INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION
THE RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND SACRAMENTS
IN THE SACRAMENTAL ECONOMY
THE RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND
SACRAMENTS IN THE SACRAMENTAL ECONOMY
1. FAITH AND SACRAMENTS: RELEVANCE AND ACTUALITY
1.1. The Divine Salvific Offer is Based on the Interrelationship between
Faith and Sacraments
1.2. Current Crisis of Reciprocity between Faith and Sacraments
a) Faith and Sacraments: A Reciprocity in Crisis
b) Purpose of the Document
2. DIALOGICAL NATURE OF THE SACRAMENTAL ECONOMY OF
2.1. The Trinitarian God: Source and End of the Sacramental Economy
a) Trinitarian Foundation of Sacramentality
b) Sacramentality of Creation and History
The Incarnation: Center, Summit, and Key to the Sacramental Economy
The Church and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy
e) The Axes of the Sacramental Economy
2.2. The Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments of Faith
a) Lights from the path of faith of the disciples
b) Modulations of Faith
c) Reciprocity between Faith-Sacraments
d) Dialogical Nature of the Sacraments
e) The Sacramental Organism
The Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy
2.3. CONCLUSION: Dynamisms of Faith and Sacramentality
RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND SACRAMENTS IN
3.1. Reciprocity between Faith and Baptism
a) Biblical Foundation
b) Faith and Adult Baptism
c) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for Adult Baptism
d) Faith and Baptism of Children
e) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for the Baptism of Children
3.2. Reciprocity between Faith and Confirmation
a) Biblical and Historical Foundation
b) Faith and Confirmation
c) Current Problems
d) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for Confirmation
3.3. Reciprocity between Faith and the Eucharist
a) Biblical Foundation
b) Faith and the Eucharist
c) Current Problems
d) Lights from the Tradition
e) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for the Eucharist
4. THE RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND MARRIAGE
4.1. The Sacrament of Marriage
a) Biblical Foundation
b) Lights from the Tradition
c) Marriage as a Sacrament
d) Faith and the Goods of Marriage
4.2. A Quaestio Dubia: The Sacramental Quality of the Marriage of the
a) Approach to the Question
b) The State and terms of the Question
4.3. The Intention and the Establishment of the Matrimonial Bond in the Absence of
The Intention is necessary for there to be a Sacrament
b) Predominant Cultural Understanding of Marriage
The absence of Faith can Compromise the Intention to Contract a Natural Marriage
CONCLUSION: THE RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND
SACRAMENTS IN THE SACRAMENTAL ECONOMY
In the course of its ninth quinquennial, which has been extended exceptionally
by one year due to the celebration of the Fiftieth anniversary of its
foundation, the International Theological Commission has been able to deepen its
study of the relationship between the Catholic faith and the sacraments. This
study was directed by a specific sub-commission, chaired by the Rev. Fr. Gabino
Uríbarri Bilbao, S.J., and composed of the following members: Msgr. Lajos
Dolhai, Fr. Peter Dubovský, S.J., Msgr. Krzysztof Góźdź, Fr. Thomas
Kollamparampil, C.M.I., Professor Marianne Schlosser, Rev. Oswaldo Martínez
Mendoza, Rev. Karl-Heinz Menke, Rev. Terwase Henry Akaabiam, and Fr. Thomas G.
Weinandy, O.F.M. Cap. The discussions on the subject in question, on the basis
of which the present document has been drafted, have taken place both during the
various meetings of the Sub-Commission and in the Plenary Sessions of the same
Commission, between the years 2014-2019. This document, entitled Reciprocity
between Faith and Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy, was specifically
approved by the majority of the members of the International Theological
Commission during the Plenary Session of 2019 through a written vote. The
document was then submitted for approval to its President, His Eminence Cardinal
Luis F. Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith, who, after having received the favorable opinion of the Holy Father
Pope Francis on December 19, 2019, has authorized its publication.
1. FAITH AND SACRAMENTS: RELEVANCE AND ACTUALITY
1.1. The Divine Salvific
Offer is Based on the Interrelationship between Faith and Sacraments
1. [Starting from Scripture]. “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in
peace and be cured of the disease” (Mk 5:34). In the midst of the crowd that pressed in on
him (Mk 5:24; 31), the hemorrhaging woman touches Jesus with faith and receives
a healing, as a symbol of the salvation that Jesus brings to humanity.
The case of the hemorrhaging woman shows how faith springs from “the encounter
with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive
direction.” Faith is located in
the sphere of interpersonal relationships. Many sick people tried to touch Jesus
(cf. Mk 3:10; 6:56), “for out of him came a power that healed them all” (Lk
6:19). However, in Nazareth he did not perform many miracles “because of their
lack of faith” (Mt 13:58), nor did he satisfy Herod’s curiosity (Lk 23:8). The
humanity of Jesus Christ is the effective channel of God’s salvation. However,
this efficacy does not have an automatic character; it requires an adequate
contact with it: humble, imploring, open to the gift.
All these attitudes lead to faith, as the most apt means to receive the offer of
salvation. “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God”
revealed in Jesus Christ. The sacraments of the Church prolong in time the works
of Christ during his earthly life. In them is actualized the healing power that
emanates from the body of Christ, which is the Church, to heal from the wound of
sin and to give new life in Christ.
2. [And from Tradition]. In the Trinitarian economy of salvation there is a
rich intertwining of faith and sacraments:
Faith and baptism are, however, two mutually inherent and inseparable modes of
salvation, for faith is in fact perfected through baptism, and baptism, for its
part, is founded through faith, and both attain their fullness through the same
names. For as we believe in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, so we
are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And
certainly the confession of faith goes forward, which introduces us into
salvation, but baptism follows, which seals our assent.
The personal relationship with the Triune God is realized through faith and the
sacraments. Between faith and the sacraments there is a mutual ordination and a
circularity, in a word: an essential reciprocity. However, as Basil testifies in
the above text, confession of faith precedes sacramental celebration, while
sacramental celebration secures, seals, strengthens and enriches faith. Yet
today, in pastoral practice, this interaction is often blurred or even ignored.
1.2. Current Crisis of Reciprocity between Faith
and Sacraments: A Reciprocity in Crisis
3. [Finding]. Already in 1977 the International Theological Commission,
referring to the sacrament of marriage, warned of the existence of “baptized non-believers”
who demand the sacrament of marriage. This fact, they said, raises profound “new
questions.” Since then, this
reality has not ceased to grow and to generate discomfort in the celebration of
the sacraments. Moreover, problem is not limited exclusively to the sacrament
of marriage, but embraces the entire sacramental economy. In particular, in
Christian initiation, where by its very nature the reciprocity between faith and
sacraments should be sealed, concern and uneasiness are often detected.
4. [Theological-philosophical roots]. Although the disassociation between
faith and sacraments is due to different factors, according to social and cultural
contexts, a look that does not want to remain on a superficial level must ask
itself about the ultimate roots of this fracture. First of all, beyond possible
shortcomings in catechesis and certain cultural unilateralism against
sacramental thinking, there is a deep-rooted philosophical factor that destroys
sacramental logic. An extended line of thought, starting from the Middle Ages
(nominalism) and reaching Modernity, is characterized by an anti-metaphysical
dualism that dissociates thinking from being and categorically rejects all kinds
of representative thought, as is the case today in post-modernity. This
perspective rejects the Creator’s imprint in creation, that is, that creation be
a mirror (sacramental image) of the Creator’s own thought. In this way, the
world no longer appears as a reality expressly ordered by God, but as a mere
chaos of facts, which man with his concepts has to order. Now, if human concepts
are no longer something like “sacraments” of the divine Logos, but mere human
constructions, then there is a further dissociation between the personal act of
faith (fides qua), and any shared conceptual representation of its
content (fides quae). In short, and as a decisive aspect, when the
capacity of reason to know the truth of being (metaphysics) is denied, the
inability to gain access to know God’s truth is being implied.
5. Secondly, scientific and technological knowledge, which is so prestigious today, tends to impose itself as a single model in all fields of knowledge and for all
kinds of objects. Its radical orientation towards certainty of an empirical and
naturalistic type is opposed not only to metaphysical knowledge, but also to
knowledge of a symbolic nature. While scientific knowledge emphasizes the
capacity of human reason, it does not exhaust all dimensions of reason or
knowledge, nor does it cover all cognitive needs for a full human life. Symbolic
thinking, with its richness and plasticity, on the one hand, collects and
elaborates reflectively the ethical and affective dimensions of experience; and,
on the other, touches and transforms the spiritual and cognitive structure of
the subject. For this reason, together with all the religious traditions of
humanity, the transmission of revelation, with its concomitant cognitive
content, is situated in the symbolic sphere, not in the empirical and
naturalistic sphere. The sacramental reality of participation in the mystery of
grace can only be understood in the unity of this double dimension of the
symbolic experience: cognitive and performative. Where the scientistic paradigm
reigns, which is blind to symbolic thought, sacramental thought is obstructed.
6. Thirdly, we must still point to a significant cultural change, proper to the new civilization of the image, which poses a new problem to the theological
clarification of sacramental faith. While it is true that rationalist modernity
minimized the cognitive value of the symbol, contemporary postmodernity
nevertheless exalts with great intensity the performative power of images. Thus,
it is necessary to overcome the rationalist (modern) prejudice against the
cognitive value of the symbolic, without falling into the opposite (postmodern)
excess, which reduces the effectiveness of the symbol towards the emotional
power of representation, empty of reference. In other words, Christian
intelligence must preserve the originality of the Christian sacrament from the
risk of double emptying. On the one hand, there is a danger of reducing the
symbol-sacrament to the status of a mere cognitive sign that just easily gathers
the doctrinal meanings of the faith, without operating any transformation
(elimination of the performative dimension of the symbol-sacrament). On the
other hand, there is a danger of reducing the symbol-sacrament to the pure
aesthetic suggestion carried out by means of its ritual staging, according to
the logic of a mere representation that replaces the interior adherence to the
symbolized reality of the mystery (suppression of the cognitive dimension).
7. [Distortions of Faith]. In today’s societies there are other phenomena
that make it difficult to believe, as proposed by the Catholic faith. Atheism and the
relativization of the value of all religions are advancing in many parts of the
planet. Secularism erodes faith, and sows doubt, instead of fertilizing the joy
of believing. The rise of the technocratic paradigm
inserts a logic contrary to faith, which is a personal relationship. The
emotional reduction of faith produces a subjective belief, regulated by the
subject himself, which moves away from the objective logic marked by the
contents of the Christian faith. This culture of scientism, already mentioned,
tends to deny the possibility of a personal relationship with God and his
capacity to intervene in one’s personal life and history. The objectivity of the
Creed and the stipulation of conditions for the celebration of the sacraments
are understood, according to an increasing cultural sensitivity, as a coercion
of the freedom to believe according to one’s own conscience, managing an
insufficient conception of the freedom one intends to defend. From this type of
premise, there is a kind of belief or way of believing that does not fit into
the Christian conception or correlate with the sacramental practice that the
8. [Pastoral Failures]. In the post-Vatican II period, there have also been
some widespread attitudes among the faithful and pastors that have actually weakened
the healthy reciprocation between faith and sacraments. Thus, the pastoral
approach of evangelization has sometimes been understood as if it did not
include sacramental pastoral care, thus losing the balance between the Word of
God, evangelization and the sacraments. Others have not grasped that the primacy
of charity in the Christian life does not imply contempt for the sacraments.
Some pastors have focused their ministry on community building, neglecting the
decisive place of the sacraments for that purpose in this endeavor. In some
places, there has been a lack of theological evaluation and pastoral
accompaniment of popular Catholic piety in order to help it to grow in faith and
thus achieve full Christian initiation and frequent sacramental participation.
Finally, many Catholics have come to the idea that the substance of faith lies
in living the Gospel, despising the ritual as alien to the heart of the Gospel
and, consequently, ignoring that the sacraments impel and strengthen the intense
living of the Gospel itself. The need for an adequate articulation of
martyria, leitourgia, diakonia and koinonia is
therefore pointed out.
9. [Consequence]. Not infrequently, pastoral agents receive the request for
the reception of the sacraments with great doubts about the faith intention of those who
demand them. Many others believe that they can live their faith fully without
sacramental practice, which they consider optional and freely available. With
different but widespread accents, there is a certain danger: either ritualism
devoid of faith for lack of interiority or by social custom and tradition; or
danger of a privatization of the faith, reduced to the inner space of one’s own
conscience and feelings. In both cases the reciprocity between faith and
sacraments is harmed.
Purpose of the Document
10. [Purpose of the Document]. We intend to highlight the essential
reciprocity between faith and sacraments, showing the mutual implication between faith and
sacraments in the divine economy. In this way we hope to contribute to overcoming the fracture between faith and
sacraments wherever it occurs, in its double aspect: whether it is a faith that
is not aware of its essential sacramentality; or whether it is a sacramental
praxis carried out without faith or whose vigor raises serious questions
regarding the faith and the intention according to faith that the practice of
the sacraments requires. In both cases, sacramental practice and logic, situated
at the heart of the Church, suffer a serious and troubling injury.
11. [Structure]. We take as our starting point the sacramental nature of the
divine economy in which both faith and
the sacraments are inserted (chapter 2). We elaborate an intellection of the
economy that includes simultaneously: the divine economy as such in its
Trinitarian, Christological, Pneumatological, ecclesial and dialogical (faith)
unfolding; the place in it, thus understood, of faith and of the sacraments; and
the reigning reciprocity between faith and the sacraments that derives from it.
This understanding constitutes the theological background from which the
specific problem of the interrelationship between faith and sacraments will be
approached in each of the sacraments that will be dealt with later. This chapter
illustrates that a celebration of a sacrament without faith is meaningless,
because it contradicts the sacramental logic that underpins the divine economy,
which is constitutively dialogical.
12. This will be followed by the incidence of reciprocity between faith and
sacraments on some of the sacraments most pastorally affected by the crisis of this
reciprocity, either in their understanding or in practice, as are the sacraments
of Christian initiation (chapter 3). In light of the doctrinal elucidation of
the specific role of faith for the validity and fruitfulness of each sacrament,
we offer criteria for elucidating what faith is needed for the celebration of
each of the sacraments of initiation. In a further step (chapter 4), we address
the interrelationship between faith and sacraments in the case of marriage. By
its very nature, we dwell on a question that the reciprocity between faith and
sacraments could not ignore: the elucidation of whether the marriage union
between “baptized non-believers” is to be considered a sacrament. This is a
particular case, in which the articulation of the reciprocity between faith and
sacraments in the economy is truly put to the test, as the second chapter
maintains. It ends with a brief conclusion (chapter 5), in which, on a more
general level, the reciprocity between faith and sacraments in the sacramental
economy is taken up again.
13. [Doctrinal Character]. The intent of the document is clearly doctrinal.
It is certainly based on a pastoral problem, differentiated for each of the sacraments dealt
with. However, it is not intended to offer specific or grounded pastoral tracks
for each of them. We wish to insist on the fundamental place of faith in the
celebration of each sacrament, without leaving out the doctrinal precision on
the case of the faith necessary for validity. From this, some general criteria
for pastoral action can be extracted, as we do at the end of the treatment of
each one of the sacraments considered, but without going into details, much less
enter into casuistry or make up for the necessary discernment of each particular
14. [Choosing]. We are aware that the pastoral situation around other
sacraments, such as penance and the anointing of the sick, also suffer from serious deficiencies.
Not infrequently, full participation in the Eucharist is sought without any
awareness of the need for prior reconciliation with God and the ecclesial
community, from which we have been separated by our sin and which we have
damaged in its reality as the visible Body of Christ. There is dissociation
between the Eucharistic life and the practice of reconciliation on the part of
many faithful and even of some ordained ministers, ignoring in the practice of
their Christian faith the harmonious unity of the whole sacramental organism of
the Church, where it is not possible to choose subjectively which
sacraments to “consume” and which to forego. The anointing of the sick is also
often experienced surrounded by magical elements, as if it were a kind of spell
invoking a miraculous intervention of God or of the divine Spirit, without a
personal relationship with Christ, Savior of the person, both of his body and of
his soul. The limits of space force us to concentrate on those sacraments that
make up Christian initiation and marriage, all of exceptional importance in
building and strengthening the Body of Christ. The way in which these
sacraments are approached, as well as the isolated allusions to the rest and the
general theological framework that is offered will allow us to draw consequences
for those sacraments that we cannot consider monographically.
DIALOGICAL NATURE OF THE SACRAMENTAL ECONOMY OF SALVATION
15. [Introduction: plan and objective]. In this chapter we make a double
general incursion in order to discern the existing reciprocity between faith and
sacraments. In the first section, we consider the divine economy, discovering in
it a sacramental nature. This
allows us to deepen our understanding of sacramentality as a constitutive
dimension of it. The treatment of sacramentality as such requires, by itself, a
deepening of faith, thus highlighting the interconnectedness between faith and
sacramentality and also, and more concretely, between faith and sacraments. We
conclude this section with a recapitulation of the constitutive axes of the
sacramental economy most featured in our exposition. This illuminates, in a
first step, the reciprocity between faith and sacraments. In the second section,
we pause to consider faith, on the one hand, and the sacraments of faith as
such, on the other hand, showing, however, in both cases the intimate reigning
connection between faith and sacraments. Faith is constitutively predisposed
towards the sacramental celebration. The dialogical nature of the sacraments
calls for an adequate faith in their celebration. Both sections of this chapter
have a complementary tenor, which allows us to show both the breadth and depth
of the reciprocity between faith and sacraments, with their various
ramifications. The chapter closes with a brief conclusion.
2.1. The Trinitarian God: Source and End of the
Trinitarian Foundation of Sacramentality
16. [Sacramentality: concept]. To sacramental logic belongs the inseparable
correlation between a significant reality, with a visible external dimension, e.g. Christ’s
whole humanity, and another meaning of a supernatural, invisible, sanctifying
character, e.g. Christ’s divinity.
When we speak of sacramentality we refer to this inseparable relationship, in
such a way that the sacramental symbol contains and communicates the symbolized
reality. This presupposes that every sacramental reality includes in itself an
inseparable relationship with Christ, the source of salvation, and with the
Church, the depository and dispenser of Christ’s salvation.
17. [Triune God: root]. The understanding of sacramental logic presupposes an understanding of how the divine economy of salvation operates, which springs
from the Trinitarian God, the communion of distinct persons in the unity of a
single divine substance, and from the redemptive incarnation, in which the
eternal Word, without detriment to his unrestricted divinity, assumes our
humanity with all its consequences. This framework clearly affirms the presence
of God Himself in the humanity of Jesus Christ, the Word sent by the Father, who
became incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit. The
encounter with the humanity of Jesus Christ, anointed by the Holy Spirit for his
public mission, is, through faith, an encounter with the Incarnate Word. It is
with these keys that we understand how it is possible for a sensible,
sacramental word, perceptible by us humans, to be simultaneously the true
word of God. Human persons are only capable of perceiving, experiencing
and communicating in the “human” way, also in order to enter into a relationship
with God. How can the sacramental signs or sacred words of Scripture be more
than mere human creations and contain the presence of God himself? In
order for there to be true communication, it is not enough to send out a
message; reception is needed. If God the Father had spoken to us in Jesus Christ
and no one had listened to his message (faith), communication between God and
humanity would not have taken place. However, according to the New Testament
testimony, whoever enters into relationship with the man Jesus relates to God
himself, to the Word incarnate. It is the Holy Spirit who works in such a
way that the Word of God, enclosed in the limitation of the humanity of
Jesus, is perceived by believers as the Word of God. Gregory of Nazianzus
formulates this reality thus: "From the light that is the Father, we understand
the Son in the light, this is in the Holy Spirit". And he adds: "brief and
simple theology of the Trinity.”
18. [Faith as a Dialogical Reception of Sacramental Revelation]. Thus, not
only does the inseparability of Jesus' humanity with the Word of God come into play, but also
the reception by believers (faith) of this Word as divine through the
intervention of the Holy Spirit. Herein lies the sacramental logic, through
which God himself gives himself in the sacraments. The primary
sacramentality of Jesus Christ that derived from the Church and that of the
seven sacraments are founded on the Trinitarian faith. Only if Jesus Christ is
true God can he reveal to us the face of God. But in that case, sacramental
communion with Jesus Christ is sacramental communion with God. If the Holy
Spirit is true God, then he can open us to God and introduce us into the divine
life through the sacramental signs.
19. [Deployment of Sacramentality]. Since revelation happens in a sacramental
way, the sacramental element must permeate all believing existence and faith itself. In
fact, the sacramentality of revelation, of grace and of the Church is followed
by the sacramentality of faith, as a welcome and response to this revelation (DV
5). Faith is generated, cultivated, grows and expresses itself in
sacramentality, in that encounter with the living God through the means by which
He gives Himself. Thus, sacramentality is the home of faith. But
in this dynamic faith also manifests itself as the door (cf. Acts 14:27)
of access to the sacramental: to the encounter and relationship with the
Christian God in creation, in history, in the Church, in Scripture,
in the sacraments. Without faith, the symbols of a sacramental nature do not
actualize their meaning, but they are muted. Sacramentality implies personal
communication and communion between God and the believer through the Church and
20. [Correlation of Sacramentality with Anthropology]. The human person is an
incarnate spirit. We human beings are
neither mere inanimate matter nor an angelic incorporeal spirit. What most
authentically defines us is that complementary union between the
material-corporeal, visible, and the spiritual-incorporeal, which is not
detached from the material and is made known through it. The case of the
personal face, which is the expression of a material body, magnificently
manifests this union between our material being, the face, and our spiritual
reality, state of mind and personal identification. The face expresses the whole
person. The sacramental structure of divine revelation keeps in mind our most
authentic reality. It suits our
most radical being, our capacity and our way of interrelating in the deepest
dimensions of communication. The deepest encounters between human persons are
always interpersonal in nature. The encounter with God participates in this
nature: it is a personal encounter with the Trinitarian God who makes
himself present in Scripture, in the Church, and in the sacramental signs.
21. [Sacramentality of Faith]. The “sacramentality of faith” basically
repeats what has already been said about the Christian faith, because all Christian faith is
sacramental faith thanks to the mediation of the Church as we make our
pilgrimage to the heavenly homeland. Faith is the reception and response to
God's sacramental revelation; and faith expresses itself and nourishes itself in
a sacramental way, not being able not to do so in order to be a true Christian
faith. From this perspective, the sacraments are basically understood as
an act of ecclesial faith. The faith of the Church precedes,
generates, sustains and nourishes that of the Christian. Faith, for its
part, is not alien to the sacramental, but is constituted in its very essence by
a sacramental impregnation and logic. Therefore, in the relationship between
faith and sacraments, two elements come into play which are intimately
reciprocal: the sacraments, which presuppose and nourish personal and ecclesial
faith; and the necessary sacramental expression of faith. The sacraments,
therefore, are configured as a kind of anamnestic representation that
updates and makes the faith visible.
Sacramentality of Creation and History
22. [God the Creator]. According to the biblical witness, creation (e.g. Gen
1-2) is the first step of the divine economy. Christian understanding holds the free
character of creation. God does not create out of necessity or lack of
something, if it were so, he would not be God in truth; but because of the
overflowing fullness of love that He Himself is, in order to distribute its
benefits to beings capable of receiving them and responding from the loving
logic that presides over creation itself.
23. [Sacramentality of Creation]. The Father realizes the creative design
through the Word and the Spirit. For this reason, creation itself contains the
trace of having been shaped by the Word and being directed by the Spirit towards
its completion in the same God. As God shapes his mark on creation, theology
speaks of a certain "sacramentality of creation", in an analogical sense,
inasmuch as, in itself, in its own constitutive creatural being, there is a
reference to its Creator (cf. Wis 13:1-9; Rom 1:19-20; Acts 14:15-17; 17:27-28),
which allows it to be later elevated and consummated in the redemptive work
without any forced extrinsic imposition. In this sense it has been spoken of the
book of nature.
24. [Human Person: Responds to God]. Within visible creation, the human
person stands out for having been created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). St.
Paul underlines the Christological dimension of this image: it is Christ who is
the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4), since the first Adam was
the figure of the one who was to come (cf. Rom 5:14). This makes the human
person a being in whom God's self-giving in creation can find a personal and
free response. For in the image of God, the human person also more intensely
realizes his own being (identity) the more he gives himself in a relationship of
25. The rich reality of the human person as imago Dei includes various
aspects, in which, through divine likeness, the capacity to respond to God is highlighted,
assimilating his being to the divine.
Among them, communion and service stand out.
If the Trinitarian God is essentially communion and interpersonal relationship,
the human person, as the image of God, has been created to live in communion and
interpersonal relationship. This is magnificently expressed in the sexual
difference: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created
him, male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). Hence the human person
attains his own being insofar as he unfolds his relationality and his capacity
for communion: with other human beings, with creation and with God. In Jesus
Christ the exercise of this dynamic of communion and relationship shines forth
in its fullness. The filial life which is shown in him manifests the height of
the human vocation (cf. GS 10, 22, 41).
