UNIT 9 - THE HOLY EUCHARIST, OTHER SACRAMENTAL RITES, AND THE CHRISTIAN HOPE
It would be wise to review Unit 8 before exploring this Unit. Like Unit 8, Unit 9 will require more reading than some others.
The Holy Eucharist
Baptism, the grace-filled affirmation of ones most basic and profound identity as a unique child of God, is the foundational Sacrament of Christianity. Other sacramental rites, including the Eucharist [from the Greek eucharistein to give thanks], generally presume baptism. (An exception occurs in matrimony wherein at least one of the two persons must be baptized.)
In the Episcopal and many other churches the Eucharist is the central rite of corporate worship in which bread and wine are consecrated (blessed, set apart) by an ordained minister and consumed by the minister and members of the congregation in obedience to Jesus' command at the Last Supper, "Do this in remembrance of me." As a sacrament, it both symbolizes and nurtures the participants baptismal identity as well as Christs fellowship (communion) with the faithful. From this individual and corporate identity flows each Christians primary vocation: to live out faithfully the Summary of the Law (see Unit 5), including the invitation to all human beings to become disciples of Christ.
Traditionally, Jesus' specific command to his disciples at the Last Supper (Luke 22:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) to eat the bread and drink the wine "in remembrance of me" constitutes the institution of the Eucharist. There is no mention of how often this is to be done. Moreover, the command "Do this in remembrance of me" does not appear in either Matthew or Mark's account of the Last Supper.
In any case, the practice of eating meals in remembrance of Christ and his ministry and the belief in the presence of Christ in the "breaking of the bread" were universal in the early church, where there was considerable diversity in both the practice and the understanding of the Eucharist; no evidence exists of any Christian church in which the sacrament was not celebrated.
Presence and Sacrifice
The development of Eucharistic doctrine centers on two ideas: presence and sacrifice. In the New Testament, no attempt is made to explain Christ's presence at the Eucharist. The theologians of the early church tended to accept Jesus' words "This is my body" and "This cup ... is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:19-20) as sufficient explanation of the transformation of the bread and wine into the spiritual body and blood of Christ. However, some interpretations reflect the influence of Platonic types of philosophy on the early church.
During the Middle Ages a more elaborate doctrine of the Eucharist was developed by Scholastic philosophers under the influence of Aristotle. According to Scholastic speculation, the substance (the essential and true spiritual reality) of the Eucharistic bread is, by the power of God, wholly transformed into the body of Christ; the wine is likewise transformed into the blood of Christ. Contemporary Roman Catholicism continues this explanation, and some high church Anglicans (sometimes labeled Anglo-Catholics) seem to come very close to it.
In their interpretations of the Eucharist some modern theologians have attempted to recapture the ancient Judaic sense of remembering the acts of God. By invoking the presence of God and by remembering the events by which he has delivered them, worshipers experience or empathize with those events as present events. Thus, just as each generation of Israelites participates year by year in the Exodus (the wanderings in the wilderness and the crossing into Canaan), so each generation of Christians participates in the Last Supper, the cross, and the resurrection. (What this actually means requires further interpretation.)
Eucharistic doctrine also concerns the sacrificial character of the sacrament how the Eucharist is related to Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches have traditionally taught that the Eucharist is a means by which believers can share symbolically in Christ's sacrifice and the new covenant with God that it inaugurated. Protestants in general have been hesitant to apply sacrificial categories to celebrations of the Eucharist. And, some Anglicans share this reluctance.
In the article Eucharistic Sacrifice it is noted:
Identification of the eucharist as a sacrificial action has been dated from the early third century. However, abuses and exaggerations had become associated with the eucharist by the Reformation era, including the popular concept of the Mass as a repetition of Jesus death on Calvary. Reactions against this understanding were reflected in the sixteenth century liturgies of the Lutheran and Anglican churches. [from Armentrout and Slocum, eds. An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, p. 191; this book may be ordered as noted in the subsite Episcopal Beliefs ]
Anglo-Catholics tend toward sacrificial emphases, while low church Anglicans (who identify with our Protestant heritage) do not. The Book of Common Prayer characteristically attempts to accommodate both!
