Sacramental Mysteries

The Holy Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the Church

The entire work of Christ – his birth, death, resurrection, and ascension – has been undertaken to provide to us the gift of the New Life in Christ. This gift of New Life is given by Christ to the Church in the Holy Spirit – and, in a special and profound way, through the Holy Mysteries, or sacraments, of the Church. Every Holy Mystery is a participation in the New Life that is Christ’s gift to us in the Church, and is a participation, in the world, in His Heavenly Kingdom which is to come.

In the Mystery of Holy Baptism, we are individually baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, being regenerated (or reborn) in Christ. Baptism is nothing less than our personal participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, our personal appropriation of His death and resurrection as my own. Following the command of the Lord to His Apostles, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19), being immersed three times in the “laver of regeneration”, and are called by name to join with the Body of Christ, the Church.

Holy Chrismation, in which we are anointed with the Holy Chrism, bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon each of us individually. Chrismation is our personal participation in the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Sealed with the Holy Chrism, we are anointed as prophet, priest and king, and are given the means – the Holy Spirit Himself – needed to grow in holiness and live the Christian life; we are given individually “the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth”, Who will guide us throughout our lives as Christians.

The Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, provides us with the spiritual food we need to sustain us on our Christian journey. We are told by the Lord Himself that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we will have no life in us, and it is therefore in the gift of the Eucharist that we receive this life, which is Christ Himself, and are united to Him, becoming His Body. The Byzantine Church, following the command of the Lord to ‘let the little children come to me’ (Mt 19:14), administers the Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist to infants on the same day, so that they become full members of the Body of Christ, fully integrated into the church, and full participants in the gift of New Life in Christ.

The Mystery of the Holy Confession.: Having received the New Life in Christ as a gift of the Trinity in the Church, we, in our human frailty, and weakness, fail to live this New Life, and often revert to the old life – the old life which is not life at all, but death. Through the Mystery of the Holy Confession, in which we admit and confess our failure to live the New Life, we are reconciled both to Christ and His Body, the Church, and are empowered again through God’s grace to live the New Life in Christ. In Holy Confession, we repent of our sins, and received forgiveness and absolution, and the grace to preserve in this world to live the New Life in Christ, in spite of our failures and shortcomings.

The Mystery of Holy Anointing with Oil: Although we have received the gift of New Life, living as we do in this world, we are not immune to suffering and sickness. When our Lord walked among us on Earth, He was not indifferent to human suffering, but repeatedly reached out to those suffering and in need, healing them with His divine power. In the Mystery of Holy Anointing with Oil, we are anointed with blessed oil for our illnesses, both bodily and spiritual, which sacramentally makes present to us through prayer, oil and human touch the healing ministry of Christ. The entire Church celebrates this Mystery on Holy and Great Wednesday in anticipation of the Holy Pascha, the Feast of the Resurrection.

The Mystery of Holy Matrimony:  God is revealed to us not as a sole, solitary being, but as a Trinity of Three Persons, living in an endless and perfect communion of unselfish, self-emptying love. The New Life in Christ is this life of the Holy Trinity – a life of unselfish love for others. This life of self-giving, self-emptying love is most beautifully and dramatically expressed in this world in the Mystery of Holy Matrimony, in which a man and a woman are called together to live as one through mutual self-giving and selfless love, thereby conquering themselves and growing in holiness through Christ. In the Mystery of Holy Matrimony, the couple are crowned with the divine grace and strength to grow together in love and holiness, and live the New Life of Christ more abundantly.

 The Mystery of Holy Orders The Church: The Body of Christ is a universal priesthood of believers. Yet among this universal priesthood, some are called to serve the Church in a particular way in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. The Mystery of Holy Orders calls men to serve the Body of Christ as deacons, priests and bishops through the laying on of hands, in which Christ Himself gave them the grace and power to perform this service in His name for the sake of His Body.

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About Byzantine Catholics – created: 05 January 2007, adapted with permission from Byzcath.org