From the grape vine, it could be gathered that our faithful have lost the sense of the sacredness and the powers that are inherent in the sacraments of the Church, personally and principally instituted by Christ. We have forgotten that sacraments are real symbols that participate in what they symbolize. We have forgotten that in the sacraments, we gain the merits of the pascal mystery of Christ; that in the sacraments, we become contemporaries with the apostles of Christ in as much as we receive the same graces that our Lord Jesus Christ bestowed on them while he was on earth. No wonder it is sung (in Igbo) during the liturgy of the Eucharist; “Aja nke elu obe na aja nke altar bu otu ihe,”
Meanwhile, there must be something divinely significant about these sacraments upon which these powers are unavoidably inescapable and guaranteed to those who receive them worthily. It is against this backdrop that we say that the sacraments are Christological, pneumatological, ecclesiological and public.
SACRAMENTS ARE CHRISTOLOGICAL
When we say that sacraments are Christological, we mean that the sacraments are gifts of Christ to the church for the salvation of peoples. They issue from Christ who is the source of grace and the Saviour of mankind. They are riches accruing from the paschal mystery of Christ, since he achieved his task of redemption principally through his passion, death and resurrection. The catechism says, “ the mysteries of Christ’s life are the foundation of what he would henceforth dispense in the sacraments, through the ministers of his church, for what was visible in our Saviour has passed over into his mysteries” (CCC., NO . 1115). Indeed, sacraments are “powers that come forth” from the body of Christ which is ever loving and life giving. They are the action of the Holy Spirit at work in his body the Church. They are the ‘master work of God’, in the new and everlasting covenant.
Besides issuing from Christ, it is Christ who is present and acts in the sacrament through his spirit .He is present in the sacrifice of the mass both as the priest and the victim. By his power, he is present in the sacraments, so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. This is why liturgy is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Christ.
Most importantly, it is Christ who is encountered in the sacraments. The sacraments lead to Christ and foster and fortify the relationship with him, As efficacious signs, they communicate divine life for us.
THE SACRAMENTS ARE PNEUMATOLOGICAL
The word pneumatos is a Greek word; meaning spirit. That is to say that the sacraments are not mere rituals. They are rituals enegized by the spirit of Christ. Sacraments give life because spirit of God is active in them. The Church accomplishes activities through the power of the spirit present in her spouse, our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacraments are celebrated in the power of the spirit. In fact they are regarded as the action of the spirit.
THE SACRAMENTS ARE ECCLESIOLOGICAL
The sacraments are also ecclesiological in character. They are regarded as the acts of the church for they are entrusted to the church, and are carried out by the church on behalf of Christ. They are the expression and realization of the mission of the Church
Thus, the sacraments not only link us to Christ, they also relate us to the Church. So, baptism incorporates the recipient into Christ and makes him or her, child of God, and also a member of the Church. Confirmation imbues one with the Spirit, but it also prepares one to render service in the Church and with the Church. The Eucharist makes the recipient one with Christ, and it also makes the recipient one with every member of Christ’s body. This significance of the Sacrament comes out well in the theology of penance. In this Sacrament, one is reconciled both to God and to the Church. Even though the penitent, in serious matters, has made an act of perfect contrition, he or she is still required to resort to sacrament of confession, because that serious sin compromises the mission of the Church to be holy people. So, it is only by the virtue of this sacrament that one makes peace with the Church.
THE SACRAMENTS ARE PUBLIC
Sacraments are content of liturgy. Liturgy is about public, official worship of the church. Sacraments are not private celebration. The context of celebrating them is the context of the community of faith.
Following from the above, I wish to express the clarification that it is in the context of these defining characters that we are bold to affirm the unassuming powers of the Sacraments. These powers can only be confirmed with the eyes of faith. Not even by the aid of a microscope can we attest to the wonders of these Sacraments. But conscious of the fact that these Sacraments were personally and principally instituted by Christ (Christological) , empowered by his Spirit (pneumatological), administered by his bride, the Church (ecclesiological) and witnessed by his followers, the Christians (Public) then we resolve with great confidence ad certainty that there is no other means of salvation known to the church except through these sacraments.