The seven sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick. While many can name the seven sacraments, few truly understand the depth and meaning behind each one. All of the sacraments represent milestone life events. The seven sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself and each one is accompanied by a special ceremony as an outward sign of an inward grace. Participation in the ceremony to mark the event bestows the Holy Spirit’s graces to the celebrant and allows God into the soul. Through the act of worship, man gives to God what we owe Him, but in the sacraments, God gives man the grace necessary to live a human life.
During the ceremonies that accompany each sacrament, words and gestures explain what God is doing for us. Symbols for the seven sacraments like water, bread, wine and oil are used to point to the divine love of God who shares His grace with us through the materials used during the ceremony. The materials are human, yet divine, similar to the way that Christ was fully human and divine. The sacraments are a way of welcoming and celebrating God’s loving involvement in our lives.
Sacraments of Initiation
The first three sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion, are collectively referred to as the sacraments of initiation. These three sacraments form the basis of living a life as a Christian and offer the individual time to learn and to grow their relationship with God. When progressing through the seven sacraments in order, these three must come first as they form the basis of an individual’s relationship with God.
Baptism is the first sacrament. During the ceremony, an individual formally accepts Christ and is cleansed of the Original Sin and any guilt associated with their life prior to the baptism. They are incorporated into the Church and are adopted by the Father as either a beloved son or daughter. They become a temple of the Holy Spirit and are then able to live and grow with God and the Church. Baptism forgives all sin and is required for salvation.
All humans need assistance in navigating through life, particularly in times of growth. During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the individual is supported as they mature in their faith. Time is given to learn to the teachings of Christ and God delivers support to His son or daughter through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts offer the strength needed for the individual to witness faithfully and courageously. Confirmation makes a person a partner with God in spreading the Word and living a faithful life.
Nourishment of the body is necessary for life. The Sacrament of Eucharist nourishes the spirit with the Body and Blood of Jesus. During the ceremony, the Eucharist is both a meal for nourishment as well as a sacrifice. The Eucharist is an object of adoration. It is considered the central sacrament of the Church because all of the other sacraments flow from the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Sacraments of Service
The Sacraments of Service include Marriage and Holy Orders. These sacraments are designed to initiate individuals into the phase of their lives where they further service God, spreading the Word and leading others to salvation.
The Sacrament of Marriage is a celebration of love and dedication. It begins with a wedding service where the couple pledges their fidelity and love for one another in front of God and the community. Marriage is a lifelong union that is meant to deliver the mutual support necessary to raise children and to serve the larger community. It strengthens the couple as parents and offers the unyielding support needed for the future. As a sacrament, marriage mirrors the union of Jesus and His Church.
Christ was careful to ensure that the Church would always be lead with a steady hand. Holy Orders are the sacrament of leadership and service. There are various degrees of the sacrament that incorporate all levels of leadership and involvement. God raises up deacons, priests and bishops to serve and lead the Church. His gift of assistance and strength for sharing the Word form the basis of the sacrament.
Sacraments of Healing
Man is weak. As a result of this, those that have been baptized often stray from the path, not living up to their position as the son or daughter of God. The Sacrament of Reconciliation celebrates forgiveness and the mercy of God. It requires the sinner to humbly acknowledge their shortcomings and to confess their sins. The sacrament also reestablishes a person’s membership in the Church. During the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest delivers the words of absolution in the name of God and the Church.
There are many ways an individual can fall ill. Humans can suffer from an illness of the body, the mind or the spirit. The Sacrament of Anointing delivers the healing touch of God, forgiving sin and helping to heal the body, mind or spirit. While the Sacrament of Anointing can restore a person to full health, sometimes it is meant to assist a person in accepting the reality of death, a natural part of human life. If death is immanent, the Eucharist is offered as Viaticum to nourish the dying as they journey back to the Father.