The Sacramental Nature of the Church
A sacrament is a sign of grace that Christ gave to us. The word sacrament comes from the Latin word “sacramentum,” meaning “a sign of the sacred.” They are God’s channels for supplying His grace to us human beings. They are very important to the life of the Church. The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. The more you learn about the sacraments, the more fully you can celebrate them and the more graces you get from them.
Definition of Sacrament
Although we don’t always think of it, there are many, many Catholics outside of us here in the United States. We are part of the Western Roman Catholic Church. There is also the Eastern Catholic Church, who is under the authority of the Pope in Rome, just like us. The Eastern Catholic Church does a lot of things similar to us, but there are some differences. For example: they call sacraments, “mysteries”. They do have a point by calling them this because the sacraments are mysterious. In some mysterious way, God uses physical things to bring about spiritual change and give his grace. God has chosen to give grace through our participation in the sacraments.
Sacraments in the Eastern Churches
The Church teaches that there is a difference between actual grace and sanctifying grace. An easy way to understand actual grace is to remember that it enables us to “act.” It is the strength that God gives us to act according to his will. Look at it this way: actual grace is grace that “nudges” us. God uses actual grace to let us know that we need to do the right thing. God is nudging us to follow him. We have the free will to either cooperate with actual grace or ignore it.
Sacraments Confer the Grace They Signify
The Church and the Sacramental Economy of Salvation
So what do we mean by the sacramental economy of salvation? The economy of salvation is God’s activity in creating and governing the world. It is also the system of Christ uses to make himself and his saving graces present on earth. “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations,” (CCC 1088). Christ is present in the priest but also in the Eucharist itself. On the night before Jesus suffered his death on the cross, Jesus shared one last meal with his disciples. It was then when Jesus instituted the sacrament of his own Body and Blood. He did this for us, so we could go to Heaven and have eternal life. So, when we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, we are literally receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
The seven sacraments are the base of Catholic spirituality. Jesus himself acts in and through the sacraments, offering new life, forgiving sins, and healing. Though the Holy Spirit, the grace of Christ’s actions is pouring onto those who participate in the sacraments. So, sacraments don’t just symbolize spiritual reality, they actually have an effect on us and change us because of God’s power.
Redemption is Mediated Through the Seven Sacraments