The Efficacy of Sacraments Vol. 1, No. 24

If a Priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church celebrates Mass when he is not in the state of grace can the people of God receive the grace of the Eucharistic Lord? THE ANSWER IS YES!!!

Canons 6 and 7 of the teaching of the Trent on the sacraments portray the understanding of the Catholic Church on the efficacy of the sacraments. If any one says that the sacrament of the new law do not contain the grace which they signify or that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle in the way ….anathemasit

If anyone say that, as far as God’s part is concerned, grace is not given through these sacrament s always and to all even if they receive them rightly, but only some times and to some’ anathemasit

The implication of these canons is that the sacrament of the law possess an efficacy which does not depend on the subjective disposition of the recipient or the minister this stance counter the teaching of the reformers that uphold only a subjective psychological efficacy. The council “was trying to safeguard the basic truth that the grace of the sacraments is caused not by human forces but by God acting in and through Christ and the Church. We do not merit saving grace, it is pure gift of God.” But God has ordained that this grace be dispensed through the sacraments. This grace flows from the sacraments without the mediation of fiducial faith in the recipient.

In teaching the objective efficacy of the sacrament as causes of grace, the church does not intent to underplay the subjective disposition of the recipient namely faith, conscientious participation, holiness of life, etc so it is not enough, not to place an obstacle in the way, that is, not to be in mortal sin. Indeed, the Church calls for an active and conscientious participation in the sacred rites, and above all, for faith. Faith is the basic for every liturgical action of the Church. Faith is also the vital prerequisite for the reception of any sacrament, but the faith of individual is not the efficient cause of grace. God is the only author of grace. He is the principal cause of grace in the sacraments, but the sacraments are true instrumental cause of grace.

However no one should be misled to think that the sacraments work magically. This is not the teaching of the Church. Grace is a free gift of God who desires to save all peoples. e is not compelled by the use of rites to make his gifts available to us .

Efficacy ex opera operato

It is the teaching of the scholastics that the sacraments operate by the power of the completed sacramental rites (sacramenta operantur ex opera operato). The Reformers attacked this teaching while the Council of Trent endured and defended it in its canon 8 on the sacraments: “If any one says that through the sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred by the performance of the rites itself (ex opera operato) but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace, anathemasit .

The expression ex opera operato means, “from the work worked”, that is by the very fact of the actions being performed. It implies that sacramental grace is effected when the sacramental action are properly performed in virtue of the saving merit wrought by Christ through his passion. Indeed, it stresses that sacramental grace is the work of Christ and the Spirit and is therefore not depended on human power. So, the sacrament confers their grace in virtue of their divine origin and not because of the human disposition or trust in them. The grace of the sacrament is wrought neither by the righteousness of the celebrant nor of the recipient, but by the power of God who is at work through them. From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruit of the sacrament also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them. CCC 1128.

Does this imply that the minister should not prepare himself and be properly disposed for the administration of sacraments? The answer is an emphatic no. On the contrary, the minister since he handles holy things and stays in the presence of God, is called more than any other person to life of holiness. Thus, we read in Exodus 19:22 “Even the priest who come near Yahweh must¬†¬† purify himself lest Yahweh breaks out against them” (cf . Lev 19:2; 21:16; 1Pet 1:15-16) “As servant and representative of Christ, the minister is in conscience bound to minister the sacraments in a worthy manner that is in the state of grace …. The administration of the sacrament in the state of grievous sin is a sacrilege”

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