Noah Knapp

The Sacramental Nature of the Church

 

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     During his ministry, Jesus didn’t tell everyone and anyone to come learn more about the sacraments and then have them pass them on. Instead, he chose a very specific group of men: the Apostles. These men, including Peter (the first pope), were the first bishops of the Church. Jesus gave them the duty to spread the faith and at the same time administer these sacraments to all of the faithful. The sacraments are there for the betterment of the Church. The Church “is established, nourished, and perfected through the sacraments,” (YC, 175). The sacraments are the power of Christ available for us here on earth. Therefore the sacraments can only exist through the Body of Christ, also known as the Church. For example, our sins are forgiven through the power of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of Reconciliation. These graces are a gift from God, given to us through the Holy Spirit.

Definition of a Sacrament

 

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     Eastern Catholic churches, too, are a part of the Roman Catholic Church under the authority of the Pope in Rome. However, they do have their own separate - but similar - laws, customs, etc. They also call other things by different names. For example, they call “sacraments”, “mysteries”. “Confirmation” in the Eastern Catholic church is called “Chrismation”. Another difference is that an infant receives Baptism and Chrismation one after the other. But they still believe that these and the rest of their “mysteries” still have the same positive effect on their spiritual lives as we believe.

Sacraments in Eastern Churches

Baptism and Chrismation, the sacraments of initiation, in an Eastern Orthodox church.

     Sanctifying Grace is the grace that heals our human nature wounded by sin and restores us to friendship with God by giving us a share in the divine life of the Trinity. It is the supernatural gift of God, put into our souls by the Holy Spirit, that continues the work of making us holy.

Sacramental Grace

     Sacraments help us outgrow our unimportant lives by helping us become more like Christ, through Christ. We become free and glorified children of God. In receiving any sacrament, we become more than we are. Sacramental Grace is the grace that comes about in a special way in the sacraments. According to the will of our Savior, the sacraments are the best places for us to encounter God.

Sanctifying Grace

 

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3 Types of Grace

     Grace is God’s gift of love, goodness, strength, and energy given to us. Grace is everything we receive from God without us deserving it. Grace is not a thing, but God communicating with man. “In grace we are in God,” (YC, 338).

 

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Actual Grace

     Actual Grace is the grace that helps us to know, to will, and to do everything that leads us to what is good, to God, and to heaven.

     The Eucharist is the primary Sacrament through which Christ enters our lives, but all the Sacraments signify and make present the work of Christ in our lives, through grace. This is called the sacramental economy. This sacramental economy is the giving-out-of the fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection when we celebrate the sacraments. Just like an economy runs on money, the sacramental economy runs on grace. Just like we would not be able to support ourselves without money, we would not be able to live, share God’s life, or participate in the mystery of Christ without grace. Without grace, we’re broke. Ever since our Baptism, except during times when we were in a state of mortal sin, we have been God’s adopted children and have come into the life of the Trinity through Christ.

Jesus Christ as a Sacrament

     Jesus Christ, by his own power, is present in the sacraments, in his word, and when

the Church prays and sings. In the sacraments, it is not just a

priest administering them, but Jesus working through that

priest. When scripture is read, it is truly Jesus that speaks

because it is his word. Lastly, when we gather, Jesus has

promised that “where two or three are gathered together in my

name there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:20).

     The saving work of Christ becoming man is the sacrament of

salvation. We are shown this and participate in this ultimate

sacrament by receiving the Catholic Church’s seven sacraments.

These sacraments are how the Holy Spirit spreads grace from

Jesus (the head) down to the Church (the body). The Church

then spreads this grace where Jesus tells it to. Therefore, this

makes the Church as a whole, a “sacrament."

 

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The Sacramental Economy

     In short, the Church is a sacrament where all can come to receive salvation. It is the way by which God tells us that basically, He is with us, and will never leave us. He is constantly in communion with us.

     Have you ever wondered how Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, Alpha and

Omega, can truly communicate and be with us? Well, it’s through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the sacrament, or sacred mystery, that unites men and women

here on earth to the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ pours out the Holy Spirit upon us. In

turn, this gives us the strength to build, bring to life, set apart, and declare holy the

Church.

     The Church is the tool, instituted by Jesus Christ himself, that brings all of its

members into communion with the Holy Trinity. It is a sacrament because it is a

visual sign of God’s grace being poured upon us.

 

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The Church as a Sacrament

     During his ministry, many encountered Jesus. They saw him. They heard him. They could touch him. By this, they experienced salvation and healing both physically and spiritually. The sacraments help us encounter this same Jesus; the same Jesus that desires to heal us completely.

Signs and Symbols

     God understands that we as men and women aren’t just spiritual creatures, but also physical and bodily ones. We often times need signs and symbols to understand and describe spiritual truths. Everything from the clothes we wear to wedding rings are used as symbols to express some aspect of our interior selves, and we are easily able to understand them. Our God gives us signs to show us that he is alive and here with us on earth: bread and wine, the waters of Baptism, the anointing with the Holy Spirit. We also show signs of reverence in response to these sacred signs given to us: genuflecting, standing while listening to God speak, bowing, folding our hands in prayer. We also decorate God’s home, the Church, with beautiful things, such as flowers, candles, and music to reflect His beauty. We then interpret many of these signs with words and teachings on what they mean for us as Catholics.

 

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Redeeming Sacraments

     Jason Gray is a contemporary Christian singer-songwriter, and he wrote a song titled “Glow in the Dark”. In this song, there is a line that goes, “The more broke you are the more the light gets through.” Jesus’ love is absolutely astounding, because he seeks out the lost and heals the sick, even when no one else wants to. The more broken you are the more Jesus wants to love you. This is why He gave us the healing and sanctifying sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. In them, we are freed from the chains of sin and strengthened in our physical and spiritual weakness. How beautiful is that?!

Fact: Christ is Present!

     Jesus spent the majority of his ministry here on earth healing others. He saved many and saves many today. Much of what he said and did during his life here on earth announced and prepared what He was going to give the Church after He had risen from the dead. The mysteries of Christ’s life are the foundations of our sacraments. Sacraments are the power we receive from the Body of Christ, which is life-giving and ever-present.

 

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Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick

Prayer and It's Many Forms

     In prayer, especially the mass, we are participating in Jesus’ prayer our Heavenly Father. In mass, our prayers reach our Father. This then establishes us in the great love which God has for us. We can achieve this through prayer.

     Prayer is simply us raising our hearts and minds to God or requesting good things from God. When we pray, we enter into a true living relationship with God. There are five major types of prayer:

    1. In prayers of blessings, we bless God because He has first blessed us. We adore God for his greatness, his power, and his holiness.

    2. In prayers of petition, we pray for our needs, most especially our need for forgiveness.

    3. Through prayers of intercession, we pray for the needs of others.

    4. In prayers of thanksgiving, we acknowledge God as the Creator and thank him for his goodness.

    5. Prayers of praise erupt in joy and express our love for God, recognizing above all that He is God.

 

 

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The Church at Prayer

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     Prayer is essential. It leads to greater faith. We no longer live on our own, by ourselves, and by our own strength when we pray. We know and understand that our God is always there, ready to listen and talk to us. It’s always good to talk to the One who will be determining our ultimate judgement! Lastly, we cannot learn to pray by simply praying; as odd as it may sound, the gift of prayer is obtained through prayer.

Sacraments and the Liturgy

     Every single person who ever once walked this earth is called to “take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan,” (CCC 1138).  The Holy Spirit and the Church enable us to participate in this service, or holy liturgy, whenever we celebrate the mystery of salvation in the sacraments. In the celebration of the sacraments, everyone present is called in some different way to uplift the church, but they are all one in doing so through the “unity of the Spirit” who is present in all.

     There are common prayers that come from Sacred Scripture and from the Tradition of the Church that the Church recites together during its time of public worship. Individuals are united with the Church when they say these prayers.

Importance of Prayer

     While prayer is a very personal thing, that does not make it private. Our personal prayers become stronger, enlarged, and refined when they flow with the prayers of the whole Church. When the earth becomes united in the same prayers, we are singing one hymn of praise to our God.

     Meditation begins with us prayerfully seeking and exploring the will, the signs, and the presence of God within a sacred image or text. We don’t read sacred text like we would read a newspaper. Instead, we have to meditate on them. This means lifting our hearts God, and asking him to reveal something to us by what we have seen or read.

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Personal Prayer and Meditation