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1. Faith and the Sacraments: Relevance and Timeliness

1.1. The Divine Salvific Offer Is Based on the Interrelationship between Faith and the Sacraments

1. [Starting from Scripture]. “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (Mk 5:34). In the midst of the crowd that pressed upon Him (Mk 5:24; 31), the hemorrhaging woman touches Jesus with faith and receives healing, as a symbol of the salvation that Jesus brings to humanity.[1] 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.”[2] Faith is in the sphere of interpersonal relationships. Many sick people tried to touch Jesus (Cf. Mk 3:10; 6:56), “because power came forth from Him and healed them all” (Lk 6:19). However, He did not perform many miracles in Nazareth, “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: contact that is humble, imploring, and open to the gift.[3] All these attitudes lead to faith, as the most suitable means for receiving the offer of salvation. “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God.”[4] The sacraments of the Church extend through time the works of Christ during His earthly life. The healing power that emanates from the body of Christ, which is the Church, is actualized in the sacraments, to heal 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 interweaving of faith and the 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.[5]

The personal relationship with the Triune God is established through faith and the sacraments. There is a mutual ordering and circularity between faith and the sacraments; that is, 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 in pastoral practice today, this dynamic is blurred or even ignored.

1.2. The Current Crisis of Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments

a) Faith and the Sacraments: A Reciprocity in Crisis

3. [The Finding]. As early as 1977, the International Theological Commission, referring to the sacrament of marriage, warned of the existence of “baptized non-believers” who request the sacrament of marriage. This fact, they said, raises profound “new questions.”[6] This phenomenon has only increased since then, and it continues to create unease in the celebration of the sacraments. Moreover, this problem is not limited exclusively to the sacrament of marriage but encompasses the entire sacramental economy. Particularly in Christian initiation—by the very nature of which the reciprocity of faith and sacraments should be assured—concern and uneasiness are often observed.

4. [Theological-Philosophical Roots]. Although the disassociation between faith and the sacraments is caused by various factors depending on social and cultural contexts, an observer who wants to go beyond the superficial level must ask about the fundamental roots of this fracture. First, beyond possible shortcomings in catechesis and a certain cultural unilateralism against sacramental thinking, there is a deep-seated philosophical factor that destroys sacramental logic. A widespread line of thinking, which began in the Middle Ages (nominalism) and extended into Modernity, is characterized by an anti-metaphysical dualism that dissociates thinking from being and categorically rejects any kind of representative thinking, as is the case today with postmodernism. This perspective rejects the Creator’s imprint in creation, that is, that creation is a mirror (sacramental image) of the Creator’s own thought. In this way, the world no longer appears as a reality that is expressly ordered by God, but as a mere “chaos” of facts, which human beings must set in order using human concepts. Now, if human concepts are no longer something like “sacraments” of the divine Logos, but mere constructs, then there is a further dissociation between the invisible—that is, immediate access to God through personal faith (fides qua) —and any shared conceptual representation of God (fides quae). In short, and as a decisive aspect, when one denies the capacity of reason to know the truth of being (metaphysics), one implies that it is impossible to get at the truth of God.[7]

5. Secondly, scientific and technological knowledge, which is so highly esteemed today, tends to be imposed as the only model for all fields of knowledge and for all kinds of objects. Its radical orientation towards an empirical and naturalistic certainty is not only opposed 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, collects and reflectively develops the ethical affective dimensions of experience; and on the other hand, it touches and transforms the spiritual and cognitive structure of the subject. That is why the transmission of revelation, with its concomitant cognitive content, lies in the symbolic sphere alongside all of humanity’s religious traditions, and 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, with its blindness to symbolic thought, sacramental thought is impeded.[8]

6. Thirdly, we must still point out a significant cultural change that is proper to the new civilization of the image, and which poses a new problem to the theological elucidation of sacramental faith. Although it is true that rationalist modernity minimized the cognitive value of the symbol, contemporary postmodernity greatly exalts the performative power of images. Thus, it is necessary to overcome the rationalist (modern) prejudice against the cognitive value of the symbolic, without going to the opposite (postmodern) extreme, which reduces the effectiveness of the symbol towards the emotional power of representation, devoid of reference. In other words, the Christian intellect must preserve the originality of the Christian sacrament from the risk of a double voiding. On the one hand, there is a danger of reducing the symbol-sacrament to the status of a mere cognitive sign that simply captures the doctrinal meanings of the faith more easily, without effecting any transformation (elimination of the performative dimension of the symbol-sacrament). On the other hand, however, there is a danger of reducing the symbol-sacrament to the pure aesthetic evocation carried out by its ritual staging, according to the logic of a mere representation that replaces the internal adherence to the symbolized reality of the mystery (suppression of the cognitive dimension).

