Lawrence Feingold: Why Do We Need Sacraments?

Sep 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Last week the Association of Hebrew Catholics resumed its regular lecture series. The title of this Fall’s series of lecture is “Sacraments: From the Old Covenant to the New.” On September 19, Dr. Lawrence Feingold, Associate Professor of Philosophy & Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and author of The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and his Interpreters and the three volume series The Mystery of Israel and the Church gave a lecture titled “Why Do We Need the Sacraments.” There was a handout provided at the lecture, and this handout is available as a pdf file here. The audio recordings of the lecture and of the following Q&A session, along with an outline of the lecture and a list of the questions asked during the Q&A are available below. The mp3s can be downloaded here.


Seven Sacraments Altarpiece (1445-50)
Rogier van der Weyden

Lecture: Why Do We Need the Sacraments?
 

What is the Liturgy? Public Worship of the Body of Christ, Head and Members (1′)

The difference between private prayer, collective prayer, and public prayer (3′)

The prayer of the Church is the prayer of the whole mystical Body, Head and members. (4′)

Pope Pius XII’s encyclical on liturgy: Mediator Dei: (5′)

The divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life begun with the supplication and sacrifice of His mortal body should continue without intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body which is the Church. That is why He established a visible priesthood to offer everywhere the clean oblation which would enable men from East to West, freed from the shackles of sin, to offer God that unconstrained and voluntary homage which their conscience dictates. In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. (2-3)

Second Vatican Council makes this same teaching in Sacrosanctum concilium 7-8. (6′)

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army.

In his General Audience on Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Pope Benedict spoke on this very subject of the nature of liturgy:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Having focused for several weeks now on prayer as taught to us in the sacred Scriptures, we turn to another precious source of prayer, namely the liturgy. The word “liturgy” in Greek means “work done by the people and for the people”. Here, this “people” is the new People of God, brought into being by Christ, a people which does not exist by itself and which is not bound by blood, territory or country, but is brought into being through the Paschal Mystery.

The liturgy is also the “work of God”. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, it is by means of the liturgy that Christ our Redeemer and High Priest continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church. This is the great marvel of the liturgy: God acts, while we are caught up in his action.

The Council began its work by discussing the liturgy, and rightly so, for the liturgy reminds us of the primacy of God. The fundamental criterion for it is its orientation towards the Father, whose saving love culminates in the death and resurrection of his Son. It is in the liturgy that we “lift up our hearts”, opening ourselves to the word of God as we gather with our brethren in a prayer which rises within us, and which is directed to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. (source)

Liturgy is not only the sacraments; it includes the Divine Office (9′)


Lawrence Feingold

Definition of Sacrament (9′)

Sacred signs (10′)

Represents grace, by which we’re given a share in God’s own Life (11′)

Instituted by Christ (11′)

They don’t just represent grace; they communicate what they represent (12′)

Sacraments of the Old Covenant (13′)

How they differ from sacraments of the New Covenant (15′)

John Calvin’s definition of the sacraments (17′)

Catholic Catechism’s description of the sacraments (19′)
“masterworks of God” — both heal and elevate

The sacraments correspond to our human nature as spirit and matter (21′)
Twofold movement (dual direction) of the sacraments (22′)

Three Temporal Aspects of the Sacraments and the Liturgy (24′)

The relation of the sacraments to time and eternity.

Christ Instituted the Sacraments (27′)

How Christ instituted each of the seven sacraments.

Why is it important that Christ instituted the sacraments? Why couldn’t the Church institute any of the sacraments? (30′)

Four reasons. (see the handout)
(a) the sacraments extend Christ’s humanity
(b) the sacraments are give the divine life (33′)
(c) the sacraments give the Holy Spirit in different ways (37′)
(d) the sacraments give rise to the Church (38′)

Why Did Christ Institute a Sacramental Economy Using Sensible Signs? (38′)

Why not just give us all grace invisibly, directly, and not through sacraments?
The errors of materialism and angelism (40′-41′)
Israel was sanctified by visible signs (41′-42′)
The sacraments mirror Christ’s two natures (42′-43′)
The sacraments make the Church visible (44′)
The sacraments provide the remedy where the wound is (45′)
Humbling: Example of Naaman (46′)

Fittingness of the Seven Sacraments and Their Harmony (47′)

Why seven? Why not just two?
Explains the purpose of each of the seven sacraments (47′ – 52′)
Council of Florence (52′)
The relation of the seven sacraments and the seven fundamental virtues (52′)

The Seven Sacraments and the Holiness of the Church (55′)

How the Church is made holy through each of the seven sacraments. (55′ – 58′)

Why Can Some Sacraments Be Repeated and Others Not? (58′)

Hierarchy of the Sacramental Economy (59′)

The hierarchy of the seven sacraments.

