2 Part II: Celebration of the Christian Mysteries (Sacraments)

Jesus has given the Church the means to help us attain salvation by helping us to do God’s will here on earth. The Church is the main way that God’s grace comes to us. The Church is God’s main presence in the world and it is the main Sacrament – the mediator of God’s grace to our world. It is the bride of Christ, his physical presence to the world. It is through the physical presence of the Church that God gives us his seven Sacraments. 

2.1 What is Grace

Grace is simply God’s life in us. When we love God and do his will, then he is present in us, in grace. Grace is a gift from God. When we go to heaven, we will be filled with grace. Only Jesus and Mary lived their entire lives on earth full of grace. We sometimes are full of grace, when we have been forgiven of all our sins. But then we go back to our usual habit and sin again. Jesus and Mary never sinned.

2.2 What are the Sacraments

The Church brings God’s grace to us mainly in the Seven Sacraments. Each of these sacraments is a sign of God’s grace. They use ordinary, familiar, objects from the physical world to allow us to receive the grace of God. We live in the physical world, so these items from our physical world help us understand what the sacrament does for us. These sacraments were created by Jesus. A simple definition of a sacrament is as follows:

A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

The outward sign is a physical sign of the action of the sacrament. The grace is a gift from God to help us live according to his will and the grace of each sacrament helps us in different ways.  Sacraments use these ordinary, familiar things to give us these mysteries of our faith.

2.2.1 List of Sacraments

There are Seven Sacraments given to the Church by our Lord. They are as follows:

1.      Baptism
2.      Confirmation
3.      Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion)
4.      Penance (Confession, Reconciliation)
5.      Anointing of the Sick
6.      Matrimony
7.      Holy Orders

Three sacraments can only be received once: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

The sacraments are divided into three groups. The Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Adults receive all of these at one time, but a baby only receives Baptism. The Sacraments of Healing are Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. The Sacraments of Vocation are Matrimony and Holy Orders.

Just as our physical lives are marked by many things such as birth, sickness and death, eating, adulthood, marriage and work, so the Sacraments mark our lives in God.

   1. Baptism is rebirth
   2. Holy Eucharist is our spiritual food. We are eating the bread of eternal life
   3. Confirmation marks our adulthood in the Kingdom of God
   4. Penance is our healing when we are in sin, the sickness of the spirit
   5. Holy Orders or Matrimony are our life’s work
   6. Anointing is healing, but also aids us at the time of our death.

So we can see that God, our heavenly Father, has given us the gifts of the sacraments to help us in our spiritual journey, just like he has provided for our physical needs to help us on our physical journey.

The following sections will discuss each sacrament in more detail.

2.3 Baptism

Baptism brings us into the Church, the Kingdom of God. We are reborn as an adopted child of God! You can only receive Baptism once (“we believe in one Baptism”) and we only need Baptism once.

The first sign of this sacrament is water. What do we use water for? Water is a sign of life: we can’t live without water. Water is used to clean. Water can destroy like it did in the flood at the time of Noah and when the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. Jesus said that you needed to be reborn by water and the Spirit. The water destroys the death of original sin (the sin of Adam and Eve) and all other sins as well. We are then restored to complete friendship with God.

The second sign is the words of the sacrament as given by our Lord. Usually, these are spoken by a priest or deacon:

“I baptize you in the name of the Father,
And of the Son,
And of the Holy Spirit”

We become adopted children of God and are set on the road to heaven. The grace we receive forgives all our other sins and helps us to live God’s will for all of our life.

2.4 Confirmation

Confirmation gives us strength to proclaim our faith in God, even when it is hard to do. The apostles were confirmed at Pentecost and they went out and converted the known world. You can only receive Confirmation once, as you only receive Baptism once. Once you have been strengthened by the sacrament, there is no need to receive it again. God’s sacrament does what it claims to do.

The bishop is the usual minister of this sacrament. The first sign of the sacrament is anointing with oil and the laying on of hands (this means a bishop puts his hands on your head). Oil is used to anoint kings and to strengthen wrestlers and other athletes.  The bishop says the following words of the sacrament:

“Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”

The grace we receive helps us endure the rejection of others toward us, toward our faith and toward God and helps us to actively spread God’s faith to others. To help us with this, the Holy Spirit gives us the following seven gifts:

Wisdom to manage our human affairs according to God's truth; to love the things of heaven over those of the earth
Knowledge to realize the proper path or course of action  to follow and dangers to avoid
Understanding to understand our faith and its meaning to our life
Counsel to determine God’s will for us
Fortitude to do what is right and avoid evil even in the face of difficulty
Piety to revere and worship God, to respect to others and to joyfully do God’s work
Fear of the Lord
(Wonder and Awe)
to love God so much that we fear losing him, to understand that God is so much greater than us, to be in awe of God

2.5 Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion)

Holy Eucharist is the Bread of Life, as Jesus promised (John 6). We can receive Holy Communion (another word for Holy Eucharist) every day at mass, as long as we are not in a state of serious sin (See What is Sin). Holy Communion is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. All of Jesus is really made present in the appearance of bread and all of Jesus is made present in the wine.