26. As a relational being and created for communion the human person can be defined
by language. Now, language is a reality of symbolic order, which points, on the one
hand, to the expression of what reality is of its own (God's creation), and, on
the other, to interpersonal communication (communion). As a symbolic being,
created in the image of God, the person attains his most authentic reality
insofar as he inscribes the realization of his being in a specific sphere of
symbolic expression, in which all the richness of his own being is unfolded: as
a creatural being, as an interpersonal being and as being called to communion
with God. The sacraments faithfully and efficiently gather,express, develop and
strengthen this rich framework.
27. As an eloquent sign of his dignity and friendship with God, man is also charged
with exercising delegated government over creation (Gen 2:15; cf. 1:28; Wis 9:2),
naming all other creatures (Gen 2:19-20) and taking care of them according to
God's plan. For this reason,
human activity in the world is directed towards the glorification of God,
recognizing in it the mark of the Creator (cf. GS 34). In this way, the human
person leads creation through a kind of "cosmic priesthood" towards its true
purpose: the manifestation of the glory of God.
28. [Sacramentality of History]. God's desire to communicate his gifts is not
restricted to leaving the imprint of his love in creation. The story of the people of Israel
as a whole can be properly viewed as a story of God's love for his people.
Within this history some special events stand out that prefigure essential
aspects, which found the sacramental relationship of God with his people, which
will reach its culmination with Christ. In all of them there is a visible
perceptibility of the way God relates to his people, gracing them. Thus, a sort
of first grammar for the later constitution of the sacramental language sensu
stricto is discovered in them. Among these events, of which we can make a
sacramental reading, are found: the choice of Abraham, of David and the
Israelites, and the gift of the Law, which will become the basis of every
sacramental discourse; the many alliances, within the one divine design, in
which a new relationship is established between God and humanity, and in which
sacramentality is at work in a special way; the liberation of Israel from Egypt,
the exile and the return to Jerusalem, in which the future salvation of Christ
is anticipated in a new way, as the sacramental function of the Church is
represented in figure (typos); the presence of God in the midst of his
people in the Tabernacle and in the Temple, which will acquire a particular
density in Christ and the Christian sacraments. Israel will remember and
actualize liturgically this density of God's presence through different cultic
rites (e.g. sacrifices), sacred signs (e.g. circumcision), and feasts (e.g.
Passover), always illuminated by the reading of the Word. Christian theology
designates these realities as sacraments of the Old Law and attributes to them a
salvific character by their reference to Christ
and in proportion to the faith of those who celebrated them (ex opere
operantis). Therefore, it is discovered that salvation history itself
possesses a certain sacramental nature.
Through historical events, signs and words, closely linked, God himself comes
close to his people and communicates to them his will, his love, his
predilection, at the same time as he shows them the way of friendship with God
and the truest human life.
29. [Sin]. Throughout history, many believers of all times have lived in
friendship with God, accepting his gift and responding generously to God’s mercy and
faithfulness. However, it is also true that, despite God's insistence, men do
not always accept this offer of love. From the beginning, not only is there the
temptation to ignore the path of friendship with God, as the best means of
realizing what it means to be a human person, but his offer is also rejected
(Gen 3). The history of Israel, and that of humanity, can be understood as an
eager search for God to conquer again the cordial friendship with man when it
has been lost (e.g. Ez 16). From this we can understand the profound sense that
many of the cultural signs of the Old Testament salvific order contain a meaning
of expiation or reconciliation with God (e.g. ablutions, sacrifices).
The Incarnation: Center, Summit, and Key to the Sacramental Economy
30. [Jesus Christ: Ur-Sakrament]. God’s desire to give Himself acquires its unsurpassable summit in Jesus Christ (cf. DV 2). By virtue of this hypostatic
union (cf. DH 301-302), the humanity of Christ, true man, “in all things like
unto us, save in sin” (Heb 4:15), is the humanity of the Son of God, of the
eternal Word incarnate “for us and for our salvation” (DH 150). Recent theology
affirms that Jesus Christ is the primary sacrament (Ur-Sakrament) and the
key to the sacramental structure of salvation history. In synthesis, in Jesus
Christ we discover that the divine economy of salvation,
because it is incarnational, is sacramental. For this reason it can be truly affirmed that “the sacraments are at the center
of Christianity. The loss of the sacraments is equivalent to the loss of the
incarnation and vice versa.”
For in Jesus Christ, as the summit of history and the fullness of time (Gal
4:4), there is the closest possible unity between a creatural symbol, its
humanity, and what is symbolized, the saving presence of God in his Son in the
midst of history. Christ’s humanity, as humanity inseparable from the divine
person of the Son of God, is a “real symbol” of the divine person. In this
supreme case, the created communicates to the highest degree the presence of
31. [The Humanity of the Glorious Crucified One: Foundation of the Sacraments]. Consequently, Christ’s humanity is intrinsically empowered to be the “mediator
and fullness of all revelation” (DV 2), in a way that is qualitatively
insurmountable with regard to any other creatural reality, since it is the
humanity proper to the Son of God (cf. Heb 1:1-2). That to which creation
inchoatively pointed is realized in an eminent way in the humanity of Jesus
Christ. All the actions and words of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word incarnate,
anointed by the Spirit, are qualified by the incarnation. In such a way that
through his words and deeds, and the manifestation of his whole person, he
transmits to us the revelation of God (cf. DV 4). Thus Jesus Christ himself is
the mystery of God transmitted and revealed to men (cf. Col 2:2-3; 1:27; 4:3),
present in the various salvific mysteries of his life: birth, baptism,
transfiguration, etc. Now the unfolding of the mystery of Christ reaches its
summit in the glorious death and resurrection, to which the gift of the Spirit
continues (cf. DV 4). There the revelation of God's love to the end (cf. Jn
13:1) and its redeeming power are condensed with a sublime and insurmountable
intensity. The result is the forgiveness of sin (cf. Col 2:13-14) and the
openness to participate in the eternal life of the Risen One, through the gift
of the Spirit who makes us sharers in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pt 1:4). Thus we
understand that Jesus Christ concentrates the foundation and the source of all
sacramentality, which then unfolds in the different sacramental signs that
generate the Church, where there are gathered unique aspects and dense moments
of his life: forgiveness of sins (Penance), healing of the sick (Anointing of
the Sick), death and resurrection (Baptism and Eucharist), election and
institution of disciples as pastors of the community (Orders), and so on. The
sacramental logic, inscribed in the Trinitarian revelation, is prolonged and
condensed in the sacraments, in which Christ makes himself present in a
particularly intense way (SC 7). The sacramental structure and logic of faith
hang on Jesus Christ, the Incarnate and redeeming Word.
32. Indeed, Jesus does not simply communicate to us something important about God.
He is not simply a teacher, a messenger, or a prophet, but the
personal presence of God’s Word in creation. Since he as true man is
inseparable from God, whom he calls “Father,” communion with him means communion
with God (Jn 10:30; 14:6, 9). The Father wants to lead all men through the Holy
Spirit to communion with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is, at the same time, the
way that leads to life and life itself (Jn 14:6); in other words: “He is, at the
same time, the Savior and Salvation.”
With the sacraments of the Word celebrated in the Spirit, especially with the
memorial of his death and resurrection, we are offered a way and a remedy after
the loss of sin, to attain communion and personal relationship with God through
participation in the life of Christ, inserting ourselves in Him. Thus, the work
of salvation is accomplished, which completes and culminates its beginning with
creation. However, God makes the acceptance of this gift dependent on the
cooperation of the recipients. As the case of Our Lady, the ecclesial model
of the disciple, shows, grace respects freedom, it is not imposed in a coercive
way without the consent of freedom (Lk 1:38), even if assent is made possible by
grace itself (Lk 1:28).
Church and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy
33. [The Church: Grund-Sakrament]. The historical tangibility of grace, which
has historically been made present in Jesus Christ, remains privileged, but derived,
through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
To the being of the Church belongs a visible and historical structure, at the
service of the transmission of invisible grace, which she herself receives from
Christ and transmits thanks to the Spirit. There is a remarkable analogy between
the Church and the Incarnate Word (cf. LG 8; SC 2).From these premises,
contemporary theology has deepened the understanding of the Church as
fundamental sacrament (Grund-Sakrament), in a line close to the
understanding of Vatican II of the Church as the universal sacrament of
salvation. As a sacrament, the
Church is at the service of the salvation of the world (LG 1; GS 45), at the
service of the transmission of grace whose reception has made it a sacrament.
Sacramentality always has a missionary character, of service for the good of
34. Now, also as a sacrament, in the Church itself there is already a perceptibility
of God's grace, of the irruption of the Kingdom of God. Thus, if on the one hand
the Church is at the service of the establishment of the Kingdom of God; on the
other hand, the presence of the Kingdom of Christ in mystery is already present
in her (LG 3). Endowed with these means of grace, she can truly be the germ and
the beginning of the kingdom
(LG 5). As a pilgrim and made up of sinners, there is no total identification
between the Church and the Kingdom of God; as a reality constituted by grace, it
possesses an eschatological dimension, culminating in the heavenly Church and
the communion of saints (cf. LG
35. [The Church: Christological and Pneumatological Reality]. As creatures
who abide in the Trinity, that is, “the people united” within the unity of the Father, of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
the Church not only maintains an intimate relationship with the Incarnate Word,
to the point of being able to affirm with truth that it is the Body of Christ
(cf. LG 7), but also with the Holy Spirit. And this is the case not only because
the Spirit, the great gift of the Risen One (cf. Jn 7:39; 14:26; 15:26; 20:22),
works in her constitution (cf. LG 4), dwells in her and in the faithful as in a
temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), unifies it and generates the missionary dynamism
inherent in it (cf. Acts 2:4-13); but also because the Church is a spiritual,
pneumatic people (cf. LG 12), enriched by the various gifts that the Spirit
gives to the faithful for the good of the whole community (cf. Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor
12:12-30; 1 Pt 4:10). These charismatic gifts lead to a particular
appropriation of the richness of the Word of God and of sacramental grace,
strengthening the community and promoting its mission (cf. AA 3), in short:
strengthening the sacramentality of the Church.
36. [Sacramental Continuity of the Salvific Order]. The salvation that was
historically offered in Jesus Christ continues in the Church (cf. Lk 10:16), the Body of
Christ, through life-giving sacraments, thanks to the action of the Spirit;
“what was visible in Christ has passed into the sacraments” of the Church.
The Catholic Church holds that the seven sacraments have been instituted by
Christ, since only he can
authoritatively unite effectively the gift of his saving grace to certain signs.
This affirmation emphasizes that the sacraments are not an ecclesial creation,
and the Church cannot change their substance,
but that they are based on the event Christ took as a whole: Incarnation, Life,
Death and Resurrection. The institution of the sacraments gathers meaning from
the Incarnation and proclaims it (cf. §§ 30-32), for they specify
characteristics of Jesus’s humanity, the unfolding of the mysteries of his human
life which culminate in Easter, for here Jesus gives himself fully as the source
of all graces, beginning with the gift of the Spirit. The Church is enlightened
by the Spirit which she received at Pentecost and is encouraged by the
celebration of the Eucharist (cf. PO 5), which is the source and summit of the
Christian life (SC 10; LG 11). The Church has recognized that the sacramental
gift of Christ is eminently continued in the seven sacramental signs which go
back to the same Christ in different ways,
while maintaining that divine grace is not limited exclusively to the seven
37. [Sacramental Grace and non-Christians]. The Church affirms that the
grace that justifies and gives salvation is given and, therefore, true faith is also given
outside the visible Church, but not independently of Jesus (primordial
sacrament) and the church (fundamental sacrament). The action of the Holy Spirit
is not limited to the limits of the visible Church, but "its presence and action
are universal, without any limit of space or time.”
Non-Christian religions may contain aspects of truth and may be the means and
indirect signs of the spiritual grace of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean
that they are salvific paths parallel to Christ or independent of Christ and his
38. [Sacramental Grace and Faith]. In short, the Word of God, creative and
effective, has created the interpersonal language of the sacramental words, which are the
sacraments; words in which the Word continues to act thanks to the Spirit. In
the words that the minister pronounces in the name of the Church, e.g. "I
baptize you", the Risen Christ continues to speak and act.
Since the sacraments make possible today by the Spirit a personal relationship
with the dead and risen Lord, they have no meaning without such a relationship,
which is condensed in the word “faith.”
39. [Sacraments: Supreme Exercise of Ecclesial Sacramentality]. The
fundamental sacramentality of the Church is exercised in a privileged way and with special
intensity in the celebration of the sacraments. The sacraments always have an
ecclesial nature: in them the Church puts her own being at stake, at the service
of the transmission of the saving grace of the risen Christ, through the
assistance of the Spirit. Therefore, each and every sacrament is an
intrinsically ecclesial act. According to the Fathers, the sacraments are always
celebrated in the faith of the Church, since they have been entrusted to the
Church. In each and every sacrament, the faith of the Church precedes the faith
of the singular faithful. It is, in fact, a personal exercise of the ecclesial
faith. Therefore, without participation in the ecclesial faith, such symbolic
acts become mute, inasmuch as faith opens the door to the operative sacramental
40. [Sacramentals]. Ecclesial sacramentality is not only embodied in the
sacraments. There is another series of sacramental realities that form part of the life and
faith of the Church, among which Sacred Scripture stands out. For Christian
piety, of great importance are the so-called sacramentals, which are sacred
signs, created according to the model of the sacraments. Sacramentals dispose
towards the sacraments and sanctify the various circumstances of life (SC 60).
What is proper to the sacraments is that in them there is an authorized and sure
ecclesial commitment to the transmission of the grace of Christ, provided that
all the requirements are fulfilled. In the sacramentals, however, one cannot
speak of an efficacy similar to that of the sacraments. In them, there is a preparation for the reception of grace and a disposition to
cooperate with it, not an efficacy ex opere operato (cf. § 65), exclusive
of the sacraments. Thus, while the water of baptism produces the effect of
forgiveness of sins in the womb of the sacramental celebration, holy water,
remembrance of baptism, does not cause an effect by itself, but in the measure
in which it is received with faith, for example when crossing oneself at the
entrance to the temple.
e) The Axes of the Sacramental Economy
41. Systematizing the main results of our journey, we can establish the following fundamental points:
a) The divine Trinitarian economy, because it is incarnational, is sacramental.
Since the economy is sacramental in nature, the seven sacraments instituted by
Christ, guarded and celebrated by the Church, are of capital importance within
b) The sacramentality of the divine economy refers to faith. It is through faith
that this sacramentality is grasped and inhabited. The perception of
sacramentality through faith is closely linked to: the Incarnation, through
which the divine plan is made visible in a historical and tangible way; the Holy
Spirit, who perpetuates the gifts of Christ by transmitting saving grace through
sacramental symbols; the Church, a visible and historical institution which,
having received the sacramental gifts, continues to celebrate them in order to
nourish and strengthen the faith of the faithful.
c) Jesus Christ instituted the sacraments and gave them to his Church so that the
mysteries of faith would be represented in a visible way. The believer who
participates in these mysteries receives the gifts that are represented in them.
Consequently, the transmission of faith implies not only the communication of
doctrinal contents of an intellectual character, but also, and together with
them, the existential insertion into the frame of the sacramental economy, which
Lumen fidei has masterfully described:
“But what is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living
Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the living God, a light
that touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and
emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion with God and with
others. There is a special means for passing down this fullness, a means capable
of engaging the entire person, body and spirit, interior life and relationship
with others. It is the sacraments, celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. They
communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives,
linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a
living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationships. While the
sacraments are indeed sacraments of faith [cf. SC 59], it can also be said that
faith itself possesses a sacramental structure. The awakening of faith is linked
to the dawning of a new sacramental sense of the life of man and of Christian
existence, in which visible and material is open to the mystery of the
d) The structuring of the sacramental economy is dialogical. Faith represents the
moment of the graceful response of the human person to the gift of God. There is
an essential reciprocity between faith and sacramentality, in a general way, and
between faith and sacraments, in a specific way.
e) The dialogical nature (faith) of the economy implies a series of significant
consequences when it comes to understanding theologically and pastorally
offering each of the different sacraments. From the previous statements, it can
be argued with good foundation that effective sacraments without faith would
suppose a mere causal mechanism. Without faith, it would suppose something alien
to the realm of the relations between the Trinitarian God and men, which are of
a dialogical and interpersonal nature. Effective sacraments without faith would
also suppose an action of a magical type, alien to the Christian faith and to
the sacramental logic of the economy; it would also suppose a conception of God,
incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which does not take into account that the
same divine gift contains the grace which enables the creature to consent and
collaborate with divine action in the measure proper to the creature. In other
words: since the Trinitarian economy as sacramental is dialogical, it is not
possible to understand the action of grace that is given in them according to
the model of a kind of sacramental automatism.
The Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments of Faith
Lights from the path of faith of the disciples
42. [Growth of Faith]. Peter, as spokesman for the disciples, in response to
Jesus’s question, formulates a confession of faith: “You are the Christ” (Mk 8:29 and
par.). However, Peter had to mature this initial faith because when Jesus begins
to explain that he is a Messiah after the manner of the suffering Son of man, a
Messiah who will be crucified, Peter rejects him and Jesus harshly reproaches
him (Mk 8:31-33). Thus, Peter had to realize a path of growth in faith,
combining his unconditional adherence to Jesus as Christ with the knowledge of
the doctrinal aspects that this adherence implied. This not only concerns Peter,
but reflects the reality of each believer. The apostles themselves show us the
way with their petition to the Lord; “Increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). Paul warns
about this gradual growth and counts on it, since it refers to “the measure of
faith which God has given to each one” (Rom 12:3; cf. 12:6). He also admonishes
the Christians of Corinth, whom he is to treat as “children in Christ,” giving
them “milk” instead of solid food (cf. 1 Cor 3:1-2). The letter to the Hebrews
echoes this difference by speaking to members of the Christian community (cf.
Heb 5:11-14). Going beyond the basic rudiments of Christian doctrine and faith,
solid food is directed to believers who in their Christian lives exercise
discernment of good and evil, to those whose entire existence is illuminated by
the light of faith.
43. The disciples and other admirers of Jesus, the crowd, captured something special
in the figure of Jesus before Passover. In particular, in the context of healings
we are told of a “faith.” The phenomenology we find is quite varied: Jesus
performs miracles without express mention of faith (e.g. Mk 1:14-45; 3:1-6;
6:33-44); thanks to the faith of petitioners who intercede on behalf of another
person (Mk 2:5; Lk 7:28-29); in spite of a faith that considers itself scarce
(Mk 9:24); or precisely, thanks to faith (Mk 5:34). The disciples are encouraged
in many ways to grow in faith (Mt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20), in faith in
God and in his power (Mk 12:24) and in understanding the unique position of
Jesus in God’s plan (Jn 14:1).
44. The death of Jesus put this initial adhesion of the disciples to the test. They
all dispersed and fled (Mk 14:50). The women who went to the tomb very early in the
morning intended to anoint the corpse (Mk 16:1-2). However, with the novelty of
the resurrection and the gift of the promised Spirit (Jn 14:16-17, 26), the
faith of the disciples is strengthened, to the point that they will be able to
initiate others and strengthen them in their faith (Jn 21:15-18; Lk 22:32).
Pentecost marks the pinnacle of the disciples’ journey of faith. Not only do
they fully adhere to Jesus, dead and risen, as the Lord and Son of the living
God, but they become bold witnesses, full of parresia, able to speak of God’s
deeds and transmit faith in all languages thanks to the Spirit. Now they will be
witnesses, even martyrs, proclaiming Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah,
Son of the living God, Lord of the living and the dead. In this figure of
faith, the believing adherence to Jesus includes the doctrinal content of the
resurrection and the unfolding of its meaning. According to the sources, this
passage to faith in the resurrection was neither easy nor automatic,
particularly for those who, like us, did not benefit from an apparition of the
Risen One (Thomas: Jn 20:24-29). The pericope of Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) provides
some valuable clues for initiating others on the path of faith.
Walking at the pace of those who, although disappointed, express some concern.
Listen to their concerns and welcome them. Contrast them patiently with the
light of salvation history reflected in Scripture, stimulating the desire to
know more and better the plan of God. This opens the way to a faith that
matures in the sacramental and ecclesial dimensions proper to faith.
45. [Need to Discern with Patience]. The Bible, a reflection of salvation
history, presents a multitude of situations in which faith, as a dynamic and vital reality with
advances and setbacks, finds itself in multiple positions, from the search for a
tangible benefit, which looks exclusively at personal interest, to the extreme
generosity of confessional love. Jesus categorically rejected hypocrisy (e.g.,
Mk 8:15), called for conversion and belief in the Gospel (Mk 1:15), but he
magnanimously welcomed many who came to him longing in some way for God’s
salvation. For this reason, one must appreciate the value of incipient faith,
the faith that is on its way to maturity, the faith that in its desire to know
God does not exclude unresolved questions and hesitations, the imperfect faith
finds some difficulty in adhering to the totality of the contents that the
Church holds as revealed. It is the task of all pastoral agents to help in the
growth of faith, whatever its stage, so that it may discover the whole face of
Christ and the record of doctrinal elements which includes the believing
adhesion to the dead and risen Lord. Because of this diversity, the same faith
is not required for all sacraments or in the same circumstances of life.
Modulations of Faith
46. [Need for Some Clarifications]. Classical reflection on faith and
sacraments has highlighted the articulation both of the irrevocability of the gift of Christ (ex
opere operato) and of the necessary dispositions for a valid and fruitful
reception of the sacraments. These provisions are misunderstood at their roots
if they are seen as a sort of arbitrarily imposed hindrance to impede or make
more difficult access to the sacraments. Nor do they have anything to do with
“elitism,” which would despise the faith of the simple. It is simply a matter
of highlighting the interior dispositions of the believer to receive what Christ
freely wants to give us in the sacraments. That is to say, what is manifested in
these dispositions is the adequate adjustment between faith and the sacraments
of faith: what faith by its very nature do the sacraments of faith ask for? Without losing the gains acquired during the course of theological reflection,
it is convenient to expound on some of the various aspects of personal faith,
and then discern in the following chapters how they come into play in the
sacramental celebration understood as a dialogical encounter.
47. [Theological Dimension]. The peculiarity of faith lies in the fact that
it is expressly inscribed in the relationship with God. Theology distinguishes different aspects
within the one act of faith. This is the difference between “credere Deum,” believing in God, which refers to
the cognitive element of faith, to what is believed (fides quae). The
proper thing about faith is to be directed towards God. That is why faith has a
theo-centric character. “Credere Deo,” to believe in God, expresses the
formal aspect, the reason for giving assent. God is also the cause for which
one believes (fides qua), so faith has a theo-logical character.
Thus, God is the object believed and the reason for faith. With these
fundamental aspects, however, the act of faith is not reflected in its
integrity. There is also “credere in Deum,” believing toward God. Here the
volitional aspect is more clearly manifested, inasmuch as integrating the two
previous moments; faith also includes a desire and a movement towards God, the
beginning of a journey towards God, which will be consummated in the
eschatological encounter with Him in eternal life. For this reason, faith has a
theo-eschatological dimension. The act of faith in its entirety
presupposes the concurrence of the three aspects. This occurs in a
characteristic way in the “in Deum,” which includes the other two.
48. [Trinitarian Dimension]. In Christian faith, believing in God implies
believing in Jesus Christ as the Son, thanks to the Spirit. Characteristically, the symbol
repeats three times “in Deum,” referring to each of the divine persons, marking
the Trinitarian dimension. The formulation refers to the difference with any
other act of comparable trust, for example, in a human person.
The relationship with the Trinitarian God is distinguished from the relationship
with that which has been produced or created by Him. In Deum credere
represents the perfect figure of personal relationship; it includes hope and
love, or as Augustine describes
it: “to adhere by believing God, him who does good, in order to do good by
cooperating with him.” This is
the true form of faith, which includes the two dimensions already mentioned:
believing in God and believing God (credere Deum and credere Deo) .
The formula “credo in Deum” is not reduced to expressing a confession and a
conviction, but the process of conversion and surrender, the way of faith of the
believer. It is precisely this personal dimension that endows the symbol and its
various articles with coherence. This occurs especially intensely in
sacramental celebrations, proper to the economy of the Spirit,
in which it is perceived that faith is always ecclesial:
In the celebration of the sacraments, the Church hands down her memory
especially through the profession of faith. The creed does not only involve
giving one’s assent to a body of abstract truths; rather, when it is recited the
whole life is drawn into a journey towards full communion with the living God.
We can say that in the creed believers are invited to enter into the mystery
which they profess and to be transformed by it.
49. In the Trinitarian faith there is implied a personal relationship of the
believer with each one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. By faith, the Spirit leads us to
the knowledge of the whole truth (Jn 16:12-13). No one can confess Jesus as Lord
except in the Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). Thus, the Spirit dwells in the believer and
empowers him to walk in the Spirit towards God, to bear witness to his faith, to
spread Christian charity, to live in hope, to reach the maturity of the fullness
of the believer, to the measure of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13). Therefore, the Spirit
acts in the believer both in the subjective act of believing itself, as well as
in the contents believed and, of course, in the vital dynamism that it imprints
on the believer. This dynamism implies a deeper appropriation of the
Beatitudes, a portrait of the heart of Christ and, therefore, of the disciple.
