The Seven Sacraments
(Early Church and today's Catholic Church)

God has given certain sacraments to the Church to be channels of His grace, His life, and His power. All of the sacraments flow from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and are based on some aspect of Jesus' life, teaching, or ministry as recorded in the New Testament. A sacrament is "a visible, tangible sign through which God approaches us, enters into our lives, and draws us to himself through his grace.".   Over the centuries the Catholic Church has discerned that there are seven sacraments that were instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ. The seven sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), Eucharist (or Communion), Penance (also known as Confession or Reconciliation), Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

Baptism

Catholic Christians view baptism as the first step in accepting God's free gift of salvation. The sacrament is normally administered to infants (CCC 1250-1252) (see also Jurgens, para 201, Jurgens, para 394i, Jurgens, para 496, Jurgens, para 501, and Jurgens, para 585) by pouring water upon the baby's head or immersing him in water, using the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Baptism cleanses the child from the stain of original sin (Romans 5:12-21). For someone who has reached the age of reason, baptism cleanses both original sin and particular sin so that he can be incorporated into Christ and made a member of His Mystical Body, the Church. If water baptism is not possible, the same benefits can be supplied by "baptism of blood" or by "baptism of desire" under certain circumstances. In the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, ca. A.D. 140) we read, "In regard to Baptism - baptize thus: After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water; and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Jurgens, para 4)

Confirmation

The Sacrament of Confirmation was instituted by Christ when He promised to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21). After Pentecost when Peter proclaimed the basic gospel message, the people asked him, "What shall we do?", and Peter responded, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38). The Holy Spirit first comes to a person in baptism. The Acts of the Apostles also talks about a prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the "laying on of hands" (Acts 8:14-17). We also see mention of this prayer, which is distinct from baptism, after Paul had baptized some disciples in the name of the Lord Jesus and then laid his hands on them and "the Holy Spirit came on them" (Acts 19:1-7). The essential rite of Confirmation is anointing the forehead of the baptized with sacred chrism (in the East other sense-organs as well), together with the laying on of the minister's hand and the words: "Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti" (Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit) in the Roman Rite, or "The seal of the gift that is the Holy Spirit" in the Byzantine rite (CCC 1286-1289).

Communion (Eucharist)

The early Church called this sacrament Eucharist. It is a re-enactment of Jesus' last supper with his apostles. The word "eucharist" means "thanksgiving". During His last supper, Jesus distributed the bread and wine with the words, "Take, this is my body" (Mark 14:22); "This is my blood" (Mark 14:24); and "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Later in this statement I will talk about how Jesus' words were understood by the first Christians and how the Catholic Church understands the meaning of these words today.

Confession

God, in His mercy, offers forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of reconciliation to those baptized into Christ. This sacrament is known as confession, penance, or reconciliation, depending on which aspect of the sacrament is being emphasized. Jesus scandalized many people by claiming to have the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:7, Luke 7:49). Jesus had special authority from His Father and He passed this authority on to His Apostles (John 20:21). He then gave them the power to forgive sins in His name (John 20:22-23). (see also Matthew 18:18 and 2 Corinthians 5:18) It is interesting to note the Bible tells us that God breathed on man at only one other point in history, the first time being when he made man a living soul (Genesis 2:7). This shows how important the sacrament of confession is to God. As with the priesthood authority, the authority to forgive sins in the name of Jesus Christ was also passed from the Apostles to the bishops they appointed to succeed them. From the very earliest days of the Christian Church, it was recognized that some kind of external confession was necessary for the remission of sins (see The Didache, Jurgens, para 3 and Jurgens, para 8, St. Clement, Jurgens, para 26a, Letter of Barnabas, Jurgens, para 37, St. Irenaeus, Jurgens, para 192b-193, Tertullian, Jurgens, para 315 and Jurgens, para 316, Origin, Jurgens, para 477). Origen, in his Homilies on Numbers, wrote about seven kinds of forgiveness of sins identified in the Gospels. The seventh, he said, was "hard and laborious". It involved declaring your sins to a priest (Jurgens, para 493). (see also St. Cyprian of Carthage, Jurgens, para 553)

Anointing of the Sick

This sacrament was instituted by Christ and celebrated by the Church to offer the healing grace of God to the infirm, the aged, and for those beset by illness or ailment. It was also known as Extreme Unction (Last Rites) for those who are in danger of imminent death. The basis for this sacrament can be found in two places in the New Testament (Mark 6:13 and James 5:14-15). According to the clear testimony of the Letter of James and the definitive teaching of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the priest is the one to whom Christ through the Church has given the power to anoint. Origin lists this sacrament as one of the seven kinds of forgiveness of sins identified in the Gospels (Jurgens, para 493), and Aphraates calls it a "sacrament of life" (Jurgens, para 698).

