The word sacrament originated from the Latin word, sacramentum, which means ‘oath’. When we swear an oath, we bind ourselves to the terms. Therefore, through the sacraments we bind ourselves to God.
Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace instituted by Christ by which his grace is communicated to his church.
What Is The Usefulness of ‘Outward Signs’ In The Sacraments?
The existing Catechism of the Catholic church cited out (para. 1084), “Seated at the right hand of the Father and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted to communicate his grace”.
While human beings are creatures of both body and soul, they rely primarily on the senses to understand the world. Grace as a spiritual gift rather than a physical one is something that the the living in flesh can not see: The Catholic Catechism includes actions, words, and artifacts to make the grace a physical reality.
The words and actions of each sacrament, along with the physical artifacts used (such as bread and wine, holy water, or anointed oil), are representations of the underlying spiritual reality of the sacrament and “make present… the grace that they signify.” These outward signs help parishioners understand what is happening when they receive the sacraments. (The above explanation is emphatically based on the Eucharist which is among the sacraments of the Catholic church).
The Sacraments of The Catholic Church
The Catholic church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist (Holy communion), Penance (Reconciliation or Confession), Anointing of the sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony.
Brief Explanation of the Sacraments
- Baptism, which the Roman Catholic church teaches removes original sin while infusing the act with sanctifying grace.
- Penance, in which one confesses his/her sins to a priest.
- The Eucharist, considered the reception and consumption of the actual body and blood of Christ.
- Confirmation, a formal acceptance into the church along with special anointing of the Holy Spirit.
- Anointing of the sick: conducted by a priest using oil. The priest anoints the unhealthy person´s forehead and hands with oil. This is linked not only with bodily healing but with forgiveness of sins. When it is executed on a dying person, it is called Extreme Unction (or last rites or final anointing).
- Holy Orders: This is the process by which men are ordained to clergy.
- Matrimony: This provides special grace to a couple.
Can a Person Receive The Seven Sacraments?
In the case of the Anglican church, it is most common because their priests get married as such the priests may get the privilege to get the seven sacraments when he’s given the anointing of the sick which not everyone can get before death, after all not everyone would know when he or she would die. In the case of Roman Catholic church, it is very uncommon for any member to receive the seven sacrament because of the two contradicting ones – Sacrament of the “Holy Order and the Matrimony”. Since Catholic priests cannot marry according to the doctoring of the Church, they won’t get the sacrament of the matrimony and those who are married can’t receive the sacrament of the Holy Order to become a priest.
As stated earlier, it is also not very common to receive the anointing of the sick.
How Non-Catholics Perceive The Sacraments
Some protestant churches have just one which is baptism. Others have more than one but no more than five for the time being.
In the near future it is most likely that some protestant churches may adopt more or all of the seven sacraments in the Catholic church, judging from the fast imitation of the Catholic church’s traditions and doctrines by most protestant churches. Lately, we do notice that some evangelical and Pentecostal churches now have bishops who put on robes similar to the bishop of the established churches, even when most of them do not know the purpose of the regarian they put on. Many of their pastors have graduated from wearing suits to wearing the “Roman Collar” even as they criticise Roman Catholics. Similarly the imitation of the Catholic doctrines and rituals by protestant churches also abounds.