There remains much long-term controversy among Episcopalians and other Christians about what happens to the bread and wine when they are consecrated. The manner of God and Christs presence and activity is open to interpretation. It is characteristic of Anglicanism to affirm the real presence of Christ while avoiding any official declaration of some metaphysical interpretation of this presence. [The Rev. Dr. Owen C. Thomas in Introduction to Theology, 3rd. ed., 2002, p. 287; Dr. Thomas was on the faculty of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.]
Much . Christian tradition has always spoken of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. That phrase does not mean that the literal, physical flesh and blood of the historical Jesus are there to be seen and touched. It means that in taking, blessing, and receiving the eucharistic bread and wine, the church knows and receives Christ as the active principle of its own life; or, in other words, that the reality which the sacrament means is truly and objectively given in it. [quote from The Rev. Dr. Richard A. Norris, Understanding the Faith of the Church, pp. 219ff.]
On the matter of Real Presence, Canon Hodgson commented, Throughout God is aiming at eliciting from us the personal response of faith, and sacraments have their being in the context of His fellowship of forgiven sinners. God makes use of certain material things at certain times and places in order to draw us onward and upward into our true selves, into personal communion with Himself. In this context the material things become by His will, the will of their Creator, what they are not elsewhere. When we think of the bread and wine in the Eucharist as being taken by Christ to be the vehicles of His continued action in and among the members of His church, we think of them as being His body and Blood in the only sense in which these words have any meaning. [from lecture notes by an unknown student in a British theologians course (The Rev. Canon Dr. Leonard Hodgson of Oxford) who was the Visiting English Lecturer during the 1958-9 academic year at the Berkeley Divinity School, New Haven]
The Service itself is called the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Communion in most Protestant and Anglican Churches; the Divine Liturgy in Eastern Orthodoxy; and the Mass among Roman Catholics and some Anglicans. Other than Baptism, it is the central and most solemn Christian liturgy.
Normally the service consists of two parts. The first, the Service of the Word, includes Scripture readings, a sermon, and prayers. This part of the Eucharist, apparently adapted from Jewish synagogue worship, has been prefixed to the service of bread and wine at least since the middle of the 2nd century.
The second part of the service, the "service of the Upper Room" (or more specifically The Holy Communion), consists typically of an offering of bread and wine (together with the congregation's gifts of money, bread, wine and water); the central Eucharistic prayer (a prayer of consecration, blessing, or setting apart of the bread and wine); the distribution of the consecrated elements to worshipers; and a final blessing and dismissal. This second part of the service has its roots in the ancient traditional table prayers said at Jewish meals. The central Eucharistic prayer typically contains a prayer of thanksgiving for the creation of the world and its rescue in Christ; an account of the institution of the Last Supper; the offering of the bread and wine in thankful remembrance of Christ; the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine and on the congregation; and prayers of intercession. Not to be overlooked is the strengthening of Christian human fellowship that results from effective eucharistic worship.
Personal Commentary on the Eucharist by Canon Nolan
A further consideration as yet having little impact on interpretations of the Eucharist is that Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek (the language of the New Testament); in his own language he could not have said This IS my body .. as usually understood in Greek. In Aramaic the verb to be does not focus on essences/substances, but is a connecting verb suggesting action/activity. It would seem that Jesus never intended to address the is-ness (essence/substance) of the blessed bread and wine, but rather how the sacred elements act in the life of the faithful. As one British theologian noted in the mid-twentieth century, Gods grace is conveyed not through the elements but through the act. [from J. S. Whale, Christian Doctrine (1952), p. 163.]
An additional issue is that the Prayer Book Eucharist may be celebrated in a variety of ceremonial forms from the very simple and dignified low church manner to the very elaborate and regal high church (sometimes fussy) styles. Regrettably, simple styles are currently very difficult to find. Women and men attracted to ordination in the contemporary period generally prefer more elaborate rather than simpler ceremonial, thereby depriving many worshipers of a vital option of our Anglican heritage. In this regard, most Eucharistic Services seem to be governed unnecessarily by a more is better rubric off-putting to the population not attuned to lengthy ritual. In a day when religious observances are quite optional in the public mind, participation in wordy, lengthy, correct Services may well decrease even more other than for special observances and holidays (e.g., Christmas and Easter).