With his gifts, the Spirit strengthens the individual believer
and the Church. By faith we confess Jesus Christ as the Lord, the Son of the
living God; we become his disciples, walking towards conformity with him (cf.
Rom 8:29). Through faith, and thanks to the mediation of the Son and the Spirit,
we know the plan of God the Father, we enter into relationship with him, we
praise him, we bless him and we obey him as beloved children. We set out to
fulfill his will for us, for history and for creation.
50. [The Reformation and its Influence]. The Reformation has exerted an
influence that is hardly overestimated on the supremacy of the individual act of faith over the
confession of ecclesial faith. The singular characteristics that stand out are
the concentration of faith in one’s own justification, the qualification of the
act of faith as an appropriation of grace, and the identification of the
certainty of faith with the certainty of salvation. This trending
subjectivization of truth has also influenced part of the theology of faith in
recent Catholicism, when it, under the umbrella of personalism, has taken on a
unilateral subjectivist orientation. For this reason, in these approaches faith
is described less as confession than as a personal relationship of trust (faith
in someone), and, at least tendentially, is opposed to doctrinal faith (faith in
51. [Fides qua: fides quae]. If the dialogue of God with man involves a
sacramental nature, which crosses the whole of revelation, then the response, through faith,
will also have to take on a sacramental logic, impelled and made possible by the
Spirit. There can be no subjective understanding of faith alone (fides qua),
which is not linked to the authentic truth of God (fides quae), handed
down in revelation and preserved in the Church. There is therefore “a profound
unity between the act by which we believe and the contents to which we give our
assent. The apostle Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes:
“one believes with the heart and one confesses with the mouth” (cf. Rom 10:10).”
It is the sacramental signs of God’s presence in the world and history that
inspire, express and preserve faith. In the Christian conception it is not
possible to think of a faith without sacramental expression (in the face of
subjectivist privatization), nor a sacramental practice in the absence of
ecclesial faith (against ritualism). Where faith excludes identification with
confession and the life of the Church, this faith is no longer an integration in
Christ. The privatized and disincarnated faith of the Gnostics runs through the
history of Christianity like a temptation.
But there is also often the opposite tendency, namely, an outward faith, which
adheres verbally to the confession of faith without appropriating it through
personal understanding or prayer. Subjectivist privatization and ritualism mark
the two dangers that the Christian faith must overcome at all costs.
52. [Fundamental equality of all believers in the faith]. The personal faith
of each believer can have varying degrees both with regard to the intensity of the
relationship with the Trinitarian God and with regard to the degree to which its
contents are made explicit. Faith being a relationship of a personal nature, it
inherently belongs to its own dynamics the capacity to grow in both dimensions:
in the knowledge and appropriation of the truths of the faith and its internal
consistency, on the one hand, and on the confidence and the determination to
orient all existence from the intimate relationship with God, on the other hand.
53. In the history of theology, the question of the indispensable minimum has been
raised with regard to the reflex knowledge of the content of faith, as well as the role
of the so-called “implicit faith.” The scholastic theologians showed a great
appreciation of the faith of the simple (simplices, minores).
According to Thomas Aquinas, not everyone should be required to have the same
degree of explicitness in terms of knowing how to reflect the contents of faith.
The difference between “implicit” and “explicit” faith refers to certain
contents of the faith that are either included in the same faith and, in that
sense, are settled in the act of believing- implicit-; or they are believed
reliably and consciously (actu cogitatum credere)-explicit-. It is not
necessary that simple believers know how to give a detailed intellectual account
of Trinitarian or soteriological developments. Implicit faith in itself includes
the fundamental predisposition to identify with the faith of the Church and to
unite oneself to it.
54. [The Creed: Minimum Content of Faith]. According to St. Thomas, all the
baptized are obliged to believe explicitly the articles of the Creed.
Therefore, it is not enough to believe in a general saving will of God, but in
the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ, which is only possible
through faith in the Trinitarian God. This is the faith “in which all attain new
life,” in which every Christian is baptized.
At the time of the Fathers, the rule of faith played a similar role: it
functioned for all believers as the compendium of the fundamental content, as
well as the guideline of verification of the binding elements of faith.
St. Thomas argues that this knowledge of the faith does not presuppose other
prior knowledge, but is accessible to simple people; moreover, because of the
festivities of the liturgical year its content is present to everyone. The
obligation of an explicit faith in the symbol for all members of the Church
means, correlatively, the recognition of the equal dignity of all Christians.
55. [Notes on Lack of Faith]. The opposite of faith is not the scarcity of
knowledge, but the obstinate rejection of some truths of faith
and indifference. In this line, Hugh of St. Victor clearly distinguishes two
groups. There are believers who have little intellectual insight into the faith
and who are also not characterized by a deep personal relationship with God, who
nevertheless cling to belonging to the ecclesial community and put their faith
into practice in their lives.Others,
however, are only believers “in name and by custom.” These “receive the
sacraments together with the other believers, but without any thought for the
goods of the world to come.”
Here a crucial element of the Christian faith is mentioned: whether “future
goods are expected” (cf. Heb 11:1), and whether this believing hope is strong
enough to guide human action.
c) Reciprocity between Faith-Sacraments
56. [Concept of Sacrament]. The Triune God, who creates in order to transmit
his gifts and who created human persons in order to call them individually and communally
to communion with him, enters into relationship with them in a mediated way,
through creation and history, through signs, as we have seen. Within these
signs, the Christian sacraments occupy a very prominent place, for they are
those signs to which God has linked the transmission of his grace in a sure and
objective way. In fact, the sacraments of the New Law are effective signs which
transmit grace. As we have
already said, this does not mean that the sacraments are the only means by which
God transmits his grace; it
does mean that they hold a privileged position, marked by certainty and
ecclesiality. Devotion and personal piety can unfold through different
practices: such as different forms of prayer linked to Sacred Scripture, such as
lectio or contemplation of the mysteries of Christ’s life; contemplation
of God’s works in creation and history; and the various sacramentals (cf. §40),
57. [Faith and Sacraments in Vatican II’s Definition of Sacrament].
Throughout history there have been different definitions of what a sacrament is. Vatican II
characterizes it this way:
The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of
Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs and they
also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they
also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called
“sacraments of faith.” They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very
act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this
grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity.
This dense text emphasizes several fundamental aspects of the essential
reciprocity between faith and sacraments, which we summarize. First, the
sacraments have a pedagogical purpose for our faith: they illustrate the
way salvific history happens: “sacramental.” Jesus Christ instituted them to
teach us that he communicates himself and transmits his salvation to us in a
sensitive and visible way, that is, adapted to the human condition
(cf. esp. §§ 20, 26).
Second, the sacraments presuppose faith in a twofold sense: as “access”
to the sacramental mystery: if faith is lacking, the sacrament appears only as
an external symbol or an empty rite, with the risk of slipping into a magical
gesture; and as a necessary condition for the sacrament to produce subjectively
the gifts it objectively contains. Third, the sacraments manifest the
faith of the subject and of the Church. The celebration of the sacraments is a
profession of lived faith. The sacraments are signs by which the faith from
which man is justified is professed. The sacramental word requires the response
of the faith of the believer who, because of it, learns and recognizes the
mystery realized in the sacrament. Fourth, the sacraments nourish faith
on two fundamental levels: they communicate the gift of divine grace, which
makes or strengthens the Christian life of the believer; and they are
celebrations in which the mystery of salvation is effectively signified,
educating the faith and nourishing it continuously. The sacraments are,
therefore, signs of faith in all aspects of the dynamism of their realization:
before, during, and after the celebration. Consequently, since the sacraments
presuppose faith, it is obvious that the recipient of the sacraments is a member
of the Church. We cannot forget that through faith and the sacraments of faith
we enter into dialogue, in vital contact with the Redeemer, who is seated at the
right hand of the Father. The glorious Christ does not reach us only internally,
but in the concretion of our historical being, elevating the fundamental
situations of our existence to sacramental situations of salvation.
58. [Connection Faith and Sacraments]. Faith is not guaranteed forever at the
time of conversion. It is to be cultivated through the practice of charity, prayer,
listening to the Word, communal life, instruction, also, and in a pre-eminent
place, through the assiduous reception of the sacraments. In the realm of
relationships, what is not explicit and expressed runs the risk of being diluted
or even disappearing. Christ, the gift, which is the gift of God par
excellence, cannot be accepted only invisibly or privately. On the
contrary, he who receives it is empowered and called to incarnate it in his
life, word, thought and action. In this way, one contributes to the
transformation of the original sacramentality of the Savior into the fundamental
sacramentality of the Church. In truth, the seven fundamental realizations of
the Church (the sacraments) realize what they mean. For their reception to be
fruitful, however, the willingness of each recipient to deepen, to live and to
bear witness to what he or she had received is required.
59. The intrinsic connection between faith and sacraments is evident if we consider
other essential aspects. Among them stand out:
a) The sacramental celebration: in which a particular action or material reality,
which already has a meaning of its own, is related to the history of salvation
and is determined by the event of Christ. Through the Word, the sign becomes the
presence, memory and promise of the fullness of salvation.
Thus, for example, water as such possesses the property of cleaning. However,
only together with the invocation of the Trinity does it produce the
regenerating effect of eliminating sins.
b) The terminology: “sacramentum (sacrament)” is used as a translation from the
Greek “mystérion (μυστήριον).” The mysteries celebrated in the Church are rooted
in the mystery as such, “hidden from the beginning of time in God” (Eph
3:9) and now are made known: Christ. He who, through his incarnation,
passion and resurrection, wants to “draw all to himself”(cf. Jn 12:32), “to
reconcile them to God” (cf. 2 Cor 5:19-21). According to the letter to the
Ephesians (3:3-21 and 5:21-33; cf. Col 1:25-27; 2:2-9), the Church is included
in the mystery of Christ; as “body” and “bride” she belongs to the “hidden
mystery,” to the saving plan of God.
The New Testament concept of “mystérion” designates the reality of God, who
communicates himself to men in Jesus Christ. To the extent that it is an
inexhaustible reality, it remains hidden even in the very event of revelation,
because it overflows all understanding and conceptualization. Although the
Latin translation “sacramentum” underlines revelation more than concealment, the
Latin concept also preserves the dimension of reference to what is
inapprehensible. From this it follows that whoever celebrates the liturgy of the
Church or receives a sacrament is called to transcend, through his personally
believed faith, the content believed towards the ever greater mystery.
c) There is a second aspect also relating to the very revealing terminology.
Originally sacramentum means a “sacred oath” which, in contrast with “ius
iurandum,” produces a sacred bond. This is meaning that Tertullian has in mind
when he calls baptism “sacrament”
and compares it to the commitment made by the military in the flag pledge. It is
not possible to resolve to something without knowing what its content is.
60. [Need for Catechesis]. From what has already been said, we start from a
double base. First, there can be no sacramental celebration without faith. Second, personal
faith is a participation in ecclesial faith, a response to the sacramental event
of revelation witnessed to and proposed by the Church, thanks to the Spirit.
Therefore, since the reception of a sacrament is simultaneously an act of a
strictly personal nature and of a manifestly ecclesial nature, an adequate
catechesis must precede the celebration of the sacrament. In such catechesis,
the paschal mystery must occupy a preponderant place because of its centrality
in the Christian faith. In the case of baptism, catechesis is part of the very
incorporation into the Church, as perceived in the development of the
catechumenate in the ancient Church. From another perspective, the primitive
form of baptism included a confession of faith, in the form of dialogue, as
Traditio apostolica testifies.
The confession of faith and the divine-human dialogical nature of the reception
of the sacraments must continue through the mystagogical catechesis, which takes
place at each reception of the sacraments. In a certain way, mystagogical
catechesis supposes entering into the eschatological presence that happens with
the sacraments, progressing in a continuous way in knowledge through
participation in the celebrated mysteries.
61. [Manifestation of Faith]. The sacraments are part of the sacramental
economy into which the believer is introduced. This economy implies the existence of visible
aspects as an expression of invisible grace. Although faith in God revealed in
Christ is a gift of grace, the recipient is not a mere object of this gift. This
is why Thomas Aquinas makes it clear that faith is a “virtus infusa vel
supranaturalis.” As “virtue,” faith is a capacity to act made possible by grace
which, like every faculty, can be perfected. In other words, the deeper the
relationship of a believer with Christ, the more intense is the sacramentality
of this faith, his prayer, his confession, his identification with the Church
and his love. Consequently, since faith is a virtue, it must be manifested
externally, in a visible way, in a style of life corresponding to the double
commandment of love of God and neighbor, and in a relationship with the praying
62. There can be a generic faith, as assent to divine revelation, without including
in itself the hope in God and the love of God which is inherent in it. The scholastic
distinction between “fides informis” and “fides (caritate) formata” reflects the
problem of a faith that has not yet reached the degree of maturity that is
essential to it. According to the letter to the Hebrews, faith is necessary for
salvation: “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb 11:6); this is
a conviction rooted in the understanding of faith in the Middle Ages.
While a mere desire to believe what is true (fides informis) does not
ground a communion with Christ, the loving faith (fides caritate formata)
produces rooting in the participation of the salvific and blessed reality of
God. In other words, a form of faith can be given that is not internally shaped
by a personal relationship with Christ. In that sense it is considered
informis: it is not informed in its configuration by the love of Christ, as
a response to his first love. There is also a kind of faith that is molded by a
personal and loving relationship with Christ. That is why it is called
caritate formata: configured by the charity that is inherent in the truth of
the relationship that faith wants to express.
63. Following this distinction, it can be established that loving faith is indeed
the beginning of eternal life. The
personal act of believing (actus credendi) and the virtue of faith (virtus
fidei) are the ones that produce, on their own, that the salvific event is
effective in the believer. Now, the act of faith is not possible without the
affirmation of that reality that makes it possible. This being so, however, the
reception of every sacrament does not presuppose a faith formed by charity, as
is particularly emphasized in the sacrament of penance. In the opinion of Thomas
Aquinas, neither baptism nor marriage requires the same measure of faith
impregnated with love as the Eucharist. The fruitful reception of Holy Communion
presupposes not only faith in the real presence of Christ in the sacramental
species, but also the will to maintain the bond of union with Christ and with
his members (cf. §120).
64. Because supernatural love (caritas) is an immediate effect of grace, the
presence of a “fides caritate formata” on the basis of human criteria cannot be ascertained.
Consequently, no one can know with certainty about another person, not even
about himself, if his faith possesses this quality. This can only be inferred
from clues or effects.
Therefore, there can be no question of making a judgment about how a person
presents himself before God or of wanting to confirm or deny belief as a
supernatural gift of grace in another person. However, since the reception of a
sacrament is an ecclesial public act, the external and visible is decisive: that
is, the intention expressed, confession of faith, and the fidelity to the
baptismal promise in life.
Dialogical Nature of the Sacraments
65. [Faith, Validity and Fecundity]. The Council of Trent (DH 1608) has used
the term “ex opere operato” to express the following. When a sacrament is celebrated in
an appropriate manner, in the name of the Church and in accordance with the
meaning given to it by the Church, in that case it always conveys what it
signifies. This clarification does not imply foregoing the participation of the
one who dispenses and receives the sacrament. On the contrary: he who dispenses
a sacrament must have the intention of doing what the Church does (DH 1611:
faciendi quod facit ecclesia). On the part of the receiver, a distinction
must be made between fruitful (fertile) and unfruitful (infecunda). The term
“opus operatum” is not directed against the participation of the person
administering the sacrament or of the person receiving it. It emphasizes that
neither the faith of the one who dispenses nor of the one who receives the
sacrament produces salvation, but only the sacramentally mediated grace of the
Redeemer. It is not the case, then, that because those who dispense the
sacrament and those who receive it believe in what they do in the sacrament,
then, for that very reason, Christ acts through the sacrament. But it is the
case of the following: whenever a sacrament is celebrated in an appropriate way,
according to the meaning given to it by the Church, Christ links its action to
that of the Church.
66. In this sense, faced with the theology of the reformers, the Council of Trent
will clearly affirm the efficacy of the sacraments.
However, an ecclesial practice that only attends to the validity damages the
sacramental organism of the Church, because it reduces it to one of its
essential aspects. A valid sacrament transmits what technical terminology has
called “res et sacramentum,” as a constitutive part of the sacramental action of
grace. For example, in the case of baptism it would be the “character.” However,
the sacraments point to and obtain their full meaning in the transmission of the
“res,” of the grace proper to the sacrament. In the case of baptism, it points
to the grace of new life in Christ, which includes the forgiveness of sins.
67. [Adequate Faith for the Sacraments and Intention]. Sacramental logic
includes, as an essential constituent, the free response, the acceptance of God’s gift, in one
word: faith, however incipient it may be, especially in the case of baptism. The
most recent theology has taken as a reference to illuminate the transmission of
grace that takes place in the sacraments the world of signification, proper to
symbols and signs. This field is situated in an order very close to human
language and interpersonal relations. Since the sacraments are located in the
dialogical and relational realm of the believer with Christ, this approach has
its advantages. The signification of symbols or signs is not grasped if one does
not participate in the world that the symbol in its signification creates.
Similarly, it is not possible to receive the effects of sacramental grace
(fruitfulness or fecundity), conveyed by sacramental signs, without entering
into the world that these sacramental signs express. Faith is the key that
opens the entrance into that world that makes sacramental realities truly become
signs that signify and efficaciously cause divine grace.
68. The reception of the sacraments can be valid or invalid, fruitful or fruitless.
For an adequate disposition it is not enough not to contradict either externally or
internally what the sacrament means. In this sense, a valid reception does not
automatically imply a fruitful reception of the sacrament. For a fruitful
reception, a positive intention is required. In other words, the recipient must
believe both in the content (fides quae) and existentially (fides qua)
that which Christ gives him sacramentally through the mediation of the Church.
There is a diversity of degrees of conformity with the doctrine. What is
decisive here is that the recipient does not reject the Church’s teaching at
all. There are also degrees as to the intensity of faith. What is decisive here
is the positive disposition to receive what the sacrament signifies. Each
fruitful reception of a sacrament is a communicative act and therefore part of
the dialogue between Christ and the individual believer.
69. While it is true that the doctrine about intention arose out of reflections on
the indispensable requirements of ministers who dispense the sacraments, the
intention stands at a crucial point. On the one hand, it completely saves the
efficacy “ex opere operato,” that is: the efficacy of sacramental actions is due
wholly and exclusively to Christ and not to the faith of either the recipient or
the minister of the sacrament. But it also leaves open the dialogical nature of
the sacramental event, so that one does not fall into either magic or
sacramental automatism. The intention expresses the indispensable minimum of
voluntary personal participation in the gratuitous event of the sacramental
transmission of saving grace.
70. Sacramental symbols and symbolic actions, performed through water, oil, bread, wine, and other visible and external factors, invite each believer to open the
“inner eye of faith” and see
the saving effects of each sacrament. These symbolic actions, carried out with
these material elements, are, in reality, in function of performing an action of
Christ, the Savior. What happens in the administration of the sacraments is
rooted in what happened in the actions of Christ, the Savior, in his earthly
life, such as in healings. Many believed in Christ (Ur-Sakrament) and
thus attained sanctification, such as: the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (Jn
4:28-29; 30); Zacchaeus, when he received Jesus into his house (Lk 19:8-10); the
Syrophoenecian woman, who obtained healing for her daughter by an unshakable
faith (Mk 7:24-30), and so on. These symbolic, “sacramental” actions of Jesus,
carried out with material elements, were in function of the intensification of
faith in the beneficiaries and sanctification, thanks to the internal
faith-vision. The strengthened faith must be translated into a believing
confession through the Christian witness of life in the world.
71. [Dialogical Nature]. The liturgical celebration of the sacraments not
only describes God’s katabatic (descending) salvific action, but also, inseparable from the
former, the anabatic (ascending) movement of the recipient, beginning with the
“amen” response to gestures, such as the extension of the hands in the reception
of communion. All the sacraments are communicative actions, inscribed
within the economy of salvation: of the historical unfolding of God’s desire to
enter into a personal relationship with men. Thus, in the sacraments, the
covenant nature that marks and accompanies the whole history of salvation is
reflected. Where the dialogical nature of the sacrament diminishes,
misunderstandings of a magical type (ritualism) and centered on individual
salvation (subjectivist privatization) arise.
e) The Sacramental Organism
72. [The Sacramental Organism]. The sacramental organism of the Church,
shaped through an evolution of centuries, attends to the key circumstances of the life
of the individual person and of the community in order to strengthen the
Christian in his faith, to insert him more vividly into the mystery of Christ
and of the Church, accompanying him and strengthening him throughout the whole
journey of his life of faith. Not only does it gather dense moments of the
unfolding of the mystery of Christ in his earthly life, but by making them
sacramentally present, it makes his work continue. In this way, the original
sacramentality of Christ, through the sacramental celebrations of the Church,
reaches out to the individual believer and makes him the living sacrament of
Christ. Thanks to water, bread, wine, oil and sacramental words, which contain a
meaning of direct reference to Christ and make it a reality, the believer is
fully inserted into this reality and is configured by it provided that he
accepts these signs with the proper dispositions.
73. [Sacraments of Initiation]. The sacraments of initiation, situated at the
beginning of the journey, insert the believer fully in Christ and in the ecclesial community,
enabling him, with grace, to be in some way the sacrament of Christ with his
life. Thus, baptism is the gateway. Being buried in the waters and coming out of
them expresses participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, entering into
his Body and being conformed to him, becoming a living and active member of
Christ’s Church (cf. infra chap. 3.1.). Confirmation, with the reception
of the chrism, implies a further step in the same direction. The anointing with
the chrism, in parallel with the anointing of Christ, empowers the Christian by
the gift of the Spirit to witness to the faith by assuming this responsibility
in the Christian community with a more missionary and ecclesial faith (cf.
infra chapter 3.2.). Through the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Body of
Christ, insertion, communion and full participation in the Body of Christ is
expressed in all senses: Christological, sacramental and ecclesial (cf. infra
chapter 3.3.). At the end of initiation, the Christian is already a member of
Christ and his Church, having received all the ordinary means of
christification, which enable him to lead a Christian life and to bear true
74. [Sacraments of Healing]. Those who receive the sacraments of initiation
do not always behave with full fidelity and integrity with regard to what is signified
in them. For this reason, there are also sacraments called sacraments of
healing, which bear in mind our fragility and sin. With penance, upon receiving
the welcome of the minister, who represents Christ and the Church, and
pronounces in the name of Christ and the Church the words of absolution, not
only does reconciliation with God take place, after having denied him with his
own life, but also with the ecclesial body which proclaims the goodness of God
in Jesus Christ as a community of the forgiven. Thus, thanks to penance, the
Christian straightens out again his journey of faith. Since the Eucharist is the
sacrament of the Body of Christ par excellence, it makes no sense for those who,
having seriously damaged what insertion into this Body means, have not received
the gift of forgiveness which reconciles with God and joyfully reintegrate into
community membership, to participate fully in it.
75. The Anointing of the Sick is celebrated in a situation of fragility, such as
illness. Christ’s chrism, healing ointment and fragrance, expresses the Lord’s strength
to save the whole person and bring him to his glory, even though there would
have been serious failures (sins) of incoherence with the life of faith,
expressly including forgiveness (cf. Jas 5:14-15). Thus, it is testified that
even sickness can be an occasion for the manifestation of the glory of God (Jn
11:4); and that, in sickness, in life and in death we are of the Lord (Rom
14:8-9) by sharing with him his passion and sufferings on the way to glory. In
this way, both sin and sickness become an occasion to grow in union with the
Lord and to witness that his mercy is stronger than our fragility.
76. [Sacraments at the Service of Communion]. Other sacraments look more
directly at the service of communion. The community requires a structure and a government
that reflects its sacramental reality. For this reason, ministers ordained ad
sacerdotium represent Christ the Head. They configure themselves expressly
with him through the exercise of pastoral charity. Thus Christ continues to be
present in his Church not only as the gift which begot her, but also
sacramentally as the one who continually gives himself to her, incessantly
begetting her anew. Furthermore, from another perspective and as members of the
Church, ordained ministers also represent the Church, especially in their
liturgical prayer, praising God and beseeching his grace on behalf of all. Thus,
Christ the Shepherd and Head continues to edify his Body in history. The whole
Church recognizes in the ordained ministry, over and over again, how it is due
to the gift of the Lord, in his Word and in his sacraments, while the ordained
ministers are to conform their life to Christ to be pastors according to his
77. Those who have been born again of water and the Spirit exercise their common priesthood (cf. LG 10), inseparable from the life of faith, also in the love
they profess to each other as spouses. The love publicly professed by the
spouses is a sacred bond with which they make Christ’s love for us his Church
historically visible and present in the world. In this way, thanks to marriage,
the Christian community grows and children are begotten, fruit of love, who, by
breathing faith in the family, increase the number of members of the Body of
Christ. Thus the family becomes the domestic Church, the preponderant place for
the reception, living and expression of faith (cf. infra chapter 4).
The Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy
78. This joint review of the reciprocity between faith and the sacraments in the sacramental economy has shown us several aspects of great importance for our
a) In the divine economy everything starts from the salvific revelation of the
Trinitarian God. This economy reaches its peak when the Father reveals his Son
through the Pasch of the Son and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. These
salvific mysteries are perpetuated in history through the Church and the
sacraments thanks to the action of the Spirit.
b) This revelation and communication of God has a sacramental nature: invisible
grace is transmitted through visible signs. The sacramental nature of
revelation is perceived through faith.
c) Faith is a personal relationship with the Trinitarian God, through which one
responds to his grace, to his sacramental revelation. Therefore, faith is
essential and constitutively dialogical. It is also a dynamic reality that
accompanies the whole life of the believer. As in any relationship it is
possible to grow and strengthen itself, but also its opposites: to weaken or
even get lost. At the same time, it has a personal and ecclesial imprint. Since
the personal relationship with the Trinitarian God is already lived with faith,
faith leads to salvation and eternal life.
d) God’s salvific action, the economy, extends beyond the visible frontiers of the
Church. This factor would seem to deny the sacramental nature of the economy.
However, a careful consideration of the way salvation works in such cases shows
that God’s salvific action, welcomed by an implicit type of faith, is not done
outside the sacramentality of the divine economy, but precisely because of it.
e) Under different figures and aspects, the celebration of the sacraments must
always be accompanied by faith in its various aspects: a personal faith, which,
in its dynamism towards God, participates in the ecclesial faith and adheres to
it through the desired ecclesial belonging or, at the very least, makes its own
the specific ecclesial intention inherent in sacramental celebrations. In this
way, the sacramental celebration never falls into a sacramental automatism.
f) Faith itself has, in its very essence, a natural tendency to express itself and
nourish itself sacramentally, precisely because of the sacramental structure of
the economy which gives rise to it. Not only should faith in the saving grace of
Jesus Christ (Ur-Sakrament) not be opposed to its historical permanence
in space and time thanks to the Church (Grundsakrament), but it should
not even be denoted as separate.
Dynamisms of Faith and Sacramentality
79. In short, we can conclude with a series of outstanding dynamisms, which have
risen from the consideration of the dialogical nature of the sacramental economy:
a) Faith constitutes the dialogical response to the sacramental interlocution of
the Trinitarian God. This factor seals the reciprocity between faith and
sacraments. In the journey of the believer, faith is modulated and expressed in
the various situations of life, accompanied by the various sacraments that the
Church offers for the Christian life throughout the earthly pilgrimage.
b) By its own constitution, the Christian faith is sacramental. For this reason,
there is a connaturality between faith and sacramentality. One of the
fundamental dynamisms of faith consists, then, in its sacramental expression, as
a way of nourishing, strengthening, enriching and manifesting itself.
c) In the sacramental expression of faith, both the personal (subjective) and the
ecclesial (objective) dimensions of faith come into play. In its dynamism of
growth, personal faith adheres more intensely and is more identified with
ecclesial faith. Reciprocity between faith and sacraments excludes the
possibility of a sacramental celebration totally alien to ecclesial faith
d) The sacramentality proper to faith always entails a missionary dynamism, because
it actively inscribes the believer in the dynamics of the divine economy,
endowing him with a certain leading role, for which divine grace empowers. Those
who receive a sacrament intensify their christification thanks to the Spirit,
reaffirm their ecclesial insertion and perform a liturgical act of praise to
God, who distributes his goods to us through the sacraments. From this point of
view, it is understood, for example, that those who receive baptism are, in the
first place, gratuitously graced: they are configured to the paschal mystery of
Christ; but at the same time, they are called to bear witness to the gift
received through a life of praise that springs from the faith of the Church. No
one receives the sacraments exclusively for himself, but also to represent and
strengthen the Church, which, as a means and instrument of Christ (cf. LG 1),
must be a credible witness and an effective sign of hope against all hope,
witnessing for the world the salvation of Christ, God’s sacrament par
excellence. Thus, through the celebration of the sacraments and their adequate
living, the Body of Christ is strengthened.
3. RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND SACRAMENTS IN
80. [Introduction]. Once we have seen the reigning essential reciprocity
between faith and sacraments on a general double plane, from the sacramental
economy and from faith and the sacraments, we move on to consider their
incidence on the sacraments of Christian initiation. It is therefore a question
of applying the notions and points of view gained in order to make them bear
fruit in each of the three sacraments of initiation. Each sacrament has its own
specificity, which is to be respected. However, in order to systematize the
treatment of the main question, we proceed according to five articulated steps,
with exceptions adapted to each sacrament. These steps are: (1) the principal
biblical foundation; (2) the correlation between the said sacrament and the
appropriate faith for the celebration thereof; (3) the problems that arise today
around this correlation; (4) the illumination starting from the distinguished
and chosen moments of the Tradition; and, in the light of the preceding
reflection on the place of faith in the celebration of the sacrament, (5) a
theological proposal ordered to pastoral care about the faith necessary for the
celebration of each sacrament. Due to the differential problem of baptism of
adults and children, this scheme is adapted to each case. We start from the
baptism of adults and complete the treatment with the specific elements of the
baptism of children. We presuppose a more complete theology of each sacrament.
We simply collect some essential elements to articulate a meaningful response to
the question of reciprocity between faith and sacrament in each of the
sacraments of initiation.
3.1. Reciprocity between Faith and Baptism
81. After the great kerygmatic preaching on the day of Pentecost, the listeners were
“pierced in their heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles: ‘What are
we do to, brethren?’ Peter answered them: ‘Repent and let every one of you be
baptized in the name of Jesus, the Messiah, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ […] Those who accepted his
words were baptized” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). Conversion, the human response to the
proclamation of the Gospel, seems inseparable from the sacramental rite of
baptism, which is linked to several fundamental aspects of Christian life.
Through baptism, the believer participates in the paschal mystery of Christ (cf.
Rom 6:1-11), anticipated by Christ in his own baptism and realized in his
passion and resurrection (cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50); the believer is clothed in
Christ, is configured to Him, becomes in Christ and with Christ. Thus, we become
adopted sons and new creatures. The apostle Paul also understand that with
Christians have been entrusted to a “standard of teaching” (týpos didachés),
which they now obey from the heart (cf. Rom 6:17). In baptism we receive both a
teaching to be professed and a specific way of life which demands the engagement
of the whole person and sets us on the path to goodness. Those who are baptized
are set in a new context, entrusted to a new environment, a new and shared way
of acting, in the Church.
One is also incorporated into the Church, the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1:
11-16; 12:13). Through baptism, one receives the promised Holy Spirit (Acts
1:5), forgiveness of sins (Col 2:12-13), justification. In this way, the newly
baptized, the new creature, by this new birth (Jn 3:3, 5) belongs to Christ and
to the Church, is able to live the Christian life, witnessing to it with a new
and Adult Baptism
82. Baptism is the sacrament of faith par excellence. Already Mk 16:16 links faith
and baptism: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” In addition, the
baptismal mandate with which Matthew’s Gospel ends (28:19) contains a baptismal
formula, in which the Church has seen the synthesis of her Trinitarian faith. On
the other hand, the rite of baptism clearly reflects the importance of faith. In
the current rite of acceptance into the catechumenate, the catechumen asks the
Church for “the faith” that gives “eternal life.”
In the ancient Church, the rite of triple immersion was accompanied by responses
to an interrogative creed.
Today, the renunciations and profession of faith are an integral part of the
rite. The ritual celebration itself, with its scrutinies, highlights the
dialogical nature of the event: the public proclamation of the faith of the
catechumen, previously tested during the catechumenate in its various phases,
and the reception of the baptism given by an ecclesial minister. The scrutinies
themselves fulfill the function of ensuring the adherence to the ecclesial faith
on the part of the one being baptized, beyond the previous demonstrations of
knowledge of the doctrine, conformity with the morals and practice of prayer
during the catechumenate. Being a gift of God, no one administers a sacrament to
himself. Just as faith is received through preaching and listening to the Word,
so too the sacraments are part of this logic of receiving God’s gift.
83. The Christian thus configured to Christ continues his pilgrimage in faith,
receiving on other occasions the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the other sacraments and
other sacramentals. Two analogies illuminate this reality. The infusion of the
“breath of life” by God upon Adam (Gn 2:7). Most importantly, the whole public
ministry of Jesus is marked by the reception of the Spirit sent by the Father.
It is the Spirit with whom he was anointed in baptism (Mk 1:10 and similar), and
who led him into the desert (Mk 1:12 and similar), with whom he proclaimed to be
anointed in the synagogue of Nazareth (Lk 4:16-21); and through whom he expelled
demons (Mt 12:28), and who he exhaled on the cross (Mt 27:50; Lk 23:46).As a
whole, his entire mission can be described as a baptism, with reference to
Easter (cf. Lc 12:50). In this way, the life of the Christian is understood as a
progressive unfolding of that which the initial gift of the Spirit in baptism
sets in motion, up to the consummation of one’s own life, giving it to the
Father, like Jesus.
c) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for Adult Baptism
84. With baptism, the sacrament of new life in Christ
and new birth, one embarks on a journey, becomes part of the Church and enters into the sacramental economy. In
the ancient Church, this change of life was expressed visibly and bodily, with
the baptized turning from the West, where one looked during the renunciations,
towards the East, during the profession of faith. There has always been a
request for preparation through the catechumenate or other forms of instruction,
but there has also been a good awareness of the initial nature of the baptismal
faith. For this reason, the previous catechumenal process must have been
followed with seriousness and assiduity, with the catechumen proclaiming in a
responsible way his adhesion to the Trinitarian faith received and the desire to
continue progressing in the knowledge of it and in the coherence of life with
it, thanks to the gift of baptismal grace. Baptism being the door of entry, the
faith required for baptism does not have to be perfect, but initial and eager to
85. Just as the catechumenate is understood as a part of initiation, so baptism does
not consist of a rite closed in on itself, but requires from its own internal
dynamic a display of life as baptized. Nor has the understanding of the faith
been closed, despite the equality between the faith that is celebrated in the
rite and the faith that is believed.
This corresponds to post-baptismal catechesis, in a sense as a further phase of
instruction specifically dedicated to the sacrament. The practice of the ancient
Church reflects the conviction that the true understanding of the “mysteria”
occurs after their reception.
In any case, it was not assumed that the understanding happened by itself, but
that neophytes were introduced to the sacraments through mystagogical
86. [Lights from the Tradition]. Cyril of Jerusalem insistently tells of the
conversion of the heart and warns: “If your intention remains wrong (…) then you will receive
the water, but not the Holy Spirit.”
It does not explicitly demand the strength of faith in the sense of an
extraordinary force capable of moving mountains, but believing adherence to the
ecclesial proclamation: “You need faith, which depends on you, faith in God, so
that you may receive the faith that God grants and works superhuman things.”
Faith can and must grow; the willingness to do so belongs to the very decision
to be baptized.
87. When, starting from the Constantinian turn, the classical catechumenate, with
its seriousness and its various stages, was gradually disappearing, the Church
adapted to a new circumstance: society became mainly Christian. In this
situation, general socialization included a certain religious socialization, at
least comparatively greater than at the previous epoch. However, the need
continued for an ecclesial figure of the faith (godparents); and of a previous
minimum instruction, that allowed a responsible and conscious personal
adhesion. The case of the Indies is instructive. In spite of the fact that
different tendencies existed and that in the theology of the time salvation was
closely linked with baptism, one ended up the opinion that best safeguarded the
dignity of the Indians and the dialogical nature of the sacraments.
Along these lines, the Dominican, Francisco de Vitoria, together with other
theologians, wrote a report on the question of the adequate preparation of the
Christians of the new continent, in the midst of an enormous shortage of
priests, on whom fell the burden of catechesis:
They are not be baptized before they have been sufficiently instructed not only
in the faith, but also in Christian mores, at least insofar as it is necessary
for salvation. They are not to be baptized before it is likely that they
understand what they receive or before they respond and confess in baptism and
they wish to live and persevere in the faith and Christian religion.
88. [Pastoral Proposal]. The Church is always eager to celebrate baptism. It
implies the joy that new believers receive justification, are incorporated into Christ,
recognize Him as their Savior, shape their life with Christ, become part of the
Church, witness to the new life in the Spirit, with which they have been graced
and enlightened. However, in the absolute absence of personal faith, the
sacramental rite loses its meaning. While validity is based on the realization
of the sacrament by the minister with the appropriate intention (cf. §§ 65-70),
without a minimum of faith on the part of the baptized the essential reciprocity
between faith and sacraments fades away. Without faith that visible signs (sacramentum
tantum) transmit invisible grace (e.g. immersion in water as a transition
from death to life), these signs do not transmit the invisible reality signified
(res sacramenti): forgiveness of sins, justification, rebirth in Christ
through the Spirit, entry into filial life. In this case, baptism becomes a
mere social convention or is impregnated with pagan elements.
89. This minimum of faith seems indispensable for those who receive the sacrament to approach the intention of realizing what the Church believes. Some of the
elements belonging to this minimum of faith can be deduced from the very dynamic
of the sacramental celebration:
the Trinitarian faith, with the invocation of the Three Divine Persons on the
neophyte; the conviction of being reborn in Christ, symbolized by immersion in
the waters, as waters of life;
the birth to a new life, signified by the covering with the white vestment; the
confidence of receiving the light of Christ and the desire to witness to it,
represented by the reception of the light of the paschal candle.
90. Fidelity to the doctrine of the Church, charity and pastoral prudence, together
with creativity in welcoming and offering catechumenal itineraries, are therefore
required. Not defending sufficiently what the sacrament is and means, for fear
of minimum requirements, implies a greater damage to the sacramentality of faith
and of the Church. It is detrimental to the integrity and coherence of the very
faith that it is intended to safeguard. Certainly the faith of the recipient is
not the cause of the grace at work in the sacrament, but it is part of the
adequate disposition necessary for the fruitfulness of the sacrament, so that it
may be fruitful. Without any kind of faith, it seems difficult to affirm that
the indispensable minimum is maintained with respect to the disposition, which
includes, at its lowest level, not putting any impediment.
In this sense, without a minimum of faith, the gift of God which makes the
baptized person the living “sacrament” of Christ, as a letter from Christ (cf. 2
Cor 3:3), does not succeed in producing the fruit which is proper to him. On
the other hand, he who confesses Christ as his Lord and Savior will not hesitate
to associate himself as intimately as possible, sacramentally, with the central
nucleus of the saving mystery of Christ: Easter.
and Baptism of Children
91. The baptism of infants has been attested since ancient times.
It is justified in the desire of parents that their children participate in sacramental grace, be
incorporated into Christ and the Church, become members of the community of
God’s children as they are of the family, for baptism is an effective means of
salvation, forgiving sins, beginning with original sin, and transmitting grace.
The child does not knowingly sign his or her membership in his or her natural
family, nor is he or she proud of it, as is often the case with many initiation
rites, such as circumcision in the Jewish faith. If socialization follows its
ordinary course, it will do so as a young and adult, with gratitude. With the
baptism of infants, it is emphasized that the faith in which we are baptized is
the ecclesial faith, that our growth in faith takes place thanks to the
insertion in the community “we.”
The celebration confirms it solemnly after the profession of faith: “This is our
faith; this is the faith of the Church that we are proud to profess.”
On this occasion, the parents act as representatives of the Church, which
welcomes these children into its bosom.
For this reason, the baptism of children is justified from the responsibility of
educating in the faith that the parents and godparents contract, parallel to the
responsibility of educating them in the rest of the spheres of life.
e) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for the Baptism of Children
92. Many families live the faith and pass it on to their children, both explicitly
and implicitly, whom they educate in the faith having baptized them shortly after
being born, following an ancestral Christian custom. However, there are a number
of problems. In some places, the number of baptisms decreases drastically. In
countries with a Christian tradition, it is not unusual for children preparing
for first communion to discover at that time that they are not baptized. Very
often some parents request baptism for their children by social convention or
family pressure, without participating in the life of the Church and with
serious doubts about the intention and ability to provide a future education in
the faith of their children.
93. [Lights from the Tradition]. With great continuity, the Church has
defended the legitimacy of infant baptism, in spite of the criticisms that this practice has
received since ancient times. In very early times, we are told of baptisms of
entire families (cf. Acts 16:15, 33). The tradition of infant baptism is very
old. It is already witnessed by the Apostolic Tradition.
A synod of Carthage, from the year 252, defends it.
Tertullian’s well-known challenge to the baptism of infants only makes sense if
it was a widespread custom.
This practice has always been accompanied by a significant ecclesial figure
close to the children (parents, godparents), who committed themselves to provide
education in the faith along with the ordinary education of the children.
Moreover, to the extent that infant baptism became the most regular practice,
the need for a post-baptismal catechesis to instruct the baptized in the faith,
and thus contribute to avoiding as far as possible their total estrangement or
distancing from the faith, was accentuated.
Without this representative figure of the ecclesial faith, baptism, a sacrament
of faith with a marked dialogical nature, would lack one of its essential
94. [Pastoral Proposal]. In the case of children, there must be a hope based
on education in the faith, thanks to the faith of the adults who take responsibility. Without
any hope in a future education in the faith, the minimum conditions for a
meaningful reception of baptism are not met.
3.2. Reciprocity between
Faith and Confirmation
Biblical and Historical Foundation
95. [Biblical Foundation]. Like baptism, the sacrament of confirmation also
finds its foundation in Scripture. This Spirit, as we said, plays a crucial role in the
life and mission of Jesus (cf. § 83). It also occupies a stellar place in the
Christian life. The disciples are to be clothed with the “power from on high”
(Lk 24:46-49; Acts 1:4-5, 8) before they become witnesses of the Risen One.
According to Acts, the Spirit descended on the disciples (Acts 2:1-11) and on
many others, including the Gentiles (Acts 10:45), who thus proclaimed and
witnessed to Christ and the Gospel (Acts 2:43; 5:12; 6:8; 14:3; 15:12; cf.
Romans 15:13). The promised Paraclete (Jn 14:16; 15:26; 16:7) helps the
disciples to progress in their life of faith and bear witness to it before the
world. In some passages, a distinction is made between the reception of baptism
and a subsequent outpouring of the Spirit, linked to the intervention of the
apostles through the laying on of hands on Christians who already live their
faith (cf. Acts 8:14-17; 19:5-6; Heb 6:2). Just as we can differentiate the
moment of Easter from Pentecost, so also in the life of the Christian who is
inserted in the sacramental economy there are two distinct and interconnected
moments: baptism, which accentuates the Easter configuration, and confirmation,
which refers more directly to Pentecost, with the reception of the Spirit, to
full incorporation into the ecclesial mission. In the Christian initiation of
adults both aspects take place in a single joint celebration.
96. [Historical Foundation]. Since ancient times, a series of post-baptismal
rites have been recognized, not always clearly distinguished from baptism itself, such as
the laying on of hands, the anointing with the chrism oil and the signing with
the sign of the cross. The
Church has always maintained that these post-baptismal rites were part of
complete Christian initiation. With the passing of history and the increase of
Christians, the East maintained the consecutive unity of baptism, chrismation
and first Eucharist, given by the priest, although only the bishop is
responsible for the blessing of oil. In the West, however, the anointing with
the oil of chrism was reserved for the bishop
who, for centuries, until an intervention by
Pius X in 1910,
took place during the bishop’s visit, before First Communion. Already at the
beginning of the fourth century, in the Council of Elvira (ca. 302), the
difference and the distance in time between baptism and confirmation is
97. In the ritual of Confirmation, the renunciations are renewed and the profession
of baptismal faith is repeated. This marks their continuity with baptism as well
as the need for its precedence. The characteristic of Confirmation resides in a
double element related to faith. In the first place, a fuller adherence and a
“special strength” of the Holy Spirit (LG 11), as the same rite points out: “N.,
by this sign receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Secondly, Confirmation implies a “closer bond with the Church” (LG 11). Thus,
the ecclesiality of faith is reaffirmed. Consequently, baptismal faith is
strengthened in several directions. It is a faith more disposed to the public
witness of the ecclesial faith; it is a faith with greater vigor and ecclesial
identification; it is a more active faith, inasmuch as it is more conformed by
the gift of the Spirit, subsequent to the first baptismal reception of the
Spirit. These aspects denote a maturing of faith compared to the initial faith
required for baptism. Without these dispositions of faith, the sacrament is in
danger of remaining in an empty rite.
98. The presence of the bishop, the “original” minister of Confirmation (LG 26), expresses emphatically the ecclesial nature of Confirmation. To the union with
the Holy Spirit is added the union with the Church. Participation in
Confirmation is the sign and means of ecclesial communion. Confirmation
celebrated by the local bishop promotes spiritual unity between the bishop and
the local Church. The confirmed one is incorporated into the Church,
contributing to the building of the body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:12; 1 Cor 12). In
addition, it strengthens his Christian life, already begun with baptism.
Through the new gift of the Spirit he is better equipped to be a living witness
of the faith received, like what happened at Pentecost.
c) Current Problems
99. The present location of the sacrament of Confirmation in the West is due more to historical and pastoral circumstances than to properly theological reasons or
reasons derived from the specificity of the sacrament. In Christian initiation
of adults, the original and theologically more consistent rhythm is maintained:
Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. Although the sacrament of Confirmation
offers the possibility of continuing instruction in the faith, insertion into
the Church and the personalization of the decision that the parents and
godparents took in their day in favor of the child, it cannot be expected to
solve the difficulties of youth ministry nor the disaffection of the young
people who were baptized at the time with regard to the ecclesial institution
and the faith. Despite praiseworthy efforts and the fact that at times it
implies a more mature rediscovery of the faith, with the passage to a more
conscious and adult active belonging, in not few occasions young people
experience the celebration of Confirmation as a key to university graduation:
once the degree has been obtained, there is no need to return to the
classrooms. Others simply understand Confirmation as a condition for further
steps, such as marriage, without grasping what is proper to this sacrament,
blurred in the feelings of many faithful.
Pastoral Proposal: Faith for Confirmation
100. The importance of baptism has been held firm with much constancy, as has its theological profile. The postponement of Confirmation, where it is deferred for
a long time, or even not administered, has made it difficult to appreciate its
place in Christian initiation, as a sacrament of the Spirit and of the Church,
fundamental elements in Christian initiation. A missionary Church is made up of
confirmed Christians who, in the power of the Spirit, take full responsibility
for their faith. A Christian logically wants to be the sacrament of Christ.
That is why he is fully incorporated into the Church and asks for the gift of
the Spirit through the Chrism and the laying on of hands, if it was not received
together with baptism. Just as Christ received the anointing of the Spirit as he
came out of the waters, so the Christian who is configured to Christ also
accomplishes his journey of faith in the Spirit, strengthened by Confirmation.
101. In adult Christian initiation, the faith required for Confirmation coincides
with that necessary for baptism. In the case of deferred reception of both sacraments,
baptismal faith will have matured in several directions. Progress will have been
made in the personal appropriation of the ecclesial faith and in the sense of
belonging. This implies a better knowledge, a greater capacity to give an
account of the ecclesial faith and an adequate conformation of life with it.
There will also be a path of personal relationship with the Trinitarian God, in
particular through prayer. More decisively, faith will have shaped the
biography, having made a journey of following Christ in the Church. Confirmation
implies the desire and decision to continue on this path, finding, through the
discernment made possible by the Spirit, the proper way to follow Jesus and
witness to him. The key to this is a deep personal relationship with the Lord
gained through prayer, which leads to witness, ecclesial belonging and assiduous
sacramental practice. Just as the sacramental economy does not close with
Easter, but includes Pentecost, so Christian initiation is not closed with
baptism. If there was a phase of waiting and preparation for the reception of
the gift of the Spirit, presided over by prayer (cf. Acts 1:14), so also the
adequate catechesis for the reception of Confirmation, without forgetting the
other elements, -doctrine, morals-, offers the opportunity for an
intensification and personalization of the relationship with the Lord through
3.3. Reciprocity between
Faith and the Eucharist
102. What happened at the Last Supper (Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-26; Lk 22:14-23’ 1 Cor 11:23-26) has always been considered the institution of the Eucharist. To these
fundamental stories must be added others in which the Church has seen a
Eucharistic tenor: the multiplication of the loaves (Mk 6:30-44 and similar;
8:1-10 and similar; Jn 6:1-14); Paul’s admonitions to the community of Corinth
(1 Cor 10-11); or the episode that closes the meeting of Emmaus with the Risen
One (Lk 24:30-31; 35). Following the force of the command “do this in memory of
me” (1 Cor 11:24, cf. 25; Lk 22:19), from the beginning (e.g., Acts 2:42, 46;
20:7; 27:35) until today, where there are Christians and the Church, the
Eucharist is celebrated, which is the memorial of the Passion and Resurrection
of the Lord until he returns, his saving gift for “many,” for all (cf. Rom
103. At the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus condenses the meaning of his whole life, of
his impending death and of his future resurrection to hand it down to his disciples
as a memorial and an eminent sign of his love. For this reason, what happened
there and the sacramental remembrance of his Passion and Resurrection display an
extraordinary density. In the Eucharist, the Church celebrates the making
present and actualization of Christ’s gift of his sacrifice for all of us to the
Father. In the Eucharist, thanksgiving to the Father “through Christ, with him
and in him” made present by
the action of the Spirit, the Church unites herself to Christ, associates
herself with him, and becomes his Body. For this reason, it has been possible
to affirm with truth that the Church is born of the Eucharist.
