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The seven sacraments are an essential aspect of the church. The paper will focus on the seven sacraments, their history, significance, and application. The paper will focus on two primary sources. One is “Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church” by Martos (2001) that seeks to describe the history and emergence of sacraments within the Catholic church. This is a good source to provide in-depth analysis of the seven sacraments, and their importance to human life and believers. Th second primary source is “The Study of Liturgy and Worship: An Alcuin Guide” by Gordon-Taylor and Juliette (2016) which focuses on the contemporary research about worship and liturgy. The goal is to provide new insights into various topics that are arranged thematically. The Sacraments are regarded as an outward expression with a myriad of variations both in practice and number, and they guide Christian life.
The seven sacraments define the life of Catholic Church Christians from different places and parts of the world. These sacraments are highly adhered to and respected. These seven sacraments were initiated by Jesus Christ, the son of God. Every ritual plays a significant role in lives of Catholic Church Christians. It provides the outer indication of the inner grace. The seven sacraments are essential in Christian lives, and when practiced in the right manner, they cater to people with sufficient grace. When people worship, they provide to God what they owe Him, and in the seven sacraments, God gives people the graces required to live a desirable and genuinely human life (Gordon-Taylor 12). The seven sacraments undeniably define a life of a Catholic Christian, and each of the sacrament is expounded on and its relevance in Christian life.
The sacraments are divided into three major groups. The first sacrament involves those that deal with healing, which is penance and anointing of individuals who are sick. The second category is initiation. It entails eucharist, confirmation, and baptism. Finally, the third is healing which involves vocation, comprising of holy orders and marriage. These three categories are vital which ensures that they influence each critical aspect of the Catholic’s life. The primary goal for all Christians is to attain an understanding and maturity of faith so that they can serve individuals in the name of Christ (Martos 32).
Researchers on Byzantine theology often post that the sevenfold content and enumeration of the mysteries or sacraments in Orthodoxy is due to the Roman Catholic church imposition of this approach in the Eastern Church. The typical narratives suggest that the numerical list of the sacraments that are part of Orthodoxy is due to the unfortunate profession of Faith by Emperor Michal VIII that occurred at Lyons II. This was agreeable to the Latin, which comprised the seven sacraments. Essentially, the learned Orthodox adopted the content and enumeration of the seven sacraments from other sources and not as a reaction to the Protestant polemics or Lyons II agreement (Martos 35).
The sacrament of Baptism is the first of the seven sacraments. Most Catholic people are baptized while being infants to welcome them as members of a church. This is the reason why the sacrament of baptism is also highly referred by many people across the world as the door of the church. Whenever a person gets baptized, he or she becomes a Christian member of the church. This sacrament is the first one out the prior three Sacraments of initiation, and the other two sacraments are the sacrament of confirmation and the sacrament of the Holy Communion. The sacrament of Baptism is vital in Christian life because it initiates a new life in Christ and becoming part of Christ, the sins are forgiven, and one is filled with God’s grace (Martos 9). When one is baptized, it creates a way for the other sacraments because they all depend on it. Baptism requires the parents and godparents for the ceremony and the methods of baptizing are either pouring water on one’s forehead or immersing the head on water.
The Roman Catholic perspective on baptism is that it sanctifies grace to the individual. It also means a reduction of all punishments due to sin, both temporal and eternal. It leads to spiritual birth, and it joins the body of the individual to Christ. The Lutheran view is also almost similar. Faith is a vital component of the process. Essentially, Baptism is a means of grace and also aids in strengthening faith. In summary, the Lutheran view states, “In Baptism God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what he has promised” (Martos 69). On the other hand, the Presbyterians and reformed consider baptism as a seal and sign of the covenant. The aspect of baptism has been incorporated into the discipline and faith of the church. All the groups also allow for the baptism of infants. It is viewed as a practice that initiates the individual into the covenant. However, this perspective has been challenged by the Anabaptist who is regarded as a radical movement emanating from the Reformation. This suggests that baptism can only be valid if it occurs where an individual can repent and also profess their faith (Gordon-Taylor 17). In this regard, the act of Baptism is merely a testimony or witness to an individual’s perspective about faith, and it does not affect the person being baptized.
The sacrament of Confirmation is the second sacrament of the three sacraments of initiation. This sacrament is usually done in teenage. This usually is after several years of making the first communion. Confirmation is highly referred to as perfection of baptism. When a baptized person becomes confirmed, he or she is more covered and protected by the power of the Holy Spirit and also bound firmly to the church. The confirmed people should always remain pure and full of grace before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. If one does not receive the sacrament of Confirmation immediately after baptism, the confirmand should go through the sacrament of Confession before confirmation (Martos 82). After one gets confirmed, the graces of God increase just like the graces that were given to the Apostles on Pentecost. Special graces are conferred upon the lives of Christians who get confirmed through the sacrament of confirmation and Holy Spirit. Each and every Christian is obliged to receive the sacrament of Confirmation so as to perfect his or her baptism.
