2outward signs of inward grace, What is a Sacrament?An outward sign instituted by Christ to give graceBaltimore CatechismA visible sign of the invisible grace of salvation in Christ…Celebrated in ritual,Lived in witness.Sacraments areoutward signs of inward grace,instituted by Christfor our sanctification(Catechismus concil. Trident., n.4, ex S. Aug. "De Catechizandis rudibus").
3Grace signifies the good will, benevolence of our creator (gratia, Charis),in general, is a supernatural free gift of God to us for our eternal salvationGrace signifies the good will, benevolence of our creatorIt designates every favor which proceeds from this benevolence and, every gratuitous gift(donum gratuitum, beneficium).
4The economy of grace is eternally replenished through Christ’s salvific act. “But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared,not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy,he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit,whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior,so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.This saying is trustworthy.I want you to insist on these points,that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works;these are excellent and beneficial to others.”(Titus 3:4-8)
5The symbol then is the whole reality as it regards the symbolized. SIGN - points to something else so clearly that it makes the reality of that which it points to present.SYMBOL - is a sign consisting of two parts, in such a way that the whole is only visible when the two halves are brought together.In the symbol,the visible reality of the whole is present although in its entirety it remains invisible.The symbol then is the whole reality as it regards the symbolized.
6in herself she is also the fruit of redemption. The Churchis a sign,but not only a sign;in herself she is also the fruit of redemption.The sacraments are means of sanctification;the Church, instead,is the assembly of the persons sanctified;thus, she constitutes the purpose of the saving action(cf. Eph 5:25-27).With these clarifications, the term "sacrament" can be applied to the Church.
7The Church has sacramental nature: Like the seven sacraments, the Church isa visible and efficacious sign of God's presence and gracewhich brings salvation to the human raceAccording to Vatican II,"the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is,of communion with God and of unity among all men"(Lumen Gentium, n. 1).
9"the mystery of the kingdom of God" The Church is a divine mystery because the divine designfor humanity's salvation is realized in her,"the mystery of the kingdom of God"revealed in the word and very life of Christ.This mystery was revealed by Jesus first of all to the Apostles:"The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables"(Mk 4:11).
10The meaning of the parables of the kingdom is first realized in a fundamental way through the mystery of the incarnation.
11It finds its fulfillment in the period between the Passover of Christ's cross and resurrection and Pentecost in Jerusalem,where the Apostles and the members of the first community received the baptism of the Spirit of truth.
12At the same time the eternal mystery of the divine plan for the salvation of humanity was given its visible form as the Church,the new People of God.
13"The mystery hidden from ages and from generations past, The letters of Paul express this in a particularly explicit and effective way.In fact, the Apostleproclaims Christ"according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested"(Rom 16:25-26)."The mystery hidden from ages and from generations past,but now manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles;it is Christ in you,the hope for glory"(Col 1:26-27):
14“This is the mystery revealed to comfort hearts, to give instruction in love,to achieve a full understanding of the richness which it contains”(cf. Col 2:2).At the same time the Apostle asks the Colossians to pray"that God may open a door to us for the word,to speak of the mystery of Christ",hoping for himself"that I may make it clear,as I must speak"(Col 4:3-4).
15Indeed, we read in the letter to the Ephesians: If this divine mystery,or the mystery of humanity's salvation in Christ,is above all the mystery of Christ,it is, however, intended"for human beings".Indeed, we read in the letter to the Ephesians:"This mystery was not made known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit,that the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.Of this I became a minister by the gift of God's grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power"(Eph 3:5-7).
16"Christ, lifted up from the earth, has drawn all men to himself This teaching of Paul is taken up again and re-proposed by Vatican II, which said:"Christ, lifted up from the earth, has drawn all men to himself(cf. Jn 12:32).Rising from the dead(cf. Rom 6:9)he sent his life-giving Spirit upon his disciples and through him set up his Body which is the Churchasthe sacrament of salvation"(Lumen gentium, n. 48).
17And again: "All those, who in faith look towards Jesus, the author of salvation and the principle of unity and peace,God has gathered together and established as the Church,that she may be for each and everyone the visible sacrament of this saving unity"(Lumen gentium, n. 9).
18the eternal initiative of the Father, Therefore,the eternal initiative of the Father,who conceives the saving plan which was revealed to humanity and accomplished in Christ,is the foundation of the Church's mystery.In the Church,through the work of the Holy Spirit,the mystery is shared with human beings,beginning with the Apostles.
19By this sharing in the mystery of Christ, the Church is the Body of Christ.The Pauline image and concept of"Body of Christ"express at the same timethe truth of the Church's mysteryand the truth of her visible characterin the world and the history of humanity.
20The Holy Spirit is source of truth and life-giving principle of the identity of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic ChurchThe Holy Spirit is also the source and principle of the sacramental life through which the Church:draws the strength of Christ,participates in His holiness,is nourished by His grace,and grows and advances on her journey towards eternity.
21The Sacramentality of the Church The Holy Spirit, who is at the origin of the incarnation of the Word,is the living source of all the sacraments instituted by Christ and at work in the Church.It is precisely through the sacraments that He gives people"new life,"associating the Church to Himself as His coworker in this saving action.
22Inasmuch as the Church (as sacrament) celebrates the Eucharist, The organic connection between the Church as Sacrament and the individual sacraments is especially close and essential in regard to the EucharistInasmuch as the Church (as sacrament) celebrates the Eucharist,the Eucharist realizes the Church and makes her present.The Church is expressed in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church.Especially in the Eucharist the Church is and becomes ever more fully the sacrament" communion with God"(cf. Lumen gentium, n. 1)