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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.

"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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"There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."
St Philip Neri

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