can Remit even Mortal Sins, provided that the Sick Person had, in Faith, been Sorry for Sins, with at least Imperfect Contrition. It can also Remit, to a certain extent, the Temporal Punishment remaining, after Sins are Forgiven. Sometimes, it gives a Physical Improvement, if God so Wills.

It may be received by anyone who is in Danger-of Death from Illness, or who is Aged enough to be Weakened.

It can be given, even when the Person is Unconscious, or when he has Lost the Use of Reason, provided that he/she would likely have asked for it while in Possession-of their Faculties, and probably had at least Imperfect Contrition.

In any Doubt, of whether the Person is still Alive, it may be given Conditionally. There is sometimes an Interval between 'Seeming' and 'Actual' Death, especially in Sudden Death.

It can be given before Surgery, if the Illness in itself, is serious.

If the Person gets-Better, and then Falls-again into Danger, the Sacrament may be Repeated. It may also be Repeated, if the Illness gets Notably Worse.

The Oil is Blessed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday. But, in a case of Need, any Priest can Bless just enough for the Occasion. If Olive Oil cannot be had, any Vegetable Oil may be used.

The Sick Person should be Encouraged-to Offer his Sufferings in Reparation-for Sins, in Union-with Jesus and His Mother. We should Help those who are Dying, by being at their side, and by Whispering Short Prayers with, or to them. It is Good to Offer them a Crucifix to Hold and Venerate, if they can do so.