What are the Sacraments of Christianity? Meaning and Examples

Sacraments are by definition a sacred part of Christian life and worship. Learn the meaning and practices of various sacraments from the denominations of Christian faith.
Christianity.com Editorial Staff
What are the Sacraments of Christianity? Meaning and Examples

Sacrament Definition

In the Christian Church, a sacrament is a religious ceremony or ritual regarded as imparting divine grace, such as baptism, the Eucharist and (in the Roman Catholic and many Orthodox Churches) penance and the anointing of the sick.

According to dictionary.com, in an Ecclesiastical context, sacraments are a visible sign of an inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace: the sacraments of the Protestant churches are baptism and the Lord's Supper; the sacraments of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 'The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us' (#1131).

The Blessed Sacrament

The Blessed Sacrament is a devotional name used in many Christian denominations referring to the body and blood of Christ in the form of blessed sacramental bread and wine for a recognition of the Eucharist.  In the tradition of Christianity, the Blessed Sacrament is the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic elements of the bread and wine. This belief is based on both scripture and sacred tradition.

Seven Sacraments of Catholicism

The Catholic Church acknowledges seven sacraments:

  • Baptism - In baptism, God's saving grace, His very presence, enters into the human soul. The person celebrating the sacrament (usually a priest) says 'I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit' while pouring water over the head of the person receiving the sacrament or dipping the person in water. For Catholics, baptism is the sacrament of salvation and the door to all other sacraments.

  • Eucharist - Those who partake in the Eucharist receive the real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in what appears to be bread and wine. During Mass, regular bread and wine are consecrated by the priest, through God's power, when he repeats Jesus's words, 'This is My Body' and 'This is the chalice of My Blood.'

  • Confirmation - Confirmation provides a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which helps the confirmed Catholic witness to Christ and lead a mature Christian life. The rite of confirmation, usually performed by a bishop, involves the anointing with chrism (holy oil), the laying on of hands, and the words 'Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.'

  • Reconciliation - In reconciliation, which is also called 'confession' or 'penance,' a Catholic confesses his or her sins to a priest in the spirit of true repentance and receives forgiveness. The priest acts as a visible representative of Christ, who forgives sins through Him when he says the words of absolution: 'I absolve you of your sins in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.'

  • Anointing of the sick - Anointing of the sick offers the comfort of God's grace to those who are ill. The sacrament provides spiritual and sometimes physical healing, according to God's will, but also allows the sick person to join his or her sufferings to Christ and prepare for death. The essential rite of this sacrament involves anointing with the oil of the sick and prayer.

  • Marriage or Matrimony - Matrimony joins a man and a woman together in a life-long covenant of self-giving love. The two spouses give their consent to join together in marriage as the church defines it and God gives special grace to the couple that they may live out their vow.

  • Holy orders - In holy orders, men are ordained as members of the clergy as bishops, priests, and deacons through a bishop laying hands and saying a prayer. These men are given the grace to live out their lives in service to the Church and to God’s people.

Information above of the seven sacraments provided by study.com.

Bible Verses about Sacraments

1 Peter 3:21 - Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Acts 2:38 - And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 16:16 - Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

1 Corinthians 12:13 - For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Matthew 28:19 - Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Acts 22:16 - And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

John 6:53 - So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

Luke 22:19 - And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Sources

Sacrament Definition - Dictionary.com

The 7 Catholic Sacraments: Definition & History - Study.com


Originally published September 26, 2019.