(“The Seven Rivers of Life”)
“Peace Be to You”
Because the subject of Grace is so very important it might be well to continue it a bit here and then to tell you how that grace is communicated to us.
Grace divides the world actually into two kinds of humanity.
The once born and the twice born.
- The once born are those who are born only of their parents.
- The twice born are those who are born of their parents and also born of God.
- One group of men are what might be called “natural.”
- The other, in addition to having nature, also share in a mysterious way in the Divine life of God and in his Thoughts and in his Love.
Grace is so very sensitive that it is possible for us to reject it many times even during the day.
Incidents about Grace – Man making a choice:
Let me therefore tell you two incidents about Grace.
On one occasion, I went down from Belgium to Paris to preach a sermon in a church in Paris on the first Sunday of February. I stayed in a tiny little hotel near the Opera Comique. And in a small side room there was an Englishman playing a piano. I listened to him for a while and then complimented him and invited him to dinner. He said, “I have never eaten with a priest before.” And I said, “Well we are just like anyone else if you stick me with a pin, I will bleed too.” In the course of the dinner he said, “I have a problem I would like to present to you. I have never met”, he said, “in my life, one good man or one good woman.” I thanked him for the compliment and then he went on to tell me that just a year from this coming 12th of February, over at that table there, indicating a table in the corner, he saw a woman trying to break a lump of sugar into a cup of coffee. He went over to her, broke the lump, she then told him how cruel her husband was, and he said, “Come and live with me.” He said, “I am now tired of her. I get tired of them all after about a year. And I wrapped up all of her clothes this morning and left them with the concierge and told her to leave. But she left me this note. And the note read that, “If you do not continue living with me I will commit suicide by throwing myself into the Seine.” “Now this is my problem,” he continued. “May I allow her to continue living with me to prevent her from committing suicide?” And I said, “No you may never to evil that good may come from it, but in any case, what is more important, she will not commit suicide.” It got to be late and he said, “Where are you going?” I said, “I am going up to Montmartre.” He said, “I was just beginning to think that you were good and now your going up to that hellhole of Paris.” I said, “There is something else on the hill of Montmartre besides dives and dens. There is a beautiful basilica, The Sacred Heart, where there are hundreds of men every night in prayer and in perpetual adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Come with me.”
We went up together and he said, “How long will you stay?” I said, “I intend to stay all night, but I will leave when you want to go.” He stayed all night. And I suppose there were about 800 to 1000 men spending the night there in prayer. When we left the next morning, after I had read Mass, he said, “This is the first time in my life I ever came in contact with goodness.” He asked me to stay in Paris for a few days of teaching. I arranged to meet him that night.
At the appointed hour, he came into the courtyard with another woman, not the woman involved in the story. And he said, “the three of us will go out to dinner.”
I said, “No, tonight I want to see you.” Then I called him aside and I said, “Now, you received a great grace yesterday. You got the first dim contact with goodness and love and holiness and tonight you have to make a choice. Either you are going out with this woman or your going out with me. Which will it be?” He walked up and down the courtyard for a few minutes and then came back to me and he said, “Well Father, I think that I will go out with her.” And that is the end of the story.
- Now these impulses of Grace that he received could have developed him into a saint but it was like the story of our Lord looking over Jerusalem.
“I would. Thou wouldst not.” (Matthew 23:37)
Incidents about grace:
Now let us take another incident. I used to do a great deal of parochial work in St. Patrick’s Church, Soho Square, London, England. I opened the church door one cold Epiphany morning in the month of January and a limp figure fell in. It was a young woman about 23, 24 years of age and I said, “How did you happen to be here?” And she said, “I did not know where I was father.” And I said, “Oh father?” And she said, “Yes I used to be a Catholic but not anymore.” And I said, “Why are you here? You seem to be a little intoxicated. What are you running away from?” She said, “From men, each of whom thinks that I love him. And I did not know that I was here.” I asked her, her name, and when she told me, I pointed to a billboard on the other side of the street and I said, “Is that your picture over there on that billboard?” “Yes” she said, “I am the leading lady in that musical comedy.” Since she was very cold I made a cup of coffee for her and told her to come back before matinee. She said, “I will on one condition. That you do not ask me to go to confession.” I said, “Very well I promise you not to ask you to go to confession.” She said, “I want you to promise me very faithfully that you will not ask me to go to confession.” I said, “I promise you faithfully not to ask you to go confession.”
