Sacraments of Initiation
Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist lay the foundations of every Christian life. We are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life.
Theological Perspectives: Church Teaching
The Sacraments of the New Testament were instituted by Christ the Lord and entrusted to the Church. As actions of Christ and of the Church, they are signs and means by which faith is expressed and strengthened, worship is offered to God and our sanctification is brought about. Thus they contribute in the most effective manner to establishing, strengthening and manifesting ecclesiastical communion (The Code of Canon Law (CIC), 1983. Canon 840).
From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey can be covered rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1229).
The sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian life.
The sharing in the divine nature given to men through the grace of Christ bears a certain likeness to the origin, development, and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of the divine life and advance toward the perfection of charity (CCC 1212).
Baptism incorporates us into Christ and forms us into God’s people. This first sacrament pardons all our sins, rescues us from the power of darkness, and brings us to the dignity of adopted children, a new creation through water and the Holy Spirit. Hence we are called and are indeed the children of God.
At the table of the Eucharist, we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man so that we may have eternal life and show forth the unity of God’s people. By offering ourselves with Christ, we share in the universal sacrifice, that is, the entire community of the redeemed offered to God by their High Priest, and we pray for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that the whole human race may be brought into the unity of God’s family (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), General Introduction 2).
Confirmation fills us with the Holy Spirit and makes us more completely the image of the Lord, so that we bear witness to him before the world and work to bring the Body of Christ to its fullness (CIC 840).
Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, we receive in increasing measure, the treasures of divine life and advance towards the perfection of charity (Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation).
Thus, the three sacraments of Christian initiation closely combine to bring us, the faithful of Christ, to his full stature and to enable us to carry out the mission of the entire people of God in the Church and in the world (RCIA General Introduction 2).
Initiation into the life of the Church is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful (RCIA 4). The whole community is responsible for passing on its faith, its story, values and traditions to the next generation; and for introducing its children into the Sacramental life of the Church. The participation of the whole faith community is required prior to, during and after the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation (cf. RCIA 9).
In the process of initiation there are three sacramental ‘moments’: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. These three sacraments together accomplish Christian Initiation: Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word’ (CCC 1213).
Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life (CCC 1427). Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. It is the movement of a ‘contrite heart’, drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first (CCC 1428).
By the sacrament of Confirmation, (the baptised) are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed (CCC 1285).
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch (CCC 1324).
WHAT IS A SACRAMENT?
Explain what is meant by the phrase ‘sacrament of initiation’.
Explain the relationship between Baptism and Confirmation.
There are symbols and symbolic actions in the ceremony of Baptism. (i) State two of them. (ii) What is the meaning of each?
There are symbols and symbolic actions in the ceremony
of Confirmation. (i) State two of them. (ii) What is the
meaning of each?