7. [Distortions of Faith]. There are other phenomena in today’s societies that hinder the act of believing as proposed by the Catholic faith. Atheism and the relativization of the value of all religions are advancing in many parts of the globe. Secularism erodes faith and sows doubt, instead of nurturing the joy of believing. The rise of the technocratic paradigm[9] introduces a logic that is contrary to faith, which is a personal relationship. The emotional reduction of faith leads to a subjective belief, regulated by the subject himself, which moves away from the objective logic marked by the contents of the Christian faith. This aforementioned culture of scientism tends to deny the possibility of a personal relationship with God and His capacity to intervene in one’s personal life and in history. The objectivity of the Creed and the stipulation of conditions for the celebration of the sacraments are understood, according to an increasing cultural sensibility, as a coercion of the individual who has the freedom to believe according to his or her own conscience; thus, one ends up maintaining an insufficient conception of the freedom one intends to defend. This type of premise leads to a kind of belief or way of believing that does not fit into the Christian conception, nor does it correlate with the sacramental practice that the Church proposes.

8. [Pastoral Failures]. In the post-Vatican II era, there have also been some widespread attitudes among the faithful and pastors that have actually weakened the healthy relation between faith and sacraments. Thus, the pastoral approach of evangelization has sometimes been understood as if it did not include sacramental pastoral care, thereby losing the balance between the Word of God, evangelization, and the sacraments. Other pastoral approaches 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 sacraments’ decisive place for that very purpose in this endeavor. In some places, there has been a lack of theological evaluation and pastoral accompaniment of popular Catholic piety for the sake of helping the faithful to grow in faith and thus achieve full Christian initiation and frequent sacramental participation. Finally, more than a few Catholics have come to believe that the substance of faith lies in living the Gospel, despising ritual as alien to the heart of the Gospel and, consequently, ignoring the fact that the sacraments impel and strengthen the intense living of that Gospel. Thus, all of this points to the need for an adequate articulation of martyria, leitourgia, diakonia, and koinonia.

9. [Consequence]. Pastoral agents often receive the request for the reception of the sacraments with great doubts about the faith intention of those who request them. Many others believe that they can live their faith fully without sacramental practice, which they consider optional and freely available. With different but extensive emphases, there is a certain danger: either ritualism devoid of faith, because of a lack of internalization or mere social custom and tradition; or the danger of privatizing the faith, which is reduced to the inner space of one’s own conscience and feelings. In both cases, the reciprocity between faith and sacraments is violated.

b) The Purpose of This Document

10. [Purpose of the Document]. We intend to highlight the essential reciprocity between faith and the sacraments, showing the reciprocal relation between faith and sacraments in the divine economy. In this way we hope to take steps to overcome the rupture between faith and the sacraments wherever it occurs, in its two aspects: 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 with a lack of vigor that raises serious questions regarding the faith and the trustworthiness of the intention that the practice of the sacraments requires. In both cases, sacramental practice and logic, which are at the heart of the Church, suffer a serious and troubling injury.

11. [Structure]. We take as our starting point the sacramental character of the divine economy,[10] which includes both faith and the sacraments (Chapter 2). We formulate an understanding of the economy that simultaneously includes the divine economy as such in its Trinitarian, Christological, Pneumatological, ecclesial, and dialogical (faith) dimensions; the place of faith and of the sacraments in it (thus understood); and the reigning reciprocity between faith and the sacraments that derive from it. This understanding forms the theological background for our approach to the specific problem of the interrelationship between faith and the sacraments in each of the sacraments that we discuss later. This chapter illustrates how 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. Next, we shall examine the impact that the reciprocity between faith and the sacraments has on some of the sacraments that are most pastorally affected by the crisis of this reciprocity, either in their understanding or in practice, such as the sacraments of Christian initiation (Chapter 3). In light of the doctrinal elucidation of the specific role of faith in the validity and fruitfulness of each sacrament, we offer criteria for elucidating what faith is needed for the celebration of each sacrament of initiation. We go a step further (Chapter 4) to address the interrelationship between faith and sacraments in the case of marriage. We dwell on a question that the reciprocity of faith and sacraments, by its very nature, could not leave aside: the elucidation of whether the marriage union between “baptized non-believers” is to be considered a sacrament. This is a unique 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. We end with a brief conclusion (Chapter 5), in which we resume the reciprocity between faith and sacraments in the sacramental economy on a more general level.

