On Sacramental Things Essay Writing

One of Mary Oliver’s poems begins “Something has happened / to the bread / and the wine.” A most unusual mystery, the comestibles have not gone the way of the plums in William Carlos William’s “This Is Just to Say.”

Oliver’s wine and bread, as she explains in the second stanza, “have been blessed.” These two central elements of the Christian faith have been lifted from their ordinariness, isolated in order to show the extraordinariness of even the most ordinary of things. The bread and the wine join water and words to become what believers call sacraments: Eucharist is a sacrament made from staple food and festive drink; baptism is a sacrament made of clean, clear water.

One way of understanding the sacraments, perhaps best articulated by liturgist Gordon Lathrop, is that simple things become central things. When Christians refer to the bath and the table, they refer not only to the specific sacraments of bathing and eating, but they point also to the sacramental character of every bath and every table. The setting apart of one table and one bath shows forth the splendor of all tables and all baths.

That setting apart is the calling of Christians but also the vocation of the writer. The attentiveness of the writer is shown in how that writer lifts to the level of extraordinary the most ordinary of people, places, and things.

Not surprisingly, the great Catholic writers are extolled for sacramental writing, often for their accounts of communion. Graham Greene’s “The Hint of an Explanation” develops around an overdue confession by a grown altar boy who stole a consecrated wafer as a child. Flannery O’Connor included profound descriptions of the Eucharist in her letters and essays but also included some playful accounts in her fiction, my favorite of which is the old priest in “The Displaced Person” who, not being able to talk theology with Mrs. McIntyre or any of her farmhands, “came regularly once a week with a bag of breadcrumbs” for the peacocks. The stories of J. F. Powers are cluttered with cassocks and communion rails, including a debate over the merits of wood and glass chalices in the book of papal denunciations that Brother Titus reads to Father Didymus in “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does.”

But other writers have performed the miracle of making ordinary meals into something extraordinary. I do not mean to invoke the extravagance of a meal like “Babette’s Feast,” where Karen Blixen’s heroine uses the largesse of her lottery winnings to produce a sensual banquet beyond compare. No, those six courses are far too obvious an example of gustatory grace, even though they do manage to seduce the strict Christian sect of the story.

I am thinking of writers like Andre Dubus, a Catholic whose sacraments were always spilling out of the sanctuary and into the world. Take “Out of the Snow,” one of Dubus’s stories featuring LuAnn Acreneaux, the mother who “watching the brown sugar bubbling in the light of the flames, smelling it and the cinnamon, and listening to her family talking about snow … told herself that this toast and oatmeal were a sacrament, the physical form that love assumed in this moment.”

Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing” progresses to a sacramental meal of this kind. In this sparsely populated story, Ann and Howard Weiss suffer the loss of their eight-year-old son, Scotty. An unnamed baker hired to bake the boy’s eighth-birthday cake takes on the role of antagonist, becoming more despised than the driver who hits Scotty with his car and drives away from the scene of the accident.

Having ordered an expensive cake for the boy’s birthday that they do not remember to retrieve after his death, Ann and Howard are subjected to what seem like harassing telephone calls regarding their son. The baker calls to ask menacing questions—“Have you forgotten about Scotty?” and “Did you forget him?”—but never identifies himself during the conversations.

These calls are heartbreaking punctuation marks in the story, as Ann and Howard, racing to and from the hospital, are antagonized by an unidentified, disembodied voice on the phone. So real is the terror of the calls that at one point Howard wonders if “maybe [it is] the driver of the car, maybe he’s a psychopath and found out about Scotty somehow.”

Ann eventually realizes it is the baker calling on the phone. Incensed, she demands that Howard drive her immediately to the shopping center to confront the man. Arriving at midnight and interrupting the baker during his nighttime baking routine, Ann feels “a deep burning inside her, an anger that made her feel larger than herself,” and she confesses to the baker “I wanted to kill you. I wanted you dead.”

Both Ann and the baker are placated only when she announces her son’s death. “Let me say how sorry I am,” the baker answers. “God alone knows how sorry.” He pours coffee and pulls the rolls from the oven, explaining to Howard and Ann, “You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this.”

The scene is sublime: malice turned to kindness, hardness turned to love, three disparate persons linked to one another in the simple act of eating. Carver has given us a systematic definition and illustration of the sacraments: “a small, good thing in a time like this.” The Eucharist is indeed one of those centering rituals that give meaning and shape to chaos. “Taste and see,” the Psalmist says in Psalm 34, but “smell this,” the baker in Carver’s stories demands of his guests.

