The Church and Sacraments

During our Lord's sojourn in the world, God's direct way of giving grace and truth to men was by bringing them into touch with Him; Now God's direct way of giving them Grace is by bringing them into union of the Church in its visible organisation.

"Sacraments are visible acts of invisible means of grace , which our Lord ordered and instituted as necessary for the salvation of human race."

Our Lord instituted the seven Sacraments during His Public Ministry and after resurrection. They are ordered and instituted by Our Lord by words and examples. Many of His words and acts are not mentioned in the Bible. (Jn. 21:25) God gives inward and spiritual Grace, and by Grace we mean the heavenly life of Christ, given to us, who are made one with Him. 

Our Lord ordained outward means to give us Grace, because this is the method, which the nature of man demands.We have an outward body and an inward soul joined in us.

God deals with us Sacramentally. God is Spirit, but when He took upon him to deliver man, He did not abhor the Virgin's womb. Christ is Himself the greatest of all sacraments. The Babe of Bethlehem was the outward and the visible sign of the reality given to man - God with us.

Sacraments are means by which power of God is conveyed to us, and are means whereby we receive the inward spiritual grace and a pledge to assure us thereof.

Sacraments are 'valid' when they are recognized by the Church as performed in accordance with her law. The Church is the steward of the Mysteries of God. She has been given authority to make rules and enforce them, here members are bound to obey them and if they are deliberately broken, then they have no right to expect that God will give him His grace. 

The conditions required for a valid sacrament are - matter, form and minister. Matter is the material thing used; as water. Holy oil, Bread and Wine, laying of hands etc. The form is the word said which define the purpose with which the matter is used. 

The minister should be a validly ordained priest and none else, because it is only the Apostles, our Lord empowered to  baptise, to give the Holy Spirit, , absolve sins, and to offer the Holy Eucharist.

A validly ordained Minister is one who has the apostolic laying on of hands from Bishops, who can claim and prove their Apostolic succession. The unworthiness of the ministers does not make the sacrament invalid. 

The effect of the sacrament depends on the promise of Christ and not on the worthiness of the minister. It has to be remembered that he is a priest until he is excommunicated, and also that the unworthy minister also receives his own damnation.

The Seven Sacrament of the Church

Baptism joins us to the Church and gives us the Grace of Christ. Confirmation strengthens the life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Communion nourishes and supports the life  with heavenly food. 

Absolution restore the life when we have broken our union with Christ. Unction gives Grace to the sick and dying. Ordination gives Grace to chosen men to share in the exercise of Christ's priestly Office. Matrimony gives Grace for the sanctification of married and family life.
The Sacraments receive their power to give Grace from God through the merits of Jesus Christ. The Sacraments give Sanctifying Grace, when we receive them with the right disposition. The right dispositions are not producing Grace: they remove the obstacles which would  prevent the reception of Grace. (1 Cor. 11: 27, James 5:14,15)

Baptism and Penance are called the sacraments of the dead, because their chief purpose is to give the supernatural life of Sanctifying Grace to souls spiritually dead through sins. The others are called the sacraments of the living, because their chief purpose is to give more Grace to souls who already spiritually alive.

Sacrament that can be received only once  is Baptism, Confirmation and Holy orders, because they imprint on  the soul a spiritual mark that lasts for ever.

Every one need the Grace of god which is given to us in the Sacraments. He should receive the Sacraments with a right disposition and at the same time he should be assured that the Sacrament to which he approaches is valid. A valid sacrament is one administered by a valid Priest. 

The reality of the Sacrament does not lie in the recipient's feelings, but in the knowledge that power has been given to the priest. The Sacramental powers of the priest do not depend on any ability or virtue in himself, but are those conveyed to him at his Ordination. They belong to the Office, not to the man. 

The worthiness of the priest - if anybody is worthy of so great a position - does not add anything to the value of the Sacrament, nor his unworthiness make them of less value, because the work is not his - but Christ's.

For teaching and pastoral work, the priest's talent does much. But in the administration of the Sacraments, it is our Lord who is working through the earthen vessel.

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