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Sacramentalism

Sacramentalism

Author: Ted Fairchild
Description:

This lesson will provide information on the idea of sacramentalism and offer insight into action deemed as necessary for salvation and  grace within different religions.

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Hello, welcome. In this tutorial today we're going to talk about the idea of sacramentalism. The various world religions treat the idea of sacramentalism in different ways, depending on how and what they consider to be a sacrament. Today we'll start with Christianity, the tradition in which sacraments are regarded as particularly significant in the spiritual life of the believer.

And then we'll see how sacramentalism might be expressed in an eastern religion, Hinduism. So to get started let's define the first key term, sacrament. In Christianity a sacrament is a sacred right. And the sacred rights are things that are recognized and observed and believed to be necessary for salvation. Within Christianity, the most important significant sacrament is usually considered to be the communion, or Holy Communion. Which is also called the Eucharist and the Lord's supper.

There are doctrinal differences regarding this sacrament, and for that reason it's given different names and has different terms that refer to it. The term Holy Communion is defined as the reception of bread or wafers and wine that have been transformed into the literal blood and flesh of Jesus Christ. This process is called transubstantiation.

Many branches of Protestantism however, don't hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Instead they consider this sacrament to be a ritual that is a symbolic commemoration of the Last Supper, when Jesus offered himself for the sins of humanity. For this reason, they give it the name the Lord's Supper, which is another key term to keep in mind.

And for Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the ritual of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is simply called the Sacrament. And for the Sacrament adherents eat bread and drink wine, although in most cases, since the late 1800s, wine has been replaced with water. In other churches the sacrament is called the Eucharist, which is a Greek word. It means Thanksgiving.

This term is used by the Eastern Orthodox or oriental Orthodox Church, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, reformed Presbyterian, United Methodists, and Lutherans. Let's define the second sacrament in Christianity, baptism. Baptism is the anointing of a new believer or church member with water as a sign of acceptance and cleansing by God.

Often this is done for babies and children, but also can be performed on adults in recognition of their entering the faith. In the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches, which are also called the oriental orthodox churches, there are five additional sacraments which include confirmation, confession, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick.

For most Protestant denominations however, the list of sacraments includes only the first two, the Lord's Supper and baptism. In fact, many Protestant sects of Christianity generally avoid the term sacrament, following Martin Luther's doctrine which states that for something to be considered a sacrament it had to have its justification and grounding in the direct teachings of Jesus, and the direct actions of Jesus according to the Gospels.

Luther believed that the five other sacraments were unnecessary for salvation. He was critical of the Catholic church, which he believed was over instituting the sacraments, which had the effect of separating the believer from Jesus Christ, and from God. But for Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, the additional five sacraments are essential components of one's salvation and final redemption.

Let's define the sacrament of confirmation. In Roman Catholicism, confirmation is a sacrament by which a believer is accepted into the church. Confirmation is usually done when the believer reaches adulthood, or the age of reason, when he or she can make an individual, personal commitment to the faith. And in Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, this is done right after baptism.

Confession. In Roman Catholicism confession is a sacrament by which a priest may forgive a worshipper's sins in exchange for the worshippers willing and full admission of sin, as well as they're doing a penance. Penance is some kind of a task that is done, or prayer that is offered, to aid the process of forgiveness. And to help the sinner become more conscious and aware of his or her actions.

And marriage. In Christianity, generally marriage is defined as the joining of one man and one woman together in a lifelong household, familial, and sexual relationship. Marriage is a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church, and some other Christian sects as well, including many Protestant denominations. In these contexts marriage is generally understood as a symbolic reflection of Christ's sacrificial and undying love for the church, which is the collective body of believers.

The church is therefore frequently referred to in the New Testament as the body of Christ. Marriage is meant to reflect this mystery and commitment, and therefore is a significant factor in the adherence, final salvation.

And holy orders. Holy orders are the ordination or appointment of people to posts within the church, a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church. The main posts or positions include bishops, priests and deacons. And the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church in which a gravely ill persons is blessed by a priest.

The term anointing, in this case, is different from the anointing that's done for a baptism or confirmation. The anointing of the sick as a sacrament in the Roman Catholic traditions, refers to some sort of healing, including the forgiveness of sin and aiding someone in their passage to eternal life. And to conclude with sacraments and sacramentalism today, I'll just mention that one of the Eastern religions that recognizes this sacred exchange between the adherent and the divine is Hinduism.

A prasad in Hinduism is a gift, usually food, that is given by a worshipper to a deity. Often it is placed in front of a murti, a statue or an image of a god, which is then considered to be blessed, and after a period of time is consumed by the worshipper. This is a sacred exchange that guides and assists him or her on the path to freedom and enlightenment.

You might think of the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, as being similar to this Hindu holy practice of offering the prasad. So now we can review and summarize sacramentalism. Sacramentalism is really an attitude toward the sacraments. We recognize the seven sacraments for the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and many Protestant denominations recognize only the first two as necessary for salvation.

The first two being the Lord's Supper and baptism. We identified the different terminologies for the Lord's Supper in the different denominations, Holy Communion, Eucharist, et cetera. And we also looked at Mormonism and how the term sacrament is used for the Lord's Supper, and that wine for this ritual has been replaced with water since the 1800s.

Then we looked at Hinduism, very briefly, and the practice of giving food to a deity, prasad, to assist one toward liberation and enlightenment.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Prasad

    In Hinduism, a gift (usually food) given by a worshipper to a deity, which is then considered to be blessed and is consumed by worshippers.

  • Sacrament

    In Christianity, a sacred rite.

  • Lord’s Supper

    Commemoration of Jesus' willingness to sacrifice Himself for the forgiveness of human sin, traditionally involving the consumption of small amounts of bread and wine (or appropriate substitutes, such as wafers and grape juice)--also called "Communion" or "Holy Communion" in some Christian sects.

  • Baptism

    In Christianity, the anointing of a new believer or church member with water as a sign of cleansing and acceptance by God.

  • Confirmation

    In Roman Catholicism, a sacrament by which a believer is accepted into the Church.

  • Holy Communion

    In Roman Catholicism, the reception of bread/wafers and wine that has been transformed into the literal blood and flesh of Jesus Christ.

  • Confession

    In Roman Catholicism, a sacrament by which a priest may forgive a worshipper's sins, in exchange for the worshipper's willing and full admission of sin, as well as the doing of penance.

  • Marriage

    In Christianity generally, the joining of one man and one woman together in a lifelong household, familial, and sexual relationship. A sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church and some other Christian sects.

  • Holy Orders

    The ordination or appointment of people to posts within the church, a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church.

  • The Anointing of the Sick

    A sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church, in which a gravely ill person is blessed by a priest.