Since the Eucharist gathers the very essence of the life of Christ and,
therefore, of the Christian life, it is both the source and the summit of the
Christian life (SC 10; LG 11).
and the Eucharist
104. [Trinitarian Faith]. Each Eucharist beings “in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”: with a reminder of the baptismal formula, and of the
Trinitarian Creed which runs through and permeates the whole celebration. “The
first element of Eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, Trinitarian
love.” For in the
Eucharist, we enter into communion of life with the love of the Trinitarian God.
As the greatest sign of his love, the Father gave his Son for our salvation, who
in turn offered himself in “the power of the eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14). In the
Eucharist, we are made partakers of this loving current, inherent in divine
intimacy. To the Trinitarian God, we present the best possible praise through
Christ in the unity of the Spirit, as solemnly proclaimed by the doxology with
which the Eucharistic prayer culminates. Thanksgiving to the Father through the
Son given for us and through the gift of the Spirit is marked by the praise
which involves personal witness in ordinary life.
105. [Unity of Faith and Charity]. The penitential act, situated at the
beginning of the Eucharist celebration, manifests the need of every sincere believer to receive
the forgiveness of sins, to be reconciled with God and with his brothers and
sisters, in order to be able to enter into communion with God. Furthermore, the
penitential act underlines the inseparability between the vertical communion
with Christ, whose surrender will be remembered immediately (anamnesis),
and the horizontal communion with other Christians and, beyond it, with all men.
True Eucharistic faith is always an active faith through charity (cf. Gal 5:6).
In the Eucharist: “love of God and love of neighbor are truly united: the
incarnate God draws us all to Himself. We thus understand how agape also
became a term for the Eucharist: there God’s own agape comes to us
bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us.”
106. [Faith as a Response to the Word of God]. Since the eleventh century, the
same Creed with which the baptismal rite concludes has been a fixed part of the Eucharist
celebration on Sundays and solemnities. This confession of faith is
simultaneously a response to the Word of God and an expression of unity among
believers. Through faith in the proclamation of the Word, we hear the voice of
Christ. The prophetic
dimension of faith also emerges. A powerful Word, capable of transforming the
world, just as it happens in the heart of the Eucharistic celebration with the
gifts that are presented and the assembly that celebrates. Thus begins the
eschatological transformation of which the Church, the body of Christ, is a
107. [Pneumatic Dimension of Faith]. The pneumatic nature of the sacraments
appears with meridian clarity in the Eucharistic celebration. In the current Latin rite,
there is a double epiclesis. The first is over the gifts, which will be
transformed into the given body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. The second is
over the assembly, which in turn also becomes the body of Christ, entering into
living communion with all the saints. This communion is already seen in the
solemn song of the sanctus, in which the voices of heaven and earth unite
in common praise. Therefore, in the Eucharistic liturgy we take part in the
heavenly liturgy (cf. SC 8). Consequently, the pneumatic dimension of ecclesial
faith comes into play in a substantive way in the Eucharist and illuminates the
power that the Spirit possesses to transform both the believer and the worldly
reality, to elevate them and lead them to divine communion and praise.
108. [Faith as devotion to Mystery]. After the words of the consecration, the
celebrant proclaims: “Mysterium fidei”
(the mystery of faith). This solemn acclamation is, at the same time, an
affirmation, an announcement and an invitation addressed to all. To such an
extent the Eucharist is a mystery of faith, which without faith can neither be
understood nor celebrated. The acclamation manifests that the sacramental truth
of what is celebrated, that the species of bread and wine have become the Body
and Blood of Christ, is really a mystery of faith. Just as the eyes of faith
perceived in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah of God, so those same eyes now
perceive the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ.
The mystery of Christ is known through revelation (cf. 1 Cor 2:7-11; Col 1:
26-27; 2:2; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 9) and faith.
109. [Faith as Recognition of the Sacramental Economy]. In the recitation of
the solemn Eucharistic Prayer, the great milestones of the sacramental economy are recalled
in thanksgiving and supplication: from creation to final eschatological
consummation. In particular, we remember the gift of the Lord Jesus on the
Cross, his Resurrection and the meaning that the Lord himself gave to his
redemptive death in the context of the Last Supper. Faith in the divine economy
as a whole is trained and strengthened in the Eucharistic liturgy.
110. [Eschatological Dimension of Faith]. In the sacramental celebration of
the mystery, the past, the memory of what happened, the present, the making present or
actualization of what happened, and the future, which is anticipation of the
final fullness what we await, come together.
The eschatological novelty initiated by the Word through his incarnation, life,
death and resurrection has already begun to be realized in the christification
of the assembly and of the world that takes place in the Eucharist.
111. [Faith and Communion with Christ]. Communion, as its name indicates,
expresses an intimate union with Christ, through the Spirit, which is impossible without
faith. One cannot commune intimately with someone by ignoring them or against
one’s will. The faith that responds with the word “amen” to the Eucharistic
gifts is related to the disposition not only to receive the sacrament, but to
represent it. With this communion with Christ comes the personal sanctification
of the Christian, concomitant with the communion of life with Christ. This
sanctification necessarily implies a sending.
112. [Missionary Character of Faith]. The final sending with which the
Eucharist ends, “Ite, missa est,” supposes a
missionary return to ordinary life, to make present in it the life received in
the sacrament, and to become a Eucharist for the world in the likeness of Christ
and in his own way. In fact, in the Eucharistic offering, not only does Jesus
Christ offer himself, but every believer who participates in the Eucharist also
offers himself together with Christ (cf. SC 48; LG 11; Rm 12:1). The personal
offering, the acceptance of being sent and its exercise cannot take place
without faith. Everything that the faithful Christian receives in the
sacrament: the forgiveness of venial sins, the renewal of baptism, the preaching
of the Word, communion with Christ and transformation into the body of Christ
through the Holy Spirit, implies a strengthening that enables him now,
Christianized, to witness faith in the world and to transform reality according
to God’s plan. Thus, after the event of the reception of the gift of the
Father, by the gift of the Son received in the Spirit, which takes place in
every Eucharist, the Christian is expressly sent on mission at the end of the
113. [Strengthening Personal Faith]. The faith of the believer is enriched and
strengthened by intimate communion with Christ. The ecclesial being of the one who
participates in the Eucharist, its insertion into the visible body of Christ, is
actualized and intensified. Incorporation into Christ is of such caliber that
Augustine says to the faithful: “If you are members of the body of Christ, your
mystery rests on the table of the Lord….be what you see, and receive what you
are.” In short, in faith we
recognize that the Eucharist supposes the most intense way of Christ’s presence
among us, since it is a real, corporal and substantial presence.
For this very reason, full participation in the Eucharist from the point of view
of faith implies maximum communion with Christ.
114. [Building the Ecclesial Body]. In the Eucharist not only is the
individual faith of the believer strengthened, but in it the Church is generated:
Christ, who gives himself to her in sacrifice as to his beloved Spouse,
constitutes her in his body.
Communion among the Churches, the sharing of the same faith received, is
expressed through Eucharistic communion following a very ancient tradition. The
Church of her own is the body of Christ, constituted as such by divine design,
thanks to the sacramental Trinitarian action. This body realizes what it is when
it proclaims the faith received, sanctifies history, sings the praises of the
Trinity and commits itself in mission to the proclamation of the Gospel in word
115. [The Eucharist: Greatest Expression of Sacramental Faith]. We can
therefore conclude by affirming that: “The sacramental character of faith finds its
highest expression in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for
faith: an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love,
the life-giving gift of himself.”
116. [Necessity of Faith for participation in the Eucharistic celebration].
Paul’s admonition to the Christians at Corinth is especially instructive. He who is
involved in idolatrous behavior cannot partake of the Body or Blood of Christ (1
Cor 10:14-22). Communion with “the table of the Lord” requires not only to have
been initiated into the Christian faith and to be a member of the Body of
Christ, but also a consistency of life with what is meant there. In the same
way, a conduct as inconsistent with the Christian faith as divisions in the
community and the notable lack of charity towards the brethren (1 Cor 11:21) is
incompatible with “eating the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor 11:20). This obliges us to
discern whether or not we are living in a fundamental line of conformity with
what is being celebrated (1 Cor 11:29). In short, Eucharistic participation
requires a living faith, which is manifested through charity and the abandonment
of idols. Eucharistic praxis requires both the exercise of charity, as well as
doctrinal conformity and ecclesial insertion.
117. The penitential institution of the ancient Church excluded for a time from
Eucharistic communion (not from the Church) members of the faithful who had publicly
renounced their faith, or who had violated the Creed and the rules of life
prescribed by the Church. After a public confession, the sinner, turned into an
occasion of public scandal, was expelled from Eucharistic communion for a time
(excommunication), and later he was received again solemnly after having
fulfilled the penance (reconciliation). Thus it became visible that penance was
not only used for the reconciliation of the sinner with Christ, but also for the
purification of the Church. The penitent understands himself as the stone of a
Church that is to be the light of the world. When it ceased to be so because of
a public sin, it became necessary in a certain way to remove it
(excommunication), to “repair it” it through penance and to put it back in place
the change in the way penance is celebrated, which is no longer public, the
basic theology has not changed. However, nowadays this close correlation between
penance and the Eucharist has become blurred in many practicing
c) Current Problems
118. Many of those who consider themselves Catholics believe that regular Sunday Eucharistic attendance is excessive. Others maintain the practice of frequent
communion or whenever they attend Mass, without ever going to the sacrament of
confession. Not a few take the Eucharist as a personal devotion, freely
available to them according to their own needs or feelings. During great
liturgical feasts, especially Christmas, Easter or some great local feasts, as
well as in some unique celebrations (such as weddings and funerals), there are
some unusual members of the faithful who come to participate in the Eucharist,
including taking Holy Communion, without any qualms of conscience; and then they
disappear until the following year or the following exceptional occasion. These
practices, though theologically inconsistent, reflect the persistent influx of
the Christian faith in the life of non-practicing or distant people. This
remainder of Christian influence, albeit with deviations, can be a starting
point for a more conscious ecclesial reintegration and offers the possibility of
reviving a lifeless faith. However, they also show, in their ambivalence, how
in many ways there is a gap between what the Church believes to celebrate in the
Eucharist, the requirements for full participation in the Eucharist, the
consequences it entails in ordinary life, and what many believers seek in
occasional or sporadic celebrations of the Eucharist.
Lights from the Tradition
119. The conditions for the reception of the Eucharist have been established since
the earliest times. As we have indicated, Paul warns those who approach the
Eucharist: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and
drinks condemnation upon himself” (1 Cor 11:29), highlighting some indispensable
requirements. From the Gospel of John, it can be inferred that a reception of
the sacramental species without faith that is without Spirit does not profit at
all, because it requires faith (cf. Jn 6:63-69). Justin Martyr mentions the
following as necessary requirements: believe that the gifts are what they
signify; the receiver must be baptized, and must not deny the doctrine of Christ
through his life. The
recently quoted Pauline exhortation resounds again in the Didache: “If anyone is
a saint, let him come; if anyone is not a saint, let him be converted!”,
and in a similar way in the Apostolic Constitutions.
It is reflected in the liturgical invitation “the holy to the saints”
that was already commented by Theodore of Mopsuestia. With the “saints” refers,
first of all, as Paul did, to the baptized, those who live with the Church. This
thinking is manifested both in the homilies of John Chrysostom
and in Cyprian: Communion with Christ cannot be dissociated from communion with
the Church. The doctor of
the Eucharist demands that his priests, if necessary, reject some people.
Augustine, too, with equal clarity, warns that sacramental food produces
salvific effect and life only when it is eaten “spiritually,” with faith in its
invisible content and with an upright conscience.
That is to say, with a life that corresponds to the love of Christ and his
120. Scholastic theology calls this disposition “formed faith” (fides formata),
a faith shaped by love(cf.§§ 62-64).
In this sense, St. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes the following: the content of
this sacrament can only be received in faith, since it is a “sacrament of faith”
“Infidelity” (infidelitas) makes one inept in eminent degree for the
reception of the sacrament, since unbelief “separates from the unity of the
Church”; unity that the
Eucharist signifies. In certain circumstances, however, when one “wants to
receive what the Church gives,” in that case one receives the sacrament, even
though his faith is deficient in its contents.
Someone who believes in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but is not in a
state of grace, receives the sacrament, but commits a grave sin.
St. Thomas argues that a lie has been committed (falsitas): what the
sacrament expresses, the love that unites Christ with his faithful, does not
happen in the recipient.
St. Thomas realizes that a fruitful participation in baptism and the Eucharist
requires in each case a different degree of disposition generated by faith.
For baptism, the intention of receiving what the Church gives is sufficient. In
Holy Communion, however, it is necessary to understand the sacrament as such and
121. In the liturgical traditions, particularly in the East, this interconnection
between faith, love and the reception of the Eucharist is clearly perceived. For example, in
the convocation to the communion of the people, it says: “Draw near with faith,
charity and fear of God.” In
the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and in the liturgy of St. Basil, the deacon,
the priest, and the people recite a confession of Christological faith expressed
before Christ, present in Body and Blood, just before receiving Holy Communion.
He says: “I believe, Lord, and confess that you are Christ, the Son of the
living God, who came into the world to save sinners. I also believe that this is
your immaculate Body and this is your Precious Blood.”
The Syriac tradition, witnessed by Ephrem, understands that the promises linked
to the two trees of Eden (Gen 2:17; 3:2) are to be truly fulfilled. The initial
error in eating the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” produced a fall,
which had to be straightened out. Eating from the “tree of life” becomes a
reality in Eucharistic communion with the Eucharistic offering of Christ on the
tree of the Cross. In the
Eucharistic celebration, the liturgy of the Word becomes a fruitful and
corrective eating of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” After that
suitable meal, all are invited to eat from the “tree of life” in Eucharistic
e) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for the Eucharist
122. Baptism is the beginning of a pilgrimage, the culmination of which is only
reached at the Eschaton. For this reason, Christians receive again and again the
sacrament of the Eucharist, which is food for the journey. For this reason, the
Church has never ceased to gather together to celebrate the mystery of the
Passover, to read in this context “that which refers to him in all the
Scriptures” (Lk 24:27) and to celebrate the banquet at which the self-giving of
the crucified and risen Savior is transmitted in the present of believers.
However, one cannot receive adequately the gift that the existential sacrifice
of Christ implies if one is not willing to allow oneself to be configured
existentially by this gift in faith. Without faith, neither Pilate nor the
Roman soldiers nor the people understood how in the death on the Cross of Jesus
Christ God was reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19); without faith it
is not perceived that he who hung on the tree is the Son of God (Mk 15:39). The
believing gaze sees not only blood and water coming from the pierced side, but
also the Church, founded on baptism and the Eucharist (cf. Jn 19:34). The blood
and water that flow from there is the source and the power of the Church.
The Son of God truly becomes “Emmanuel” in every Christian through participation
in the Body and Blood of Christ.
123. [Sacramental Faith and the Eucharist]. Without sacramental faith,
participation in the Eucharist, especially receiving Holy Communion, is meaningless. The
Eucharist does not refer to an undifferentiated or generic relationship with
divinity. The sacramental faith that intervenes in the celebration of the
Eucharist is a Trinitarian faith. In the Eucharist we profess a living
relationship with the Trinitarian God. We thank the Father for the gift of
salvation we received. The gift of salvation was actualized through the gift of
his Son in the power of the Spirit, which is now recalled and made present in
124. Sacramental faith presupposes that such an action of the Trinity is recognized,
and that the Eucharistic banquet is perceived as an authentic anticipation of the
future eschatological banquet. The power of God is already breaking in,
transforming and sanctifying believers, making them fellow citizens with the
saints (Eph 2:19) and citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Heb 12:22; cf. Rev
21-22; Heb 11:13).
125. Sacramental faith is expressed, moreover, in the irrevocable self-attachment of
Jesus Christ to the sacrament (ex opere operato) with the species of
consecrated bread and wine through the invocation of the Spirit in the
epiclesis, with the result that the recipient not only can hope, but knows
in faith that at a given moment he receives what the consecrated species
126. Sacramental faith also implies the sacramentalization of the recipient himself.
He not only receives a sacrament, he himself becomes in a certain sense a “sacrament,”
in the sense that an intense conformation to Christ has been brought about by
the action of the Spirit; and he now lives in close union with Christ and the
Church, which empowers him to offer himself to God as a living and spiritual
sacrifice (cf. Rom 12:1) and to bear witness to the Christian life. Said with
images, he is transformed into a living stone of the confessing community, of
which Vatican II says it is Christ’s means and instrument to bring all men to
127. [Sacramental Faith and Ecclesial Communion in the Eucharist]. From this
point of view, the individual realization of personal faith cannot be separated from the
faith of the community celebrating the sacrament. There is unity and continuity
between what is celebrated (lex orandi), what is believed (lex
credendi), and what is lived (lex vivendi), in the framework of which
flows Christian life, personal prayer and sacramental celebration. Since the
truth that Christians profess is a person, Jesus Christ, it must also be
represented personally by the apostles and their successors. The Eucharistic
communion with Christ of each individual is to be verified through the communion
of faith with the Pope and the local bishop, mentioned by name in each
Eucharistic celebration. He who receives Holy Communion does not confess Christ
alone, but also communes with the confession of faith of the community in which
he participates in the Eucharist.
128. Translated into other categories, this means a clear and conscious adherence to
the faith of the Church, which explicitly includes the following: Trinitarian faith
embodied in the Creed; the Christological faith concentrated on the redemptive
meaning of the death of Christ, the Son of God, the Lord, “for many” and “for
me,” and of resurrection; the pneumatological faith, particularly active and
present through the double epiclesis, which is fundamental in the
celebration; and faith in what the Eucharist signifies as sacrament of the body
of Christ and of the ecclesial body. All of this is framed in a believing
itinerary, which aspires, trusting in the powerful force of the Spirit and his
permanent help, to conform one’s life to the mystery of Christ and to witness to
it with joy in the midst of the vicissitudes of life. On this journey,
Christians often turn to Eucharistic food, to receive the gift of communion with
Christ, in order to continue to grow in faith, hope and love until eternal life.
129. [Inconsistency of Eucharistic Participation without Faith in what it
Celebrates]. Full participation in the Eucharist means communion with the body of Christ (cf. LG
3) and the Church. It does not seem possible to approach it with consistency
if: one does not recognize what the sacramental presence of Christ means in the
Eucharist; one rejects the Trinitarian faith of the Church, invoked at various
times during the celebration, sealed with the recitation of the Creed; Christian
charity suffers serious deficiencies in one’s personal life; any conscious and
deliberate act has been committed in a matter that seriously compromises what
faith and ecclesial morals say (mortal sin).
130. [Ways of Growing]. Whoever is on a journey with Christ goes to the
Sunday Eucharist not because it is an obligation established by the Church, but from
the desire to be strengthened by the loving mercy of the Lord. This desire
includes readiness for necessary sacramental reconciliation with Christ and the
Church, when needed. Now, even without the emotional pressure of desire, those
who participate in the Catholic faith know that they have joined a community
with a sacramental structure. For this reason he is also aware that his
sacramental participation and, concretely, the Eucharist is part of the public
witness to which he has freely committed himself. He commits himself to testify
to the sacramental reality of faith, in order to make clear the visibility of
grace and thus strengthen the sacramentality of the Church, his community of
131. Because of the reciprocal causality that exists between faith and the Eucharist,
in areas where there was not or there is not usually a celebration of Mass and
sacramental catechesis, due to the limits of the ecclesial institution, it
becomes more difficult to discover the meaning of the Sunday Eucharistic praxis.
At the same time, the lack of frequent participation at the table of the Word of
God and the Body of Christ, through personal or pastoral failures, is a lack
that hinders growth toward a fuller sacramental faith. In addition to taking
care of Eucharistic celebrations at all their ends, in accordance with their
meaning, it is appropriate to propose ways of reintegration into the ecclesial
faith, when it has been lost, that culminate in the Eucharist as the crowning of
this return; and it is appropriate to propose other types of non-Eucharistic
celebrations and spaces of encounter, prayer and extended Christian catechesis
for people whose evangelization has not yet matured to participate consciously
in the Eucharist.
4. THE RECIPROCITY
BETWEEN FAITH AND MARRIAGE
132. [Problem]. If there is one sacrament in which the essential reciprocity
between faith and sacraments is put to the test, it is marriage for various reasons. In the
very definition of the sacrament of marriage, according to the Latin Church,
faith does not appear explicitly (cf. § 143). It is presupposed, so to speak,
by the prior act of baptism, the sacrament of faith par excellence. Furthermore,
for the validity of marriage between baptized persons in the Latin Church, the
intention to celebrate a sacrament is not required;
it is not required having the desire or awareness of the sacramentality of the
marriage union, but only the intention to contract a natural marriage, this
means according to the creatural order, with the properties that the Church
considers inherent in natural marriage. Within this understanding of marriage it
is incumbent upon theology to elucidate the complex case of marriages between
“baptized non-believers.” An outright defense of the sacramentality of such
unions would undermine the essential reciprocity between faith and sacraments,
as proper to the sacramental economy, supporting, at least in the case of
marriage, a sacramental automatism which we have been rejecting as unworthy of
the Christian faith (cf. supra chap. 2).
133. [Approach]. Aware of the difficulty of the question posed under the
heading“reciprocity between faith and marriage,” we shall proceed as follows. First,
since, even if we share a common stem, there are notable differences in the
theology of marriage between the Latin and Eastern traditions, we focus
exclusively on the Latin understanding. The rich Eastern tradition has its own
physiognomy. We point out some distinctive aspects between the two. While in
Latin theology the predominant understanding is that the spouses are the
ministers of the sacrament and that the sacrament takes places through the free
mutual consent of the spouses, for the Eastern tradition the blessing of the
bishop or priest belongs in its own right to the essence of the sacrament.
Only the sacred minister has been given the faculty to invoke the Spirit (epiclesis)
to accomplish the sanctification inherent in the sacrament. It has its own
complete canonical regulation.
This is due to a conception of the sacrament of marriage which springs from a
theology with its own personality and profile, in which the sanctifying effects
of the sacrament are put in the foreground.
134. Second, we treat, according to the usual methodology (cf. § 80), with its
adaptations, the ordinary case of the sacrament of marriage. Next we investigate the doubtful
question about the sacramental quality of marriages between “baptized
non-believers,” in a twofold approach. First we look at the state of the
question and then we offer a theological proposal for a solution, congruent with
the reciprocity between faith and sacraments, which does not deny the current
theology of marriage.
4.1. The Sacrament of Marriage
135. [Marriage in the Divine Plan]. Although each sacrament has its own
specific singularity, the case of marriage stands out because of its particularity.
Marriage as such belongs to the creatural order, within the divine plan (cf. GS
48). The creatural reality of marriage rests on the relational capacity between
people of different sex, male and female (Gn 1:27), closely linked to fertility
(Gn 1:28), which culminates in such a form of union that they form “one flesh”
(cf. Gn 2:23-24). God’s sacramental interlocution throughout the divine economy
of salvation finds here a reality, created by God in his image, in the image of
the Trinitarian God, very
capable of expressing by itself the loving, covenantal relationship between God
and the people, his wife, always symbolically represented by a woman. In the
Christian perspective, this creatural reality becomes a sacrament, that is, a
visible sign of Christ’s love for the Church (Eph 5:25, 31-32).
136. [Marriage in the Teachings of Jesus]. Faced with the practice of
repudiation (Dt 22:19, 29; 24:1-4), Jesus reiterates God’s original plan: “What God has joined
together, no man must separate” (Mk 10:9 and Mt 19:6; cf. Gen 2:24; 1 Cor 6:16),
clarifying that divorce was a concession due to hardness of heart (Mk 10:5 and
Mt 19:8). Throughout history, the interpretation of the Matthean clause has been
very controversial: “Whoever repudiates his wife, not by illegitimate unions
(πορνεία), and marries another, commits adultery” (Mt 19:9; cf. 5:32). After
innumerable discussions, no consensus has been reached either on the porneia
or on the precise consequences it would have. The Latin Tradition has always
excluded the possibility of a second union for this reason,
subsequent to a valid first union (cf. Mk 10:10-11), which is consistent with
the perplexity of the disciples according to the text of Matthew (Mt 19:10).
