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History provides that determinate number seven sacraments is no Doctrine of Scripture nor of the old authors .The two also do not do the recitation of them. However, it is agreed that this doctrine is based in the scripture and taught by the ancient authors. Hence the seven sacraments formed part of ancient church’s teaching, as they do today (Burnet, 269). The seven sacraments include Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation (formerly Penance), the Eucharist (Communion), Marriage, Anointing of the Sick (formerly Extreme Unction) and Holy Orders. These sacraments confer grace according to the decree of the council of Trent, by the mere administration of them. The Catholic Church accepts all of these sacraments and although Anglican does the same, it considers baptism and the Eucharist greater than the others (Dictionary of the Bible). The number ‘seven’ has a biblical meaning connoting complete or perfect (Miron, 61). The aim of this essay is to detail the seven sacraments and how they developed over time in the Catholic Church.
Sacrament of Baptism
The name ‘baptism’ comes from a Greek word which means to ‘plunge’ or ‘immerse’ into water to symbolize burial into Christ’s death, from which one rises up by resurrection with him, as ‘a new creature’. It is through baptism that Christians are born of water and the spirit and according to Burns and Oates (279), without which we cannot enter the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ introduced baptism by himself being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Baptism is based on Jesus’ commission to his disciples that they be baptized through the “name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
The idea of trinity reflected here will later be seen in the development of baptismal liturgy. It is however not clear if the apostles were also called to baptize. This is seen when the disciples who had been baptized by John seemed to reflect Paul’s view that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the Gospel. It is seen as a general rite of induction into the church and it was adopted into the church from John the Baptist, who practiced it towards the end of the first century. Also in regard to how baptism is conducted, letters of Paul attested that initially it was performed unto Christ and not in the name of Jesus. This is the oldest formulation that can serve as key to knowledge of the origin and development of baptism. A person is baptized so as to show conversion and profession of faith as well as receiving of the Holy Spirit. In many churches, only a baptized Christian can take part in the admission of the Eucharist communion. Baptism of infants has also been in practice especially in the Catholic Church and forms the initial growth stage of a Christian life. There must therefore be post-baptism instruction to enable growth of the baptismal grace in the person (Burns and Oates, 279).
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It is also termed as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Holy, Mass, Sacred Mysteries, Holy and Devine Liturgy or Holy Sacrifice. During the ceremony bread which represents Christ’s body that was crucified and wine that represents the blood that he shed are taken (Burns and Oates, 299). From the beginning, the church has been faithful to the Lord’s command. In fact, Christians met to break the bread for the first time on the first day of the week, Sunday, the day of resurrection. Since that time, all churches throughout the world, with the same basic structure, celebrate the Eucharist until today. In the second century, St. Justin martyr established the basic lines of the order of the Eucharis celebration. He had written to the pagan emperor Antonius Pius around the year 155, and described what Christians did during the Eucharist (302). After conversion and one has become God’s child, a Christian is required to participate in ‘taking’ the body and blood of Jesus Christ. So as to maintain unity of believers and as a result many churches administer Holy Communion to all newly baptized members. In Eastern churches, even little children take part in the ceremony (280). It completes Christian initiation. It was instituted by Jesus Christ on the night he was betrayed as Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. He did this and gave a command that the Eucharist be celebrated throughout the ages until his return. This He entrusted to the church in memory in memory of his death and resurrection as a sign of love, as a sign of unity, a bond of unity and charity (297).
The Sacrament of Confirmation
It is part of ‘Sacrament of Christian initiation’ whose unity must be safeguarded. Without it, baptismal grace is not complete (Burns and Oates, 290). In the first century in East and West, it was celebrated together with baptism as a ‘double sacrament’. This practice is still maintained in the East. It involves consecration through anointing so that Christians can bind with Jesus Christ and the fullness of Holy Spirit. It is administered during the Christmas of Holy Thursday when the bishop consecrates the sacred chrism for his whole diocese (292). In the Latin practice of the rite, the forehead is anointed by laying of a hand followed by the words ‘Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit’ (293). In the Eastern Churches of Byzantine rite important parts of the body including the forehead, ears, eyes, feet, hands, lips, nose, chest are anointed with (Miron, 293).