The signs of the sacrament are the bread and wine and the priest saying the following words:

This is my body
This is my blood, do this in memory of me

last supper
This food is food indeed. Jesus became one of us to save us and he continues to give us himself in this heavenly banquet! The grace we receive is to strengthen us on a daily basis to do God’s will. We strive to become what we eat, that is, like Jesus! This is one reason it is so important to go to mass on Sunday!

The Holy Eucharist is celebrated in the Holy Mass, the Divine Liturgy. The mass is very old, from the time of the Apostles. Its parts have remained the same since then, though the words change from time to time and the language we use is different. In mass, to prepare us for receiving the Holy Eucharist, we ask for forgiveness of sin, are reminded of the work of salvation by reading from the Bible, repeat the Lord’s words from the Last Supper and receive Jesus in Holy Communion. (see the later section The Holy Mass for more about the mass).

2.6 Penance (Confession, Reconciliation)

This Sacrament is called Penance or Confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Sacrament is for the forgiveness of our sins (See What is Sin). Since we are human, we often fail to do God’s will in small things and in big things. Sometimes we turn so far away from God, that we may start to reject him. Because Jesus was one of us, he knew that temptations would cause us to fail, but in his great love and mercy, he wants us to be forgiven and to turn back to him (to be reconciled). Of course, we should be completely sorry for our sins, but in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we are even a little sorry for our sins, God forgives us and restores our friendship.

The signs of the sacrament are the penitent confessing their sins to the priest and the priest making the sign of the cross while saying the words:

“I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

We are forgiven of our sins, even the worst ones! Every time we go to confession, ours sins are forgiven, if we are sorry for our sins and we really want to stop sinning. The grace we receive helps us to stop repeating our sins. Jesus told the apostles,
"Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, they are retained." John 20:22-23

2.7 Anointing of the Sick

Anointing of the Sick helps to bring spiritual and physical healing to us. Spiritual healing includes the forgiveness of sins but also healing of other spiritual hurts that occur during illness, such as sadness and loss or decrease of faith.

The sign of the sacrament is the priest anointing with oil and the silent laying on his of hands.

The graces of this sacrament are physical and spiritual strengthening and peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or frailty of old age. This sacrament is often accompanied by the sacraments of Penance and the reception of Holy Communion. Jesus healed many people in the Gospels and sent the apostles forth, to convert and to heal.

2.8 Matrimony

Matrimony is the sacrament of blessing for marriage. Jesus confirmed this sacrament by reminding us:

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female'
and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Matt 19:4-6

The "one flesh" indicates that like the Trinity makes up one God, the couple's love for one another should be like the love in the Trinity. The sign of this sacrament is the couple making vows to each other and their willingness to be open to God, to each other and to children. The vows are made before a deacon or priest of the Church (which is the bride of Christ). Marriage is hard. Doing anything for a just a little while takes determination. To have a marriage last a lifetime takes the grace of God. The sacrament of Marriage imparts such grace. When combined with prayer and the other sacraments the grace of this sacrament is awesome.

The graces are meant to perfect the couple’s love for each other, their children and above all, of God. The graces help them to help one another attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.

2.9 Holy Orders

This sacrament is how Jesus entrusted his mission to his apostles and it continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. Jesus sent the apostles to convert and to heal and he told them at the last supper to "do this in memory of me." Deacons, priests and bishops all receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The sign of Holy Orders is the imposition of the Bishop’s hands on the head of the one to be ordained and the bishops recitation of the prayers appropriate to the degree of ordination, either deacon, priest, or bishop. Deacons preach the Gospel and do service for the Church. In addition, priests consecrate during mass and perform the Sacraments of Healing. Bishops also confirm and ordain.  The laying on of hands symbolizes apostolic succession. As in marriage, committing to a lifetime of service is a hard.

