The Orthodox Church uses the term Mysterion when speaking of the Sacraments. The word comes from the Greek myein meaning to initiate. New Testament mysterion denotes the incomprehensible and inconceivable revealed truths and teachings of God. The term is also used to define the incomprehensible doctrines of our faith. There would be, Teaching of the Holy Trinity, incarnation of our Lord, and Transubstaniation. They are mysteries because we cannot explain them with out human minds.
When I first came to St. Michael’s three years ago, I preached a series of sermons on the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. I thought I would turn to those teaching for a few posts. I am also recording those as Podcasts for the Shepherd of Souls as well. I will begin with a brief overview of what the sacraments are and where they come from.
The Sacraments are vessels of the mystical participation in the Divine Grace of Mankind. The Orthodox Church considers everything which is and of the church as Sacraments. The word Sacrament comes from the Latin noun Sacramentum, and it signified a sacred obligation. The Roman Church by the 12th century used the term exclusively to identify something that had an external sign of grace, instituted by Christ for the sanctification of believers.
The Sacraments (Mysteries) have the following:
1. The Divine Institution – Jesus instituted all seven of the Sacraments.
2. The Outward Sign – The Church is both visible and invisible and we are composed of body and soul so the Sacraments have outward and visible signs. An example of this would be the bread and wine used for Communion and the words that are said during the liturgy.
3. The Inward Grace Given – The signs transmit the presence of the Holy Spirit and the grace is not the same in every Sacrament. i.e. in marriage Divine Grace unites the husband and wife.
In order to administer the Sacraments, the following are necessary:
1. The one who administers the Sacrament with be canonically ordained either bishop or priest with proper authority given to them.
2. The material defined for each Sacrament must be used: water for baptism, oil for Chrismation, bread and wine for Holy Eucharist and the words that are laid down by the church.
3. The individual must be prepared and be receptive to the grace. The person must approach in a proper spiritual manner.
You will notice that I am using the terms Sacrament and Mystery interchangeably. The term Sacrament is a term that all should be used to so for the sake of this discussion I will use both for the same purpose.
So that is the beginning of the discussion. Next post will be about the Sacrament, or Mystery, of Baptism.