The history of human salvation is the history of the way God came to men. The first step on this way was the bridging of the gulf separating God and man in the person of the one Mediator Jesus Christ and by his work of redemption. By means of his Church Christ makes his grace available to all. Only in this application of redemption to mankind is the redemptive action of Christ completed. The doctrine of the sacraments is the doctrine of the second part of God’s way of salvation to us. It deals with the holy signs which Christ instituted as the vehicles of his grace.
The great mystery of the union in Christ of a human nature with the second Person of the Godhead is that the human actions and sufferings of Christ are divine actions and sufferings. The sacraments are a living continuation of this mystery. There are earthly, external signs here which, of themselves, could never acquire any supernatural significance, but the signs of the sacraments have been made by Christ into vehicles of his grace. They effect in men the grace for which Christ made them the sign.
So there are two fundamental ideas which constantly recur in the Church’s teaching, on the sacraments. First there is the Church’s concern for these instituted by Christ, their number, and their proper preservation and administration; then the grace which Christ has for all time linked with these signs and which is communicated by them.
The second is the effect of the sacraments. They are the signs of Christ’s work; the effectiveness of Christ’s continuing work in his Church cannot be dependent on man’s inadequacy. A sacrament, administered properly in the way established by Christ and with the proper intention, gives the grace it signifies. It is effective not by reason of the power of intercession of priestly prayer nor on account of the worthiness of the recipient, but solely by the power of Christ. The power of Christ lives in the sacraments. The effect of the sacrament is independent of the sinfulness or unworthiness of the minister. The Church has never tolerated any subjective qualification of the objective effectiveness of the sacraments ex opere operato. This would ultimately be to conceive the way of salvation as being man’s way to God and not God’s way to man.
The Church Thus Teaches: There are seven sacraments. They were instituted by Christ and given to the Church to administer. They are necessary for salvation. The sacraments are the vehicles of grace which they convey. They are validly administered by the carrying out of the sign with the proper intention. Not all are equally qualified to administer all the sacraments. The validity of the sacrament is independent of the worthiness of the minister. Three sacraments imprint an indelible character.
Sacramentals are instituted by the Church and are effective by virtue of the Church’s intercession. Institution and alteration of them is reserved to the Holy See.
The Sacrament of Baptism
If we refer back to the first paragraph and the analogy we make about “Womb to Tomb” we can see this sacrament as the sacrament of spiritual birth. It is not the belief of the Catholic church that children are born as sinful people. Rather they are seen as being born into a sinful state. Christian baptism is the means God has chosen to help his children to tread through the rather murky waters of a sinful, selfish and godless world.
St. Ambrose: To have a child baptized at St. Ambrose, at least one parent must be a practicing Catholic, registered at this church for at least six months, and regularly attending Mass and participating in the life of the parish. Baptisms are administered Sundays at 1:00 pm. To inquire about baptism and the baptismal preparation session, please contact Religious Education Office at 330-460-7300.
The Sacrament of Confirmation
This sacrament (sign) is the one that suggests to us the wonderful in pouring of the strength of the Holy Spirit which enables us to walk with strength and conviction through the murky waters of the world that is not truly God-centered. This sacrament can be seen as God’s injection of spiritual vitamins for the journey through life.
St. Ambrose: For more information about Confirmation at St. Ambrose, please contact Religious Education Office at 330-460-7300.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
The sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, Penance) is the means and the sign that Christ gave us to show His willingness to heal us when, through our own human frailty, we turn in on ourselves and away from Him and our neighbor. This is the sign God has given us that through the words of His priest (“I now absolve you from your sins”) whatever harm we have done to our relationship with our God is healed and we are restored to a state of warm friendship with our Father in heaven.
St. Ambrose: Confessions are heard every Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 4:00, periodically in public Penance Services, and anytime by appointment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a thorough treatment to this topic in sections 1422-1498. Please study those paragraphs carefully and resolve to seek the mercy of God through the best means He has given us for repentance, conversion, and reconciliation: the confession and absolution of sins in the Sacrament of Penance.
Anointing of the Sick
This sacrament used to be known as the sacrament of Extreme Unction because it involved the dying person and the priest in a rite of departure from this life into the next life with God. It is again a sign. It is the sign of a God who has sustained us through life now in attendance for our transfer from this earthly life to the eternal life with God.
St. Ambrose: If you are a parishioner at St. Ambrose and desire to receive the Sacrament of Anointing, please contact the rectory at 330-460-7300.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders
Without being too clever about it, one could call the Catholic priesthood the civil service of the Lord. The sacrament is that which guarantees the on-going life of the church – the Body of Christ. Holy Orders maintains that relationship with God that is the right and privilege of His people.
The priesthood is the vehicle that God, through His Son, chose to maintain the regular flow of His grace and blessings through the sacraments. The priest, through this sacrament of Holy Orders, offers sacrifice to God (through the Mass); forgives sins (through the sacrament of Reconciliation); heals the sick according to the will of God (through the sacrament of Anointing); welcomes new people into God’s community the church (through Baptism) and cements with the love of God the union of man and woman in marriage (through the sacrament of Matrimony).
The Sacrament of Matrimony
Man and woman could wed and through their union produce children without the intervention of the priesthood. But the sacrament of Matrimony is God’s way of blessing a union He has already created and sanctioned. To return to our original analogy “From Womb to Tomb” God, through His sacraments, blesses all the stages of our living and dying. The sacraments are the sign that we can walk with God and that He most certainly walks with us.
The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist
Just as we need food to sustain us through the long hard climb that we know as life, so in the climb to the spiritual goal we need sustentation. This is the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, the Cup of Eternal Salvation.