13. [Doctrinal Character]. The intention of the document is clearly doctrinal. It is certainly based on a pastoral problem, which is differentiated for each of the sacraments addressed. However, it is not intended to offer specific or grounded pastoral guidelines for each of them. We want to insist on the fundamental place of faith in the celebration of each sacrament, without leaving out the doctrinal precision on the matter of the minimum faith necessary for the sacrament’s validity. From this we can glean some general criteria for pastoral action, as we do at the end of the treatment of each one of the sacraments considered, but without going into detail, much less delving into casuistry or supplanting the necessary discernment for each case.

14. [Selection]. We are aware that the pastoral situation regarding other sacraments, such as penance and the anointing of the sick, also suffer from serious deficiencies. It is not uncommon that 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 with our sin and which we have damaged in its reality as the visible Body of Christ. There is a dissociation between the Eucharistic life and the practice of reconciliation on the part of many faithful, and even some ordained ministers, who in the practice of their Christian faith disregard the harmonious unity of the whole sacramental organism of the Church, where it is not possible to subjectively choose which sacraments to “consume” and which to forego. The anointing of the sick is also frequently experienced as being 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, of both his body and his soul. The limits of space force us to focus on those sacraments that constitute Christian initiation and marriage, all of which are of exceptional importance in building and strengthening the Body of Christ. The way these sacraments are approached, as well as the isolated references to the others and the general theological framework that is offered, will allow us to draw conclusions for those sacraments that we cannot consider individually.

2. The Dialogical Character of the Sacramental Economy of Salvation

15. [Introduction: Plan and Objective]. In this chapter we make a twofold journey of a general nature to discern the reciprocity between faith and the sacraments. In the first section, we consider the divine economy, highlighting its sacramental character.[11] This allows us to deepen our understanding of sacramentality as a constitutive dimension of the divine economy. The treatment of sacramentality as such requires, in itself, delving into faith, thus highlighting the interconnectedness between faith and sacramentality as well as—and more concretely—between faith and the sacraments. We conclude this section with a review of the most prominent constitutive axes of the sacramental economy in our presentation. This first step illuminates the reciprocity of faith and the sacraments. In the second section, we pause to first consider faith and then the sacraments of faith as such, showing in both cases, however, the intimate reigning connection between faith and sacraments. Faith is constitutively predisposed towards the sacramental celebration. The dialogical character of the sacraments calls for sufficient faith in their celebration. Both sections of this chapter have a complementary character, which allows us to show both the breadth and depth of the reciprocity between faith and the sacraments, with their different ramifications. We close the chapter with a brief conclusion.

2.1. The Trinitarian God: Source and End of the Sacramental Economy

a) The Trinitarian Foundation of Sacramentality

16. [Sacramentality: The Concept]. There pertains to sacramental logic the inseparable correlation between a signifying reality that has a visible external dimension, e.g. the integral humanity of Christ, and another meaning that has a supernatural, invisible, sanctifying character, e.g. the divinity of Christ.[12] When we speak of sacramentality we are referring to this inseparable relationship, in such a way that the sacramental symbol contains and communicates the symbolized reality. This presupposes that every sacramental reality in itself includes an inseparable relationship with Christ, the source of salvation—and with the Church—the depository and dispenser of Christ’s salvation.

