Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Reconciliation (or Confession or Penance), the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210)

The sacraments are divided into: the Sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist); the Sacraments of healing (Penance and Anointing of the Sick); and the Sacraments at the service of communion and mission (Holy Orders and Matrimony). The sacraments touch all the important moments of Christian life. All of the sacraments are ordered to the Holy Eucharist “as to their end” (Saint Thomas Aquinas). (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCCC] 250)

The Sacraments of Christian Initiation

Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.

Baptism

This sacrament is primarily called Baptism because of the central rite with which it is celebrated. To baptise means to “immerse” in water. The one who is baptised is immersed into the death of Christ and rises with him as a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This sacrament is also called the “bath of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5); and it is called “enlightenment” because the baptised becomes “a son of light” (Ephesians 5:8). CCCC 252

Confirmation

Confirmation is called Chrismation (in the Eastern Churches: Anointing with holy myron or chrism) because the essential rite of the sacrament is anointing with chrism. It is called Confirmation because it confirms and strengthens baptismal grace. CCCC 266

Eucharist (Last Supper)

The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory. Thus he entrusted to his Church this memorial of his death and Resurrection. It is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. CCCC 271

The Sacraments of Healing

Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these sacraments because the new life that he gives us in the sacraments of Christian initiation can be weakened and even lost because of sin. Therefore, Christ willed that his Church should continue his work of healing and salvation by means of these two sacraments. CCCC 295

Penance and Reconciliation

The sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, Penance) is the means and the sign that Christ gave us to show His willingness to heal us when, through our own human frailty, we turn in on ourselves and away from Him and our neighbour. This is the sign God has given us that through the words of His priest ("I now absolve you from your sins") whatever harm we have done to our relationship with our God is healed and we are restored to a state of warm friendship with our Father in heaven. CCCC 310

Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament confers a special grace which unites the sick person more intimately to the Passion of Christ for his good and for the good of all the Church. It gives comfort, peace, courage, and even the forgiveness of sins if the sick person is not able to make a confession. Sometimes, if it is the will of God, this sacrament even brings about the restoration of physical health. In any case this Anointing prepares the sick person for the journey to the Father’s House. CCCC 319

The Sacraments at the Service of Communion and Mission

Two sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, confer a special grace for a particular mission in the Church to serve and build up the People of God. These sacraments contribute in a special way to ecclesial communion and to the salvation of others. CCCC 321

Holy Orders

The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred, in each of its three degrees (Bishop, Priest, Deacon), by means of the imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand by the Bishop who pronounces the solemn prayer of consecration. With this prayer he asks God on behalf of the ordinand for the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for the gifts of the Spirit proper to the ministry to which he is being ordained. CCCC 331

Matrimony

The sacrament of Matrimony establishes a perpetual and exclusive bond between the spouses. God himself seals the consent of the spouses. Therefore, a marriage which is ratified and consummated between baptised persons can never be dissolved. Furthermore, this sacrament bestows upon the spouses the grace necessary to attain holiness in their married life and to accept responsibly the gift of children and provide for their education. CCCC 346

Acknowledgements
Photo of Lectionary by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

Reviewed
14 October 2019

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