Q&A
 

1. If we touch or receive the sacred humanity of Christ in the sacraments, then does the power of the Holy Spirit add to the graces that come from the humanity of Christ? (1′)

2. Do you think that the Protestant understanding of grace by imputation causes them to see no need or place for confirmation, penance, etc. the other five sacraments that they do not recognize. (4′)

3. If grace was given in the Old Testament sacraments, how was forgiveness given in the Old Testament sacraments? (8′)

4. How is the grace given in the Old Testament sacraments different from the inner sanctification communicating the actual life of Christ in the New Testament sacraments? Is the grace of the Old and New Testament sacraments simply the strength to persevere in holiness? (10′)

5. Was grace given only to the people who believed in the God of Israel? (14′)

6. What do we mean when we say that Christ descended into hell? (18′) (See The Harrowing of Hell.”)

7. Should a serious Catholic perform a conditional baptism on all persons who are dying, for example, in a hospital situation or at the scene of an accident, when the dying person’s religious history is unknown? (23′)

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12 comments
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  1. One thing I don’t see on any the discussion of the sacraments is that there was a sacrament in Genesis 2:9 in Paradise and in Revelation 22:2, namely the Tree of Life whose purpose was for the healing of the nations.

    If God chose to grant grace through the physical matter before we were fallen and after we are redeemed, why would he not do so while we are fallen and in desperate need of his Grace?

    The Cross of Christ is often [looked] to as the Tree of Life in Tradition, so the leaves of the Tree of Life which bring healing seem very reminiscent of the Eucharist which springs forth from the Cross of Christ.

  2. Anil,
    Check out this picture:
    http://www.danielmitsui.com/hieronymus/index.blog?entry_id=1712514

    Mary would definitely be an Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

  3. Please define the word “need.”

    In the “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?” thread here @ CTC, I was informed that your communion teaches that baptism is not necessary for salvation:

    The Catholic Church has always and does now teach that the sacraments of the Church are the ordinary means by which grace flows. God is not limited by them. Else the unbaptised could have no posibility [sic] of salvation, which is something the Catholic Church has always rejected.

    If this is accurate, what is the difference between “need” and “necessary”? Thank you.

  4. Thanks David.

    Wow. A picture truly is worth a 1000 words.

  5. Hugh McCann, you ask:

    If this is accurate, what is the difference between “need” and “necessary”?

    Every man that is saved needs to receive regenerating grace so that he may be “born again” into the Kingdom of God. The Sacrament of Baptism is the ordinary means established by God to bestow regenerating grace to men dwelling on earth. The reception of regenerative grace is absolutely necessary to be saved, because no man can be saved without being born again.

    Man is bound to the Sacraments God has established, but God is not bound by the Sacraments that he has created. God can bestow the grace of regeneration to a man apart from the Sacrament of Baptism, which is to say, that regenerating grace can be received by a man in an extraordinary manner.

    To illustrate regenerating grace being received in an extraordinary manner, suppose a catechumen has faith in Christ and desires to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Before this catechumen is baptized, he is rounded up by Caesar’s soldiers and sent to die in the Roman Coliseum. The catechumen proclaims Christ as his Savior to the end of his life and he dies as martyr for the faith. The Church teaches that the catechumen would be saved through the Baptism of Blood. That is, God gives to such a martyr the grace of regeneration in an extraordinary manner apart from the reception of a valid Sacrament of Baptism.

  6. Hugh, (re: #3)

    Jesus Himself taught the necessity of baptism. See John 3:5 and Mark 16:16. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

    The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (CCC 1257)

    If a person truly knows that Christ is from God, and that Christ commanded baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and yet with deliberate consent refuses to be baptized, that person is in a state of mortal sin, and without sanctifying grace. If he dies in that condition, without repentance, he will not be saved. That is one sense in which baptism is necessary. See Canon 4 of Session VII of the Council of Trent.

    This does not entail that everyone who is not baptized will not be saved. See Jimmy Akin’s helpful article on invincible ignorance. (Update: See also Sam Entile’s post on the same subject.) If through no fault of his own a person does not know the necessity of baptism, and is not baptized, but moved by actual grace and cooperating with that grace, seeks to do God’s will, God can provide to him extraordinarily the sanctifying grace and living faith by which he can be saved. Nevertheless, in that case too, the sanctifying grace he receives from God along with living faith comes to him through the sacrament of baptism, by way of an implicit desire for the sacrament. So by Christ’s institution the sacrament of baptism is also necessary in that sense, namely, that necessarily the sanctifying grace by which anyone who has never been baptized is brought from a state of mortal sin to a state of grace, comes to him through this sacrament, either by being baptized, or by desiring (explicitly or implicitly) to be baptized.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  7. So, water baptism in the Roman way is necessary ~ but not necessary ~ to salvation?

    Bryan, We Prots of course see John 3:5 & Mark 16:16 not as water baptism, but as regenerating, Spiritual baptism. Water and wind (as in John 3) being metaphors for God’s Spirit.

