In Catholic tradition, there are seven sacraments: Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. There are different rituals tied to each, but we often forget the importance of observing the sacraments.
The sacrament of Baptism is what breaks our bonds of sin and allows us to live freely under the blood of Christ. It removes our feelings of guilt and our need to carry that guilt with us in our daily lives. This is a sacrament that was established by Christ himself during his time on earth as a way to symbolize our cleansing for our dedication of our lives to following the faith. Since Christ emphasized its importance himself, this one is fairly obvious in why we have incorporated it into our daily faith.
The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is more focused on sacrifice and offering to God. It is often food related when we discuss it, but it really just represents spiritual food that is earned through sacrifice. The Eucharist meal is also regarded as the Last Supper in scripture in that it consists of eating bread and drinking wine in dedication to the Lord because it acknowledges the sacrifice of his Son. Of course, the meal itself is represented in our communion traditions in mass and not to be taken lightly and practiced daily. However, it is a way for us to show gratitude and dedication to the sacrifice of Christ that leads us to our redemption.
The sacrament of Confirmation is the additional step attached to the sacrament of baptism. While the baptism is the step established by Christ and it is typically done at a very young age when our faith is more innocent and malleable, the step of confirmation allows us to recognize that same dedication and commitment at an age when we have more maturity to understand the step that we are taking. It is an opportunity to reaffirm what you feel about your faith and to submit yourself more whole-heartedly to a life of following Christ in his sacrifice and in his example of service and worship.
The sacrament of Penance is crucial in our day to day faith because it is what keeps us grounded in faith and reminds us of the sinful nature of all people. We all fall short and are imperfect beings, but we must confess our sins and atone for them in order to keep the theology of baptism and cleansing alive in our lives. The Catholic Church sees sin as a betrayal against God, but also against the church and the institution that leads you in your faith. Therefore, we must seek penance through the church that is guiding us in our faith in order to move forward.
The sacrament of Anointing the Sick is one that invokes the Holy Spirit to intervene on behalf of someone. Other sacraments are about our individual faith and the repose of our souls, but this sacrament is about the Holy Spirit giving strength to those in need of it. This is about calling upon the power of God when we lack faith or the ability to fight on our own. Our strength is multiplied with that support, so the sacrament serves as a tool in allowing that to happen.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is what keeps the faith of Christ and the discipleship of members of the body of Christ to continue on after His ascension into heaven. In order for us to continue to grow in our faith, Christ has to prepare leaders in the church that will help guide us in that direction. This sacrament is about the ordination and raising up of priests and other faith leaders in the church.
The sacrament of Matrimony is important when we discuss marriage, because there are responsibilities in the Catholic faith when one gets married that those without faith do not always feel. The contract between two people in matrimony and God is central to the foundation that this couple will now use to build their lives. The Catholic tradition teaches us that there are three in a marriage contract rather than two, so the sacrament of Matrimony is an acknowledgement that there is a lot of weight that comes with that commitment and that weight must be embraced as people of faith rather than brushed aside or made light of.
Now you understand the Seven Sacraments and why they are so central to our faith and customs. Keep in mind that there is more than one way to recognize each sacrament and those details are debated by theologians and priests all of the time. The important thing is to remember what they are and why we observe them so that we can keep them as central to our lives.
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