The sacrament of Holy Communion is another crucial sacrament in Christian life and is the third of the sacraments of initiation. The sacrament dedicates a person to the life of Christ, and this qualifies it as a sacrament of initiation. It helps a Christian to give in fullness his life to Christ. In Holy Communion, Christians eat the body and true blood of Jesus Christ. Christians should not participate in the Holy Communion if they do not have sufficient grace or if they have been involved in any form of sin. They should participate in the sacrament of Confession before joining in for Holy Communion. When Christians receive the Holy Communion worthily, it showers graces upon them that affects them both physically and also spiritually. Christians become closer and united to Christ in their souls through the graces they are receiving from Christ. The sufficient grace leads to change of outer actions, and they can be noted. The sacrament of Holy Communion relieves Christians from passions on earth or earthly doings and brings them closer to Christ. Just like baptism, the holy communion has also had a wide array of differences based on significance to practice. There are also different views which have led to some issues in some cases about its application in the Church. However, most parties are in consensus that it leads to spiritual benefits for individuals who receive it. In the Catholic church, mass is used to describe this rite (Gordon-Taylor 21). The holy communion is seen as a practice that represents the sacrifice that Christ made on the Cross. The Catholic view is that the Eucharist is regarded as spiritual food for the soul. Its purpose is to free individuals from sins while also strengthening them.
The sacrament of Confession is another sacrament recognized across the world by the Catholics. It is believed to be the most misunderstood of all the other sacraments of the Catholic Church. When Christians reconcile with God, it creates a better relationship and as a result, creates a good source of grace from God. The Catholics believe profoundly that Jesus Christ Himself gave all sacraments. For the confession, it was given by Jesus Christ after resurrecting from the dead. It took place on an Easter Sunday when Jesus Christ appeared to the apostles for the first time since his death at a cross and gave them the Holy Spirit to guide them and told them to forgive people who sin them for they were also forgiven. The Catholics significantly believe that the sacraments are the outer show of the inner grace and for this case, forgiveness shows the outer sign. Confession plays a significant role in Christian life. It helps Christians to reconcile with God and get sufficient grace and guidance to do the right. When Christians sin, they decrease themselves God’s grace, and by this action, they are more prone to sinning than ever before. The best way Christians to stop depriving themselves of God’s grace is by acknowledging their sins, repenting their sins and asking God for forgiveness (Martos 38). The sacrament of Confession confers graces upon the Christians who confess, and that is why Catholic churches across the world require Christians to receive it at least once in a year
Marriage being prevalent and practiced in different places around the world; it brings another sense to the importance of sacraments in Christian life. Marriage is something that is common to all people. It is the union of two different people of different genders that is male and female who come together for mutual support, love and also procreating. One has to sacrifice a lot over his or her rights to get others in exchange for other in the new life. Marriage is important. In Catholic, marriage was elevated by Jesus Christ Himself by attending the wedding at Cana. This apparently qualifies this sacrament to be one of the seven sacraments (Gordon-Taylor 37). The Catholic refers to marriage as a sacrament when the two people of different genders who have been baptized get married. When the spouse is ready for the marriage, and they end up getting married to one another, a sacrament is performed. The sacrament initiates an increase in the provision of grace from God to the spouses. The grace helps the spouses to aid each other and also other people so as to continue being in holiness. It helps the spouses to unite well and cooperate in God’s work and plans by bringing up their children in the Faith.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is also referred to as the sacrament of apostolic ministry. This is because in Catholic the sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuity of Jesus Christ’s ministry of the priesthood which He left upon his apostles. The sacrament of Holy Orders is highly showered upon baptized men. In times of Jesus Christ and His apostles, they only chose men as their successors. One cannot order to be chosen or ordained in Church, but the Church has the power to choose the one which is favorable and right to receive the sacrament. The sacrament of Holy Orders can only be received once at the levels of being ordained. Once a person is chosen, he is spiritually different and changed. The Holy Spirit confers the grace of God upon Him. In every level or ordination, special graces are conferred from the capability one has to preach to the other different abilities conferred to them to spread the word of God (Gordon-Taylor 52).