Another such culinary miracle can be found in J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. When the benignity of Bessie’s chicken soup offering goes unnoticed by Franny, Zooey tells his sister that “if it’s the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you’re missing out on every single goddamn religious action that’s going on around this house. You don’t even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup.”
Zooey argues that all food can be consecrated, even chicken soup, and that consecration is not some far removed religious ritual performed only by priests in temples, but the simple, central act of one person serving another. “How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man,” Zooey asks his sister, “if you don’t even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it’s right in front of your nose?”

Plain rolls and coffee, warm chicken soup, and oatmeal on the stove top: these are the sorts of recipes for communion that astound me. It is the sort of recipe found in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead. A lifetime of wafers and wine at the altar, but what does the dying Reverend John Ames recall for his young son as the holiest of meals? Remembering the day he went with his father to assist with the demolition of a church struck by lightening, Ames says that “my father brought me a piece of biscuit for my lunch, and I crawled out and knelt with him there, in the rain. I remember it as if he broke the bread and put a bit of it in my mouth.”

A simple, ash-covered biscuit split between father and son was for Ames the most sacred of meals. He remembers it decades later, sanguine that his own son will form a similar memory of bread passing from his hands into the boy’s mouth.

Ames’s biscuit resembles the famous “fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell” in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. One cannot contemplate gustatory grace in fiction without thinking of that tea-stained madeleine, for it is only after biting into that cake that the narrator remembers his Aunt Léonie and all of the madeleines she used to serve him as a child in Combray. Moved from solipsism to communion with others, Proust’s narrator evidences the miracle of an ordinary meal becoming something more. The simple act of eating awakens an entire universe of memory and meaning:

And once I had recognized the taste of the crumb of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-flowers which my aunt used to give me … immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was…and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I was sent before luncheon, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine … and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and of its surroundings, taking their proper shapes and growing solid, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.

The same miracle occurs in To the Lighthouse when Mrs. Ramsay’s boeuf en daube is declared “a perfect triumph.” Candles light the faces of the Ramsays and their guests as Mrs. Ramsay’s extraordinary effort to make a home and a family culminates in the assembly of ingredients and ambition and affection into a “confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats.” This dinner party consummates the opening section of the novel, fixing itself in the memories of those present, uniting them for when “Time Passes” in the second section of Woolf’s novel.

“Something has happened,” Mary Oliver would say, to the beef and the vegetables and the broth in Woolf’s fairy tale on the Isle of Skye. Like the madeleine and the tea in Proust, like the coffee and rolls in Carver, Mrs. Ramsay’s dinner party has become a masterpiece: simple things have been transformed by Woolf’s sustained attention.

Grace may be the gift of the sacraments, but mindfulness is the gift produced by the writer’s rituals. Christians believe that baptism and communion were created and are sustained by God, rituals set apart in order to illuminate every bath and every meal. The parallel for writers like Woolf, Proust, Robinson, Salinger, and Carver is that their rendering of particular and perfect meals illuminates the potential for communion: readers are brought to the belief that one character or one story can show forth the splendor of all characters and all stories.

Casey N. Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

This article is about the religious term. For other uses, see Sacrament (disambiguation).

A sacrament is a Christianrite recognised as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace. Many denominations, including the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace that has been instituted by Jesus Christ.[1][2][3][4] Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.[4]

The Catholic Church recognises seven sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation (Penance or Confession), Eucharist (or Holy Communion), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.[4] The Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church[5] also believe that there are seven major sacraments, but apply the corresponding Greek word, μυστήριον (mysterion) also to rites that in the Western tradition are called sacramentals and to other realities, such as the Church itself.[6][7] Many Protestant denominations, such as those within the Reformed tradition, identify two sacraments instituted by Christ, the Eucharist (or Holy Communion) and Baptism.[8] The Lutheran sacraments include these two, often adding Confession (and Absolution) as a third sacrament.[8][9] Anglican and Methodist teaching is that "there are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord", and that "those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel".[10][11] In the Community of Christ, a restorationist denomination with traditional Protestant theology, eight sacraments are recognized, including "baptism, confirmation, blessing of children, the Lord's Supper, ordination, marriage, the Evangelist Blessing, and administration to the sick."

