What is a Sacrament?
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses. They are outward signs of spiritual realities. The Sacraments
They were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church. Through them divine life is bestowed upon us.
Where do the Sacraments come from?
Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. the seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life. ~ CCC 1210
Following this analogy, the first chapter will expound the three sacraments of Christian initiation; the second, the sacraments of healing; and the third, the sacraments at the service of communion and the mission of the faithful. This order, while not the only one possible, does allow one to see that the sacraments form an organic whole in which each particular sacrament has its own vital place. In this organic whole, the Eucharist occupies a unique place as the “Sacrament of sacraments”: “all the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end.” ~ CCC 1211
Christ has entrusted the sacraments to his Church. They are the sacraments “of the Church” in a twofold sense: they are “from her” insofar as they are actions of the Church (which is the sacrament of Christ’s action); and they are “for her” in as much as they build up the Church.
The sacraments not only presuppose faith, but with words and ritual elements they nourish, strengthen, and express it. By celebrating the sacraments, the Church professes the faith that comes from the apostles. This explains the origin of the ancient saying, “lex orandi, lex credendi,” (that is, “the Church believes as she prays”).
(This post is part of a mini-series on the Sacraments.)