Thus the graces imparted by this sacrament strengthens the recipient to do the ministry of Christ, to conform their lives with Christ, to preach the Gospel, to act as pastor and to have love for all, especially for the poor, the sick and the needy.

2.10 The Holy Mass

2.10.1 Seasons of the Liturgical Year

In the Holy Mass, we participate and assist in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. We participate in the Holy Eucharist as Jesus commanded us to do (Do this in memory of me). The Church celebrates salvation, the life of the Lord and the teaching of the Lord through a yearly calendar. The prayers and readings during the mass reflect the season of the calendar. The Church celebrates the following seasons: The colors in the priest's clothes (vestments) and the linen on the altar change based on the season. This liturgical year represents the story of our salvation in the readings and other prayers during the mass, all of which help us conform our life to Christ, to become like him.

1.Advent. We anticipate and prepare for Jesus, both for his coming at Christmas and also the end of the world (“He will judge the living and the dead”). We wear purple as a sign of penance and anticipation.
2. Christmas. We celebrate the birth (Nativity) of the Lord, the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary, the Epiphany (the Wise Men come) and The Baptism of the Lord. We wear white as a sign of holiness and glory.
3. Ordinary Time. Before Lent and after Pentecost, we celebrate Ordinary time. The Life of Christ and his teachings are followed during this time. We wear green as a sign of continuing life.
4. Lent. This is the season leading up to the death and resurrection of the Lord. We use this time to repent of our sins and to grow in holiness. We give to the poor and we fast from various things to remind us of the season and of Jesus' sacrifice for us. Again we wear purple as a sign of penance.
5.Triduum. We celebrate the last few days of Jesus’ life. Holy Thursday (the Last Supper - white), Good Friday (Jesus suffers and dies on the cross - red), and the Easter Vigil (Jesus rises from the dead - white).
6. Easter. The glorious season – the Lord rises from the dead, he shows us that we can attain eternal life. We wear white as a sign of holiness and glory. During this season, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. This season lasts until Pentecost, about 50 days.
7. Pentecost. The Lord sends the Holy Spirit to us to guide the Church. We wear red as a sign of the fire of the Holy Spirit. After this, we resume Ordinary Time.
8. Ordinary Time. After Pentecost we again celebrate ordinary time (again, wearing green) until the year ends with the Feast of Christ the King (white).

There are also various Holy Days during the year. On these days, we are called to assist at mass just like it is a Sunday. These are: Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), Christmas (Dec 25), Solemnity of Mary (Jan 1), Feast of the Ascension, Feast of the Assumption (Aug 15), and All Saints Day (Nov 1).

2.10.2 Preparation for Mass

holy communion
In preparation for mass, we should always be prayerful and full of anticipation for meeting Jesu
s. We find Jesus in the mass in three ways. As we gather in our assembly, Jesus is present (as he promised), then we find him present in his word to us and finally and specially, we find him truly present in the Eucharist. We don't "go to mass", we assist at mass. We participate, with the priest and the assembly, in Jesus' perfect sacrifice to his Father. A very good way to prepare for mass is to read the readings before mass, either at home or at the church by arriving early.

2.10.3 Introductory Rites

On Sundays, we often start mass with an Entrance Hymn (song). The priest and servers along with others may process into the church during this time. Greeting

We always begin the mass by making the Sign of the Cross. This reminds us of our Baptism and our Trinitarian God. Penitential Rite

We ask for the Lord’s forgiveness from our everyday failures to be good. We say the Confiteor ("I confess"). This prepares us to receive him later in Holy Communion. The Kyrie (Lord have mercy) ends the penitential rite. Gloria

This is the song of the angels ("Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to those on whom his favor rests" Luke 2:14). It is not said during Advent or Lent.

2.10.4 Liturgy of the Word

The Word of God is proclaimed to us (read with authority). Remember that the “Word” is Jesus. So we listen to his words for us and in this manner receive him. The readings for Sunday mass change on a three year cycle. The first year the Gospel is from Matthew, the next year from Mark and the third from Luke. The Gospel of John is always read during Easter season, fills in on the year that Mark is read (Mark is a short Gospel) and on special occasions. Daily mass readings use a two year cycle and there is no second reading. First Reading

This reading is usually from the Old Testament but sometimes it is from the New Testament. During Easter time, it is from the Acts of the Apostles. Occasionally, it is from the Book of Revelation. It usually shows how today's Gospel teaching of Jesus has its roots in the Old Testament. Responsorial Psalm

The Psalms are songs of praise to God. They are from the Old Testament and usually relate to the first reading and the Gospel. Many of them were written by King David. Second Reading