Some traditions do not observe any of the rites, or hold that they are simply reminders or commendable practices that do not impart actual grace—not sacraments but "ordinances" pertaining to certain aspects of the Christian faith.[13]


The English word "sacrament" is derived indirectly from the Ecclesiastical Latinsacrāmentum, from Latin sacrō ("hallow, consecrate"), from sacer ("sacred, holy"). This in turn is derived from the Greek New Testament word "mysterion". In Ancient Rome, the term meant a soldier's oath of allegiance, and also a sacred rite. Tertullian, a 3rd-century Christian writer, suggested that just as the soldier's oath was a sign of the beginning of a new life, so too was initiation into the Christian community through baptism and Eucharist.[14]


Main article: Sacraments of the Catholic Church

Roman Catholic theology enumerates seven sacraments:[15]Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), Eucharist (Communion), Penance (Reconciliation)(Confession), Matrimony (Marriage), Holy Orders (ordination to the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopate) and Anointing of the Sick (before the Second Vatican Council generally called Extreme Unction). These seven sacraments were codified in the documents of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which stated:

CANON I.- If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.


CANON IV.- If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification; -though all (the sacraments) are not necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.[16]

During the Middle Ages, sacraments were recorded in Latin. Even after the Reformation, many ecclesiastical leaders continued using this practice into the 20th century. On occasion, Protestant ministers followed the same practice. Since W was not part of the Latin alphabet, scribes only used it when dealing with names or places. In addition, names were modified to fit a "Latin mold." For instance, the name Joseph would be rendered as Iosephus or Josephus.[17]

The Catholic Church indicates that the sacraments are necessary for salvation, though not every sacrament is necessary for every individual. The Church applies this teaching even to the sacrament of baptism, the gateway to the other sacraments. It states that "Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament."[18][19] But it adds: "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments",[18] and accordingly, "since Christ died for the salvation of all, those can be saved without Baptism who die for the faith (Baptism of blood). Catechumens and all those who, even without knowing Christ and the Church, still (under the impulse of grace) sincerely seek God and strive to do his will can also be saved without Baptism (Baptism of desire). The Church in her liturgy entrusts children who die without Baptism to the mercy of God."[19]

In the teaching of the Roman 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. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions."[20]

The Church teaches that the effect of the sacraments comes ex opere operato, by the very fact of being administered, regardless of the personal holiness of the minister administering it.[21] However, as indicated in this definition of the sacraments given by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a recipient's own lack of proper disposition to receive the grace conveyed can block a sacrament's effectiveness in that person. The sacraments presuppose faith and through their words and ritual elements, nourish, strengthen and give expression to faith.[22]

Though not every individual has to receive every sacrament, the Church affirms that, for believers as a whole, the sacraments are necessary for salvation, as the modes of grace divinely instituted by Christ himself.[23] Through each of them, Christ bestows that sacrament's particular grace, such as incorporation into Christ and the Church, forgiveness of sins, or consecration for a particular service.

Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy[edit]

See also: Eastern Orthodox Church § Holy mysteries (sacraments), and Sacred mysteries § Eastern Christianity

The Eastern Orthodox tradition does not limit the number of sacraments to seven, holding that anything the Church does as Church is in some sense sacramental. However it recognizes these seven as "the major sacraments", which are completed by many other blessings and special services.[24][25] Some lists of the sacraments taken from the Church Fathers include the consecration of a church, monastictonsure, and the burial of the dead.[26] More specifically, for the Eastern Orthodox the term "sacrament" is a term which seeks to classify something that may, according to Orthodox thought, be impossible to classify. The Orthodox communion's preferred term is "Sacred Mystery", and the Orthodox communion has refrained from attempting to determine absolutely the exact form, number and effect of the sacraments, accepting simply that these elements are unknowable to all except God. According to Orthodox thinking God touches mankind through material means such as water, wine, bread, oil, incense, candles, altars, icons, etc. How God does this is a mystery. On a broad level, the mysteries are an affirmation of the goodness of created matter, and are an emphatic declaration of what that matter was originally created to be.