137. [Marriage and the “Mysterion”]. The very presence of Jesus at the wedding
at Cana (Jn 2:1-12), with all its meaning of messianic weddings, together with other
allusions of a nuptial nature (Mt 9:15 and similarly; Mt 25:5-6), highlight the
capacity of the conjugal relationship to express profound aspects of the mystery
of God, such as, for example, his fidelity to our infidelity to his covenant
(cf. Ez 16 and 23; Hos 2; Jer 3:1-10; Is 54). The letter to the Ephesians
(5:31-32) correlates the marriage covenant expressly with the “mysterion” (sacramentum)
of the irrevocable covenant between Christ and the Church. From the biblical
witness as a whole, the Church has considered indissolubility as a fundamental
element of both natural and Christian marriage. The union between man and woman,
indissoluble by nature, realizes its truth in the fidelity and good of the
offspring. After the reception of baptism (of the configuration of the spouses
to Christ and their sanctification by the indwelling of the Spirit), it in a
certain way becomes by itself a sacramental representation of Christ’s fidelity.
 The love between spouses is
no stranger to the new source of their Christian life and faith. In the
Christian life, faith and love cannot be dissociated in an absolute way.
138. [Marriage: qualified by Faith]. Following St. Paul, the Church has also
understood the conjugal relationship as something highly qualified by the presence of faith
(cf. 1 Cor 7:12-16). In the case of the marriage of a Christian to a
non-Christian, Paul says the following: “An unbelieving husband is sanctified by
his wife, and an unbelieving wife is sanctified by a believing husband” (1 Cor
7:14). In this passage (esp. 1 Cor 7:15), the so-called Pauline privilege is
based, in which a higher qualification is discerned, in the order of grace, of
sacramental marriage over natural marriage.
Lights from the Tradition
139. The typical “marrying in the Lord,” characteristic of Christians, has been
expressed in different ways throughout history. According to the letter to Diognetus, at the
beginning Christians did not differentiate: “They marry like everyone else.”
However, it soon evolved. Already Ignatius of Antioch maintains the convenience
of communicating the link to the bishop.
Tertullian, for his part, praises the unions that the Church blesses.
Beyond the precise interpretation of the scope of the expressions of these early
theologians, it is emphasized that the event of marriage was not alien to either
the faith of the bride and groom or to the ecclesial community. From the fourth
and fifth centuries onwards, the ecclesial blessing, in the figure of a
minister, was an established custom.
From this period onwards, a Christian liturgy of its own is taking shape,
which integrates typically pagan customs and transforms them, as in the case of
the “velatio,” the
coronation, the handover of
the bride, the union of the hands,
the blessing of the rings, the Arras or the kiss of the betrothed; at the same
time, it adds others, as the presentation to the spouses of the “common cup,”
which is typical of the Byzantine liturgy.
The marriage liturgy, in its prayers and the interpretation of gestures,
expresses the singular place of marriage in the divine economy, with allusions
to the biblical texts on marriage. Both Peter Lombard and the Second Lateran
Council consider marriage as a sacrament; something that both the Council of
Florence and the Council of Trent will endorse with strong conviction.
In this last Council, the necessity of the canonical form for the validity of
the sacrament is determined, without modifying the doctrinal understanding of
the sacrament, thus showing how it is about an ecclesial reality belonging to
the order of faith that happens “in facie Ecclesiae,”
as opposed to the doctrine of the reformers that considers marriage as a merely
civil matter. In this way,
the ecclesial character of marriage is recognized, far from understanding it as
a private matter between the spouses.
c) Marriage as a Sacrament
140. If the sacraments presuppose faith (SC 59), marriage is no exception: “The
shepherds, moved by love for Christ, are to strive to receive the bride and groom and first
of all foster and strengthen their faith: for the sacrament of marriage
presupposes it and demands it.”
A marital union between a man and a woman, both non-baptized, from the point of
view of the Christian faith, is a tremendously valuable creatural reality,
capable of being elevated to the supernatural order, for example, in the case of
a later conversion of the spouses. In other words, in “natural” marriage there
is a significant reality open to its full realization and completion in Christ.
In the first communities, the reality of marriage is not lived on the margins of
faith. Christians live the conjugal covenant “in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39). Certain
public behaviors that are contrary to the faith in the context of couple
relationships can lead to excommunication from the community (1 Cor 5). For
conjugal love between Christian spouses has become a sign, a sacrament, which
expresses Christ’s love for his Church. This sign of an irrevocable love only
expresses what it means if this same bond is indissoluble. Indissolubility is an
aspect already present “from the beginning” in the divine plan and which,
therefore, essentially configures the reality of every authentic marriage in its
theological nucleus. In this way, that human reality as deep as the love of a
couple, so characteristic of our relational being, the capacity for mutual
self-giving between spouses and children, expresses the deepest part of the
divine mystery: love.
141. Two baptized Catholics confirmed and with a habitual Eucharistic praxis, take a beautiful and significant step forward in their life of faith when they
celebrate their marriage. They receive the grace of the sacrament of marriage,
which consists basically in that they now “manifest and share in the mystery of
the unity of the fruitful love between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32), they
help each other to sanctify themselves in conjugal life and in the procreation
of children.” Their paths of
faith have come together to witness to the power of Christ’s love for the
Church, for mutual enrichment, for Christian education of children and for
mutual sanctification. They
form a “domestic Church”;
“They are fortified and consecrated by a special sacrament” (GS 48). In this way
they give concrete expression to the maturity of the faith proper to
Confirmation, assuming a state of Christian life (cf. LG 11) and some
responsibilities in the Christian community. In the celebration of their
marriage, their faith is presupposed, expressed, nourished and strengthened by
the action of Christ in the sacrament, who “abides with them”(GS 48), with the
marriage covenant and with family life that they now undertake under the
blessing of God and the Church. Catholic marriage expresses with intensity that
it is a project of life conceived and encouraged from the faith,
as a way of mutual sanctification, in which the spouses exercise the common
priesthood by giving each other the sacrament
(cf. LG 10). The consciousness and purpose of being a sacrament of God’s love
presuppose and express the personal faith of each of the spouses. Thus, it truly
appears as a sacrament of faith, in which Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the
Spirit of Love (cf. Rom 5:5), act effectively. The love that the spouses profess
for each other is already determined by their reality as baptized. The
sanctification brought about by the sacrament impels this supernatural love in
the realization of the conjugal and family community.
and the Goods of Marriage
142. The presence of faith and the efficacious action of sacramental grace impel the spouses to realize the goods proper to marriage: “As a mutual gift of two
persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity
on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them” (GS 48).
Indissolubility (cf. GS 49) is understood from the point of view of faith as the
essential note of conjugal relationship, because otherwise it would deviate from
God’s original plan (Gn 2:23-24) and would cease to be a visible sign of
Christ’s irrevocable love for his Church. Fidelity between spouses and the
generous search for the good of the other spouse (cf. GS 49) is lived as
something that flows gently and congruently from faith and personal relationship
with the Lord Jesus. For faith puts us in a personal relationship with Jesus
Christ, while presenting as a model of following the One who gave his life for
sinners (e.g., Mk 10:45; Rom 5:6-8; 14:15; Eph 5:2; 1 Jn 4:9-10). Christian
husbands and wives from faith try to translate into their married and family
life the maxim according to which “there is more joy in giving than in
receiving” (Acts 20:35). By faith we know fertility is inscribed in God’s plan
(Gn 1:28), one of whose signs of blessing is offspring. The love of the
Trinitarian God teaches us, through faith, that true love always includes the
maximum loving reciprocity and the maximum openness towards the other. For this
reason, faith prevents us from understanding marriage as a kind of calculated
couple selfishness. An active faith of both spouses includes an understanding
that God, as the author of marriage, “has endowed it with various goods and
ends” (GS 48) which Christian spouses strive to live and unfold. As a result, a
living and shared faith in the realm of marital union reduces the possibility
that egocentric or individualistic tendencies will take root in each spouse as
well as in the couple, even in spite of the environmental pressure of the
4.2. A Quaestio Dubia: The Sacramental
Quality of the Marriage of the “Baptized Non-Believers”
Approach to the Question
143. [Definition]. Marriage is a creatural reality. By baptism the natural
bond is elevated to a supernatural sign: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman
establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its
nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education
of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ
the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
According to the theological doctrine and canonical practice currently in force,
every valid marriage contract between baptized persons is “by itself” sacrament,
even in the absence of faith of the contracting parties. That is to say, in the
case of the baptized the inseparability between a valid marriage contract,
corresponding to the creatural order of marriage, and the sacrament is
affirmed. The baptized could not simultaneously have entered into the
sacramental order, by baptism, without this affecting such a reality that is so
determinative of life and capable of sacramental significance, such as marriage,
which would be removed from the sacramental order to which the spouses
irrevocably belong after baptism (cf. §§166 d and 167 d). Should this doctrine
also be applied to the case of the marriage union between “baptized
non-believers”? In this delicate matter, the “reciprocity between faith and
sacraments” that we have been defending seems to be called into question. In
order to approach the question in an appropriate way, we need to clarify the
status and terms of the question in a more detailed way.
144. [“Baptized non-believers”]. By “baptized non-believers” we mean those
persons in whom there is no sign of the presence of the dialogical nature of faith, proper
to the personal response of the believer to the sacramental interlocution of the
Trinitarian God, as we explained in the second chapter. This category includes
two types of people. Those who received baptism in infancy, but subsequently,
for whatever reason, have not come to perform a personal act of faith, involving
their understanding and their will. This is a very frequent case in
traditionally Christian countries, where a very broad de-Christianization of
society is accompanied by a great negligence in education in the faith. We also
refer to those baptized persons who consciously deny the faith explicitly and do
not consider themselves to be Catholic or Christian believers. They even
sometimes perform a formal act of abandonment of the Catholic faith and
separation from the Church, without the reason for the act of formal abandonment
of the Catholic Church being entry into another church, community, or Christian
denomination. In both cases the presence of a “disposition to believe”
is not perceived.
145. [Preliminary Formulation of the Question]. Thus, the question that arises
is if two unmarried “baptized non-believers” of different sexes of either of the two types
described are married by a sacramental celebration or by some other valid form
of union: Does a sacrament take place? The topic is the subject of debate and
has generated an abundant literature. Its solution is not clear, since several
major elements come into play in simultaneous interaction. Next, we will go
through some significant milestones of its development in recent years, in the
teachings of the last pontiffs, as well as in official ecclesial instances, in
order to take responsibility with the terms of the question.
State and terms of the Question
146. [International Theological Commission]. In 1977, the International
Theological Commission produced a document entitled
Propositions on the Doctrine of
Christian Marriage. Among the topics discussed are: the sacramentality of
marriage, marriage between “baptized non-believers,” and the inseparability
between contract and sacrament. They supported a series of highly nuanced theses
that hint at the tension between the conviction of the necessity of faith for
the celebration of a sacrament and the reluctance to declare faith as the
determinant of the sacramentality of marriage. From their affirmations, which
we do not reproduce in their entirety, the following stand out for our topic.
147. The existence of a constitutive and reciprocal relationship between
indissolubility and sacramentality. And they specified: “sacramentality constitutes the final
grounds, although not the only grounds, for its indissolubility” (§ 2.2.).
148. Regarding the interrelationship between faith and the sacrament of marriage,
they held that in the sacrament of marriage the source of grace is Jesus Christ, not
the faith of the contracting subjects. And they added: “That, however, does not
mean that grace is conferred in the sacrament of matrimony outside of faith or
in the absence of faith” (§ 2.3.). Faith would be a “dispositive cause” for
fruitfulness not for validity.
149. About the “baptized non-believers,” they said:
The existence today of “baptized nonbelievers” raises a new theological problem and a grave pastoral dilemma, especially when the lack of, or rather the
rejection of, the Faith seems clear. The intention of carrying out what Christ
and the Church desires is the minimum condition required before consent is
considered to be a “real human act” on the sacramental plane. The problem of
intention and that of the personal faith of the contracting parties must not be
confused, but they must not be totally separated. In the last analysis the
real intention is born from and feeds on living faith. Where there is no
trace of faith (in the sense of “belief”-being disposed to believe), and no
desire for grace or salvation is found, then a real doubt arises as to whether
there is the above-mentioned general and truly sacramental intention and whether
the contracted marriage is validly contracted or not. As was noted, the personal
faith of the contracting parties does not constitute the sacramentality of
matrimony, but the absence of personal faith compromises the validity of the
sacrament (§2.3. Emphasis added).
In his commentary, published along with the document, the then secretary of the Commission, Msgr. Philippe Delhaye, states: “The key to the problem is in the
intention; the intention to do what the Church does by offering a permanent
sacrament that entails indissolubility, fidelity, fruitfulness.”
150. Later, the Commission document reaffirms the inseparability between contract and sacrament: “For the Church, no natural marriage separated from the sacrament
exists for baptized persons, but only natural marriage elevated to the dignity
of a sacrament”( § 3.5.).
151. [St. John Paul II]. Throughout the pontificate of
John Paul II, the
subject of marriage of the “baptized non-believers” and the need for faith for the
sacrament of matrimony has come up repeatedly. Proposition 12.4 approved by the
Fifth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held in 1980, which
dealt with the family said: “Let there be examined more seriously if the
assertion that a valid marriage between baptized persons is always a sacrament
also applies to those who have lost faith. Let the juridical and pastoral
consequences be drawn from it.”
152. In the post-synodal exhortation,
John Paul II will
argue consistently that the marriage act is intrinsically qualified by the
supernatural reality to which the baptized belong irrevocably, beyond the
express awareness of this reality.
On our subject, it clearly indicates:
As for wishing to lay down further criteria for admission to the ecclesial
celebration of marriage, criteria that would concern the level of faith of those
to be married, this would above all involve grave risks. In the first place, the
risk of making unfounded and discriminatory judgments; secondly, the risk of
causing doubts about the validity of marriages already celebrated, with grave
harm to Christian communities, and new and unjustified anxieties to the
consciences of married couples; one would also fall into the danger of calling
into question the sacramental nature of many marriages of brethren separated
from full communion with the Catholic Church, thus contradicting ecclesial
153. In spite of everything, he does not fail to recognize the possibility that the
bride and groom simultaneously ask for the ecclesial celebration of marriage and “show
that they reject explicitly and formally what the Church intends to do when the
marriage of baptized persons is celebrated.” In this case he prescribes: “the
pastor of souls cannot admit them to the celebration of marriage.”
We can interpret that because in that case there would be no true sacrament.
That is to say, John Paul II demands some minimums, even if it is only the
absence of explicit and formal rejection of what the Church does. In his own
way, therefore, he also rejects what we can call an absolute sacramental
154. Later, in an important
address to the Roman Rota (January 30, 2003), he clearly warned of the non-existence of two types of marriages, one natural and the other
supernatural: “The church does not refuse to celebrate a marriage for the person
who is well disposed, even if he is imperfectly prepared from the
supernatural point of view, provided the person has the right intention to
marry according to the natural reality of marriage. In fact, alongside
natural marriage, one cannot describe another model of Christian marriage with
specific supernatural requisites.”
This opinion had already been clearly defended by John Paul II in another
address to the Roman Rota (February 1, 2001).
In 2001, he stressed that faith should not be demanded as a minimum requirement,
because it is something alien to tradition.
He ratified the natural purpose of marriage and that marriage consists of a
natural reality, not exclusively supernatural. In this context he said: “To
obscure the natural dimension of marriage, therefore, with its reduction to a
mere subjective experience, also entails the implicit denial of its
sacramentality.” That is to
say, the basis of everything lies in the natural, creational reality.
155. [The creation of the Code of Canon Law]. In the work leading up to the
drafting of the Code of Canon Law, the question of the inseparability between the natural
reality of marriage and sacramental marriage as a salvific reality was discussed
extensively. In the end, the legislator chose to maintain the most common
doctrine, without attempting to elucidate the issue doctrinally, as it was not
within his competence. When legislating, the most commonly accepted theological
presuppositions are included.
This inseparability was discussed during the Council of Trent. Among its
opponents, the figure of Melchior Cano stands out. It has not been defined,
although it is the most constant opinion. Many qualify it as Catholic doctrine.
The Code of Canon Law picks it up in canon 1055, § 2, already mentioned.
156. [The jurisprudence of the Roman Rota]. The jurisprudence of the Rota,
following Catholic doctrine, considers indissolubility to be an essential property of
natural marriage. However, in a highly secularized social and cultural context,
in which convictions very different from those of the Church are widespread and
ingrained, the question arises whether de facto, in the absence of faith, the
indissolubility of marriage is accepted. Thus, for some years now,
jurisprudence has held that lack of faith may affect the intention to enter into
a natural marriage. In a
way, it seems to echo the sensitivity expressed in proposition 40 of the XI
General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in October 2005,
under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, and dealt with the Eucharist. In it, in
response to the issue of the divorced and remarried, it was said:
The Synod hopes that all possible efforts will be made to ensure the pastoral
character, presence and correct and solicitous activity of the ecclesiastical
tribunals in regard to causes of marital annulment (cf. “Dignitas connubi”),
both by further deepening the essential elements for the validity of marriage,
and also by taking into account the problems arising from the context of
profound anthropological transformation of our time, by which the faithful
themselves run the risk of being conditioned, especially if they lack a solid
157. [Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI]. The then Prefect of the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, stated clearly in 1997: “It
needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ‘ipso
facto’ a sacramental marriage. In fact, the Code states that only the
“valid” marriage between baptized persons is at the same time a Sacrament (cf.
CIC, canon 1055 § 2). Faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament; what
remains to be clarified is the juridical question of what evidence of “absence
of faith” would have as a consequence that the sacrament does not come into
being.” An opinion that he
qualified as Pope, Benedict XVI,
in an address to priests in 2005, indicating
that the problem is very difficult; and that he now had more doubts about faith
as a reason for invalidity and that the question still requires deepening.
158. In his last address to the Roman Rota,
Pope Benedict XVI once again elaborated on this issue, which was so important to him. We extracted some of his
contributions. At the beginning of his reflections, he alludes to the question
of faith and intention, in line with the International Theological Commission,
whose document he mentions:
The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of
the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith;
what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do
what the Church does. However, it is important not to confuse the problem of the
intention with that of the personal faith of those contracting marriage, it is
nonetheless impossible to separate them completely.
159. He then explains how faith and openness to God greatly determine the conception
of life in all its facets and specifically in something as delicate as a lifelong
bond (indissolubility, exclusivity, and fidelity). “The rejection of the divine
proposal, in fact, leads to a profound imbalance in all human relations,
including matrimonial relations, and facilitates an erroneous understanding of
liberty and of self-fulfillment.” From there it follows, according to Benedict
XVI, “a profound imbalance in all human relations, including matrimonial
relations.” And “it facilitates an erroneous understanding of liberty and of
self-fulfillment which, together with flight from the patient tolerance of
suffering, condemns people to withdraw into selfish egocentricity.”
160. This lack of faith does not automatically lead to the impossibility of a natural marriage. However:
Faith in God, sustained by divine grace, is thus a very important element for
living mutual dedication and conjugal fidelity. (…) Yet, closure to God or the
rejection of the sacred dimension of the conjugal union and of its value in the
order of grace certainly makes arduous the practical embodiment of the most
lofty model of marriage conceived by the Church according to God’s plan and can
even undermine the actual validity of the pact, should it be expressed, as the
consolidated jurisprudence of this Tribunal assumes, in a rejection of the
principle of the conjugal obligation of fidelity itself, that is, of the other
essential elements or properties of matrimony.
161. Later on, he explores how faith decisively affects the good of the spouses: “In
truth, there is in the resolve of Christian spouses to live a real communio
coniugalis a dynamism proper to faith, for which the confessio, the
sincere personal response to the announcement of salvation, involves the
believer in the impetus of God’s love.”
He goes on to affirm how confession of faith, far from remaining on an abstract
level, fully involves the person in confessed charity, since truth and love are
inseparable. And he concludes: “One must not, therefore, disregard the
consideration that can arise in the cases in which, precisely because of the
absence of faith, the good of the spouses is jeopardized, that is, excluded from
the consent itself.” In such
a way that the lack of faith “may, although not necessarily, also damage the
goods of marriage, since the reference to the natural order desired by God is
inherent in the conjugal pact (cf. Gen 2:24).”
162. [Pope Francis]. The need for further study, requested by Benedict
XVI, is still valid, according to the findings prior to the last synodal assemblies on the family and
the statements of Pope Francis. Thus, the
Intrumentum laboris for the III
Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (2014) summarized our
question: “Very many responses, especially in Europe and North America…they see
a need to investigate the question of the relationship between faith and the
Sacrament of Matrimony, as suggested by Pope Benedict XVI.”
Relatio Synodi, which serves both as the conclusion of the III
Extraordinary General Assembly and as the Lineamenta for the XIV General
Assembly of the Synod, also alludes to the question;
so does the Intrumentum laboris for the XIV Assembly (2015).
The post-synodal exhortation
Amoris laetitia warns in its
introduction: “The complexity of the issues that arose [during the synodal path]
revealed the need for continued open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral,
spiritual, and pastoral questions.”
And it adds: “This having been said, there is a need for further reflection on
God’s action in the marriage rite; this is clearly manifested in the Oriental
Churches through the importance of the blessing that the couple receive as a
sign of the gift of the Spirit.”
The present reflection on “reciprocity between faith and marriage” is modestly
situated on this path.
163. Pope Francis has also addressed our issue in various circumstances. In his
address to the Roman Rota on January 23, 2015,
he referred to the possible defects of origin in consent, which can affect
validity, pointing out how it can be given “both directly as a defect of valid
intention, as well as by grave deficit in the understanding of marriage itself
to such an extent that this is what dictates one’s will (cf. canon 1099).”
And he added: “Indeed, at the root of the crisis of marriage is often a
crisis of knowledge enlightened by faith, that is, knowledge informed by the
adhesion to God and his design of love realized in Jesus Christ.”
164. Following this line, the apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio
iudex Dominus Iesus (15 August 2015), states: “Among the circumstances of things and persons
that can allow a case for nullity of marriage to be handled by means of the
briefer process according to canons 1683-1687, are included, for example: the
defect of faith which can generate simulation of consent or error that
determines the will.” Thus,
lack of faith may be decisive for validity.
165. In the following year (January 22, 2016), when speaking to the Roman Rota,
he expressed himself in this sense: “It is worth clearly reiterating that the
essential component of marital consent is not the quality of one’s faith, which
according to unchanging doctrine can be undermined only on the plane of the
natural (cf. CIC, canon 1055 § 1 and 2).”
And he made his own the doctrine that holds the presence of the habitus fidei
operative after baptism, even without a psychologically perceptible faith. And
he concludes: “A lack of formation in the faith and error with respect to the
unity, indissolubility and sacramental dignity of marriage invalidates marital
consent only if they influence the person’s will (cf. CIC, canon 1099). It is
for this reason that errors regarding the sacramentality of marriage must be
evaluated very attentively.”
166. [The terms of the question]. From this brief overview of the teaching of
the last pontiffs on our subject, as well as from official ecclesial instances, it seems
clear that the fundamental issue is not entirely resolved, although it is quite
focused. By making an interpretative and systematizing balance, these aspects
come into play in dynamic interrelation and dynamic tension:
a) As in every sacrament, in marriage there is a transmission of the grace of
Christ. This grace is not due to the faith of the ministers, according to the
Latin tradition of the contracting parties, but is a gift of Christ, who is
actively present in the conjugal covenant, and of the Spirit.
b) There can be no sacrament without faith. A kind of sacramental automatism would
deny the dialogical nature of the sacramental economy, which is structured
around the intimate connection between faith and sacraments (cf. chapter 2).
Thus, in order for there to be a sacrament in the case of marriage between
“baptized non-believers,” there must be some active faith, regardless of the
difficulty in determining it positively, either in the spouses or adjudicating
it in its totality to Mother Church.
c) The practical difficulty of verifying the lack of faith of the spouses is a
difficult and complex pastoral problem (cf. § 61). However, it is up to
theology to dogmatically clarify this very nuclear point for a proper
understanding of the sacrament of marriage.
d) Validly received baptism has irrevocably grafted the baptized into the
sacramental economy with the impression of “character” (cf. § 65). His personal
reality, beyond his conscious acts of understanding and will, proper to faith,
is already marked by this belonging without sin or the absence of faith, whether
shapeless or formed, being able to erase or annul what the irrevocable gift of
Christ has produced.
e) The most established Catholic doctrine maintains the inseparability between
contract and sacrament (cf. § 155). The definitive clarification of this aspect
is still pending. The separation between contract and sacrament would have a
direct impact on the question we are dealing with. Given the present state of
Catholic doctrine, it seems appropriate to adhere to the most common opinion
today regarding the inseparability between contract and sacrament.
f) The faith of the spouses is decisive for the fruitfulness of the sacrament (cf.
§ 68). Validity and, with it, sacramentality depends on whether a true marriage
bond has taken place: a natural marriage.
g) The minimum necessary for a sacrament is the intention to enter into a true
natural marriage (cf. § 154).
h) In the case of the sacrament of matrimony, faith and intention cannot be
identified, but neither can they be completely separated (cf. §§ 149 and 158).
