BY PAT GOHN
The seven sacraments — Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony — have five important elements in common.
- They are the sacraments of Christ. All are instituted and based on the words and deeds of Jesus. His earthly life announced “what he was going to give the Church when all was accomplished” (CCC, 1115). St. Leo the Great taught: “What was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries [sacraments]” (CCC, 1115).
- They are the sacraments of the Church. The Catholic Church and Christ are one. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ guides her “to all truth” (John 16:13). The Church is “the faithful steward of God’s mysteries” (CCC, 1117).
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 Holy Spirit. They are “for the Church” in the sense that “the sacraments make the Church.” (CCC,1118)
3. They are sacraments of faith. The Church’s mission from Christ is to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them” (Matthew 28:19). But first, people’s hearts must be prepared by the word of God and by faith.
The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify…. They not only presuppose faith, but … they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called sacraments of faith. (CCC,1123)
4. They are sacraments of salvation. We are saved thanks to Christ at work in each sacrament. Sacraments confer grace, imparting a share in God’s divine life and friendship. Each sacrament offers unique graces for specific purposes.
The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. (CCC, 1129)
5. They are sacraments of eternal life.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that sacraments are a pledge and a sign of our future glory. “The Church celebrates the mystery of her Lord ‘until he comes,’ when God will be ‘everything to everyone.’” (1 Corinthians 11:26; 15:28; CCC,1130)
Sacraments unite us with God and his love and life now — as we await a more perfect communion in heaven.