She came back that afternoon before matinee. I said, “We have a beautiful Rembrandt and Van Dyke in this church would you like to see them?” As we walked down the middle aisle I gave her a gentle push into the confessional. I did not ask her to go but she went to confession. She is now a nun in a convent of Perpetual Adoration in England.
And here are two stories of responses to Grace. In both instances, the human will was free and in one there was a correspondence and the other a rejection.
We receive millions of these Graces called Actual Graces:
Everyone receives them. You need not be a Christian. Every Moslem,
every Buddhist, every communist in the world receives actual grace.
Here we are speaking of what is called now a Habitual Grace, a more permanent grace that which creates in us a likeness that remains and that brings up this particular problem.
How is this grace communicated to us?
How does it get into the soul?
Perhaps you have seen signs on roadways. They are often painted on rocks which read “Jesus Saves.” Yes, indeed he does. The very practical question is how?
We have a span of 20 centuries between the life of our Lord and our days.
Yes, he is God, but how does he pour and infuse this Divine Life and power into our souls?
Well he does it by what are called Sacraments.
Now here we define the word sacrament in a very broad way.
In Greek, it means “mystery.”
- But a Sacrament is any material or visible thing that is used as a sign or a channel of Spiritual Communication.
Lord made this world with a sense of humor:
We will go back about as far as we can to explain mysteries and we might say that the Lord made this world with a sense of humor. What do we mean by a sense of humor? We mean he made it sacramentally. We say a person has a sense of humor if he can see through things. They say a person has not a sense of humor if he cannot see through things. We say he is too thick.
Now God made this world with a sense of humor in the sense that we were always to see Him through things, like the poets do:
- We would look out on a mountain and think of the Power of God.
- On the sunset and think of the Beauty of God,
- On a snowflake and dwell on the Purity of God.
Notice that we would not be taking this world as seriously as do the materialist to whom a mountain is just a mountain, a sunset is just a sunset and a snowflake is just a snowflake.
- The serious-minded people of this world write only in prose.
- But those who have this penetrating glance of perceiving the Eternal through time, the Divine through the human, have what we call the sacramental outlook on the universe.
Now coming up a little bit closer to our own experience there are certain signs and events in our daily life which are a kind of natural sacrament.
- Take for example a word. A word has something audible about it and at the same time something unseen, invisible. If, for example, I tell a joke and if it were a very amusing one you might laugh but if I told it to a horse, a horse would not even give a horse laugh. Why? Because you get the meaning, that’s because you have a soul, a reason and an intellect. A horse lacks that spiritual perceptive power and hence does not get the meaning.
- So, with a handshake. A handshake is something visible, material, fleshy but there is also something spiritual about it, namely the communication of greeting and welcome. Now if I take my right hand and lay it upon my left, as I am doing at this particular second, this is not a handshake. It has a visible aspect about it most certainly, namely the clasping of hands, but it lacks that invisible element which is the communication of personal warmth.
- A kiss is a kind of sacrament. It is something visible, and at the same time, something invisible, namely the communication of love.
This is getting a bit away from the point, but I just cannot resist saying it. Have you noticed how very much our modern architecture is devoid of all decoration? What a contrast to the cathedrals where there were all material things, even cows and angels, sometimes little devils, peering around the corners. The ancient architecture was always using material things as signs of something spiritual. Today our architecture is flat, nothing but steel and glass almost like a cracker box. Why? Well because our architects have no spiritual message to convey. The material is just the material, nothing else; hence no décor, no significance, no meaning, no soul.
I wonder if décor and decoration and so forth in architecture has not passed out of the world at the same time politeness has. We certainly are not as polite in this century as we were in another century and possibly the reason is because we no longer believe that persons have souls. They are just other animals and thence they are to be treated as means to our ends.
- But when you believe that in addition to a body, there is soul, then you begin to have great respect and reverence for personality.
Contact the life of Christ through this Grace
Now after the digression on the relationship between architecture and politeness we come back to the very important point again is how do we ever, ever contact the Life of Christ through this Grace?
The basic idea that connects all that we have said with him is this:
***That Christ himself was the Great Sacrifice, because he was the Word made flesh. He was the God–Man.***
- We would have seen a man, but we would have known that he was the Son of God.
Therefore Christ is the Supreme Sacrament of history.
His Human Nature was the sign of His Divinity. We saw God through his Body. We see eternity through his Time. And the Loving God in the form of a man who was like to us in all things save sin.
