The seven sacraments
Editor’s note: Throughout the Year of Faith, Rev. Mr. Christopher Seibt will offer a series of columns based on the reflection series “Catholicism Today” that he gave during First Friday devotions at St. James Church in Syracuse while on pastoral year. This is the fifth column in the series.
By Rev. Mr. Christopher R. Seibt
Sun contributing writer
During the Lenten season our attention is directed to the Cross. In fact, on Good Friday you and I will hear, “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world.” And we will respond, “Come, let us adore” because we believe that by his suffering, death on the Cross and Resurrection Christ obtained our salvation.
Last time, you and I considered the fact that we celebrate and live the faith that we profess by participating in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. It was from the very side of Christ on the Cross, out of whom flowed blood and water, that this life was born. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the sacramental life of the Church in which we now participate, particularly through the seven sacraments, is a life of signs and symbols through which we experience and receive God’s saving grace (CCC, 1131).
In the Sacrament of Baptism, water is poured and the words, “I baptized you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are said. As a result, we are freed from original sin and receive an indelible mark on our souls that claims us for Christ. We become members of the Church who now share in the mission of the Lord (CCC, 1213-1284).
In the Sacrament of Confirmation, sacred Chrism — oil that is blessed by the bishop each year at the Chrism Mass — is placed on our foreheads in the form of a cross and the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” are said. As a result, we receive another indelible mark on our souls and the grace that we received in Baptism is perfected. It is strengthened or raised up a level so that we experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit (CCC, 1285-1321).
In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, our Christian initiation is complete. This sacrament, the Catechism tells us, is the source and summit of the Christian life because it contains the very treasure of and reason for the Church and her mission: Jesus Christ. Bread and wine are used and the priest, who stands in the person of Christ, says, “This is My Body, This is My Blood.” The bread and wine then become the Body and Blood of Christ and we receive the Lord himself (CCC, 1322-1419).
In the Sacrament of Penance we come, after having examined our consciences, with sorrow for our sins and with the resolve to sin no more. We then confess all of our sins to the priest, who again stands in the person of Christ. He gives us a penance to do and then says, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” As a result, we experience a variety of profound graces, which include reconciliation with God and the Church as well as the remission of eternal punishment due to mortal sin and a greater courage to do as Christ commands us: “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11; CCC, 1422-1498).
In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, our forehead and hands are anointed with the Oil of the Infirmed or the Oil of the Sick. The priest prays, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” The graces that we receive are many: the grace to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, the strength to endure suffering as well as old age, the forgiveness of sins if we are unable to make use of the Sacrament of Penance and — for those of us who are near death — the graces necessary for our passage to eternal life (CCC, 1499-1532).
In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the bishop imposes his hands on the head of the man who is to be ordained a bishop, priest or deacon and says the consecratory prayer, a prayer which invokes the Holy Spirit. Like Baptism and Confirmation, this sacrament leaves an indelible mark on the soul of the man who is ordained. Bishops and priests receive the grace to participate in the ministerial priesthood of Christ, namely to act in his very person and to act in the name of the whole Church, while deacons receive the grace needed to share in Christ’s mission of service (CCC, 1536-1600).
In the Sacrament of Matrimony, the bride and groom express their mutual consent publicly before the Church. In doing so, they enter into a communion of life and love marked by unity, indissolubility and openness to life. As baptized Christians, the bride and groom receive the graces of this sacrament; graces that help them to faithfully live out their marriage covenant, particularly the grace to give of themselves selflessly and totally to each other (CCC, 1601-1666).
When the soldiers pierced the side of Christ as he hung on the Cross “blood and water flowed out” (Jn 19:34) and our lives changed forever. A new life was born for us: the sacramental life of the Church. This life is what makes it possible for us as members of the Church — in our celebration of the sacraments — to receive and experience God’s grace, his very life within us.
Next time we will take a look at what living a life of grace looks like by beginning our reflections on the Church’s moral teachings. But for now, may this Lenten season be for us a time to return to God with all our hearts by returning to the sacraments with renewed appreciation and greater devotion.
Rev. Mr. Christopher Seibt is a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Syracuse. He is originally from St. Daniel Parish in Syracuse. Currently, Deacon Seibt is a seminarian at Theological College in Washington D.C., studying at the Catholic University of America.