Since it is clear that the sacramental truth of marriage hangs on intention and
that faith influences intention, it is not entirely clear how and to what extent
lack of faith affects intention.
We propose to deepen on this last point for the case of the described “baptized
non-believers” (cf. § 144). This is an aspect that is congruent with the
reciprocity between faith and sacraments that we have been defending.
167. [Possible Theoretical Alternatives to Resolve the Issue]. But first, to
complete, let us look at the list of possible theoretical solutions to our topic and its
theological solvency, measured from the theological perspective that we have
previously based and we are shuffling (chapter 2).
a) First, an absolute sacramental automatism could be defended. The fact of baptism
would imply, regardless of the faith of the spouses, that the marriage contract
is elevated “eo ipso” to the supernatural reality of the sacrament. This
solution clashes with the dialogical nature of the sacramental economy, which we
have explained reasonably, so we discard it.
b) A second possibility would be to defend the separation between contract and
sacrament. Since it is true that the identity between contract and sacrament has
not been solemnly defined, in order to consider this separation as theologically
certain, it would be necessary to provide a specific convincing argument in this
regard. We renounce exploring that avenue and follow the most common terms of
current Catholic theology about marriage.
c) A third option would assert the presence of the ecclesial faith, despite the
absence of a personal faith of the contracting parties. There would be a
substitution of the ecclesial faith, in spite of the lack of a personal faith on
the part of the contracting parties. This option, however, also presents its
problems. On the one hand, the essence of the sacrament is given in the consent
between the spouses. On this basis, the Church can demand certain formal
requirements for its validity, as in fact happens today, as the fruit of a long
history. On the other hand, throughout the exploration of the dialogical nature
of the sacramental economy (chapter 2), we have shown how ecclesial faith
precedes and accompanies personal faith, but never supplants it completely. To
attribute the sacramentality of marriage exclusively to the ecclesial faith
would imply denying the interpersonal nature of the sacramental economy.
d) A fourth possibility lies in attributing sacramentality to the efficacy linked
to the “character” impressed with baptism. The “character” is due to the
irrevocability of Christ’s gift. It implies insertion into the sacramental
realty of economy. It empowers the dialogical exercise of sacramentality,
without by itself implying an active exercise of the sacramentality. The habitus, linked to the “character,” is a disposition to act; it is neither a
performance nor an act. It requires that it be exercised by a power, such as the
will. Thus, with the
impression of the “character” and the instilling of habit, the sacramental
interlocution on the part of God is affirmed, with all certainty, but the
dialogical response of a personal nature on the part of the graced subject is
lacking. He has nevertheless remained capable of acting on this response.
e) As we have already anticipated, there remains the possibility of arguing about
the intention, since for the validity of every sacrament there has to be the
intention of doing what the Church intends in each sacrament.
4.3. The Intention and the
Establishment of the Matrimonial Bond in the Absence of Faith
Intention is necessary for there to be a Sacrament
168. [Necessity of Intention]. As we have said
(§§ 67-69), the traditional doctrine of the sacraments includes the conviction that the sacrament requires at least the
intention to do what the Church does: “All these sacraments are realized by
three elements: of things, as matter; of words, as form; and of the person of
the minister who confers the sacrament with the intention of doing what the
Church does (cum intentione faciendi quod facit Ecclesia). If one of them
is missing, the sacrament is not performed.”
According to the common opinion of Latin theology, the ministers of the
sacrament of marriage are the spouses, who reciprocally donate their marriage.
In the case of sacramental marriage, at least the intention to perform a natural
marriage is required. Now, natural marriage, as the Church understands it,
includes as essential properties indissolubility, fidelity and ordering to the
good of the spouses, and the good of the offspring. Therefore, if the intention
to enter into marriage does not include these properties, at least implicitly,
there is a serious lack of intention, capable of calling into question the very
existence of natural marriage, which is the necessary basis for sacramental
169. [Interrelation between Faith and Intention]. With varied emphasis, the
Magisterium of the last three pontiffs confirms the interconnection between a living and
explicit faith and the intention to celebrate a true natural marriage. One that
is indissoluble and exclusive and focused on the good of the spouses, through a
sincere self-giving charity, and open to offspring. John Paul II asks not to
accept spouses who reject “explicitly and formally what the Church intends to do
when the marriage of baptized persons is celebrated” (cf. § 153), while
maintaining the necessity of having “the right intention to marry according to
the natural reality of marriage” (cf. § 154). Benedict XVI notes the remarkable
impact of the absence of faith on the conception of life, on relationships, on
the very bond of marriage and on the good of the spouses, which can also “damage
the goods of marriage” (cf. § 161). Francis points how the root of the marriage
crisis lies in the “a crisis of knowledge enlightened by faith” (cf. § 163) and
invokes lack of faith as a possible motive for simulation in consent (cf. §
164). The jurisprudence of the Roman Rota follows the line taken by Benedict
XVI (cf. § 156). To be more precise, the aforementioned ecclesial instances and
the last two pontiffs consider that the lack of living and explicit faith raises
well-founded suspicions about the intention of truly celebrating an
indissoluble, definitive and exclusive marriage, as a free reciprocal gift and
open to offspring, even though at the root they do not rule out the possibility
of this happening. In no case does a simplistic sacramental automatism arise.
Predominant Cultural Understanding of Marriage
170. [Predominant Culture and Understanding of Marriage]. In countries
whose predominant culture proposes polygamy as a value, which is opposed to the divine
plan (cf. Gen 1:26; 2:18-24), it seems more difficult to consider that in the
absence of explicit faith, the intention to enter into marriage includes in
itself the exclusivity inherent in natural marriage according to the Christian
conception. Furthermore, the cultural context of polygamy, together with other
aspects that can occur independently of polygamy, clashes with the “principle of
parity” of the spouses, rooted in the fact of creation in the image and likeness
of God. This is inherent in
the very good of the spouses (bonum coniugum), and is one of the
fundamental goods of natural marriage. On the other hand, a kind of practical
exercise of polygamy, as a factual reality, has spread to many western
countries, where the existence of a marriage or couple bond is not understood as
an obstacle to living simultaneously other realities, which, according to the
Church, belong exclusively to the conjugal order.
171. Years ago, in traditionally Christian countries there was a consensus on the
reality of marriage, which was informed by the influence exerted by the Christian faith in
society. In this context, it could be assumed that every natural marriage,
irrespective of a living and explicit life of faith, included in its intention
the properties of natural marriage as understood by the Church. Today, with the
entrenchment and diffusion of other conceptions about the family clearly
divergent from the Catholic one, greater caution is imposed, generating new
doctrinal and pastoral problems.
172. The fact that marriage is a creative reality implies that anthropology is an
intrinsic part of its essence in a double sense, closely linked to each other. On the one
hand, the conception of the human person comes fully into play, someone who, as
a relational being, fulfills his or her own being in self-giving. On the other
hand, the essence of marriage is also touched by the understanding of sexual
differentiation, male and female, as an element of the divine plan oriented
towards procreation and towards the conjugal covenant, as a reflection of God’s
covenant with the people of Israel and of Christ’s covenant with the Church.
Both elements come fully into play in natural marriage. It is indissoluble,
exclusive, focused on the reciprocal good of the spouses, through interpersonal
love, and on the offspring. Thus, the Church appears, sometime alone and under
attack, as the cultural bulwark that preserves the natural reality proper to
marriage. However, without falling into catastrophic lamentations, a sincere
look at our cultural context cannot fail to see how they are increasingly
consolidated as unquestionable axioms in postmodern culture, aspects that lead
to questioning the natural basis of marriage in its anthropological root. Thus,
without the intention of exhaustiveness, the predominant tendency includes as
evident, for example, these widespread convictions, rooted and sometimes
sanctioned by legislation, clearly contrary to the Catholic faith.
a) The search for personal self-realization, centered on the satisfaction of the
self, as the major goal of life, which justifies the most substantive ethical
decisions, also in the field of marriage and family. This conception is opposed
to the meaning of loving sacrifice and oblation as the greatest achievement of
the truth of the person, which the Christian faith proposes, thus achieving in a
magnificent way its meaning and fulfillment.
b) A “macho” type mentality that undervalues women, damaging conjugal parity linked
to the good of the spouses, understanding marriage as an alliance between two
who would not be equal by divine design, nature and juridical rights, versus the
biblical conception and Christian faith.
Jesus’ counter-cultural stance against divorce (cf. Mt 19:3-8) was a defense of
the weakest part of the culture of the time: the woman.
c) A “gender ideology” that denies any biological determination of sexual character
in the construction of gender identity, undermining the complementarity between
the sexes inscribed in the Creator’s plan.
d) A divorce mentality, which undermines the understanding of marital
indissolubility. On the contrary, it leads to consider the conjugal ties, more
commonly known as “living together,” as essentially revisable realities, in
direct contradiction with the teaching of Jesus in this regard in Mk 10:9 and Mt
19:6 (cf. Gen 2:24).
e) A conception of the body as absolute personal property, freely available to
obtain maximum pleasure, especially in the field of sexual relations, detached
from an institutional and stable conjugal bond. Paul, however, affirms the
belonging of the body to the Lord, excluding immorality (πορνεία), in such a way
that the body becomes a channel for the glorification of God (cf. 1 Cor
f) The dissociation between the conjugal act and procreation, contrary to the
entire tradition of the Catholic Church, from Scripture (Gen 1:28) to the
g) Ethical and sometimes legal equalization of all forms of pairing. Thus, not only
successive unions, de facto unions, without a formal marriage contract, but also
unions of persons of the same sex are propagated. Successive unions in fact
deny indissolubility. Temporary or probationary cohabitation does not know
indissolubility. Same sex unions do not recognize the anthropological meaning of
the difference in sexes (Gn 1:27; 2:22-24), inherent in the natural
understanding of marriage, according to the Catholic faith.
The absence of Faith can Compromise the Intention to Contract a Natural Marriage
173. [The absence of Faith can compromise the intention to celebrate a marriage
that includes some of the goods of marriage]. From the point of view of dogmatic theology, there is reason to doubt that
in the case of marriages between “baptized non-believers,” according to the
typology we have described, a sacrament of faith takes place because of a
serious defect of intention to contract natural marriage, presumably as a very
possible consequence, quasi inherent in the lack of faith, enunciated
differently by the last two pontiffs. The lack of faith in the case of the
“baptized non-believers,” of the aforementioned typology, can be qualified as
unequivocal and determinant of the conceptions of life. Therefore, the doubts
mentioned by the pontiffs in a generic way can be assumed in their entirety for
these cases. It is not possible to desire, pretend or love what is unknown or
174. [Incidence of absence of Faith on the natural goods of Marriage]. In
Christian marriage, there is a much greater bond than in any other sacrament, between the
creatural and the supernatural reality, between the order of creation and that
of redemption: “marriage has been instituted by God the Creator,”
and then elevated to the dignity of a sacrament. Given this very close link, it
is understood that a modification of the natural reality of marriage, a
departure from the creative project, directly affects the supernatural reality,
the sacrament. This connection also occurs in the opposite direction, at least
in the extreme case of marriages between “baptized non-believers.” For the
express denial of supernatural reality, the explicit abandonment of faith,
sometimes even with a formal act, or the total absence of adherence to the
faith, baptized but who never personally assumed the faith, places these persons
totally at the mercy of current social opinions on matrimonial and family
matters; and it blocks their access to the creatural source of marriage.
175. Indeed, if we consider together the dominant cultural axiomatic, previously
outlined, and the line of reflection of
Benedict XVI in his last
address to the Roman Rota
(January 26, 2013), we can affirm that, in the absence of clear and explicit
faith, the intention with respect to the essential goods of marriage suffers a
serious detriment. Benedict XVI has clearly illustrated this with regard to the
good of the spouses. His starting point was as follows: “In the context of the
Year of Faith, I would like to reflect in particular on several aspects of the
relationship between faith and marriage, noting that the current crisis of
faith, which is affecting various parts of the world, brings with it a crisis of
the conjugal society.” In
other words, the supernatural element directly affects the natural reality. And
he continues later:
It escapes no one that the basic decision of each person to enter into a
lifetime bond, influences the basic view of each one according to whether or not
he or she is anchored to a merely human level or is open to the light of faith
in the Lord. It is only in opening oneself to God’s truth, in fact, that it is
possible to understand and achieve in the concrete reality of both conjugal and
family life the truth of men and women as his children, regenerated by Baptism.
176. The truth of man in natural marriage belongs to God’s plan.
Benedict XVI links
the sacrificial capacity of true generous love, good of the spouses, to openness to
true love, which is God, from the intimate unity between truth and love. For the
specific love of the good of the spouses to be given, it is necessary to be open
to the ultimate truth of love, that is, to the love of God. In a society that
proclaims personal self-realization as the supreme good, it seems very difficult
that in the notable and explicit absence of faith the conjugal bond is
understood from sacrificial love. In the words of
Benedict XVI: “‘He who abides
in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can
do nothing’ (Jn 15:5). This is what Jesus taught his disciples, reminding them
of the human being’s essential inability to do what is necessary for achieving
his true good alone.” The
understanding of life and the practice of love as unselfish self-transcendence,
which seeks first of all the good of the other person, is perfected with divine
177. Sacrificial love and unselfish self-transcendence are not confined to the
reciprocal good of the spouses, but they fully affect the good of the offspring, the
splendid fruit of the fecundity of conjugal love. If the good of love between
the spouses is damaged at its root, it cannot but also directly and explicitly
affect the good of the offspring.
178. The lack of faith itself includes serious doubts about indissolubility in our
cultural context. The deeply ingrained social way of understanding the marriage bond is
highly desirable in its permanence, but clearly reviewable in the understanding
of what is a proper bond; and the sadly abundant proliferation of separations,
means that, without specific source of knowledge, faith as a means of adherence
to God’s creative plan, there are reasons to doubt that there is a true
intention of indissolubility of the bond upon marriage.
179. In short, we have articulated these points. Faith determines very fundamentally
the anthropology that is lived. The substantial reality of marriage is
anthropological, creatural. A total absence of faith also determines
anthropology and, with it, the natural reality of marriage, which is more at the
mercy of the dominant cultural axiomatic. A lack of faith of this caliber in
this context makes it possible to doubt, on good grounds, the existence of a
true natural marriage, which is the indispensable basis on which sacramental
marriage is based. In other words, in the case of the “baptized non-believers”
described, due to the lack of faith, the intention to enter into a natural
marriage cannot be assumed to be guaranteed, nor can it be excluded in the first
180. [From Sacramentality]. This point of view is in full conformity with the
conception of sacramentality which we have been defending (cf. esp. § 16). Let us remember
that this consists in the inseparable correlation between a
visible, external reality, the signifier, and another of a supernatural,
invisible, signified nature. The conception of Catholic marriage is based on
this understanding of sacramentality. Therefore, for sacramental marriage to
take place, a kind of love is required as an external visible reality which, by
its particular qualities (goods of marriage: GS 48-50), together with the help
received by grace, can signify the love of God. In other words, a marital bond
which does not include indissolubility, fidelity, and the sacrificial
disposition towards the other spouse, and openness to offspring would not be a
sign capable of signifying Christ’s love for the Church. The Church understands
that in this type of bond the truth of married love does not emerge.
181. [Conclusion]. Our proposal rejects two extremes. On the one hand, we
reject an absolute sacramental automatism (cf. esp. §§ 41 e and 78 e), which holds that
every marriage between the baptized would be a sacrament, either through the
presence of a minimal faith linked to the “character” of baptism or through the
intervention of Christ and the Church presupposed by baptism. On the other hand,
we reject an elitist sacramental skepticism that holds that any degree of
absence of faith would vitiate the intention and thus invalidate the sacrament.
We affirm that, in the case of an absence of faith as explicit and clear as that
of the described “baptized non-believers,” serious doubts about an intention
that includes the goods of natural marriage, as understood by the Church, make
it possible to maintain serious reservations about the existence of a
sacramental marriage. It is therefore consistent with the Church’s sacramental
practice to deny the sacrament of marriage to those who request it under these
conditions, as John Paul II has already held (cf. §§ 153 and 169).
182. [Pastoral Care]. Both the cultural context described (cf. §§ 156,
170-172) and the existence of marriages between “baptized non-believers” are a stimulus for the
pastoral care of marriage to unfold all its vigor and potential, in line with
the suggestions of Pope John Paul II and
The radiance of the profound humanity that is witnessed in Christian families,
whose heart is the faith lived by all its members, will be a beacon and a star
capable of attracting and convincing. One of its objectives could be precisely
these marriages of “baptized non-believers,” since an awakening of faith would
mean the emergence of the force of sacramental grace. In any case, the best
response to the “desire for family” that, despite the difficulties, is lived
everywhere is “the joy of love experienced by families.”
5. CONCLUSION: THE RECIPROCITY BETWEEN FAITH AND
SACRAMENTS IN THE SACRAMENTAL ECONOMY
183. [Sacramental Visibility of Grace]. The sacramental economy, as an
incarnational economy, requires of itself a visibility of grace. The Church, heiress and
continuer of Christ’s work, constitutes this visible sign in history. Its
meaning is not reduced to procuring the means of salvation for the faithful
themselves. It makes God’s saving grace visible in the world. If the Church were
to disappear, the historical tangibility of salvation in Jesus Christ would
vanish. For this reason, the Church itself renders a service for all. The Church
is the means and instrument that proclaims the presence in the history of the
universal plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. Every Christian participates in
this ecclesial mission, which each sacrament strengthens in its own way. In each
sacrament there is a reception of God’s gift; there is a configuration with
Christ and an ecclesial mission for the life of the world.
184. Since the sacramental sphere refers to external and verifiable visibility, when
access to the sacrament is denied, for example in the case of divorced and remarried or
others, no conclusion can be drawn from there on the whole truth about the
quality of that person’s faith. Christians of other Christian denominations are
not in full visible sacramental communion with the Catholic Church, because of
the persistence of profound differences in Christian doctrine and life. For this
reason, the sacramental celebration cannot make visible a full communion.
However, it is not excluded on principle that the union with Christ of a
non-Catholic Christian, through charity and prayer, may be more intense than
that of a Catholic, despite the fact that the latter enjoys the objective
fullness of the means of salvation. As the liturgy affirms, the ultimate
judgment about the quality of each person’s faith belongs to God alone: “whose
faith and devotion are known to you.”
185. [Growth, Catechumenate]. Faith, as a virtue, is a dynamic reality. It
can grow, strengthen, and mature; but also experience its opposites. The catechumenate
helps the reception of the sacraments with a more conscious faith about what is
received and about one’s personal commitment to it. Pastoral charity will have
to decide the concrete terms of the catechumenate according to the sacrament in
question and the persons who ask for it, taking into account the quality and
intensity of the religious background from which they come. The formation of
catechists and their testimony of life are crucial. On the other hand, the very
reception of the sacrament, with the commitment it implies, invites us to
continue the catechumenate, through mystagogical catechesis, certainly after the
sacraments of initiation and marriage. Growth in faith and a kind of continuous
catechumenate are aptly given in some of the so-called new ecclesial movements.
In them, there is a socialization achieved in faith and in ecclesial belonging.
Moreover, in them the sacramental dimension of faith is strongly emphasized,
through the emphasis on the grateful reception of the gift, adoration of the
Lord, the frequent reception of the sacraments, emphasizing above all the
irrevocable gift of God, which binds his grace to the sacraments without
conditioning it to the perfection of the ministers or to the merits of those who
receive them. From the vertical horizon of sacramentality, they are
strengthened, for they do not rely on themselves to give horizontal witness
before the world how God’s grace makes its way into weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
186. [Insertion into the Sacramental Economy through Faith and the Sacraments].
The Christian’s insertion into the sacramental economy happens through faith and
the sacraments. The sacraments offer to those who desire it and are adequately
disposed something as valuable as the pledge of eternal life and loving
closeness of Christ.
187. In the realization of the sacramental economy, as the unfolding of the
incarnation and its logic, the paschal mystery is highlighted as the culmination
in which love is realized to the extreme (Jn 13:1; 15:13). The Christian,
through baptism (the sacrament of faith) is incorporated into this mystery,
participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus in a sacramental way (Rom
6:3-4); and at the same time, he becomes the living stone of the Church. Thus,
Christian life begins with insertion into the essential nucleus of the
188. The mystery of Christ included in his gift of his Spirit, as the great gift of
the Risen One. At Pentecost, with the reception of the Spirit, at the
culmination of her own constitution, the Church was fully aware of being graced
and sent for a universal mission. The Christian is incorporated into the
Pentecostal event through the sacraments of initiation, with a strengthening of
his faith and of his responsibility both ad intra of the ecclesial
community and ad extra as a “missionary disciple.”
189. At the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated in gestures and words the meaning of his
whole life and of his own mystery: his body was given and his blood was shed for
the “many.” In the Eucharist, the Christian again receives the gift of the
Lord, which he expressly accepts as such in the “Amen,” in order to continue
himself to be an active member of the body of Christ present in the world.
190. The dynamics of the sacramental economy can be read as God’s covenant with his
people, an image to which the nuptial connotations are not alien. In the whole
of the mystery of Christ, the definitive and irrevocable renewal of the covenant
of God with his people takes place through Christ. Christian spouses, by
marrying “in the Lord,” become a sign that testifies to the love that presides
over Christ’s relationship with the Church.
191. With his life, death and resurrection, Jesus brought God’s salvation, which
includes the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and reconciliation
between brothers by breaking down the wall of separation (Eph 2:4-6, 11-14).
When the Christian contradicts the meaning of the Gospel and the following of
Christ, by receiving the sacrament of penance with a repentant faith he is
reconciled with God and with the Church. Thus, if on the one hand the Church is
renewed, the forgiven one becomes an ambassador of God’s forgiveness in Jesus
192. Jesus approached many sick people, comforted them, healed them and forgave their
sins. The one who receives the anointing is sacramentally united to Christ at
this moment when the power of sickness and death seems to triumph, to proclaim
from faith the victory of Christ and the hope of eternal life.
193. Jesus gathered around him a group of disciples and followers, whom he was
instructing in the mysteries of the kingdom of God and manifesting the mystery
of his person. Those who respond in faith to the Lord’s call and receive the
sacrament of Holy Orders are configured with Christ, as Head and Shepherd, to
continue proclaiming the Gospel, leading the community in the likeness of the
Good Shepherd and offering the living and holy sacrifice.
194. [Sacramental nature of Faith]. The divine economy of salvation begins
with creation, is realized in history, and moves toward eternal consummation.
However, not every look at history captures in it the presence of God’s action;
for example, it may not capture that the departure from Egypt was deliverance
wrought by God. Likewise, one can know that Jesus performed miracles or that he
was crucified, but only the look of faith recognizes in the miracles signs of
his messianic nature (cf. Lk 7:18-23) and his divinity (cf. Mt 14:33; Lk 5:8; Jn
5), not the power of Beelzebub (cf. Mk 3:22); or it may not capture that on the
cross the forgiveness of sins took place (cf. Mt 27:39-44), along with
reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5:18-20) and not only an execution.
195. Therefore, following Augustine and Origen,
we can distinguish what we can call a simply historicist look at the events of
salvation history. It is characterized by limiting itself to the knowledge of
the events, by giving credibility to the witnesses who narrate them, but without
grasping their historical-salvific meaning. However, the gaze proper to faith,
through the gift of the Holy Spirit, not only knows the historical events in
their historical materiality, but also perceives in them their salvific nature.
In other words, this gaze penetrates into the authentic sacramental reality of
what is happening. By grasping the visibility of the historical, it perceives
the depth of grace present and acting in these events. This form of faith, which
is properly the Christian faith, is responsible not only for capturing the
presence of divine action in visible history, but also for the ability to
perceive the connection of these events with hope in the future life. Therefore,
this kind of faith does not only believe in eternal life, in the Holy Trinity
and in Christ our Lord, but it is also the type of faith proper to the persons
who recognized the Risen One in the apparitions. Without this faith, history
does not take the form of a divine economy of salvation; it is resolved in an
accumulation of facts whose meaning is difficult to discern; in any case, it is
attributed to it from the outside. However, with the gift of faith, the meaning
of the course of historical events lies in the meaning that God himself gives
them: the divine economy presides over and governs history, leading it to
eternal life. In a word, since the divine Trinitarian economy is of a
sacramental nature, Christian faith is genuinely sacramental.
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1116.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter
Deus caritas est (25 December
2005), 1: AAS 98 (2006), 217. Quoted again by Pope Francis, Apostolic
Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 7: AAS 105 (2013),
 Cf. Origen, In Leviticum Hom. IV, 8 (PG 12, 442-443).
 Catechism of the Catholic Church,
150. Underlined in the original.
 Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto, XII, 28 (SCh 17bis, 346).
 Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter
Fides et Ratio (14
September 1998) 84-85: AAS 91 (1999), 71-73.