17. [Triune God: The Root]. The understanding of sacramental logic presupposes an understanding of how the divine economy of salvation operates. This understanding 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, with no detriment to His unbounded 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 power 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. These are the keys to understanding how it is possible for a sensible, sacramental word, perceptible by us humans, to be simultaneously the true word of God. Human persons are capable of perceiving, experiencing, and communicating only in the “human” way, even when it comes to entering 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? For there to be true communication, it is not enough to send out a message; the message must be received. If God the Father had spoken to us in Jesus Christ and no one had listened to His message (faith), then no communication between God and humanity would have taken place. However, according to the testimony of the New Testament, whoever enters into relation with Jesus the man relates to God himself; that is, to the Word incarnate. It is the Holy Spirit who works in such a way that the Word of God, confined within the limits of the humanity of Jesus, is perceived by believers as the Word of God. Gregory of Nazianzus formulates this reality like so: “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.”[13]

18. [Faith as a Dialogical Reception of Sacramental Revelation]. Thus, not only does the inseparability between Jesus’ humanity and the Word of God come into play, but also believers’ reception (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 the Church and of the seven sacraments, which are derived from Jesus Christ, are based on the Trinitarian faith. Only if Jesus Christ is true God can He reveal the face of God to us. 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.[14]

19. [The Unfolding of Sacramentality]. Since revelation takes place in a sacramental way, the sacramental element must permeate all of believing existence and of 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, is 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) to access the sacramental: to the encounter and relationship with the Christian God in creation, in history, in the Church, in Scripture,[15] and in the sacraments. Without faith, the symbols of a sacramental character do not fully disclose their meaning and are silenced. Sacramentality implies personal communication and communion between God and the believer through the Church and sacramental mediations.

20. [The Correlation of Sacramentality with Anthropology]. The human person is an incarnate spirit.[16] We human beings are neither mere inanimate matter nor an angelic incorporeal spirit. What defines us most authentically is that complementary union between the material-corporeal (the visible) and the spiritual-incorporeal, which is not detached from the material and is made known through it. The case of the personal countenance, which is the expression of a material body, magnificently manifests this union between our material being and face, and our spiritual reality, our state of mind and personal identification. The face expresses the whole person. The sacramental structure of divine revelation takes into account our most authentic reality.[17] 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. 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. [The Sacramentality of Faith]. The “sacramentality of faith” is basically a reiteration of what has been said, 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 of and response to God’s sacramental revelation; faith expresses itself and nourishes itself in a sacramental way, and it must 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 extraneous to the sacramental but is constituted in its very essence by a sacramental permeation and logic. Therefore, in the relationship between faith and sacraments, two intimately reciprocal elements come into play: the sacraments, which presuppose and nourish personal and ecclesial faith; and the necessary sacramental expression of faith. The sacraments are therefore configured as a kind of anamnetic representation that actualizes faith and makes it visible.

b) The Sacramentality of Creation and History

22. [God the Creator]. According to the biblical testimony, creation (e.g. Gen 1–2) is the first step of the divine economy. Christian understanding sustains the free character of creation. God does not create out of necessity or out of the lack of something. If this were the case, He would not truly be God. He creates because of the overflowing fullness of love that He Himself is, and with the aim of sharing His goods with to beings capable of receiving them and of responding from the loving logic that presides over creation itself.[18]

23. [Sacramentality of Creation]. The Father carries out His creative design through the Word and the Spirit. For this reason, creation itself contains the trace of having been shaped by the Word and having been directed by the Spirit towards its completion in the same God. Since God imprints His mark on creation, theology speaks of a certain “sacramentality of creation,” in an analogical sense, inasmuch as, in itself, in its own constitutive creaturely 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 later be elevated and consummated in the redemptive work with no extrinsic compulsion. In this sense we have spoken of the liber naturae.[19]

24. [The Human Person Responds to God]. In the whole of creation, the human person stands out for having been created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). St. Paul highlights 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 free and personal response. For in the image of God, the more the human person gives himself in a relationship of love (otherness), the more intensely he realizes his own being (identity).

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 the human person’s being to the divine.[20] Among these, communion and service stand out.[21] If the Trinitarian God is essentially communion and interpersonal relation, then the human person, as the image of God, has been created to live in communion and interpersonal relation. This is magnificently expressed in the sexual difference: “God created mankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). Hence the human person fulfils his own being to the extent to which he expresses his relationality and his capacity for communion with other human beings, with creation, and with God. The exercise of this dynamic of communion and relation shines forth in its fullness in Jesus Christ. The filial life that is shown in Him manifests the height of the human vocation (cf. GS 10, 22, 41).