Now our blessed Lord took His Human Nature to Heaven. Once He is Glorified in Heaven, as we said in speaking of the Ascension, He is our Mediator, our Intercessor, our High Priest who can have compassion for us and on us because He passed through our temptations and our sufferings and our trials.
Because He is God as well as man, He is going to pour down upon us from Heaven His Truth, His Power, His Grace, His Life — and how will He do it?
- He will not do it through what we might call His bodiness, because that is already glorified in Heaven.
- He will do it through things and also through human natures. He will use certain things in this world as extensions of His Glorified Body.
Extensions of His Glorified Body:
- These things might be water, bread and oil and so forth as channels or vehicles for the communication of His Divine Life.
- Now He Himself instituted these Sacraments, but why did he do it?
Seven rays of the spectrum:
Well, first of all, because his life is so very rich that it has to have various manifestations in life, it is very much like the life of the sun. The sun is so very bright that if we are to understand its inner beauty we have to shoot that sunlight through a prism and so, and when we do, it splits up into the seven rays of the spectrum.
- And so, our blessed Lord, having a Life that is Infinitely Rich, shoots this Divine Life through the prism of the church and its splits up not into the seven rays of the spectrum but into the seven Sacraments of the Church.
- And then another reason why you use Sacraments is because this material world of ours has to be spiritualized.
- God not only redeems man He redeems things. So, we lay hold of material things like water and oil and bread and so forth and we make them serve God.
Body & Soul –
- Too often they have been used for purposes that were not divine. We have a body, too, as well as a soul, and we get all of our spiritual thoughts at least the beginning of them through the senses.
And why therefore, simply because we have a body as well as a soul, should God not use things that appeal to our senses, some material signs which would be to us telltales and revelations of this Grace that he is pouring into our souls?
- For example, it would be wonderful if used water to indicate that our great sin that we inherited from Adam was being washed away.
- Bread would be a very good sign and symbol of nourishmen
- Oil strengthens us in the natural order. It might also be a very good sign too for strengthening our souls.
As once Divinity used humanity:
- So as once divinity used humanity, so now divinity uses humanity and things in order that there might be something trans-historical, trans-cosmic in order that there might be the Divine Life of Christ pouring into our Souls.
That is how the Christ in heaven contacts us in this day in age.
How many sacraments are there? :
Seven. Why seven? Because there are seven conditions for leading a physical life and there ought to be seven conditions for leading a spiritual life. Five of these conditions are individual and two refer to society.
In order to live a physical, natural life;
(1) I must be born;
(2) I must grow to maturity;
(3) I must nourish myself;
(4) I must heal my wounds;
(5) I must drive out traces of disease; and
As a member of society;
(1) There must be a propagation of the human species; and
(2) There must be government.
Seven conditions of leading that Divine Life.
Now over and above this human life there is the Divine Life and there are Seven conditions of leading that Divine Life.
(1) If I am to live the Christ Life, I must be born to it. That is the Sacrament of Baptism.
(2) I must grow to maturity and accept the responsibilities of life. That is the Sacrament of Confirmation.
(3) I must nourish myself, sustain this Divine Life. That is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
(4) I must heal the wounds of my soul caused by sin. That is the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.
(5) I must drive out all the traces of the disease of sin that are found in my senses. That is the Sacrament of the Healing of the Sick; and
(6) As a member of society there must be a propagation of the Kingdom of God, the growth of the Mystical Body of Christ. That is the Sacrament of Matrimony; and
- Finally, there must be Divine government, there must be Holy Orders for the Sacrament, the Episcopacy, and the Priesthood.
Christ confers the Grace:
Now the reception of the grace that is in these sacraments is very effective in our soul because it is Christ that confers the grace.
- But the mere fact, for example, that we turn on a faucet, water comes out. The water does not come out because we subjectively believe that water will come forth and the Divine Life of Christ is poured into our soul by the mere fact that we receive the Sacraments.
- Of course, we must not put an obstacle in the way of receiving the sacraments, but it is Christ who Baptizes.
- It is Christ who forgives sins. There are ministers, of course, there are bishops and there are priests, but we lone Christ, our eyes and our hands and our lips is He who gives the Grace.
That incidentally is why, even though you receive the sacrament from an unworthy priest, it would still be a sacrament because the sanctification does not depend upon the priest, because as sunlight comes through a dirty window – the sunlight is not polluted. A messenger may be very ragged, but he could still bear the message of a king.
- So, you see the Church, the Mystical body of Christ, takes care of you, in the cradle to the grave. It meets you in all of the events and circumstances of life. And your sanctification does not depend upon our preaching, it depends upon Christ Himself.
