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60. Meaning of a Sacrament

1. The word sacrament, in itself, means something holy orsacred, or something which is related to what is holy or sacred.But in the sense in which we are now to use the word sacrament, itmeans, first of all, a sign which expresses in a sensible manner,some sacred thing which is outside the grasp and reach of thesenses.

2. A sacrament is a sign of some holy thing pertaining toman; that is, it is a sign of a thing in so far as this thingmakes men holy.

3. A sacrament is a sign that takes in past, present, andfuture in its signification, for: (a) it includes reference toman's sanctification in its cause, which is the Passion ofChrist; (b) it aids man's present holiness by giving grace andpromoting virtue; (c) it bears in itself the promise of eternallife to come.

4. Man acquires intellectual knowledge fromsense-knowledge. Therefore, sensible signs are aptly used tosignify spiritual things. A sacrament is a sign that the senses cangrasp; then the mind can read the intellectual and spiritualmeaning which the sign is meant to convey. A sacrament is always anouter or sensible sign.

5. The signs that are sacraments are not of man'schoosing. Since sacraments are for man's sanctification, theyare signs instituted and chosen by the Sanctifier of men, that is,our divine Lord.

6. A sign is not made a sacrament by any natural fitnessor power of its own. It is made a sacrament by authentic wordswhich give it spiritual meaning and power. Hence, wordsare necessary for constituting a sacrament.

7. Not any words that a man may choose, however apt andsuitable they may be, can constitute a sign as a sacrament. As thesigns themselves are divinely determined, so are the authenticwords which make these signs into sacraments.

8. Any words added or omitted so as to change theessential meaning of the determinate formula of words used for asacrament, would invalidate the sacrament itself.

"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."
St Philip Neri

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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"It is better to be burdened and in company with the strong than to be unburdened and with the weak. When you are burdened you are close to God, your strength, who abides with the afflicted. When you are relieved of the burden you are close to yourself, your own weakness; for virtue and strength of soul grow and are confirmed in the trials of patience."
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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