Despite this broad view, Orthodox divines do write about there being seven "principal" mysteries. On a specific level, while not systematically limiting the mysteries to seven, the most profound Mystery is the Eucharist or Synaxis, in which the partakers, by participation in the liturgy and receiving the consecrated bread and wine (understood to have become the body and blood of Christ) directly communicate with God. No claim is made to understand how exactly this happens. The Eastern Orthodox merely state: "This appears to in the form of bread and wine, but God has told me it is His Body and Blood. I will take what He says as a 'mystery' and not attempt to rationalize it to my limited mind".[27] The emphasis on mystery is characteristic of Orthodox theology, and is often called apophatic, meaning that any and all positive statements about God and other theological matters must be balanced by negative statements. For example, while it is correct and appropriate to say that "God exists", or even that "God is the only Being which truly exists", such statements must be understood to also convey the idea that God transcends what is usually meant by the term "to exist".[citation needed]

The seven sacraments are also accepted by Oriental Orthodoxy, including the Coptic Orthodox Church,[28][29]Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church,[30] and the Armenian Orthodox Church.[31]

Anglicanism and Methodism[edit]

Main article: Anglican sacraments

Anglican and Methodist sacramental theology reflects its dual roots in the Catholic tradition and the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic heritage is perhaps most strongly asserted in the importance Anglicanism and Methodism places on the sacraments as a means of grace and sanctification,[32] while the Reformed tradition has contributed a marked insistence on "lively faith" and "worthy reception". Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians participating in an Anglican/Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission declared that they had "reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist".[33] Similarly, Methodist/Roman Catholic Dialogue has affirmed that "Methodists and Catholics affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This reality does not depend on the experience of the communicant, although it is only by faith that we become aware of Christ’s presence."[34] The Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council jointly understand the word "sacrament" as referring not only to the sacraments considered here, but also to Christ and the Church.[35]

Article XXV of the Thirty-Nine Articles in Anglicanism and Article XVI of the Articles of Religion in Methodism[36] recognises only two sacraments (Baptism and the Supper of the Lord) since these are the only ones ordained by Christ in the Gospel. The article continues stating that "Those five commonly called Sacraments ... are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel ... but have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained by God." These phrases have led to a debate as to whether the five are to be called sacraments or not. A recent author writes that the Anglican Church gives "sacramental value to the other five recognised by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches" but these "do not reveal those essential aspects of redemption to which Baptism and Communion point."[37] Some Anglicans maintain that the use of "commonly" implies that the others can legitimately be called sacraments (perhaps more exactly "Sacraments of the Church" as opposed to "Sacraments of the Gospel"); others object that at the time the Articles were written "commonly" meant "inaccurately" and point out that the Prayer Book refers to the creeds "commonly called the Apostles' Creed" and the "Athanasian" where both attributions are historically incorrect.[38]

Anglicans are also divided as to the effects of the sacraments.[39] Some hold views similar to the Roman Catholic ex opere operato theory, that is that when the outward ceremony is duly performed the inward grace is necessarily given unless the recipient puts some obstacle in the way (non ponere obicem).[39]Article XXVI (entitled Of the unworthiness of ministers which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament) states that the "ministration of the Word and Sacraments" is not done in the name of the minister, "neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness," since the sacraments have their effect "because of Christ's intention and promise, although they be ministered by evil men." As in Roman Catholic theology, the worthiness or unworthiness of the recipient is of great importance. Article XXV in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Anglicanism and Article XVI in the Articles of Religion in Methodism states: "And in such only as worthily receive the [sacraments], they have a wholesome effect and operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation",[40] and Article XXVIII in Anglicanism's Thirty-Nine Articles (Article XVIII in Methodism's Articles of Religion) on the Lord's Supper affirms "to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ".[41] In the Exhortations of the Prayer Book rite, the worthy communicant is bidden to "prepare himself by examination of conscience, repentance and amendment of life and above all to ensure that he is in love and charity with his neighbours" and those who are not "are warned to withdraw".[42]

This particular question was fiercely debated in the 19th century arguments over Baptismal Regeneration.[43]


Main article: Lutheran sacraments

Lutherans hold that sacraments are sacred acts of divine institution.[44] Whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God[45] along with the divine words of institution,[46] God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component.[47] He earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament[48] forgiveness of sins[49] and eternal salvation.[50] He also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession.[51]