Furthermore, a theological case may be made for almost any age as appropriate for admittance to Holy Communion. Nonetheless, this writer is struck by the youngsters and many adults, too who seem not to have a clue about any meanings of the Sacrament. So many dont even know how to receive, and not a few are silly at the time of administration. An unlimited invitation to Communion in the name of inclusivity (a trend gone awry) smacks of a public utility model, wherein the Rites of Christ and of the Church are recast as public entitlements. Something has gone wrong unless we accept a simplistic and highly questionable, automatic vitamin approach to grace disavowed by Canon Hodgson (in Unit 8)! In this regard, a paragraph from an Episcopal tract is another useful caution:
In any consideration of the sacraments, strong emphasis should be laid on the truth that the sacraments and sacramental rites, if they are to produce the results for which they are instituted, must be met with a definite response on the part of those who use them. As has been pointed out in the case of Baptism, sacraments are not mechanical acts; they do not work in a magical way. They are means whereby God brings us his grace, that is, his loving help. This grace is always present, but its effect upon us depends upon the use we make of it. [from The Church and the Sacraments (Forward Movement Publications, 1999), p. 14]
It might be added that it is unfair to expect recipients to respond in faith to sacramental rites, if they have not been adequately prepared in both heart and mind.
Finally, for a variety of reasons, some people prefer to receive just the sacred bread. Some recovering alcoholics as well as individuals with hygienic concerns have a preference for the bread alone. Gods immeasurable grace is such that reception of only the bread is a sufficient and complete sacramental act.
Also consulted on the Eucharist: writings of the late Charles P. Price, Th.D., Professor of Systematic Theology, Virginia Theological Seminary; former member, Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church.
Confirmation has been traditionally looked upon as a sacramental rite of the Church, whereby the recipient, having been baptized (usually in infancy, with a sponsor taking the baptismal vows on his or her behalf), now (having reached an age and condition of capacity to confess the Christian faith personally) takes responsibility for those baptismal vows. This general view declares that the Holy Spirit strengthens recipients in such a way as to inspirit them to be enthusiastic members of the Church. Confirmation is implied in passages such as Acts 8.14-17, but the subject is one attended by great and complex difficulties and remains an occasion of theological controversy. [adapted and quoted from MacGregor, Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy, p. 136]
The Episcopal Church's theology of Confirmation has continued to evolve along with its understanding of baptism. Confirmation is no longer seen as the completion of Christian initiation, nor is Confirmation a prerequisite for receiving communion. Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's body the church (BCP, p. 298). Accordingly, Confirmation has been increasingly understood in terms of a mature, public reaffirmation of the Christian faith and the baptismal promises. Some dioceses require that candidates for Confirmation be at least sixteen years old to insure that the candidates are making a mature and independent affirmation of their faith. There is considerable diversity of understanding and practice concerning Confirmation in the Episcopal Church. Confirmation has been characterized as a rite seeking a theology. [from Armentrout and Slocum, eds. An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, p. 118; BCP means Book of Common Prayer.]
Although Confirmation was initially administered by a bishop at the same time as Baptism or at the earliest possible moment afterwards (and is continued this way today among some Christians), the eventual difficulty of having a bishop present at baptisms led to the separation of the rites. By the late 16th century, in the Roman and Anglican Churches, Confirmation was offered to those able to answer the questions of a Catechism. The precise relation between the gift bestowed in Baptism and the gift bestowed in Confirmation cannot be defined. [Doctrine in the Church of England (1938), p. 188]
Personal Commentary on Confirmation by Canon Nolan
Although, in the words of the Prayer Book Catechism, Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop, and although it is required of those to be confirmed that they have been baptized, are sufficiently instructed in the Christian Faith, are penitent for their sins, and are ready to affirm their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, it is highly doubtful that the majority of persons presented to bishops possess these qualities. Some clergy believe that, regardless of the candidates maturity and/or lack of understanding, grace is imparted and can only provide a positive influence in persons lives. Others, more in line with Canon Hodgsons understanding of grace, would view Services of immature and/or uninformed persons as relatively meaningless, not unlike a pleasant rite of passage.