Ordination

Ordination is also called the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Jesus set apart certain men - especially "the Twelve" - and gave them the responsibility to carry on His mission and ministry in a unique way. As I have illustrated in the other sacraments, He gave them the authority to forgive sins, to preside over the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist) in His memory, and to instruct and guide new disciples (Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 2:24-25). These "Orders" and the authority derived from Christ were subsequently conferred by the apostles upon the elders appointed to succeed them by the "laying on of hands". These elders were known as bishops, presbyters, and deacons by the late first century A.D. (Jurgens, para 47a). The Catholic Church has preserved this basic pattern of priesthood authority and succession from the first century to today. (see writings of St. Hippolytus of Rome, St. Cyprian of Carthage, and compare to CCC 1572-1573)

Matrimony

Marriage is a contract, an institution, and a sacrament. The Catholic Church views marriage as a sacred contract or covenant, established by God as the natural means of procreating and educating his choicest earthly creatures (see Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 1:31, and Genesis 2:18-25). Marriage is sacred because it is the means of mutual help for husband and wife, not only for their material and temporal well-being, but to lead them to God (Ephesians 5:21-33). The Catholic Church teaches that the contract of marriage between two baptized Christians becomes a sacrament. As defined by the Church, matrimony is "truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the law of the Gospel." It was "instituted by Christ" and not merely "introduced into the Church by men." (Council of Trent, Canons on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Canon 1) 5 In other words, "because of the grace given through Christ, it is superior to the marriage unions of earlier times," and as "our holy Fathers, the councils, and the tradition of the universal Church have always rightly taught, matrimony should be included among the sacraments of the New Law." (Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Matrimony) 6

Marriage is an institution because the partners not only agree to take each other as husband and wife, but to continue with each other (and with whatever children God may send them) until death separates them. Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage (conjugal love is undivided and exclusive); divorce separates what God has joined together (Matthew 19:8-9); and the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its "supreme gift," the child (see GS 50).


References and Footnotes

All Bible references are taken from the
Revised Standard Version (RSV) - Catholic Edition
(unless otherwise indicated)

5

Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Documents of the Roman Pontiffs and of the Councils, Pius IV, 1559-1565, Council of Trent, conclusion, para 971 (1801)


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6

Denzinger, 970 (1800)


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(Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1250-1252)

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.

Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.

The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.



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St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, [inter A.D. 180/199], (Jurgens, para 201)

He came to save all through Himself, - all, I say, who through Him are reborn in God, - infants, and children, and youths and old men. Therefore He passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age, and at the same time becoming for them an example of piety, of righteousness, and of submission; a young man for youths, becoming an example for youths and sanctifying them for the Lord. So also He became an old man for old men so that He might be the perfect teacher in all things, - perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, but perfect also in respect to relative age, - sanctifying the elderly and at the same time becoming an example to them. Then He even experienced death itself, so that He might be the firstborn from the dead, having the first place in all things, the originator of life, before all and preceding all.


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St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Apostolic Tradition, [ca. A.D. 215], (Jurgens, para 394i)

At dawn a prayer shall be offered over the water. Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available.

Let them remove their clothing. Baptise first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them. Next, baptize the men, and last of all the women. The latter must first let down their hair and put aside any gold or silver ornaments they may be wearing. Let no one take any foreign object into the water with him.


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Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, [post A.D. 244], (Jurgens, para 496)

Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . And if it should seem necessary to do so, there may be added to the aforementioned considerations the fact that in the Church, Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would seem superfluous.


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Origen, Commentaries on Romans, [post A.D. 244], (Jurgens, para 501)

The church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit.


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St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter of Cyprian and of His Colleagues in Council to the Number of Sixty-Six: To Fidus, [A.D. 251/252], (Jurgens, para 585)

As to what pertains to the case of infants: you said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judged that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born.


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(Matthew 28:19)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.


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(Romans 5:12-21)

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned -- sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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(Baptism of Blood)

A person (even an infant) who dies for the Faith before being baptized is said to have received the "Baptism of blood," that is, the removal of sin and the bestowal of sanctifying grace which are the effects of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.L. Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, Our Sunday Visitor.


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(Baptism of Desire)

A person (not an infant) who performs a perfect act of charity that at least implicitly includes the desire for Baptism by water is said to have received the "Baptism of desire." The implicit desire for baptism by water is thought to be included in a person's desire to do God's will: such a person would want to receive Baptism by water if he or she knew that this was God's will. Baptism of desire brings with it the grace of salvation, even for the non-Christian. But when faith becomes explicit, Baptism by water should nonetheless be sought.

Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.L. Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, Our Sunday Visitor.


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(John 14:15-21)

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."


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(Acts 2:37-38)

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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(Acts 8:14-17)

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama'ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.


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(Acts 19:1-7)

While Apol'los was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.


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(Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1286-1289)

In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.[90] The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him "without measure."

This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.

"From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church."

Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name "Christian," which means "anointed" and derives from that of Christ himself whom God "anointed with the Holy Spirit." This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means "chrism." In the West, Confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace - both fruits of the Holy Spirit.


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(Mark 14:22)

And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."


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(Mark 14:24)

And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.


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(Luke 22:19)

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."


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(Mark 2:7)

"Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"


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(Luke 7:49)

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?"


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(John 20:21)

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."


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(John 20:22-23)

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


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(Matthew 18:18)

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.


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(2 Corinthians 5:18)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;


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(Genesis 2:7)

then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.


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Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, [ca. A.D. 140], (Jurgens, para 3)

Confess your offenses in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.


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The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, [ca. A.D. 140], (Jurgens, para 8)

On the Lord's Day of the Lord gather together, break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure. Let no one who has a quarrel with his neighbor join you until he is reconciles, lest your sacrifice be defiled. For this is that which was proclaimed by the Lord: "In every place and time let there be offered to Me a clean sacrifice. For I am a Great King," says the Lord, "and My name is wonderful among the gentiles."


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St. Clement, Letter to the Corinthians, [ca. A.D. 80], (Jurgens, para 26a)

For whatever our transgressions, and whatever we have done through the attacks of the adversary, let us pray that we may be forgiven. . . . For it is good for a man to confess his failings rather than to harden his heart.


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Letter of Barnabas, [ca. A.D. 70/79 or 117/132], (Jurgens, para 37)

You shall not make a schism; but you shall pacify and bring together those who are quarreling. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go up to pray in the consciousness of having done evil. This is the way of light.


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St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies [inter A.D. 180/199], (Jurgens, para 192b-193)

When after much effort the brethren had converted her, she persevered for a long time in confession, weeping and lamenting over the defilement which she had suffered from this magician.

(The gnostic disciples of Marcus) have deluded many women in our own district of the Rhone, by saying and doing such things. Their consciences branded as with a hot iron, some of these women make a public confession; but others are ashamed to do this, and in silence, as if withdrawing from themselves the hope of the life of God, they either apostatize entirely or hesitate between the two courses.


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Tertullian, Repentance, [A.D. 203/204], (Jurgens, para 315)

In regard to this second and single repentance, then: - since it is such a serious affair, so much the more laborious is its examination. It is not conducted before the conscience alone, but it is to be carried out by some external act. This act, which is more usually expressed and spoken of by the Greek word, is exomologesis, by which we confess our sin to the Lord, not indeed as if He did not know it, but because satisfaction is arranged by confession, of confession is repentance born, and by repentance is God appeased.


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Tertullian, Repentance, [A.D. 203/204], (Jurgens, para 316)

With one and two individuals, there is the Church; and the Church, indeed, is Christ. Therefore, when you cast yourself at the knees of the brethren, you are dealing with Christ, you are entreating Christ. In the same way, when they shed tears over you, it is Christ who suffers, Christ who implores the Father. When it is a son who asks, the request is always more easily granted. How very grand is the reward of modesty, which the concealing of our sin promises! If in fact we conceal something from the notice of men, shall we at the same time hide it from God? Are, then, the good opinion of men and the knowledge of God to be equated? Is it better to be damned in secret than to be absolved in public? "But it is a miserable thing thus to come to confession!" Yes, evil leads to misery. But where there is repentance misery ceases, because it is thereby turned to salvation.


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Origin, Homilies on Luke, [paulo post A.D. 233], (Jurgens, para 477)

If we have sinned we ought to say: "My sins I have made known to you and my wickedness I have not hidden. I said, 'I will accuse myself to the Lord, of my injustice.'" If we will do this and will reveal our sins not only to God but also to those who are able to remedy our wounds and sins, then our sins will be blotted out by Him who says, "Behold, I have blotted out your iniquities like a cloud, and your sins as the mist."


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Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, [post A.D. 244], (Jurgens, para 493)

In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner washes his pillow in tears, when his tears are day and night his nourishment, and when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who says, "I said, 'To the Lord I will accuse myself of my iniquity', and you forgave the disloyalty of my heart." In this way there is fulfilled that too, which the Apostle James says: "If, then, there is anyone sick, let him call the presbyters of the Church, and let them impose hands upon him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him."


