Summary: Sacraments are signs that God is working in the midst of his people: they point toward the grace of God and proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ.
SACRAMENTAL LIFE OR LIFE IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Sacraments may be understood as a language, a sign language. In the reading from St. Paul, the communion cup is a sign of the New Covenant, and a visible proclamation of the faith of the Church that Christ died for the sins of the world and is coming again.
The word sacrament comes into English from a Latin word meaning oath. Christians, in using this word, are saying in this act we acknowledge God is
keeping his promise.
In the English Church (Anglican) Tradition, there are 7 sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Communion, Marriage, Anointing, and Holy Orders.
It is not my purpose here to discuss whether any or all of these seven sacraments leave an “indelible mark” on the soul, or to discuss in detail
all of the sacraments.
This paper will deal only with the two sacraments explicitly given to us by Jesus Christ: Baptism and Holy Communion.
To give a little background on sacraments in general, it is necessary to look into Church history.
While Holy Communion (the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper) and Baptism were observed from the earliest days of the Church, centuries elapsed before the rites of Christian burial, penance (confession of sin), marriage and the others were given regular forms and counted as sacraments.
The exact number of sacraments were disputed for centuries. The Council of Lyons, 1274 AD stated clearly the number of sacraments. Since this was more than a century before the Protestant Reformation, this
definition was passed on to the whole Church. The counting of seven sacraments has been accepted by some, though not all Protestants, as well as
by the Anglican, Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Communions.
The nextparagraph comes from that council.
The same Holy Roman Church also teaches that there are seven sacraments of the Church: one is baptism, which has been mentioned above; another is the sacrament of confirmation which bishops confer by the laying on of hands while they anoint the reborn; then penance, the Eucharist, the sacrament of order, matrimony and extreme unction which, according to the doctrine of the
Blessed James, [James 5:14-15] is administered to the sick. The same Roman Church performs (conficit) the sacrament of the Eucharist with unleavened bread; she holds and teaches that in this sacrament the bread is truly transubstantiated into the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the wine into His blood.
As regards matrimony, she holds that neither is a man allowed to have several wives at the same time nor a woman several husbands. But, when a legitimate marriage is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses, she declares that a second and afterwards a third wedding are successively licit, if no other canonical impediment goes against it for any reason nst
it for any reason. Source: The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, rev ed., ed. J. Neusner and J Dupuis, (New York: Alba House, 1982), no. 28 (p. 19) [ Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion, 860]
Now that I have quoted from what is perceived by those from Protestant backgrounds as a Roman Catholic document, though it was accepted by the whole church before the Reformation, we have our work cut out for us. We should attempt to define terms, not only as we understand them today, but as they were understood by the Church in the Middle Ages, by the Church in the
time of the Early Church Fathers, and more mportantly, by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.
The English derived the word sacrament from the Latin word sacramentum. A sacrament is an oath. The word sacramentum was early applied to Baptism in connection with its establishing of a Anew covenant” between a human being and God.
Where did this idea come from, that baptism, a sacrament, is somehow a covenant between God and his creature, man?
Among the last words of Jesus after his resurrection and before his ascension to God the Father were these: “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20