Rites and Ceremonies
Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
In addition to these two widely practiced and sacred sacraments, some consider a handful of other rituals sacramental as well. In some churches, believers receive a "strengthening" blessing called confirmation at some time following their baptism. The sacrament of reconciliation, or confession, takes place when a repentant person confesses his or her sins in the presence of a priest, and is absolved. All denominations ordain vocational or professional ministers, and for some, ordination is a sacrament. Marriage is not only a civil contract but a sacrament, performed by the marrying couple before God, while the minister and congregation act as witnesses.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, a Christian who is close to death may receive the anointing of the sick, or extreme unction, from a priest who prays with the sick person while anointing them with oil. This sacrament is both an absolution of sin and a preparation for departure from this life, giving the sick person a sense of peace and confidence in God's mercy and salvation.
In the Christian view, death is a passage to the eternal life promised by Christ. The funeral rite combines the sorrow of loss with the joy and confidence Christians feel in the promise of the resurrection. At the funeral, Christians recall the brevity of life and the destiny of the soul, renewing their hope in the promise of resurrection and eternal life. While burial was the convention among Christians for many centuries, modern Christians may choose cremation as an alternative. Remembrance rituals include lighting a candle or saying prayers for the departed soul. Unlike some religions, Christians have no prescribed period of mourning for the dead.
The sacraments of the Christian churches are believed to be the visible or physical instruments of the delivery of God's grace, which is divine favor and divine love. Whether a tradition believes in many sacraments, or only a few, the goal of connecting the individual or community with God's grace is central to Christian worship and practice.
1. What is baptism? How did it originate?
2. What is the Eucharist? Why is there conflict about what happens within the blessed bread and wine?
3. Why is confirmation seen as a sacrament? Marriage?
4. Is death treated with a structured ritual? Explain.