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To Catholics - what is the purpose of the sacraments?

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  • To Catholics - what is the purpose of the sacraments?

    I've been listening to some lectures on the sacraments on the Thomistic Institute podcast but I'm still not entirely sure what the purpose of them as a class is. I get they're a means of grace but how do they differ from wise council or teaching? I get the impression it is something to do with the relationship between faith and works but i'm not exactly sure how. Any responses would be much appreciated.

  • #2
    If I may offer an Orthodox point of view....

    The sacraments (not limited to 7) are where heaven and earth intersect. They are grace acting on humanity. I'm not sure what they have to do with wise counsel or teaching other than the wise counsel or teaching being Spirit-led.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Physiocrat View Post
      I've been listening to some lectures on the sacraments on the Thomistic Institute podcast but I'm still not entirely sure what the purpose of them as a class is. I get they're a means of grace but how do they differ from wise council or teaching? I get the impression it is something to do with the relationship between faith and works but i'm not exactly sure how. Any responses would be much appreciated.
      As you point out, a means of grace. Christianity is an incarnational faith, the "spiritual" was made manifest through the material. So it follows that the Lord uses the material things, we can learn of the Lord and the faith directly from the Lord, but the usual way is to learn of faith through other persons, and grow in the faith through interacting with a community (church, Christian discussion, or Christian internet boards). It is the natural world being used by our Lord.

      I think your question here ultimately focuses on grace itself, more so than sacraments. Grace is available to all, but we are not all equally prepared to receive. Both faith and works interact to help us be prepared to receive grace, being receptive is not automatic, but is something we must strive for.

      The whole of life is ordered around sacraments (and sacramentals). We are born, get sick, and die; we enter the married secular vocation or religious vocation; we sin and need to repent and be healed.

      The sacramental view was probably the biggest difference for me in outlook between the Protestant and the Catholic outlook. But it was one which ultimately made sense to me. It is not "magic", any more than the whole of the faith is magic.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Physiocrat View Post
        I've been listening to some lectures on the sacraments on the Thomistic Institute podcast but I'm still not entirely sure what the purpose of them as a class is. I get they're a means of grace but how do they differ from wise council or teaching? I get the impression it is something to do with the relationship between faith and works but i'm not exactly sure how. Any responses would be much appreciated.
        1. They are primarily Actions of Christ, for the sanctification of His Church. “Primarily”, because they include human activity: they are a special application of the everyday circumstance that God makes use of human beings to further His purpose. As when God, the Author of all of the Bible, made use of human beings to compose all its parts, so that the Bible is entirely from God, and entirely from men, “moved by the Spirit of God”. The Sacraments are like that: God, through the Holy Spirit, uses human beings and human things to produce Divine effects, for the salvation of souls, the increase and sanctification of the Church, and the Glory of God.

        2. The Church in union with the Pope of Rome recognises 7 of them:
        Baptism
        Confirmation
        The Holy Eucharist
        Ordination
        Holy Matrimony
        Penance
        Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction

        The Holy Eucharist has the place of honour among them, since it is the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Source of all Grace in His Church.

        They are the principal means of grace for the Church. From the Church’s POV, all material reality is, in some sense, sacramental. That is, it is a sign, pointing beyond itself, of the God by Whom it was created. A sacrament might be defined as an outward material sign and cause of an inward invisible grace. So, for instance, the material and visible water of Baptism stands for the inward cleansing which the Holy Spirit brings about in the souls of those being baptised. The water is both the sign of the cleansing produced, and its instrumental cause.

        Hope that helps. Quite how much info you’d like is not clear; I hope that’s not too alien. For a lot more info, the Catechism of the Catholic Church should help: see sections 1113 to 1666. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_cs...m/p2s1c1a2.htm

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        • #5
          @Rushing Jaws and Simplicio-

          Thanks for the explanations.

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