What are sacraments?
The word “sacrament” derived from Latin, literally meaning “something holy”.
The sacraments are instituted by Christ, the apostles and church forefathers. They are holy and mysterious. Holy because they convey God’s grace; and mysterious, because we can not actually see the continuous act of the Holy Spirit on them. It is only through faith and with God’s help that we are able to appreciate their deep spiritual meaning and significance.
The Syriac Orthodox Church recognizes 7 sacraments:
- Holy Eucharist
- Holy Myron
- Anointing the Sick
This is the greatest of all the sacraments. It celebrates the consecration of bread and wine into the Flesh and Blood of Jesus. At the Last supper Jesus broke the bread and said: “Take this all of you and eat it…” Then took the wine and said “Take this all of you and drink from it”.
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the Body of the Son of man and drink His Blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats of My Body and drinks of My Blood has eternal life; and I will raise him at the last day. For My Body truly is the food, and My Blood truly is the drink. He who eats My Body and drinks My Blood abides with Me, and I in him,” (John 6:53-56).
Every Sunday we celebrate the Holy Eucharist as the priest prays over the bread and wine which is physical representation of the spiritual body and blood of Christ.
Baptism is the mystery of the Second Birth by water and the Holy Spirit, for the cleansing of sins, for the adoption as God’s children for everlasting life. It defines our Christian identity.
Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee “Unless one is born again, he can not enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:1). This second birth is the baptism which washes away original sin inherited from Adam and Eve.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”. (Mark 16:16)
Jesus Himself was baptized by John, He did this as an example for all of us to follow.
We believe in infant baptism for the remission of original sin by the Holy Spirit and through the blood of Jesus Christ to become adopted as children of God.
Sin is an offensive and voluntary act committed against God, in word, though, or deed.
Repentance is the man’s confession of sin to God and his plead for God’s forgiveness. God shows His tender mercies toward the sinner and in turn receive forgiveness of sin.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
We ask God to absolve us of our sins on Sunday and pray the Prayer Upon Concession of Sins Before the Priest before receiving communion.
Marriage is a mystery and a sacrament. A mystery because husband and wife become one, and a sacrament because God instituted it in the Garden of Eden during the creation of man with Adam and Eve and it is holy.
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27)
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24)
Marriage helps in the following:
– Continue the human race. “God said to them, be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28)
– Guard against sexual immorality. “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2).
– Guard against sexual desire. “but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:9)
– Be assistant of one another. “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:12)
Also known as the Holy Chrism.
After a child is baptized, the priest immediately anoints his/her head and covers his/her body with Holy Chrism.
Anointing with Holy Chrism is considered like receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“Now he who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God. Who also has sealed us and given us the spirit in our hearts as a deposit” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
Also known as priesthood.
God Himself, instituted priesthood and is called the “High Priest” according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus offered Himself a bloody sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the human race, “Not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, He entered the most Holy place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12)
Anointing the Sick
Jesus healed many of illness or infirmities, he then commanded His disciples to do the same.
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons” (Matthew 10:8)
Anointing the sick is a holy sacrament. And cure is derived from it for body and soul.
Some of the information above was extracted from a series of booklets called “Essays on Syriac Theology & Spirituality” The Seven Living Sacraments Parts I and II. Written by: Very Rev Father John Khoury