Melanchthon's Apology of the Augsburg Confession defines sacraments, according to the German text, as "outward signs and ceremonies that have God's command and have an attached divine promise of graces". His Latin text was shorter: "rites that have the command of God, and to which is added a promise of grace".[52] This strict definition narrowed the number of sacraments down to three: Holy Baptism, the Eucharist, and Holy Absolution, with the other four rites eliminated for not having the ability to forgive sin, although at least one or two have the command of God. Lutherans do not dogmatically define the exact number of sacraments.[53] In line with Luther's initial statement in his Large Catechism some Lutherans speak of only two sacraments,[54] Baptism and the Eucharist, although later in the same work he calls Confession and Absolution[55] "the third sacrament".[56] The definition of sacrament in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession lists Absolution as one of them.[57] It is important to note that although Lutherans do not consider the other four rites as sacraments, they are still retained and used in the Lutheran church (with the exception of Extreme Unction although some Lutheran churches do practice it [58]). Luther himself around the time of his marriage and afterwards became one of the greatest champions of Marriage (Holy Matrimony), and the other two (Confirmation and Ordination) were kept in the Lutheran Church for purposes of good order. Within Lutheranism, the sacraments are a Means of Grace, and, together with the Word of God, empower the Church for mission.[59]

Reformed (Presbyterian)[edit]

John Calvin defined a sacrament as an earthly sign associated with a promise from God. He accepted only two sacraments as valid under the new covenant: baptism and the Lord's Supper. He and all Reformed theologians following him completely rejected the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the treatment of the Supper as a sacrifice. He also could not accept the Lutheran doctrine of sacramental union in which Christ was "in, with and under" the elements.

The Westminster Confession of Faith also limits the sacraments to baptism and the Lord's Supper. Sacraments are denoted "signs and seals of the covenant of grace."[60] Westminster speaks of "a sacramental relation, or a sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other."[61] Baptism is for infant children of believers as well as believers, as it is for all the Reformed except Baptists and some Congregationalists. Baptism admits the baptized into the visible church, and in it all the benefits of Christ are offered to the baptized.[60] On the Lord's supper, Westminster takes a position between Lutheran sacramental union and Zwinglian memorialism: "the Lord's supper really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance as the elements themselves are to their outward senses."[62]

Latter-Day Saints[edit]

For other uses, see Sacrament (LDS Church), Sacrament (Community of Christ), and Ordinance (Latter Day Saints).

Members of the Latter Day Saint movement often use the word "ordinance" in the place of the word "sacrament", but the actual theology is sacramental in nature.[63] Latter-Day Saint ordinances are understood as conferring an invisible form of grace of a saving nature and are required for salvation and exaltation. Latter-Day Saints often use the word "sacrament" to refer specifically to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, also knowns as the Lord's Supper, in which participants eat bread and drink wine (or water, since the late 1800s) as tokens of the flesh and blood of Christ [2]. In Latter Day Saint congregations, the sacrament is normally provided every Sunday as part of the sacrament meeting and, like other Latter-Day Saint ordinances such as baptism and confirmation, is considered an essential and sacred rite.[64][63] Latter-Day Saint ordinances which are considered "saving" include Baptism, Confirmation, Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist), Ordination (for males), Initiatory (called Chrismation in other Christian Traditions) and Endowment, and Marriage [3].

Other traditions[edit]

The enumeration, naming, understanding, and the adoption of the sacraments formally vary according to denomination, although the finer theological distinctions are not always understood and may not even be known to many of the faithful. Many Protestants and other post-Reformation traditions affirm Luther's definition and have only Baptism and Eucharist (or Communion or the Lord's Supper) as sacraments, while others see the ritual as merely symbolic, and still others do not have a sacramental dimension at all.[citation needed]

In addition to the traditional seven sacraments, other rituals have been considered sacraments by some Christian traditions. In particular, foot washing as seen in Anabaptist, Schwarzenau Brethren, German Baptist groups or True Jesus Church,[65] and the hearing of the Gospel, as understood by a few Christian groups (such as the Polish National Catholic Church of America[66]), have been considered sacraments by some churches. The Assyrian Church of the East holds the Holy Leaven and the sign of the cross as sacraments.[67]

Since some post-Reformation denominations do not regard clergy as having a classically sacerdotal or priestly function, they avoid the term "sacrament", preferring the terms "sacerdotal function", "ordinance", or "tradition". This belief invests the efficacy of the ordinance in the obedience and participation of the believer and the witness of the presiding minister and the congregation. This view stems from a highly developed concept of the priesthood of all believers. In this sense, the believer himself or herself performs the sacerdotal role.[citation needed]

Baptists and Pentecostals, among other Christian denominations, use the word ordinance, rather than sacrament because of certain sacerdotal ideas connected, in their view, with the word sacrament.[68] These churches argue that the word ordinance points to the ordaining authority of Christ which lies behind the practice.