This is the sweet mystery of life, the Sacraments.
God Love You!
1. In today’s lesson on – Sacraments what stood out the most to you?
2. Why do you think Bishop Sheen gave the sub title “The Seven Rivers of Life ” to this lesson?
3. How would you explain to someone seeking a deeper understanding of the Sacraments ?
4. Now that you have learned more about – Sacraments – what changes do you think this will have in your daily life?
ACTUAL GRACES / HABITUAL GRACE:
2000. “Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. HABITUAL GRACE, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from ACTUAL GRACES which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification. “
2024. “Sanctifying grace makes us ‘pleasing to God.’ Charisms, special GRACES of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many ACTUAL GRACES, to be distinguished from HABITUAL GRACE which is permanent in us.”
6. “While not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church’s pastoral mission which have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or spring from it. They are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching to arouse faith; examination of the reasons for belief; experience of Christian living; celebration of the SACRAMENTS; integration into the ecclesial community; and apostolic and missionary witness.[CT 18.] “
13. “The plan of this catechism is inspired by the great tradition of catechisms which build catechesis on four pillars: the baptismal profession of faith (the Creed), the SACRAMENTS of faith, the life of faith (the Commandments), and the prayer of the believer (the Lord’s Prayer). “
15. “The second part of the Catechism explains how God’s salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy (Section One), especially in the seven SACRAMENTS (Section Two). “
568. “Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent on to the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the SACRAMENTS: ‘the hope of glory’ [Col 1:27; cf.: St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C).”
671. “Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled ‘with power and great glory’ by the King’s return to earth.[Lk 21:27 ; cf. Mt 25:31 .] This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover.[Cf. 2 Th 2:7 .] Until everything is subject to him, ‘until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her SACRAMENTS and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.'[LG 48 # 3; cf. 2 Pet 3:13 ; Rom 8:19-22 ; 1 Cor 15:28 .] That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him:[Cf. 1 Cor 11:26 ; 2 Pet 3:11-12 .] Maranatha! ‘Our Lord, come!'[1 Cor 16:22 ; Rev 22:17,20.]”
698. “The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. ‘The Father has set his seal’ on Christ and also seals us in him.[Jn 6:27 ; cf. 2 Cor 1:22 ; Eph 1:13 ; Eph 4:30 .] Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the SACRAMENTS of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible ‘character’ imprinted by these three unrepeatable SACRAMENTS.”
740. “These ‘mighty works of God,’ offered to believers in the SACRAMENTS of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit. (This will be the topic of Part Three.)”
774. “The Greek word mysterion was translated into Latin by two terms: mystenum and sacramentum. In later usage the term sacramentum emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated by the term mystenum. In this sense, Christ himself is the mystery of salvation: ‘For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ.'[St. Augustine, Ep. 187,11,34: PL 33, 846.] The saving work of his holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church’s SACRAMENTS (which the Eastern Churches also call ‘the holy mysteries’). The seven SACRAMENTS are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The Church, then, both contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies. It is in this analogical sense, that the Church is called a ‘sacrament.'”
790. “Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him: ‘In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the SACRAMENTS, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification.'[LG 7.] This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ’s death and Resurrection, and the Eucharist, by which ‘really sharing in the body of the Lord, . . . we are taken up into communion with him and with one another.'[LG 7; cf. Rom 6:4-5 ; 1 Cor 12:13 .]”
805. “The Church is the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit and his action in the SACRAMENTS, above all the Eucharist, Christ, who once was dead and is now risen, establishes the community of believers as his own Body. “
947. “‘Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others…. We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head…. Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the SACRAMENTS.'[St. Thomas Aquinas, Symb., 10.] ‘As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.'[Roman Catechism I, 10, 24.]”
950. “Communion of the SACRAMENTS. ‘The fruit of all the SACRAMENTS belongs to all the faithful. All the SACRAMENTS are sacred links uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ, and above all Baptism, the gate by which we enter into the Church. The communion of saints must be understood as the communion of the SACRAMENTS…. The name ‘communion’ can be applied to all of them, for they unite us to God…. But this name is better suited to the Eucharist than to any other, because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.'[Roman Catechism 1, 10, 24.]”
1074. “‘The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows.'[SC 10.]
It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God.
‘Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the SACRAMENTS, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men.'[John Paul II, CT 23.]”
1075. “Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ ( It is ‘mystagogy.’ ) by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the ‘SACRAMENTS’ to the ‘mysteries.’
