Pre-Christian through the Second Century >>
The Early Church Fathers on the Sacraments of the Church.
Catholic Christians, the very first Christians, can demonstrate by Oral and Written Tradition that there are seven sacraments, or sacred ceremonies instituted by our Saviour Jesus Christ, whereby the merits of His passion are applied to the soul of the worthy receiver.
A definition most Catholics grew up with is:
A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ that gives grace.
In the Early Church, as Scott Hahn has stated in his book "Swear to God", the sacraments were outward signs that united "the Invisible with the perceptible." They were Christian convenant oaths where the person receiving the sacrament would promise to do his part the best he could, and God, would swear divine help to do his part in the sacrament: which comes from a word meaning
"to seven oneself", shava. Because a sacrament involves God's name, the oath becomes both a pledge and a plea for divine help. Swear to God, pages 102, 123.
CCC 1128 . . . The sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: "by the very fact of the action's being performed"), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that:
"the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant [priest] or the recipient, but by the power of God."
St. Thomas Aquinas
From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.
If you have never heard of these, or wish to learn more about them, click on each link to read more from the Catechism of the Catholic Church about what Our Blessed Lord instituted, for you!
The sacraments of the Church are categorized as follows:
The Sacraments of Initiation:
- the Eucharist
The Sacraments of Healing
- Penance (Confession) and Reconciliation
- the Anointing of the Sick, formerly called. Extreme Unction
Sacraments of Service, directed toward the salvation of others
- Matrimony, and
- Holy Orders