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Christian Resources - Sacraments of Christian Initiation
Sacraments, sacred rites through which God and man interact, are Christ-instituted rituals that restore mankind’s relationship with God and consecrates the life of the participant for God. In the Catholic Church, the are seven sacraments total -- all of which reflect what happened to Jesus Christ during his time on Earth. Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist -- in that order -- are the sacraments of Initiation and therefore must be the first sacraments for any person seeking a relationship with the Church. These gateway sacraments are the first steps to a new bond with God, all the other sacraments, and the joining of the Church, which is considered the Body of Christ.
Baptism is a ritual which transforms of an individual from a person who is full of sin and separated from God to a brand new person who is bonded with God. During baptism a person is fully immersed in water a total of three times (some churches choose to sprinkle water instead of immersion). The number 3 is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Thus, a person is baptized once in the Name of Father God, the second time in the name of the Son of God (Jesus Christ), and the third time in the name of the Holy Ghost (the Spirit of God). The use of water during a baptism expresses the idea of sins being washed away.
Confirmation is ritual during which an individual is anointed by the Holy Spirit. Once a person is baptized with water, he must also be baptized with the Holy Spirit for the baptism to be complete. For this reason, confirmation and baptism were once considered one sacrament. During confirmation, an individual is anointed with holy oil, as a sign of the Holy Spirit. This oil might also be called a chrism, particularly if it is a mixture that is balmy in texture. The oil is typically used to anoint the forehead; other parts of the body can be anointed as well.
Eucharist / Communion
Outsiders observing Christians at Mass partaking of blessed wine and bread sometimes assume that this mirror of the Lord’s Supper is a simply a metaphor for the body of Jesus Christ and his Blood. The Eucharist, however, is not a figurative event for the Christians participating in it. It is meant to be a literal consumption of the Christ’s blood and body. During the Eucharist the wine is the blood -- not simply a symbol of it; the unleavened bread is the body. Partaking of these two elements is a ritual that brings Christians closer to God and erases any separation caused by sin.
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