When we speak of the Sacraments of the Church, we tend to think primarily of the LORD’s SUPPER, CONFIRMATION, and BAPTISM. These certainly are important, but there are four more Sacraments, which seem to be pushed aside in importance as Sacraments.
There are Seven Sacraments in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. These Sacraments are:
4. Holy Communion
5. Holy Unction
6. Holy Matrimony
7. Holy Orders
If we read the Office of Instruction or the Catechism, we find the Seven Sacraments broken down as the Two Greater Sacraments and the Five Lesser Sacraments: that is, the Two Greater Sacraments are Baptism and Holy Communion, while the Five Lesser Sacraments are Confirmation, Penance, Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Orders.
Perhaps, we can both agree and disagree with this division. Why? Because the Five Lesser Sacraments, in effect, have been too de-emphasized in their subordination to the Two Greater Sacraments, almost to the point that at least two of those Sacraments tend to be not just overlooked, but ignored, forgotten.
But, let’s stop here for a moment and go back to the beginning.
We are talking about Sacraments-but what are Sacraments? What do they do for us? Why are they important? Where did they come from?
In the early Church, the term SACRAMENT had a broader meaning and any holy thing said to possess a hidden power or meaning was termed a SACRAMENT. For instance, the CREED was referred to as the SACRAMENT OF THE CREED and the Lord’s Prayer was referred to as the SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S PRAYER.
Over the years, by degrees, the term SACRAMENT became more restrictive in its application until today we find it restricted to seven ordinances.
If we consult the Prayer Book, we find a Sacrament defined as an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual Grace.”
What do we mean by this?
There is a close connection of the Sacraments with the Incarnation and Atonement. It is through the Sacraments, as divinely appointed means, that the benefits of the mysteries of the Incarnation and Atonement are applied to our souls. The Incarnation is the union of God and man in the Person of Jesus Christ and is extended, as a means of grace, in Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.
Through this union, we have Jesus Christ as the SECOND ADAM.
No doubt, you have heard this before, that is, if you have read Paul’s Epistles, as in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall be made alive.”
So we have Jesus Christ as the new head of the human race which through him is redeemed.
We were all made sinners by the the disobedience of one man, Adam. Original Sin; We inherit the fallen nature of Adam and, thus, St. Paul says, “…in Adam we die…”
So, we have the FIRST ADAM, from which we get our FALLEN NATURE….and we have the SECOND ADAM, Jesus Christ, PERFECT MAN, in whom we are made alive by being brought into union with his UNFALLEN NATURE.
We want to disconnect ourselves with the FIRST MAN and connect ourselves with the SECOND MAN, that is Jesus Christ. We must destroy the old relationship and form a new one with Christ. We must escape from a natural state into a supernatural state. That supernatural state is the state of grace.
We can not make the change ourselves….so how is this great change brought about? Through the SACRAMENTS. Christ ordained the Sacraments for this very purpose.
The Prayer Book definition of the Sacraments: “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” “Effectual signs of Grace” as they are also called, meaning they effect what they signify. They lift us out of our natural state, placing us and keeping us in a supernatural state-the state of grace. From this we have another term for the Sacraments: the Means of Grace.