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The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
This sacrament is celebrated to obtain pardon for sins committed against him at the same time reconciling with the church which they have wounded by their sins. It may also be referred to as Sacrament of Conversion. This sacrament was instituted by Christ in the universal church for reconciling those Christians to the Devine Majesty who have fallen into sin after baptism. It consists of two parts which are “matter and the form”. The matter is the act of the penitent which involves contrition confession, and satisfaction. On the other hand form refers to the act of absolution on the part of the minister (Dictionary of the Bible).
The expression of conversion entails forgiveness from God and reconciliation with the church through liturgically fulfilling this sacrament. It calls for the sinner to be contrite in the heart, confess with the lips and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction.It is officiated by bishops who are the successor’s o apostles, and priests who are the bishops’ assistants. Jesus had entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the apostles. The sacrament of Holy Orders empowers the bishops and the priests to forgive all sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. The minster must encourage the faithful to come to the sacrament of penance and must make themselves available to celebrate whenever asked top (Burns and Oates, 324- 329).
Anointing of the Sick
Illness is a major problem that has always confronted man making him powerless, limited and many a times lead to death. The sacrament shows Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings signifies God’s visitation to his people and that the kingdom of God is at hand. The sacrament is for the faithful who are either towards the danger of death from sickness or old age. It can only be ministered by priests who can either be bishops or presbyters who are ministers. This sacrament is a liturgical and communal celebration which may take place at home, hospital or church, for a single sick person or a group of sick persons. Also it is celebrated within the Eucharist. Effects of celebrating it are to receive the grace of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the challenges that corresponds to the condition of the serious illness or the frailty of old age, Other benefits include Union with the passion of Christ, ecclesiastical grace that will enable service to the church and finally it is a preparation for the final journey on earthly life (Burns and Oates, 336-341).
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The Sacrament of Holy Orders
This is a sacrament through which the carrying out of the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles will continue until the end of this world. It is widely represented by episcopate, presbyter ate and diaconate. The term ‘Orders’ refer to established bodies in the church (Burner and Oates 343). Thus this sacrament rite refers to the integration of one into one of these bodies hence a liturgical and religious act. One of the important bodies in the church is the priesthood. Its development is founded on God’s action of setting aside Levi’s house for priesthood as well as the Liturgy of the church likening the priesthood of Aaron and of Levites to the institution of the seventy elders. Christ is the High priest and mediator. An ordained minister in an ecclesial service, Christ is present in his church as head of his body and shepherd of his flock. The priest, therefore, acts in the power and place of the person Christ himself, by virtue of sacrament of the Holy Orders. Its celebration calls for as many people as possible to take part preferably on Sunday with a solemn mood. Since this is a sacrament of the apostolic ministry, the bishops as the successor of the apostles hand on the ‘gift of the spirit’. On the other hand only a baptized man receives the sacred ordination. This man receives a special grace of the Holy Spirit so as to serve as Christ’s instrument for his church (Burns and Oates, 353)
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The Sacrament of Matrimony
This is a covenant relationship between man and woman in the whole of their whole life for the purpose of procreation and companionship. This relationship was founded by God himself at creation when He created Adam and Eve and commanded them to reproduce and fill the earth (p.358).The celebration is marked between two Catholic faithful normally during Holy Mass. In the Eucharist, the memorial of the new covenant is realized in which Christ has united himself for ever to the church, his bride for which he died for (Burns and Oates, 363).
In the traditions of Eastern Churches, the priests are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses where their blessings imply that the marriage is valid. God’s grace and blessings are invoked through many prayers and epiclesis through the various liturgies. In the matrimonial consent, the parties to marriage covenant are a baptized man woman, free to contract marriage, who freely expresses their consent. Sacramental marriage is a liturgical act hence it should be celebrated in the public liturgy of the church. It introduces one into an ecclesial order and creates rights and duties in the Church between the spouses and towards their children (365). This sacrament enables strengthening of spouses and consecration for their duties and dignity of their state by their sacrament.
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The seven sacraments are rites practiced in the church. They are among many other sacraments celebrated by many Christian churches, mainly the Catholic Church. When observed with faithfulness, a Christian gets grace from God which is unique according to the sacrament observed. The sacraments are administered by priests who represent the apostles who received a direct commission from Jesus to do the same. They therefore have the authority since they represent Christ on earth. Also, each sacrament has specific recipients because grace required is not the same. It is also noted that most sacraments are traceable from the first century where Jesus himself founded them.
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