This reading is usually from one of the Letters (Epistles) in the New Testament, most often of Paul, but also from Peter, John, James or Jude. On daily masses, there is no second reading. Gospel

This is from the New Testament, from one of the Four Gospels by either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Here we follow the life of Jesus and his teachings. These Gospels give us the very words that Jesus said! We stand for this reading. Homily

The priest or deacon will teach us about the meaning of the readings. This is to help us lead a life according to the will of God. Profession of Faith

On Sundays we say the Nicene Creed that we discussed in Part I. We recite the creed together as one Church and renew our faith each Sunday. Prayer of the Faithful

The people of God raise their prayers of petition to God. Usually the deacon or a lector will read these and the people respond, “Lord hear our prayer” or something similar. We pray for the pope, our bishops and priests, for our government, for the sick and for the dead, among other prayers.

2.10.5 Liturgy of the Eucharist

The second part of the mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In this part we do that which Jesus commanded: “Do this in memory of me.” Presentation of the Gifts (Offertory)

The people bring forward the bread and wine for the sacrifice. This bread and wine, normal stuff, will be changed into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. We hope that we ourselves are changed from normal to holy people. The bread can be thought of as the gift of our lives, our blessings. The wine can be thought of as the cup of our sufferings, as it becomes the cup of Jesus’ suffering. After the priest asks God to bless these gifts, he washes his hands and asks God to forgive his sins. Eucharistic Prayer

The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. The prayer begins with "The Lord be with you." and the preface follows. The preface changes based on the season, feast days and so forth. The many prefaces enriching the mass are intended to develop in different ways the theme of thanksgiving in the Eucharistic prayer and bring out more clearly the different parts of the mystery of salvation. Holy, Holy, Holy (Sanctus)

We join with the angels and saints in heaven (Isa 6:3) giving praise to God for the great gift of his Son and of the Holy Eucharist which we are getting ready to celebrate. "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of power and might." All the Communion of Saints is giving praise together, on heaven and earth. Eucharistic Prayer (I, II, III or IV)

The whole Eucharistic prayer is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God the Father, but especially this first part. He created us, he gave us his Son to save us, he gave us the Church and the Holy Spirit to guide us and he gave us his Son in the Holy Eucharist. The priest has four options for this prayer. Consecration

This part of the Eucharistic Prayer is when the bread and wine are actually changed into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus even though they still look like bread and wine. (This is called transubstantiation.)  The priest says the words of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist:

Take this all of you and eat it,
This is my Body
And then
Take this all of you and drink from it,
For this is the chalice of my blood,
The blood of the new and eternal covenant,
Which will be poured out for you and for many
For the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me. Memorial Acclamation

After the Consecration, the people remember what Christ has done by saying together one of the acclamations, such as "Dying you destroyed our death, rising your restored our life, Lord Jesus, come in glory!" The Eucharistic Prayer then asks that this Sacrifice make the whole Church holy, including us and that it join us together with the Communion of Saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory. It is concluded with the great prayer:
Through him,
with him,
 in him,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father,
forever and ever

The “him” of course is our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is because of him that we have this great Sacrifice. We are joined with the Lord in every way in praising the Father. And we all give our assent to this by saying:

“AMEN!” Our Father

The Lord's Prayer was given to us by Jesus and thus is very fitting to say right after the Eucharistic Prayer. In this prayer, the people join their voices to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom and to ask God to provide for our needs, forgive our sins, and bring us to the joy of heaven. See the Lord's Prayer for a discussion about this prayer. Communion

The priest breaks the consecrated bread as the people sing the Lamb of God or “Agnus Dei.” John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The action of breaking the bread recalls the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he broke the bread before giving it to his disciples. One of the earliest names for the Eucharistic celebration is the breaking of the bread.

Before receiving Communion, the celebrant and the people acknowledge that we are unworthy to receive so great a gift by saying:
“Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The celebrant receives Communion first and then the people come forward. Those who receive Communion should be well prepared to receive so great a gift, the very body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus! They should fast (except for medicines) for one hour before receiving the Eucharist and be unaware of having committed serious sin. After receiving, we say, “AMEN” to confirm that we believe we have received our Lord! Remember what St. Augustine has said, “when we eat any other kind of food that food becomes us, but when we eat the Body and Blood of Christ we become what we eat!”  What we become is like the Lord. Concluding Rite

The priest blesses the people and dismisses them with the Sign of the Cross. We are then called to go forth and serve the Lord.
communion elements