The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
24 - SACRAMENTS
Our Church has seven sacraments, and they are the following:
3. Holy Eucharist
4. Repentance and Confession
7. Holy Unction
We have to say here that the great sacrament of our Church is the salvation of man through Christ. These things that we have called sacraments are holy ceremonies through which divine grace is transferred to man and which cleanses, sanctifies, and guides him to his salvation. Among the seven sacraments of the Church the first four are obligatory for everyone. They are necessary for the salvation of man. The next three are optional; in other words, they are received if the person wishes them for himself. An explanation is needed here. It is not necessary for someone to become a priest in order to be saved, but if someone is a priest, all the members of the Church are obliged to accept him as a priest. It is not necessary for someone to marry in order to be saved, but if Christians want to live with a partner they have to accept the sacrament of marriage or else they sin. And it is not necessary for the salvation of man to receive Holy Unction, but when all Christians are ready to die, they must accept it and respect it as a sacrament.
The sacraments are sent from God. Their beginning is found in the Holy Scriptures and in Tradition. When we write about each individual sacrament we will also refer to the Scriptural passages which established them.
When we speak about sacraments we have to know that the doctrines of the Church are also called sacraments. These are the supernatural and godly truths that remain incomprehensible and mysterious to the limited mind of man, and it is only with faith that man makes them a property of his soul.
We said that with the seven sacraments divine grace is imparted to man, cleansing, renewing, sanctifying him, and guiding his salvation. This does not mean that there are no other ways in which divine grace is imparted to man. There are prayer, sermons, study of Holy Scripture, blessing of water, venerating holy things and many other ways. Divine grace is imparted through all these ways, but these are not enough for the salvation of man. The seven sacraments, and especially the first four are absolutely necessary for his salvation.
We should also know that among the four compulsory sacraments, the first two, that is baptism and chrism, are never repeated. In other words, they are performed one time only for each person. Moreover, ordination is also never repeated. It is done only one time for the individual. Holy Communion, Repentance and Confession, and Holy Unction are repeated, and man should often partake of the Holy Eucharist, often repent and confess, and often approach Unction. Holy Matrimony is permitted to someone up to three times. This does not mean that a man can have simultaneously three wives. No. If he loses his first wife he may marry another, and if he loses the second he may marry a third. The same applies to the woman.
LET US PRAY
Lord Jesus Christ, You became man, were crucified, died as man on the cross, descended triumphantly into Hades, were resurrected and ascended, bringing human nature with You and You have made possible the mystery of our salvation. You also established the seven sacraments of our Church through which we especially receive the divine grace for our purification, cleansing, sanctification, and salvation. We thank You for all these. We give You as much praise and glory as our weak human powers permit. We fervently beg You, to open the eyes of our mind, heart, and soul to understand the great mystery of our salvation that comes from You and the seven sacraments. And not only to understand them, but to receive from them Your divine grace like the sap that nourishes the vine of our spiritual life, and through the sacraments to live united with You. Make us understand that this is the alpha and omega of our lives.