Non-sacramental churches[edit]

Some denominations do not have a sacramental dimension (or equivalent) at all. The Salvation Army does not practice formal sacraments for a variety of reasons, including a belief that it is better to concentrate on the reality behind the symbols; however, it does not forbid its members from receiving sacraments in other denominations.[69]

The Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) also do not practice formal sacraments, believing that all activities should be considered holy. Rather, they are focused on an inward transformation of one's whole life. Some Quakers use the words "Baptism" and "Communion" to describe the experience of Christ's presence and his ministry in worship.[70]

The Clancularii were an Anabaptist group in the 16th century who reasoned that because religion was seated in the heart, there was no need of any outward expression through the sacraments.[71]


  1. ^The Junior Catechism of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Jennings and Graham. 1905. p. 26.  
  2. ^Lutheran Forum, Volumes 38-39. 2004. p. 46.  
  3. ^Lyden, John C.; Mazur, Eric Michael (27 March 2015). The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture. Routledge. p. 180. ISBN 9781317531067.  
  4. ^ abcCatechism of the Catholic Church, 1131
  5. ^Sacramental Rites in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Copticchurch.net. 4 August 2016.
  6. ^Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, The Sacraments
  7. ^Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Orthodox Worship II: The Sacraments
  8. ^ abHaffner, Paul (1999). The Sacramental Mystery. Gracewing Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 9780852444764.  
  9. ^Smith, Preserved (1911). The Life and Letters of Martin Luther. Houghton Mifflin. p. 89.  
  10. ^Thirty-Nine Articles, Article XXV
  11. ^Articles of Religion (Methodist), Article XVI
  12. ^Jeffrey Gros, Thomas F. Best, Lorelei F. Fuchs (editors), Growth in Agreement III: International Dialogue Texts and Agreed Statements, 1998-2005 (Eerdmans 2008 ISBN 978-0-8028-6229-7), p. 352
  13. ^Roo, William A. van (1992). The Christian Sacrament. Roma: Ed. Pontificia Univ. Gregoriana. p. 37. ISBN 8876526528. 
  14. ^Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1210
  15. ^The Seventh Session of the Council of Trent. London: Dolman: Hanover Historical Texts Project. 1848. pp. 53–67. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  16. ^Minert, Roger (2013). Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Historical Manuscripts. Provo: GRT Publications. pp. 79–84. 
  17. ^ abCatechism of the Catholic Church, 1257
  18. ^ abCompendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 262
  19. ^Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131
  20. ^New Catholic Dictionary
  21. ^Sacrosanctum Concilium, 59, quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1123
  22. ^Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1129
  23. ^Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, "The Sacraments'
  24. ^Orthodox Research Institute, The Seven Sacraments of the Greek Orthodox Church
  25. ^Meyendorff, J. (1979). The Sacraments in the Orthodox Church, in Byzantine Theology. Obtained online at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 April 2005. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  26. ^Holy Eucharist obtained online at http://www.orthodoxy.org.au/eng/index.php?p=74
  27. ^The Coptic Church, "Sacraments"
  28. ^Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Archdiocese of North America, "Church Sacraments"
  29. ^Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, "Introduction to Church Sacraments"
  30. ^Armenian Apostolic Church, "Church Sacraments"
  31. ^Yrigoyen Jr., Charles (25 September 2014). T&T Clark Companion to Methodism. T&T Clark. p. 259. ISBN 9780567290779.  
  32. ^See Windsor Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation and Elucidation of the ARCIC Windsor Statement. Accessed 2007-10-15.
  33. ^"Synthesis, Together to Holiness: 40 Years of Methodist and Roman Catholic Dialogue"(PDF). World Methodist Council. 2010. p. 23. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  34. ^"The Grace Given You in Christ: Catholics and Methodists Reflect Further on the Church (The Seoul Report), Report of the Joint Commission for Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council". 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2016.  
  35. ^[1]
  36. ^Seddon, Philip (1996). "Word and Sacrament". In Bunting, Ian. Celebrating the Anglican Way. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 101. 
  37. ^Griffith Thomas, W.H. (1963). The Principles of Theology. London: Church Book Room Press. p. 353.
Henry John Dobson's A Scottish Sacrament
The Eucharist is considered a sacrament, ordinance, or equivalent in most Christian denominations.

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