Sacraments in the Community
Sacraments are sacred events, in which we enter more fully into the mysteries of our Catholic faith. They are community events, which remind us of the role of the community in our faith life.
We are a community of faith, and we journey together to God. The sacraments use things that are part of life. This reminds us that God is present in our life.
The sacramental life of the Catholic community is meant to affirm the presence of God in our ordinary everyday situation. The sacraments provide the support that we need to live out our faith commitment.
The sacraments, gifts of Christ’s love and forgiveness, are offered to us through the Church. When the Church - the community of believers - celebrates a sacrament, Christ himself is present in the celebration.
The Sacraments of Initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist - welcome, incorporate and unite us with Christ, into, the Body of Christ.
Following the revision of the liturgical rites of the Second Vatican Council Second Vatican Council the order of the Sacraments of Initiation in the Diocese of Broken Bay follows the traditional order of reception:
Baptism-Accepting Christ’s invitation to belong to the Christian community.
At Baptism the child enters into a relationship with Jesus and with the community of those who believe in Jesus. They become a brother or sister of Jesus and a child of God.
A child’s initiation begins at Baptism and it is then that the parents promise to share their faith with their children and to bring them to the other sacraments.
The Church has always taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation confirms and perfects what we receive in Baptism. The reception of Christ in the Eucharist gives to the disciples of Christ, the full status of a Christian.
Hence the order of the three sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. They are the three stages in our initiation.
Confirmation-Sealing and confirming our spiritual birth in the Church.
In the early centuries the practice of the Church was to baptise and confirm in the one celebration. However, the unity of this celebration was put to the test by the rapid growth in the Church. Difficulties arose with the great increase in numbers, and the rising incidence of the initiation of children. This led to two developments:
In the Eastern Rite Churches the Bishops delegated their priests to administer the three sacraments together. This practice still holds today.
Bishops in the Latin Rite delayed the Confirmation of the newly baptised until they could be present.
In the New Testament we find a multiplicity of patterns in regard to Baptism and the gifts of the spirit, which in later times became identified with Confirmation. The only thing we can be sure of in the scripture evidence is that the waters of Baptism and the gifts of the spirit, though in some way distinguishable, they can never be totally separated. The separation of Baptism and Confirmation into two separate ceremonies occurred in the fifth and sixth centuries in the Roman Rite.
Eucharist-Receiving Christ, under the signs of bread and wine, thus fulfilling our initiation to a life of communion and service.
Actually, the sequence of celebrating Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is a long-standing tradition in our Church. Pope Pius X in the early part of the last century lowered the age for the reception of First Communion from the approximate age of 15 to the age of reason. While the age for First Communion was changed, the age for Confirmation was not moved.
The Eucharist is the culmination of initiation into Church life and not a stage on the way.
It was not until the revision of the Rites following the Second Vatican Council that it was once more made clear that the order for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation is Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
The returning to the old order, better expresses the true meaning of the sacraments. The celebration of our Christian initiation begins at Baptism, is then sealed at Confirmation and is completed by our sharing at the Eucharistic table. This order restores the Eucharist or First Communion as the high point of a child’s welcome into the Christian community.
The Church clearly states that a child, who has reached the age of reason, usually has the capacity to be taught the meaning of Christ’s action in the sacraments of Confirmation, Eucharist and Penance. Baptism entitles them to be prepared for these sacraments.
Sacrament of Penance
Although not a sacrament of Initiation the Sacrament of Penance offers the experience of forgiveness and healing. It holds a significant place in this life long process. The Church has made a pastoral judgement that, prior to receiving Eucharist they are presented for the Sacrament of Penance.
It is important to remember that the reception of these sacraments is just the beginning of a journey of sharing in the sacraments which continues right through life. Further education in faith through the home, school and parish, will help the children to grow in their appreciation of these sacraments.