Ordination is the setting apart of individuals for particular tasks of Christian ministry. In the Episcopal Church ordination is the rite in which God gives authority and the grace of the Holy Spirit to those being made bishops, priests, and deacons, through prayer and the laying on of hands by bishops.
Women and men are ordained as bishops after satisfying many requirements and going through several processes required by church procedures (canons). Bishops are not independent agents, but are themselves subject to church canons. Likewise, priests and deacons are ordained after going through a demanding preparation. They, too, are not independent agents, but are deputies of their bishops with certain responsibilities delegated to them; priests and deacons are subject to the canons, too.
[The subsite The Diaconate Now contains the entire book on the diaconate (deacons), its history and potential, as well as contemporary links.]
Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows. The ministers of the liturgy during which the marriage is blessed are the woman and man themselves; the clergy person officiating is the Churchs chief witness to the vows and the one deputized to pronounce Gods blessing on the couple.
The Service presupposes the canonically required preparation of the couple. The quality of the preparation varies enormously, with some clergy spending minimal time exploring the nature of Christian marriage plus the relationship of a specific couple within a Christian context. There is no specific amount of time or detailed content mandated for marriage preparation. [See PreCommitment .. in the subsite Episcopal Beliefs and Traditions as well as chapters 6 Love and Friendship and 7 Marriage and the Family in the book Living Issues in Ethics available in its entirety in the textbooks subsite.]
Commentary on Holy Matrimony by Canon Nolan
Ann Landers Weddings: The Clergy's Big Beef January 2000
Dear Ann Landers: I am in total agreement with the Catholic bishop who hates weddings. I am a Protestant pastor in Illinois, and I also hate weddings. Too many couples have never been inside a place of worship, and do not know how to conduct themselves in a church. Their weddings have no spiritual content. They are theatrical productions, directed by the brides mother. I will be retiring soon, and what I will miss the least are the weddings. - Anonymous, Of Course, in Illinois
Dear Anonymous: I am still reeling from the bags of mail that resulted from the letter written by the Catholic bishop who hates weddings. It is the heaviest response since the heated debate on how to hang toilet paper. Keep reading for additional comments:
From Miami: I will let you decide how I feel about doing weddings after 42 years: My most vivid memories are of the best man, intoxicated, of course, who dropped his pants and followed the bridal couple down the aisle after the ceremony. At the reception, he appeared in bike shorts and formed a conga line. The most memorable comment was from a groom, who announced loudly, "Here comes the preacher, who shows up any time there is free food." But my all-time favorite is the question from the mother of the bride, who asked, "Will you be staying for dinner after the service?" I replied, "Yes, and my wife will be with me." She responded, "Are you aware that this Palm Beach hotel charges $65 a plate?"
Houston: I'm a clergyman who is interested in the letter from the Catholic bishop. I hope he reads this. At one time, the clergy were respected. This is no longer true. I have been asked to bless a pet rabbit at Easter, a racehorse in Kentucky, and a new Buick. It might make him feel better to know that he is not alone.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho: I am a clergyman but also a man of the world," and my hormones work very well, thank you. I am embarrassed when newlywed couples engage in a passionate kiss after being joined in holy matrimony. It looks like a bedroom scene from a B movie.
Goshen, N.Y.: I recently attended a wedding where the "theme" was a square dance. The wedding party dressed in country attire, and the mother of the bride sang People Will Say Were in Love. For a while, I thought I was on Broadway. I felt sorry for the minister, who looked extremely uncomfortable.
Silver Spring, Md.: I am an Episcopal minister. Many Roman Catholics who are divorced and can't get married in their own church come to me. The last three weddings I performed, the couples had been living together for several years. I feel like a hypocrite when I marry such couples.
Many of the abuses cited (Illinois, Idaho, N.Y., and Maryland) in the Ann Landers column are brought about to a large extent by clergy who did not take the time to prepare the couple adequately. Clergy are not required to baptize, present for confirmation, or marry just anyone who requests a ritual. The Church is not a public utility presided over by a local shaman. Just perhaps, if we took seriously our obligation to prepare people for marriage (at least one of whom has been a regular worshiper), there would be fewer divorces, and we clergy will not have bastardized the sacramental rite of Holy Matrimony!
