Sacraments

A sacrament is a ceremony that Christians believe brings them closer to God and helps them to receive God’s grace. Sacraments are often described as visible signs of God’s grace, which is otherwise invisible. Some sacraments, such as baptism, mark the passing from one phase of life to another and happen just once in a lifetime. These are sometimes referred to as rites of passage.

Diverse beliefs about sacraments

A day in the life of Nottingham-based Catholic student and photographer, Jason

For Protestants, only baptism and the Eucharist are sacraments. This is because Protestants only believe in the sacraments performed by Jesus in the Gospels.

Other Christian denominations recognise other sacraments. For example, the Catholic Church recognises seven sacraments, which are performed at special or challenging times in a person’s life when there is a particular need for God’s grace.

Visualisation of the seven sacraments: Baptism; Eucharist; Confirmation; Annointing of the Sick; Marriage; Reconciliation; Holy Orders.
  • Baptism – some Christian denominations baptise babies and some baptise adults.
  • Reconciliation - confessing and apologising for sins to a priest, who gives forgiveness on behalf of God after the confessor performs a penance.
  • Eucharist - re-enactment of the Last Supper.
  • Confirmation - a ceremony marking a person’s choice to take on the full responsibility of being a member of the Catholic Church.
  • Marriage - the joining together of a couple in a formal union intended to be lifelong.
  • Holy orders - becoming a priest.
  • Anointing of the sick - a ceremony in which God’s grace is passed on to a very sick or dying person.

Some Christians, such as Quakers, do not perform any sacraments at all. They instead think of all actions as sacred. They believe that it is not necessary to use rituals and symbols to communicate with God or receive his grace.

Question

Why do some Christian churches not accept the Catholic view that there are seven sacraments?

Because some churches believe that only baptism and the Eucharist were performed by Jesus, so only these two ceremonies can be understood to be sacraments.