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Sacraments - Sacramentos

What is a sacrament?

Before we explore the meaning and significance of the sacraments, it would only be right that we explain the force and meaning of the word sacrament itself.

According to the writings of the early Church Fathers sacrament signifies a sacred thing which lies concealed. The Greeks often expressed the same idea in their use of the word mysterion (Latin: sacramentum) or literally “mystery.” This meaning we have come to learn from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (1:9) where it is said: “That he might make known to us the mystery (sacramentum) of his will”; and to Timothy: “…great is the mystery (sacramentum) of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16); and in the Book of Wisdom: “They knew not the secrets (sacramenta) of God” (Wis. 2:22-24). In these and many passages throughout scripture the word sacrament is perceived and signifies nothing more than a holy thing that lies concealed or hidden.

The Church Fathers, therefore, deemed the word sacrament an appropriate term to express the sensible signs that communicate grace in a tangible way. According to Pope St. Gregory the Great such a sign ought to be called a sacrament, because the divine power secretly carries out our salvation under the veil of sensible things.

How many sacraments are there?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Christ instituted seven sacraments, which are as follows:

  • Baptism

  • Confirmation

  • Eucharist

  • Penance (reconciliation or confession)

  • Anointing of the Sick

  • Holy Orders

  • Matrimony

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