In one or more states the laws give clergy permission to act as representatives of the state for the purpose of officiating at weddings, provided that the clergy adhere to the procedures of their specific religious heritage. In one setting an Episcopal priest, with the intention of being pastoral, readily married divorced people without going through the prescribed process of receiving permission from the bishop. Moreover, the particular state had no common law marriages. If contested, all of those marriages would be legally null and void.
Reconciliation of A Penitent
Reconciliation is a Sacramental rite in which those who repent may confess their sins to God in the presence of a priest and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution. (BPC, p. 861). It is also called penance and confession. The churchs ministry of reconciliation is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:18) The ministry of reconciliation has been committed by Christ to the church. It is exercised through the care each Christian has for others, through the common prayer of Christians assembled for public worship, and through the priesthood of the church and its ministers declaring absolution (BCP, p. 446). The Reconciliation of a Penitent is not limited to times of sickness. Confessions may be heard at any time and any place.
The BCP provides two forms of service for the Reconciliation of a Penitent. Only a bishop or priest may pronounce absolution. A declaration of forgiveness may be used by a deacon or lay person who hears a confession. When a confession is heard in a church building, the confessor may sit inside the altar rails while the penitent kneels nearby. The confession may be heard in a place set aside for greater privacy. It is also appropriate for the confessor and penitent to sit face to face for a spiritual conference that leads to absolution or a declaration of forgiveness. After the penitent has confessed all serious sins troubling the conscience and given evidence of contrition, the priest offers counsel and encouragement before pronouncing absolution. Before pronouncing absolution, the priest may assign a psalm, prayer, or hymn to be said, or something to be done, as a sign of penitence and act of thanksgiving.
.. The secrecy of the confession is morally absolute for the confessor and must not be broken (BCP, p. 446) [from Armentrout and Slocum, eds. An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, pp. 433f. ; BCP means Book of Common Prayer.]
As a matter of clarification: if an individual confesses a sinful act yet to be committed, this is not a true confession, and absolution-in-advance cannot be expected. In this rare instance, the secrecy of what has been said is arguable, especially if the intended act involves harming someone.
Ministration to the Sick and Unction
Ministration to the Sick is the Prayer Book Service (pp. 453 ff.) for which there are options provided by rubric. One section Part II is entitled Laying on of Hands and Anointing within which additional options are provided. As the Catechism notes, Unction is the rite of anointing the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands, by which God's grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body. [The word unction is from Latin meaning to anoint.] Although Jesus healed with a word and a touch and did not use oil, there are New Testament references to this historic practice (Mark 6:7, 12-13; James 5:14). Whether oil is to be used is at the discretion of the minister, who as a courtesy should consult the sick person(s); some prefer it, some do not. Again, the sacramental rite is complete with or without oil.
Individuals participate in the rite of unction as an expression of their readiness to accept Gods future. They pray especially for inner spiritual healing (for comfort, for strength to cope, and for the healing power of Christs love), and they hope for whatever cure may be possible. That the sacrament is somehow magic or provides guaranteed results desired by faithful people needs to be avoided by sensitive preparation of the sick person(s) and their families, when that is possible.
From the late medieval period to the recent past Extreme Unction the Last Rites at the apparent time of death suggested a very limited understanding and practice of unction.
[See Healing Prayer in the subsite Episcopal Beliefs and Traditions.]
The Christian Hope
Exploration of The Christian Hope incorporates several elements relating to ultimate human destiny along with social and universal final things (technically, eschatology). This area of theology may refer to teachings about events anticipated during the final days of the present age or to occurrences expected at the beginning of or during the age to come; primary issues include resurrection, judgment, heaven and hell, the course of human history, and the destiny of the universe in which we live.
In broad terms, as Christians look toward the future, we hope for individual and corporate fellowship (communion) with God by means of the full ministry (especially the Resurrection) of Jesus Christ.
At the individual level, this fellowship begins at ones baptism and is continued among the people of God (the church) through everlasting life; it is a fellowship understood within the context of Christs Resurrection, a community governed by faith, love, and hope. At the corporate level anticipation of the future has its pivotal origins in the Hebrew Exodus and is further developed at the Resurrection of Christ and the formation of the Church at Pentecost.
