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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.

"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."
Thomas á Kempis

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