A sacrament is an "efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit".
"The sacraments touch all the stages of Christian life: they give birth and increase healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life"
Our communion with Christ, although it requires our cooperation, is never the result of our own effort, but of His grace ordinarily communicated to us through Word and Sacrament. In the sections below, we briefly examine each of the seven Sacraments of the New Covenant in the hope of responding more faithfully to Christ's invitation to follow Him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is divided into four parts, and all of Part Two is dedicated to "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery." God's eternal Plan of Salvation is made known to mankind by the gradual disclosure of His will that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and the fullness of this revelation is the life, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This Plan of Salvation is called a Mystery, meaning a thing in the mind of God but not known by us until it was revealed. The Greek word mysterion can be translated by two Latin words: mysterium and sacramentum, and it is from these words that we get our English terms: mystery and sacrament.
The seven sacred rituals given to the Church by the Lord Jesus are therefore called sacraments because they disclose to us the Paschal or Passover Mystery of Christ and unite us to His Person, much as the woman with a hemorrhage was united to His healing power by touching His cloak. In the Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches, the seven sacraments are called the Sacred Mysteries, and this terminology occurs many times in our liturgical texts.
The seven sacraments are customarily grouped into three categories: