If you belong to a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox church, there are seven sacraments, which are special ceremonies of the church performed by ordained clergy. These are baptism, confirmation, Communion or the Eucharist, reconciliation and penance, anointing of the sick, marriage and ordination or holy orders. Protestant faiths count only baptism and Communion as sacraments because these are exclusively Christian ceremonies, explains Pastor Ken Collins, a Christian minister in McLean, Virginia, on his website. Teens should understand the meaning when participating in a sacrament.
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells his followers to baptize believers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Baptism symbolizes entry into the faith as a believer and starting over with a clean soul. It’s an outward sign of an inward work, according to fourth century theologian St. Augustine of Hippo. Parents take the vows when children are baptized and a child can take the vows when he is old enough to understand the sacrament’s meaning and responsibility. In many churches, the faith community renews their promises when someone is baptized and they promise to support and nurture the believer.
Communion commemorates the last supper before Jesus was crucified and encourages the community of believers to confess and repent of their sins, accept Jesus’ sacrifice and recommit to a life of faith. The feast reminds believers that they should work together to support and love one another as Jesus loves and gave his life for the believer. Most Catholics believe that the bread and wine actually become Jesus’ body and blood, but this is not shared in Protestant faiths.
Confirmation is the culmination of learning what it means to be a believer. The student learns about God and what it takes to please God. Many confirmation classes include church history, Bible education and practical information on worship and living a life of faith. It is the initiation into full membership with all the rights and responsibilities of an adult believer.
Marriage is the joining of two lives in the sight of God and man. It honors the promises made between spouse and supports the children created in that union. It involves the community who pledge to support the couple with prayers and love. The marriage symbolizes Jesus leadership of the church and the joining of the two in a single heart and mind to give honor and glory to God.
Reconciliation, Penance and Praying for the Sick
Although some Protestant denominations anoint the sick with oil and encourage private confession and reconciliation with God and man, they do not count these as sacraments. Jesus anointed the sick and so did the early Church fathers as a way to bring healing to body and soul. Reconciliation asks the believer to examine her life, confess her sins and seek to make amends to those who have been wronged.
Many churches practice some form of laying on of hands to ordain people to a life of sacred service as a minister, nun, deacon or other church official. The Bible includes examples of ordination, including the anointing of Paul and Barnabas by the Disciples in Acts 13:1-3 and Paul and Barnabas anointing church leaders in Acts 14:21-23.