The Sacrament of Anointing the Sick was previously conducted to the dying to cleanse their sins, the recovery of physical health and also gain of strength spiritually. It is practiced in relation to Jesus healing the apostles. According to Paul, Jesus Christ is the healer. He healed the apostles. In modern days it is also operated to people who are about to undergo a very serious surgery or operation (Gordon-Taylor 64).
In some cases, it is challenging to consider a symbol based on an ironic perspective. This is the same case with the sacraments, which often has symbols that are elevated to a new order. The realism ability is entirely relatable, based on the traditional theology. In this content, the sacraments effect what they symbolize, hence the use of the language “real presence.” It is difficult to consider that the sacraments are ironical. For instance, during the persecution of Diocletian who was a martyr of Abitina in the fourth century, they were requested to reject the celebration of the Eucharist. However, one of the martyr’s responses that it would be difficult to function without the Lord’s sacrament. The number of sacraments was reduced to seven in the early Middle Ages even though it has been unwarranted. It is challenging to consider confirmation categorially as separated from the sacrament of baptism. The sacraments that were common in the early centuries were differentiated and many such as monastic life. This means that for a nun or monk who has been called, it is difficult to divorce them from it since it would be a violation. This symbolism is closely linked with the reality which makes it difficult to separate them (Gordon-Taylor 61). Additionally, the father could have chosen to greet the prodigal son joyfully. However, he chose not to embrace him. The embrace was not a sacrament, but it can be regarded as a natural sacrament which is an essential part of life. Without it means that the relationship merely is undermined.
One attribute of sacraments is that they tend to comprise the spoken work. As Augustine states, “the word comes upon the element, and a sacrament comes to be” (Gordon-Taylor and Juliette 49). Consequently, Eucharistic prayer applies to the Eucharist, the Trinitarian formula during baptism and absolution during confessions. This does not mean other symbols will not need words. This leads to a threefold state, sacrament, symbol, and sign. There is lack of a dividing line even though they progress from a scale. The church is also regarded as the essential sacrament, and it is also the symbol as well. The disciples were aware of Christ and a blood and flesh human being, something that those who came after are not aware of. After the resurrection of Christ, the belief of particularity was lost, and the Lord became accessible to more people everyone, and not just in blood and flesh. As a strategy to relate to him, just like any person, humans have to rely on all their faculties comprising of rough, sound, sight body and spirit. The symbolic and sacrament order attains this. Four categories emerge traditions, scriptures, people and things that belong to the Church.
Humans encounter Christ in each other. In this context, the individuals are sacrament and symbol. One issue that arises in contemporary Christianity is the incapability to differentiate between what is symbolic and what is purely human among Christians. Disagreement and dislike in the congregation can lead to problems since the rules operating are likely to be secular. It is not sufficient for the Christian community to have a democratic voice. For example, decisions have to made as a corporate quest to support the will of God. God’s people, the church, is the fundamental sacrament (Martos 47). Even though Christians do not meet Christ in blood and Flesh, but the individuals who make up the Church we can experience Christ. The Church is also in other humans. However, a difference from the Church is that Christ’s presence is not hidden and is named.
There is a link between grace and sacramental sights. Despite this, several varying perspectives have arisen about this relationship. This was during the Reformation, and the Roman Church suggested that Sacraments lead to the grace which is of their own power. Sacraments are regarded as a means to channel grace, and they also communicate what they signify effectively. A common element is that grace is received. It does not depend on the individual who administers it, virtue or even who receives the sacraments. Moreover, the only way to receive the grace freely is if the recipients have attained the proper temperament. This view held by the Catholics was challenged during the Reformation period by various opponents. They opponents believed that faith was a vital aspect of gaining grace. Some of the Protestants also suggested that Sacraments are merely symbols rather than something that can be used to attain grace. Furthermore, Martos (2001) details a catholic/protestant difference in regards to how grace is attained. He says that sacrament is a “means of salvation that make people more fit to receive justification from God. But on a Protestant view, the means of grace are simply an additional blessing within the Christian life” (45).
To conclude there is a wide array of theological understanding and practice of the sacraments among the different Christian denominations. They are the way that God strengthens faith while also imparting grace. While some people regard them as symbolic, others suggest that they are testimonies or reminders of what occurred in the past. The seven sacraments are undeniably essential in the everyday lives of each and every Christian today. They clearly state the lifestyles of Christians and significantly guide them in their doings. As a Christian one starts with the prior three sacraments which dramatically builds his or her growth as one develops his life in Christ. The way one follows and respects the sacraments the more he or she gets sufficient grace abundantly from God.
- Gordon-Taylor, Benjamin, and Juliette Day. The study of liturgy and worship: an Alcuin guide. Liturgical Press, 2016.
- Martos, Joseph. Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Liguori/Triumph, 2001.
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