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St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Lapsed, [A.D. 251], (Jurgens, para 553)

Finally, of how much greater faith and more salutary fear are they who, though bound by no crime of sacrifice or certificate, but since they did take thought of doing such a thing, confess even this to the priests of God in a straightforward manner and in sorrow, making an open declaration of conscience. Thus they remove the weight from their souls and seek the saving remedy for their wounds however small and slight they be; for they know that it is written: "God is not mocked."


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(Mark 6:13)

And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.


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(James 5:14-15)

Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.


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Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, [post A.D. 244], (Jurgens, para 493)

In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner washes his pillow in tears, when his tears are day and night his nourishment, and when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who says, "I said, 'To the Lord I will accuse myself of my iniquity', and you forgave the disloyalty of my heart." In this way there is fulfilled that too, which the Apostle James says: "If, then, there is anyone sick, let him call the presbyters of the Church, and let them impose hands upon him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him."


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Aphraates the Persian Sage, Treatises, [inter A.D. 336-345], (Jurgens, para 698)

Indeed, because the first human being gave ear and listened to the serpent, he received the sentence of malediction, by which he became food for the serpent; and the curse passed on to all his progeny. . . . But a gate has been opened for seeking peace, whereby the mist has lifted from the reason of the multitude; and light has dawned in the mind; and from the glistening olive, fruits are put forth, in which there is a sign of the sacrament of life, by which Christians are perfected, as well as priests and kings and prophets. It illuminates the darkness, anoints the sick, and leads back penitents in its secret sacrament.


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(Acts 20:28)

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkipous), to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.


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(1 Peter 2:24-25)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian (episkipous) of your souls.


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St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians [ca. A.D. 110] (Jurgens, para 47a)

Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and of the Apostles, in order that in everything you do, you may prosper in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in Son and in Father and in Spirit, in beginning and in end, together with your most reverend bishop; and with that fittingly woven spiritual crown, the presbytery; and with the deacons, men of God. Be subject to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the Apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father; so that there may be unity in both body and in spirit.


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St. Hippolytus of Rome The Apostolic Tradition [ca. A.D. 215], (Jurgens, para 394a)

Let the bishop be ordained after he has been chosen by all the people. When someone pleasing to all has been named, let the people assemble on the Lord's Day with the presbyters and with such bishops as may be present. All giving assent, the bishops shall impose hands on him, and the presbytery shall stand by in silence. Indeed, all shall remain silent, praying in their hearts for the descent of the Spirit.

Then one of the bishops present shall, at the request of all, impose his hand on the one who is being ordained bishop....


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St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter of Cyprian in Council with Thirty-Six Other Bishops, to Certain Clergy and Laity of Spain. A.D. 256, (Jurgens, para 588)

The people, in obedience to the precepts of the Lord and in the fear of God, ought to separate themselves from a sinful prelate, nor ought they associate themselves with the sacrifices of a sacrilegious priest, especially inasmuch as they have the power both of electing worthy priests and of refusing the unworthy. This very thing, too, we note, stems from divine authority - that a priest be chosen in the presence of the people and under the eyes of all, and that he be approved as worthy and suitable by public judgment and testimony.... That point of divine tradition and apostolic observance is to be kept diligently and held fast, which is indeed observed among us and throughout almost all the provinces, that for the proper celebrating of ordinations all the neighboring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for whom a prelate is being ordained; and the bishop should be chosen in the presence of the people, who are thoroughly familiar with the life of each one, and who have looked into the doings of each one in respect to his habitual conduct. And we see that this was done by you in the ordination of our colleague Sabinus, so that the episcopate was conferred upon him and hands were imposed upon him in place of Basilides, with the applause of the whole brotherhood and in conformity with the judgment of the bishops.


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Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1572-1573

Given the importance that the ordination of a bishop, a priest, or a deacon has for the life of the particular Church, its celebration calls for as many of the faithful as possible to take part. It should take place preferably on Sunday, in the cathedral, with solemnity appropriate to the occasion. All three ordinations, of the bishop, of the priest, and of the deacon, follow the same movement. Their proper place is within the Eucharistic liturgy.

The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders for all three degrees consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.


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(Genesis 1:26-28)

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."


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(Genesis 1:31)

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.


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(Genesis 2:18-25)

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.


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(Ephesians 5:21-33)

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.


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(Matthew 19:8-9)

He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."


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Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (GAUDIUM ET SPES), para 50

Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matthew 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.


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