Sacraments are God's gift to the Church. They both symbolise God acting in the lives of people and they bring about what they symbolise. One way to think about how symbolic action has a real impact is to think of an embrace between husband and wife or between close friends. To those looking on, the embrace is a symbol of the closeness of the relationship between the people. For the people themselves the embrace brings them closer together as through it they feel more strongly bonded to each other. Sacraments are a little like that.
When a person is baptised, those observing the symbolic action of either immersion in water or of water being poured are prompted to think of a wide range of associations that water brings to mind.
Examples include water that cleanses, rain that refreshes parched land, the sea, lakes and rivers teaming with life, floods that destroy and our fear of drowning. For the person who is baptised the experience of symbolic drowning and cleansing has an impact on their interior life of feelings and values. Through God’s grace bestowed in the Sacrament of Baptism, a Christian’s life takes on a new meaning and their relationship with God and the Christian community becomes deeper and richer.
All of the Sacraments involve people making use of material things acting in symbolic ways. God’s grace works in the body, mind and spirit of a person as they participate in sacramental action. Sacraments have a real effect on the life of those who accept them as gifts from God. In, and through Sacraments, people are invited to reflect upon the meaning and significance of their relationship with God, with others and all of creation.
There are seven Sacraments. They fit into three categories, as follows:
Sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation
Sacraments of healing: Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick
Sacraments in the service of communion and mission: Marriage, Holy Orders
Extract from "Call and Response: An Introduction to the Catholic Faith" (74).
Photo of Lectionary by Grant Whitty on Unsplash
1 August 2021