Sacraments of Faith and Salvation
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
Evangelizing Implies Sacraments (1122)
Christ sent his apostles to all nations to preach "repentance and forgiveness of sins" (Lk 24:47). They were to baptize everyone who believed (Mt 28:19). Therefore, this mission to baptize (sacramental ministry) is implied in the mission to evangelize. "The preaching of the Word is required for sacramental ministry because the sacraments are sacraments of faith, drawing their origin and nourishment from the Word" (Second Vatican Council).
Instructed in Faith (1123-1124)
Besides sanctifying the faithful and giving praise to God, the sacraments instruct. They are "sacraments of faith" because they presuppose faith and nourish it.
The person's faith is preceded by the Church's faith (received from the apostles). Because the Church "prays according to its beliefs" the liturgy is a constitutive element of the Church's living Tradition.
Not to Be Changed (1125-1126)
No minister or community can modify a sacramental rite. Even the Church's supreme authority cannot act arbitrarily and can change the liturgy only in the obedience of faith. Because the sacraments express the faith of the Church, they are an essential criteria of ecumenical dialogue.
Sending the Spirit "Ex Opere Operato" (1127-1129)
If celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments bestow the grace signified because Christ himself is at work. In each sacrament, the Father sends the Spirit, who (like a fire) transforms whatever comes under his power.
The Church calls this power of the sacrament "ex opere operato" (just by the action being accomplished). This power comes from God, "not from the minister nor the recipient" (St. Thomas Aquinas). Christ and his Spirit act independently of the personal holiness of the minister (although the results do depend on the recipient's dispositions).
The sacraments are necessary for salvation (Council of Trent). Each bestows by a special "sacramental grace", by which the Spirit transforms the recipients.
Prefiguring Eternal Glory (1130)
The Church will celebrate these sacraments until the Lord comes, because the Spirit groans for Christ's return (1 Cor 16;22). In the sacraments, the Church has already received a guarantee of heaven even while "awaiting the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus" (Titus 1:13). "A sacrament commemorates what precedes it (Christ's passion), demonstrates what the passion accomplished (grace), and prefigures what is pledged (future glory)" (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Four Questions (1135)
This chapter explains what is common to the celebration of these seven sacraments, by answering four questions:
- Who celebrates the liturgy?
- How is the liturgy celebrated?
- When is the liturgy celebrated?
- Where is the liturgy celebrated?