Eschatology has yielded diverse understandings of final things both in the Bible and in the life of the developing Church, because such doctrines flow from several beliefs about the meanings of baptism as well as Christs life and Resurrection. Nonetheless, Christian eschatology is united significantly by a sense of transfiguration, a making new of this world, a transformation of human life and of all existence to the state intended by the Creator. This evolutionary process of change has begun, and it will continue until all is in harmony with Gods purposes. Gods Spirit invites, inspires, nudges, and strengthens the faithful on this journey, and in turn human beings individually and corporately choose the extent to which we will cooperate with God.
Not an architects blueprint for the future, the catechism questions and answers are imperfect, faithful speculations and anticipations implied in the historic Christian Hope, and they are interpreted in various ways. In any case, Christians are confident that God is the ultimate sovereign of history and that Gods purposes will prevail on a schedule known only to the Creator.
A preoccupation with eschatological issues (including when and how God will judge human beings and the consequences thereof) may be tempered by a firm trust in the Creator. We are assured that whatever is to become of us individually and corporately and whatever is to become of the universe itself will result from further acts of God: acts of love, justice, mercy, and creative power.
To conclude this unit, please read the section below from An Outline of the Faith.
The Holy Eucharist
Q. What is the Holy Eucharist?
A. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again.
Q. Why is the Eucharist called a sacrifice?
A. Because the Eucharist, the Church's sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself.
Q. By what other names is this service known?
A. The Holy Eucharist is called the Lord's Supper, and Holy Communion; it is also known as the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great Offering.
Q. What is the outward and visible sign in the Eucharist?
A. The outward and visible sign in the Eucharist is bread and wine, give and received according to Christ's command.
Q. What is the inward and spiritual grace given in the Eucharist?
A. The inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith.
Q. What are the benefits which we receive in the Lord's Supper?
A. The benefits we receive are the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.
Q. What is required of us when we come to the Eucharist?
A. It is required that we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people.
Other Sacramental Rites
Q. What other sacramental rites evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
A. Other sacramental rites which evolved in the Church include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.
Q. How do they differ from the two sacraments of the Gospel?
A. Although they are means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way that Baptism and the Eucharist are.
Q. What is Confirmation?
A. Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.
Q. What is required of those to be confirmed?
A. It is required of those to be confirmed that they have been baptized, are sufficiently instructed in the Christian Faith, are penitent for their sins, and are ready to affirm their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Q. What is Ordination?
A. Ordination is the rite in which God gives authority and the grace of the Holy Spirit to those being made bishops, priests, and deacons, through prayer and the laying on of hands by bishops.
Q. What is Holy Matrimony?
A. Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.
Q. What is Reconciliation of a Penitent?
A. Reconciliation of a Penitent, or Penance, is the rite in which those who repent of their sins may confess them to God in the presence of a priest, and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution.
Q. What is Unction of the Sick?
A. Unction is the rite of anointing the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands, by which God's grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body.
Q. Is God's activity limited to these rites?
A. God does not limit himself to these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.
Q. How are the sacraments related to our Christian hope?
A. Sacraments sustain our present hope and anticipate its future fulfillment.
The Christian Hope
Q. What is the Christian hope?
A. The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God's purpose for the world.
Q. What do we mean by the coming of Christ in glory?
A. By the coming of Christ in glory, we mean that Christ will come, not in weakness but in power, and will make all things new.
Q. What do we mean by heaven and hell?
A. By heaven, we mean eternal life in our enjoyment of God; by hell, we mean eternal death in our rejection of God.
Q. Why do we pray for the dead?
A. We pray for them, because we still hold them in our love, and because we trust that in God's presence those who have chosen to serve him will grow in his love, until they see him as he is.
Q. What do we mean by the last judgment?
A. We believe that Christ will come in glory and judge the living and the dead.
Q. What do we mean by the resurrection of the body?
A. We mean that God will raise us from death in the fullness of our being, that we may live with Christ in the communion of the saints.
Q. What is the communion of saints?
A. The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.
Q. What do we mean by everlasting life?
A. By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other.
Q. What, then, is our assurance as Christians?
A. Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.