Such catechesis is to be presented by local and regional catechisms.
This Catechism, which aims to serve the whole Church in all the diversity of her rites and cultures,[Cf. SC 3-4.] will present what is fundamental and common to the whole Church in the liturgy as mystery and as celebration(Section One), and then the seven SACRAMENTS and the sacramentals (Section Two).”
1084. “‘Seated at the right hand of the Father’ and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the SACRAMENTS he instituted to communicate his grace. The SACRAMENTS are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.”
1113. “The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the SACRAMENTS.[Cf. SC 6.] There are seven SACRAMENTS in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.[Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274) DS 860; Council of Florence (1439) DS 1310; Council of Trent (1547): DS 1601.] This article will discuss what is common to the Church’s seven SACRAMENTS from a doctrinal point of view. What is common to them in terms of their celebration will be presented in the second chapter, and what is distinctive about each will be the topic of the Section Two. “
1114. “‘Adhering to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consensus . . . of the Fathers,’ we profess that ‘the SACRAMENTS of the new law were . . . all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord.'[Council of Trent (1547): DS 1600-1601.]”
1116. “SACRAMENTS are ‘powers that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ,[Cf. Lk 5:17 ; Lk 6:19 ; Lk 8:46 .] which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.”
1118. “The SACRAMENTS are ‘of the Church’ in the double sense that they are ‘by her’ and ‘for her.’ They are ‘by the Church,’ for she is the sacrament of Christ’s action at work in her through the mission of the Holy Spirit. They are ‘for the Church’ in the sense that ‘the SACRAMENTS make the Church,'[St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 22, 17: PL 41, 779; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 64,2 ad 3.] since they manifest and communicate to men, above all in the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the God who is love, One in three persons.”
1119. “Forming ‘as it were, one mystical person’ with Christ the head, the Church acts in the SACRAMENTS as ‘an organically structured priestly community.'[LG 11; cf. Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (1943).] Through Baptism and Confirmation the priestly people is enabled to celebrate the liturgy, while those of the faithful ‘who have received Holy Orders, are appointed to nourish the Church with the word and grace of God in the name of Christ.'[LG 11 # 2.]”
1121. “The three SACRAMENTS of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders confer, in addition to grace, a sacramental character or ‘seal’ by which the Christian shares in Christ’s priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. This configuration to Christ and to the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible,[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1609.] it remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church. Therefore these SACRAMENTS can never be repeated.”
1123. “‘The purpose of the SACRAMENTS is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called ‘SACRAMENTS of faith.”[SC 59.]”
1124. “The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the SACRAMENTS, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi according to Prosper of Aquitaine (5th cent.)).[Ep. 8.] The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.[Cf. DV 8.] “
1126. “Likewise, since the SACRAMENTS express and develop the communion of faith in the Church, the lex orandi is one of the essential criteria of the dialogue that seeks to restore the unity of Christians.[Cf. UR 2; 15.] “
1127. “Celebrated worthily in faith, the SACRAMENTS confer the grace that they signify.[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1605; DS 1606.] They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his SACRAMENTS in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power. “
1128. “This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1608.] that the SACRAMENTS act ex opere operato (literally: ‘by the very fact of the action’s being performed’), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that ‘the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.'[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 68, 8.] From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the SACRAMENTS also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”
1129. “The Church affirms that for believers the SACRAMENTS of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1604.] ‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature[Cf. 2Pet 1:4.] by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.”
1131. “The SACRAMENTS are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the SACRAMENTS are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. “
1132. “The Church celebrates the SACRAMENTS as a priestly community structured by the baptismal priesthood and the priesthood of ordained ministers. “
1133. “The Holy Spirit prepares the faithful for the SACRAMENTS by the Word of God and the faith which welcomes that word in well-disposed hearts. Thus the SACRAMENTS strengthen faith and express it. “
1135. “The catechesis of the liturgy entails first of all an understanding of the
sacramental economy (Chapter One). In this light, the innovation of its celebration is revealed. This chapter will therefore treat of the celebration of the SACRAMENTS of the Church. It will consider that which, through the diversity of liturgical traditions, is common to the celebration of the seven SACRAMENTS. What is proper to each will be treated later. This fundamental catechesis on the sacramental celebrations responds to the first questions posed by the faithful regarding this subject:
– Who celebrates the liturgy?
– How is the liturgy celebrated?
– When is the liturgy celebrated?
– Where is the liturgy celebrated? “