 Joseph Ratzinger. “Die sakramentale Begründung christicher Existenz,”
, en Gesammelte Schrifen 11. Theologie der Liturgie, Freiburg –Basel – Wien 2008, 197-198.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter
Laudato Si (24 May 2015) esp.
106-114: AAS 107 (2015), 889-893.
 St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter
Fides et Ratio (14 September
1998) 13: AAS 91 (1999), 16, has spoken of “the sacramental horizon of
Revelation” (Underlined in the original). Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation
Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007) 45: AAS 99 (2007), 140, takes up
the central idea and refers to the “sacramental perspective of Christian
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076: “The Sacramental
Economy.” See note 54.
 “If we must speak briefly, the Savior is from “one thing” and “another”
(ὰλλο καì ὰλλο). It is true that the invisible and the visible are not the same,
as well as that which is outside time and that which is subject to time.
However, the Savior is not “one” and “another” (ὰλλος καì ὰλλος). Not at all!”
(Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. I ad Cledonium, 20 [SCh 208, 44; PG 37, 180
 Gregory Nazianzus, Or. Theol. V (PG 36, 135 C [Or. 31, 3 (SCh 250, 280)]).
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1091.
 Cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation
Verbum Domini (30 September
2010) 56: AAS 102 (2010), 735-736.
 Cf. Fourth Lateran Council, Profession of Faith. Chapter
1: On the Catholic Faith (DH 800); Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution
Gaudium et Spes, 14.
 Cf. Ambrose, In Lucam II, 79 (PL 15, 1581); St. Thomas Aquinas,
ST III, q. 61, a. 1.
 Theophilus of Antioch, Aut. II, 10, 1 (PG 6, 1064; FuP 16, 116);
Irenaeus of Lyon, Adv. Haer. IV, 14,1; IV, 20, 4 (SCh 100/2, 538; 636);
John Duns Scotus, Ord. III, d. 32, q. un., n. 21 (Vat. X, 136-137); Catechism
of the Catholic Church, 293.
 For example: Hugh of Saint Victor, De Tribus Diebus, IV (PL 175,
814 B; CCCM 177, 9); Richard of Saint Victor, De Trin. I, 9; Bonaventure,
Itenerarium, I, 14; Benedict XVI,
Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini
(30 September 2010) 7: AAS 102 (2010), 688.
 Ephrem, Hymni de Fide, 18: 4-5 ( CSCO 154, 70 ; 155, 54).
 Cf. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter
Laudato Si (24 May 2015) esp.
106-114: AAS 107 (2015), 872-877.
 “Proinde prima sacramenta, quae observabantur et celebrabantur ex Lege,
praenuntiativa erant Christi venturi: quae cum suo adventu Christus implevisset,
ablata sunt; et ideo ablata, quia impleta; non enim venit solver Legem sed
adimplere” (Augustine, Contra Faustum, XIX, 13; PL 42, 355).
 Irenaeus of Lyon, Adv. Haer. IV, 21, 3 (SCh 100/2, 684); Tertullian, De Baptismo, 3 (CCSL 1, 278-279).
 “Caro salutis est cardo” (Tertullian, De Resurrectione, 8; CCSL 2,
931). Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Placuit Deo (22
February 2018) 1-2, 4, 8 (incarnational) in correlation with 13-14
Joseph Ratzinger, “Prefazione,” in H. Luthe (ed.), Incontrare Cristo
nei sacramenti, (Milano, 1988), 8.
 Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 60, a. 6 corp.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Placuit Deo (22
February 2018) §11.
 “Moritur Christus ut fiat Ecclesia” (Augustine, In Johannis Ev. IX,
10: CCSL, 36, 96; PL 35, 1463).
 Cf. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, 1, 9,48, 59;
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 5, 26; Decree
Ad Gentes 1, 5; Pastoral
Gaudium et Spes, 42, 45.
 Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter
Redemptoris Missio (7
December 1990) 18: AAS 83 (1991), 265-266; Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Dominus Iesus (6 August 2000) 18: AAS 92 (2000),
 Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, 4, with internal
citation of Cyprian, De Dominica Oratione, 23 (PL 4, 553; CSEL 3/I, 285).
 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Ecclesia (15 May 2016), § 23; see also §§ 11 and 13.
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1116.
 Leo the Great, Sermo 74, 2 (PL 54, 398). Cf. Ambrose of Milan,
Apol. pro Prophetae David, XII, 58 (PL 16, 875); Catechism of the
Catholic Church, 1115.
 Cf. Council of Trent, Session 7, “Canons concerning the Sacraments,” canon
1 (DH 1601); Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1114.
 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 64, a.2.
 Clement VI, Letter
Super quibusdam of 1351 (DH 1061) ; Council of
Trent, Session 21, “Doctrine and Canons on Communion Under Both Species and
Communion of Little Children, chap. 2 (DH 1728); Pius X, Letter Ex quo, nono
of 1910 (DH 3556); Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution
of 1947 (DH 3857).
 See below for each of the sacraments that we deal with the brief note on
scriptural foundation that we offer.
 Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 64, a. 2, ad 3.
 Cf. Augustine, In Johannis ev., V, 18 (CCSL 36, 51-53; PL 35,
1424); John Chrysostom, In 2 Tm. Hom., 2, 4 (PG 62, 612).
 Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 40 : AAS 105
 Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 4 : AAS 105
Cf. XV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and
Final Document, passim and spec. §4
 E.g., Augustine, De symb. I, 181 (PL 40, 1190-1191) ; Peter
Lombard, Summa Sentenciarium, III. d. 23, c. 2-4 (PL 192, 805-806);
Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a.2.
 Paschasius Radbertus, De fide, spe et car. I, 6 no. 1 (PL 120, 1402 ff.).
 Faustus of Riez, De spir. S. I, 1 (CSEL 21, 103).
“Credendo adhaerere ad bene cooperandum bona cooperanti Deo” (Enarr.
in Ps. 77:8; CCSL 39, 1073).
 Augustine, In Iohannis ev., XXIX, 6 (CCSL 36, 287; PL 35, 1684):
“Ut credatis in eum, not ut credatis ei. Sed si creditis in eum, creditis ei,
non autem continuo, qui credit ei credit in eum...” Also Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a.2.
 “The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. SC 6; LG 2). The gift of the Spirit ushers in
a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ the age of the Church, during
which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation
through the Liturgy of his Church, ‘ until he comes’ (1 Cor 11:26). During this
age of the Church, Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new
way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments in what the
common Tradition of the East and the West calls “the sacramental economy,” this
consists in the communication (or ‘dispensation’) of the fruits of Christ’s
Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s ‘sacramental’ liturgy” (Catechism
of the Catholic Church, 1076).
Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 1, a.9, ad 3: “confessio fidei
traditur in symbolo quasi ex persona totius Ecclesiae, quae per fidem
 Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 45: AAS 105
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1830-1832.
 Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio
Porta fidei (11
October 2011) 10: AAS 103 (2011), 728.
 Cf. Lately Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation,
Gaudete et Exsultate,
(19 March 2018) §43; Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Placuit Deo (22 February 2018) § 12.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation,
Gaudete et Exsultate, (19
March 2018) §§ 48-49; Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Placuit Deo (22 February 2018) §§ 2-3.
 Hugh of St. Victor, Sacr. I pars 10 (PL 176, 327-344), chapters 3
and 4: De incremento fidei.
 Thomas Aquinas, De Ver. 14, a.11, corp. ; ST II-II,
 Thomas Aquinas, De Ver. 14, a.11, ad 7.
 Thomas Aquinas, De Ver. 14, a.11, corp.: “tempore vero gratiae
omnes, maiores et minores, de Trininate et de redemptore teneretur explicitam
fidem habere. Non tamen omnia credibilia circa Trinitatem vel redemptorem
minores explicite credere tenentur, sed soli maiores. Minores autem
tenentur explicite credere generales articulos, ut Deum esse trinum et
unum, filium Dei esse incarnatum, mortuum, et resurrexisse, et alia
huiusmodi, de quibus Ecclesia festa facit.”
 Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q.2, a.7; a.8.
 Cf. e.g. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I, 10, 1 (SCh 264, 154-158); III, 12,
13; III, pr. ss.; III, 5,3 (SCh 211, 236-238; 20-22; 60-62); Clement of
Alexandria, Strom. IV, 1,3 (GCS 15, 249); Tertullian, Praesc. 13;
36 (CCSL 1, 197-198; 217); Prax. 2; 30 (CCSL 2, 1160; 1204); Virg.
1 (CCSL 2, 1209); Origen, De Princ., I, praef., 4 (GCS 22, 9-11; FuP
27, 120-124); Novatian, Trin. 1, 1; 9, 46 (CCSL 4, 11;25).
 Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q.5, a.3.
 Sacr. I pars 10 chap. 3.
 Sacr. I pars 10 chap. 4.
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1084.
 Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q.64, a.7.
 Cf. St. Thomas, ST III, q.61, a.1.
 “Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum, etiam ipsum tamquam
visibile verbum” (Augustine, In Johannis ev., LXXX, 3; CCSL 36,
529; PL 35, 1840).
 Cf. Augustine, Epist. 187, 34 (PL 33, 846).
 Tertullian, Ad mart. 3 (CCSL 1,5).
 Traditio apostolica, 16 (entry into the catechumenate), 17-20
(course of the catechumenate), 21 (baptismal celebration; SCh 11, 43-51).
 “Fidei obiectum per se est id per quod homo beatus efficitur” (ST
II-II, q. 2, a.5; cf. ST II-II, q.1, a.6 ad 1).
 “inchoatio vitae aeternae in nobis” (ST II-II, q.4, a.1).
 Cf. Bonaventure, III Sent. Dist 23 dub.4 (III 504ab) ; II Sent.
dist. 38 dub.1 (II 894b); Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, q.112, a.5; De
Ver 10 a.10 ad 1.2.8.
 “Si quis dixerit, sacramenta…aut gratiam ipsam non ponentibus obicem non
conferre…anathema sit” (Council of Trent, Session 7, “Decrees on the
sacraments,” canon 6 [DH 1606]).
 Ephrem, Hymni de fide, 53, 12; 5, 18 (CSCO 154, 167, 23 ; 155, 143,
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration
(6 Augsut 2000) 20-22: AAS 92 (2000), 761-764. See our § 37.
 Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lume fidei (29 June 2013) 41 : AAS 105
 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, §75; cf. Ibid., §247.
apostolica, 21 (SCh 11, 50-51).
Augustine, Sermo VIII in octava Paschatis ad infantes, 1 (PL 46,
 Cf. Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto XI, 27 (SCh 17bis, 340-342).
 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses mystagogicae, I, 1 (PG 33, 1065; SCh
 Procatech. Introd. n. 4 (PG 33, 340A).
 Procatech. V, 11 (PG 33, 520B).
 Procatech. I, 6; I, 4 (bear fruit; PG 33, 377 and 373-376). Above
all in the catechesis of John Chrysostom to the neophytes: Cat. 3/5, 2.
15. 21 (FC 6/2, 412-415, 424ff., 428-431); cat. 3/7, 16-25 (FC 6/2,
478-487) among others, there are warnings against negligence and lukewarmness.
 Cf. Paul III, Constitution Altitudo divini consilii (1 June 1537).
 “Parecer de los teólogos de la Universidad de Salamanca sobre el bautismo de los
Indios,” en Colección de documentos inéditos, relativos al descubrimiento,
conquista y colonización de las posesiones españolas en América y Oceanía,
t. III, Madrid 1865, 545; see full report: 543-553. Own translation.
 Cf. Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 42 : AAS
105 (2013), 583-584.
 Cf. Is 33:16, read by the Epistula Barnabae, 11:5 (SCh 172, 162).
Cited by Francis, Enclyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013)
42: AAS 105 (2013), 584.
 Council of Trent, Session 7. Decrees on the Sacraments, canon 6 (DH
1606). See note 82.
 Cf. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. II, 22, 4 (SCh 294, 220); Origen,
In Rom. V, 9 (PG 14, 1047); Cyprian, Epist. 64 (CSEL 3, 717-721); Augustine,
De Genesi ad lit. X, 23, 39 (PL 34, 426); De peccatorum meritis et
remissione et de baptismo parvulorum I, 26, 39 (PL 44, 131). See also Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instr.
Pastoralis actio: AAS 72 (1980) 1137-1156.
 Cf. Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 43 : AAS 105
 Rite for Baptism of Children, 127, 152.
 “Sicut pueri in maternis uteris constituti non per seipsos nutrimentum
accipiunt, sed ex nutrimento matris sustentantur, ita etiam pueri non habentes
usum rationis, quasi in utero matris Ecclesiae constituti, non per
seipsos, sed per actum Ecclesiae salute suscipiunt” (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST
III, q.68, a.9 ad 1). Emphasis added.
 Traditio apostolica, 21 (SCh 11, 49).
 Cf. Cyprian, Epistula 64, 2-6 (CSEL 3/2, 718-721).
 Cf. Tertullian, De baptismo, 18, 4-6 (CCSL 1, 293; SCh 35, 92-93).
 Cf. Isidore of Seville, De Ecclesiasticis Officis, II, 21-27;
Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q.10, a.12.
 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction
actio, 15 and 28, no. 2: AAS 72 (1980), 1144-1145 and 1151.
 Cf. Traditio apostolica, 22 (SCh 11, 52-53).
 Cf. Innocent I, Letter to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio (year 416;
 Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments
on First Communion “Quam singulari” (8 August 1910): AAS 2 (1910) 582ff (DH
 Council of Elvira, canon 77 (DH 121; G. Martinez Diaz- Fr. Rodriguez,
Colección canónica hispana, vol. IV, Madrid 1984, 267).
 Rite of Confirmation. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church,
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285, 1294.
 Doxology that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer. See for example, Roman
Missal, 3rd Editio Typica, §§ 119, 127, 136, 144.
 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter
Deus caritas est (25 December 2006)
14 : AAS 98 (2006), 229. Cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation
Sacramentum caritatis (22 February 2007) spec. 88-89:AAS 99 (2007), 172-174.
 “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to
his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel” (General
Instruction of the Roman Missal, 29).
 Roman Canon, in the Roman Missal, 3rd Editio Typica, §
112. See the commentary of Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation
Sacramentum caritatis (22 February 2007) 6: AAS 99 (2007), 109-110.
 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 76, a.7. The well-known hymn,
Adoro Te Devote, expresses magnificently what we say. Here is an example: “In
cruce latebat sola Deitas, At hic latet simul et humanitas; Ambo tamen credens
atque confitens, Peto quod petivit latro poenitens” (Rituale Romanum de sacra
communion et de cultu mysterii eucharistici extra missam, Vatican City 1973,
§ 198, pp. 61-62).
 Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 44 : AAS 105
(2013), 584-585. A famous antiphon describes it splendidly: “O sacrum convivium
in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis ejus: mens impletur gratia:
et futurae nobis pignus datur” (“Ad Magnificat, antifona. Ad II Vesperas
Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi,” In Liturgia Horarum iuxta ritum
romanum, vol. III, Tempus per annum. Hebdomadae I-XVII, Vatican City
 Roman Missal, Concluding Rites. It can be found in Appendix
Missalis Romani, Madrid: 2017, § 96 (p. 50).
 “Si ergo vos estis corpus Christi et membra, mysterium vestrum in mensa
Dominica positum est [...] Estote quod videtis, et accipite quod estis”
(Augustine, Sermo 272; PL 38, 1247ff).
 Francis, Encyclical Letter
Lumen fidei (29 June 2013) 44 : AAS 105
 Cf. The Shepherd of Hermas, Comp. IX (Funk, 211 and ff).
 1st Apol. 66ff (Wartelle, 190ff).
 Didache, 10, 6; 9,5 (Funk 6;5).
 Apostolic Constitutions, VII, 26, 6 (SCh 336, 57): “If one is a
saint, let him draw near; but whoever is not, let him become one through
 Present in: The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (67); Liturgy of St.
Basil (131); Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (168). The pages refer to:
Liturgikon. The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, of Saint Basil, of
the Presanctified Gifts ( Madrid, 2016).
 John Chrysostom, Hom. In Matth. 82, 4 (PG 58, 743): Faith in
the real presence; hom. 25, 3 (PG 57, 330ff); hom. 7,6 (PG 57,
79ff). Super Rom. Hom. 8 (9), 8(PG 60, 464-466): Love of neighbor.
Super Hebr. 17, 4-5 (PG 63, 131-134).
 Cyprian, Epistula 57, 2 (CSEL 3/2, 651-652).
 John Chrysostom, In Matth. Hom. 82, 5. 6 (PG 58, 743-746):
responsibility of the priest in the administration.
 Augustine, In Johannis ev., XXVI, 11 (CCSL 36, 264ff).
 St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q.80, a.4.
 Cf. Also Bonaventure, IV Sent. dist.
9 a.1 qq.1-4: sacramentaliter, spiritualiter manducare.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q.80, a.5, ad 2.
 “si infidelis sumat species sacramentales, corpus Christi sub sacramento
sumit. Unde manducat Christum sacramentaliter, si ly “sacramentaliter”
determinat verbum ex parte manducati. Si autem ex parte manducantis, tunc
proprie loquendo non manducat sacramentaliter; quia non utitur eo quod
accipit ut sacramento, sed ut simplici cibo. Nisi forte infidelis
intenderet recipere illud quod Ecclesia confert, licet non haberet
fidem veram circa alios articulos vel etiam hoc sacramentum” (St. Thomas
Aquinas, ST III, q.80, a.3, ad 2; emphasis ours).
Cf. ST III, q.79, a.3.
“Quicumque ergo hoc sacramentum sumit, ex hoc ipso significat, se esse
Christo unitum et membris eius incorporatum. Quod quidem fit per fidem formatam” (ST III, q.80, a.4).
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent. IV dist. 9 q.1, a.2, q.2, ad 2;
cf. ST III, q.79, a.7,ad 2; a.8, ad 2 (The latter on the difference
between Baptism and the Eucharist).
 Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Liturgikon, 69-73);
Liturgy of St. Basil (Ibid., 133-135). In a similar way the Coptic
liturgy: Die koptische Liturgie, ubers. und kommentiert von KARAM KHELLA,
 In Genesim, II, 23 (CSCO 152, 39; 153, 29-30).
 Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron, XXI, 11 (CSCO 137, 145; 145,
 Ephrem, De virginitate, 37, 2 (CSCO 223, 133).
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1855-1861.
Cf. CIC, canon 1099.
Cf. CCEO, canon 828.
 Cf. CCEO, Titulus XVI: De cultu divino et praesertim de sacramentis.
Caput VII : De matrimonio, canons 776-866.
 “Ex Christi institutione matrimonium validum inter baptizatos eo ipso est
sacramentum, quo coniuges ad imaginem indefectibilis unionis Christi cum
Ecclesia a Deo uniuntur gratiaque sacramentali veluti consecrantur et
roborantur” (CCEO, canon 776, § 2).
 Council of Trent, Session 24. Doctrine on the Sacrament of Marriage,
canon 7 (DH 1807).
 Cf. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia, I, X, 11 (CSEL 42,
222-224 ; PL 40, 420).
 Ep. Ad Diognetum, 5, 6 (Funk, 137).
 Ep. Ad Polycarpum, 5, 2 (Funk, 107; FuP 1, 186).
 Ad Uxorem II, 8 (CCSL 1, 393; SCh 273, 148).
 Cf. Gregory Nazianzus , Ep. 231 (PG 37, 373); Ambrosiaster, Comm.
in Epist. I ad Cor. 7, 40 (PL 17, 225); Id., Comm. in Epist.
I ad Tim. 3, 12 (PL 17, 470); Pseudo-Augustine, Quaest. Novi et
Veteris Testamenti, CXXVII (CSEL 50, 400); Ambrose, Epist. 19 ad
Vigilium trident., 7 (PL 16, 984-985); Predestinatus, III, 31 (PL
Cf. Sacramentario Reginensis, 316 (Rerum ecclesiasticarum documenta,
series major, Fontes 4, ed. L.K. Mohlberg, 1447, 1449, 1453); Hanc igitur of the Verona Sacramentary,
85 (Mohlberg, 1107).
 Cf. Hadrianeum Sacramentary, 836 (ed. J Deshusses); Paulinus of
Nola, Carmen 25, 199-232 (CSEL 30, 244-245).
 Cf. John Chrysostom, In 1 Tim. Cap. II, hom. IX, 2 (PG 62, 546).
 Gregory Nazianzus, Ep. 193 (PG 37, 316-318).
 For more details, cf. A Raès, Le marriage, sa célébration et sa
spiritualité dans les Églises d’Orient, Chevetogne 1959 ; K Ritzer,
Formen, Riten und Religiöses Brauchtum der Eheschliessung in den Christlichen
Kirchen des ersten Jahrtausends, Münster 1962; B. Kleinheyer; E. Von
Severus; R. Kaczynski (eds.), Gottesdienst der Kirche. Handbuch der
Liturgiewissenschaft 8. Sakramentliche Feiern II, Regensburg 1984.
 Peter Lombard, Summa Sentenciarum IV. d. 2 and 26 (PL 192, 842 AND
908); Lateran II, canon 23 (DH 718); Council of Florence, Decrees for the
Armenians (DH 1327); Council of Trent, session 7. Decrees on the
Sacraments. Canons on the Sacraments in general, canon 1 (DH 1601).
 Council of Trent, Session 24 Canons on Reformation of Marriage.
Decree “Tametsi” (DH 1813-1816).
 Martin Luther, De captivitate babylonica, De matrimonio (WA
6,550); John Calvin, Inst. Christ. Lib. IV, c. 19, 34 (Corp. Reform. 32,
 Ordo celebrandi matrimonium, Praenotanda § 16 (Typis Polyglottis
Vaticanis, 1989), with reference to Vatican II, Const.
59. The very idea of the Praenotanda § 7 of 1969.
 Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, 11; cf. Ibid, 41;
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1641-1642.
 Cf. Acts 16:15; 18:8; Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution
11; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1655-1657.
 Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation
Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016)
218: AAS 108 (2016), 398-399.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601; cites literally the Code of
Canon Law, canon 1055, § 1.
 “Quare inter baptizatos nequit matrimonialis contractus validus
consistere, quin sit eo ipso sacramentum” (CIC, canon 1055, § 2).
 Comentario II (in the Spanish edition: Comisión Teológica Internacional, Documentos
1969-1996, ed. C. Pozo, Madrid 1998, 195).
 “Las 43 proposiciones del Sínodo de los obispos sobre la familia”:
Ecclesia, no. 2039 (18 and 25 de julio 1981) 894. Proposition 12.4 was adopted with 196 votes in favor, 7 against and 3
abstentions. (“Les 43 propositions du Synode des évêques sur la famille”: La Documentation
Catholique 1809 [7 June 1981] 540). See proposition 12 in its entirety, which deals directly with our topic.
 St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris consortio (22
November 1981) 13 and 68: AAS 74 (1982), 93-96 and 163-165.
 Cf. Council of Trent, Session 7. Canons on the Sacraments in general,
canon 6 (DH 1606). See note 82.
 Cf. Communicationes, 9 (1977), 122.
 Cf. Communicationes, 15 (1983), 222.
 Sentence coram Stankiewicz, 19 April 1991: SRRD 83, 280-290.
 “Proposiciones del Sínodo de los Obispos sobre la Eucaristía”: Ecclesia
no. 3284 (19 de noviembre de 2005), 34. Emphasis added.
 Joseph Ratzinger, “Introduction,” In Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, Sobre la atención pastoral de los divorciados vueltos a casar. Documentos, comentarios y estudios, Madrid 2000, 34.
 “Among other proposals, the role which faith plays in persons who marry
could possibly be examined in ascertaining the validity of the Sacrament of
Marriage, all the while maintaining that the marriage of two baptized Christians
is always a sacrament” (Relatio Synodi, 48:AAS 106 (2014), 904).
 Art. 14, § 1: AAS 107 (2015) 969.
 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q.4, a.4.
 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, q.49-51.
 Cf. also § 86 and the text quoted from Cyril of Jerusalem, referring to
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1623.
 Cf. CIC, canon 1101.
 Cf. Vatican II, Apostolic Constitution
Gaudium et Spes, 50; St.
Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae vitae (25 July 1968) esp. 12 : AAS 60 (1968)
 Cf. St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation
(22 November 1981) esp. “IV. Pastoral Care of the Family: Stages, Strucures,
Agents and Situations” : AAS 74 (1982) 158-187; Francis, Apostolic Exhortation
Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016) esp. “VI. Some Pastoral Perspectives”:
AAS 108 (2016) 390-415.
 Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer D.
 Cf. Augustine, De vera rel. 50, 99 (CCSL 32, 251); Augustine, De
Trinitate, I, 6, 11 ; II, 17, 29; IV, 3, 6 (CCSL 50, 40; 119-120; 166-169);
Enarr. in Ps. 65, 5 (CCSL 39, 842-844); Ep. 120, 3, 15; 147
(PL 33, 459; 596-622); Origen, Com Rm. 2, 14 (PG 14, 913ff) ;
Hom. in Lc. 1, 4 (SCh 87, 104-106).