The Sacramental Nature of the Church

Lucas Goetz

  1. A sacrament is a sign of grace that Christ gave to us. The word sacrament comes from the Latin word “sacramentum,” meaning “a sign of the sacred.” They are God’s channels for supplying His grace to us human beings. They are very important to the life of the Church. The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. The more you learn about the sacraments, the more fully you can celebrate them and the more graces you get from them.

Chapter 1

Definition of Sacrament

  1. Although we don’t always think of it, there are many, many Catholics outside of us here in the United States. We are part of the Western Roman Catholic Church. There is also the Eastern Catholic Church, who is under the authority of the Pope in Rome, just like us. The Eastern Catholic Church does a lot of things similar to us, but there are some differences. For example: they call sacraments, “mysteries”. They do have a point by calling them this because the sacraments are mysterious. In some mysterious way, God uses physical things to bring about spiritual change and give his grace. God has chosen to give grace through our participation in the sacraments.

Sacraments in the Eastern Churches

  1. The Church teaches that there is a difference between actual grace and sanctifying grace. An easy way to understand actual grace is to remember that it enables us to “act.” It is the strength that God gives us to act according to his will. Look at it this way: actual grace is grace that “nudges” us. God uses actual grace to let us know that we need to do the right thing. God is nudging us to follow him. We have the free will to either cooperate with actual grace or ignore it.


Sacraments Confer the Grace They Signify

  1. Sacramental grace is “the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ” (CCC 1129). Sacramental grace is a grace that sustains us and drives us to stay in a right relationship with Christ. We experience this kind of grace as we live in a relationship with God, through receiving the sacraments, maintaining a prayer life, and doing works of mercy. A specific sacramental grace is associated with each of the seven sacraments.


Sacramental Grace


Chapter 2

The Church and the Sacramental Economy of Salvation

So what do we mean by the sacramental economy of salvation? The economy of salvation is God’s activity in creating and governing the world. It is also the system of Christ uses to make himself and his saving graces present on earth. “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations,” (CCC 1088). Christ is present in the priest but also in the Eucharist itself. On the night before Jesus suffered his death on the cross, Jesus shared one last meal with his disciples. It was then when Jesus instituted the sacrament of his own Body and Blood. He did this for us, so we could go to Heaven and have eternal life. So, when we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, we are literally receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

  1. The sacraments are the signs by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ to the Church. This means that the Church contains and communicates the grace from the sacraments. In this sense, the Church is a called a “sacrament”. The Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. The Church gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”. The Church is the visible plan for God’s love for us.

The Church is the sacrament of salvation. She is the sign and instrument of communion between God and us human beings. All salvation comes from Christ through the Church. The coming of Christ to live among us didn’t just happen once, but is happening all the time through the Church. Being this sacrament of salvation also means that the Church is the sign of unity among all people. The Church, which includes all of us Catholics, is a sign of the love that we need to have for one another. Jesus intended for the sacraments to be doorways to Heaven, open to everyone.

The Church has a sacramental view of all reality. This means that the sacraments are part of a sacramental mindset, a worldview that sees the universe differently from secular culture. A sacramental worldview involves “seeing the divine in the human, the invisible in the visible, and the grace of God working through ordinary people and objects” (chnetwork). This sacramental view sees God present and active in his creation.

  1. The Church, which was instituted by Christ himself, brings all of its members into communion with the Holy Trinity. The Church helps us become unified with all three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Basically, the Church is a tool Christ uses to help to help us become closer with the Trinity. It is a sacrament because it’s a visual sign of God’s grace being poured upon us.

The seven sacraments are the base of Catholic spirituality. Jesus himself acts in and through the sacraments, offering new life, forgiving sins, and healing. Though the Holy Spirit, the grace of Christ’s actions is pouring onto those who participate in the sacraments. So, sacraments don’t just symbolize spiritual reality, they actually have an effect on us and change us because of God’s power.

Chapter 3

Redemption is Mediated Through the Seven Sacraments

“A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and symbols,” (CCC 1145). There are many signs and symbols used in the Church. These include objects like water, bread, wine, and oil, actions like pouring water, breaking bread, and laying on of hands, and words like prayers and hymns. These are just some of the many sacramental signs and symbols. The sacraments are signs because they call us to faith in a deeper reality: God is here among us. Through sacraments, Christ acts sacramentally to bring about what they signify: they communicate to us the grace of Christ and bring us into deeper relationship with him.

  1. Sacramental rituals are experiential signs of Christ’s healing and sanctifying presence. This means that we can experience Christ as he heals and sanctifies us. Through the use of these rituals, we encounter Christ and his saving grace.

The sacraments heal and sanctify us. By words and objects, they “nourish, strengthen, and express” (CCC 1123) the faith. That’s why they are called “sacraments of faith”. There are two sacraments that are specifically meant to heal us. They are Penance and Anointing of the Sick.

  1. Prayer is a very important part of the Church. This is why Jesus declared that his house is to be a house of prayer. Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God. There are many different forms of prayer. These include prayers of blessing and adoration (praising God), prayers of petition (asking for what we need, including forgiveness), prayers of intercession (asking for what others need), and prayers of thanksgiving (thanking God for what he has given and done). There are also different ways to pray. These include vocal, meditative, and contemplative.


  1. Prayer is essential for believers of Christ. Prayer is turning the heart toward God. When we pray, we enter into a living relationship with God. It is the gate leading into the faith. People who pray entrust themselves more and more to God.

Liturgical prayer is public prayer. It is prayer for the salvation of the world. For us Catholics, liturgical prayer includes the Scriptures, the seven sacraments (especially the Eucharist), and prescribed prayers and services for special occasions.

Personal prayer is a living relationship with God and is essential for a believer and a follower of Christ. No relationship can survive without communication, which is what prayer is. Just as we talk and share with our friends what is happening in our lives, we need to talk and share with God. Just as we listen to our friends, so we listen to God.