    Akin’s piece may indeed be helpful, but your final paragraph is inscrutable! Goodness! That’ll take 3 or 4 reads to make sense!*

    The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.

    So it’s necessary only where the gospel’s been proclaimed?

    The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (CCC 1257)

    So, water baptism assures [but doesn't guarantee] entry into eternal beatitude [heaven]? Contingent on one’s continuing fidelity, yes?
    ~~~~~~~~~~

    * …If through no fault of his own a person does not know the necessity of baptism, and is not baptized, but moved by actual grace and cooperating with that grace, seeks to do God’s will, God can provide to him extraordinarily the sanctifying grace and living faith by which he can be saved. Nevertheless, in that case too, the sanctifying grace he receives from God along with living faith comes to him through the sacrament of baptism, by way of an implicit desire for the sacrament. So by Christ’s institution the sacrament of baptism is also necessary in that sense, namely, that necessarily the sanctifying grace by which anyone who has never been baptized is brought from a state of mortal sin to a state of grace, comes to him through this sacrament, either by being baptized, or by desiring (explicitly or implicitly) to be baptized. Huh?

  8. Hugh, (re: #7)

    So, water baptism in the Roman way is necessary ~ but not necessary ~ to salvation?

    A thing can be necessary in one sense, and yet not necessary in another sense. Baptism is necessary in the way just explained in comment #6, but not necessary in the sense that it is possible that persons who have not been baptized can be saved.

    Bryan, We Prots of course see John 3:5 & Mark 16:16 not as water baptism, but as regenerating, Spiritual baptism. Water and wind (as in John 3) being metaphors for God’s Spirit.

    I understand. But none of the Church Fathers held that position about baptism (see here) which is odd if the Protestant position was the one taught by the Apostles.

    So it’s necessary only where the gospel’s been proclaimed?

    Under the New Covenant, baptism is necessary everywhere, but God’s saving power is not limited only to those places where the gospel has been preached, and God does not hold culpable those who have not obeyed a precept they did not know and could not have known. Neither God’s omnipotence nor God’s justice obviate the universal necessity of baptism. It is not the necessity of baptism that spreads around the world with the expansion of missions and evangelism, but the knowledge of this necessity.

    So, water baptism assures [but doesn't guarantee] entry into eternal beatitude [heaven]? Contingent on one’s continuing fidelity, yes?

    Yes and yes.

    Huh?

    Exactly what part is unclear? If you make your question explicit, perhaps I can clarify.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  9. Hugh, (re: #7)

    I think a good way to express the necessity of baptism is best expressed in “John 15:14″, namely “You are my friends if you do what I command you”.

    Ultimately what counts is not specific doctrines or beliefs, it is a change of will. That was, after all the key reason for the fall of man. If you know that the Catholic Church is the body of Christ and you do not become a part of that body or worse, leave that body, or decent from Church doctrines you know are part of the deposit of faith, you are disobeying Christ and Christ will have no part of you. If you do not baptize even though you know Christ wants you to, again you are disobeying Christ and Christ will have no part of you.

    On the other hand, if you intend to join the Church or be baptized and are hit by a bus before that happens (especially if the catechumenate is 1 year long), you are obeying Christ and he will accept you (see St. Perpetua and St. Felicity for an early Church example of this). It gets a bit hazy for Protestants who desire to do God’s will but are not baptized because they were told it wasn’t important. But “the thief on the cross” does show the Jesus can and will accept compliant souls that he deems worthy of going to heaven even if their “paper work” is not completely in order. So there is a reasonable hope that such obedient but invincibly ignorant Protestants will be accepted as well.

  10. How I see this issue is that God, being God, is free to act in any way consistent with his nature, which is love.
    We, on the other hand, are only free to proclaim the message that we have received. Thus, the importance of following scripture and tradition.
    There is not constraint on God. There is constraint on our message and methods.

    – George

  11. Hugh,

    You write:

    “We Prots of course see John 3:5 & Mark 16:16 not as water baptism, but as regenerating, Spiritual baptism. Water and wind (as in John 3) being metaphors for God’s Spirit.”

    Throughout the OT, we see the Spirit and Water come together when God performs a miracle involving creation, renewal, and salvation. For example:

    God’s Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1.
    Noah, the Flood, and the Dove.
    The Pillar of Fire leading the Israelites to the sea.

    Water and wind weren’t mere metaphors in the OT. Why should they be in the NT?

  12. Hugh said:

    We Prots of course see John 3:5 & Mark 16:16 not as water baptism, but as regenerating, Spiritual baptism. Water and wind (as in John 3) being metaphors for God’s Spirit.

    That is not what I believed as a Protestant, and I was not alone in that by any stretch. Many Protestants agree with Catholics that “water baptism” and “regenerating spiritual baptism”, which you divide in your statement above, are a “both/and” not an “either/or”. Luther would be pounding his shoe on the table right now in agreement with me.

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