26. As a relational being created for communion, the human person can be defined by language. Language is a reality of a symbolic order, which points, on the one hand, to the expression of what reality is in itself (God’s creation), and, on the other, to interpersonal communication (communion). As a symbolic being, created in the image of God, the person reaches his most authentic reality to the extent to which he inscribes the actualization of his being in a specific sphere of symbolic expression, in which all the richness of his own being is unfolded: as a creaturely being, as an interpersonal being, and as a being called to communion with God. The sacraments faithfully and efficiently capture,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 dominion 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.[22] For this reason, human activity in the world is directed towards glorifying God, recognizing the imprint of the Creator on the world (cf. GS 34). In this way, the human person, through a kind of “cosmic priesthood,” leads creation 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 whole story of the people of Israel can be properly viewed as a story of God’s love for His people. Within this story some special events stand out that prefigure essential aspects that lay the foundations of the sacramental relationship of God with His people, which will culminate in Christ. The way God relates to His people, giving them graces, can be perceived in all of them. Thus, a sort of early grammar for the later constitution of the sacramental language sensu stricto is discovered in them. Among these events, of which we can do a sacramental reading, we find: the election of Abraham, of David, and the Israelites, as well as the gift of the Law, which will become the basis of every sacramental discourse; the many covenants—which are 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 take on a particular richness in Christ and the Christian sacraments. Israel will remember and liturgically fulfill the richness 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.[23] Therefore, it is discovered [ex opere operantis] that salvation history itself possesses a certain sacramental character.[24] Through closely linked historical events, signs, and words, God Himself comes closer to His people and communicates to them His will, His love, and His predilection, while simultaneously showing them the way of friendship with Himself 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 His mercy and faithfulness. However, it is also true that despite God’s insistence, human beings 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 way to realize what it means to be a human person, but His offer is also rejected (Gen 3). The history of Israel, and of humanity, can be understood as an eager search for God to win back the warm 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).

c) 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 301–2), the humanity of Christ, true man, “who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without 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 summary, we discover in Jesus Christ that the divine economy of salvation is sacramental because it is incarnational.[25] 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.”[26] For in Jesus Christ, as the summit and the fullness of salvific time (Gal 4:4), there is the closest possible unity between a creaturely symbol, His 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, that which is created communicates the presence of God to the highest degree.

31. [The Humanity of the Glorious Crucified One: The 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 compared to any other creaturely reality, since it is the humanity proper to the Son of God (cf. Heb 1:1–2). What creation inchoatively pointed to is fulfilled 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. And this 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 human beings (cf. Col 2:2–3; 1:27; 4:3) and present in the various salvific mysteries of His life: birth, baptism, transfiguration, etc. The unfolding of the mystery of Christ reaches its summit in His glorious death and resurrection, followed by the ongoing gift of the Spirit (cf. DV 4). There, the revelation of God’s love to the very 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 opening 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 constitutes the source and foundation of all sacramentality, which then unfolds in the different sacramental signs that generate the Church, where we find unique aspects and rich 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 extended 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 rest on Jesus Christ, the Incarnate and redeeming Word.[27]

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 the Word of God 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 simultaneously 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.”[28] 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 that is sin, to bring us closer to communion and personal relation with God through participation in the life of Christ, integrating 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 shown by the case of Our Lady, the ecclesial model of the disciple, grace respects freedom. It is not imposed without the consent of freedom (Lk 1:38), even if assent is made possible by grace itself (Lk 1:28).

d) The Church and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy

33. [The Church: Grund-Sakrament]. The historical tangibility of grace, which has been made present in history in Jesus Christ, remains (in a privileged, but indirect way) through the work of the Holy Spirit.[29] The being of the Church has a visible and historical structure that serves 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 our understanding of the Church as the fundamental sacrament (Grund-Sakrament), in a similar vein to how Vatican II understands the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation.[30] As a sacrament, the Church is in the service of the salvation of the world (LG 1; GS 45) and of the transmission of grace whose reception has made it a sacrament. Sacramentality always has a missionary character, a character of service for the good of others.

34. Even as a sacrament, in the Church herself one can already perceive God’s grace, that is, the irruption of the Kingdom of God. Thus, if on the one hand the Church serves the establishment of the Kingdom of God, then 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 seed and the beginning of the kingdom[31] (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, she has an eschatological dimension, which culminates in the heavenly Church and the communion of saints[32] (cf. LG 48–49).

35. [The Church: A Christological and Pneumatological Reality]. As a creature who abides in the Trinity, that is, “the people united” within the unity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,”[33] the Church has an intimate relationship not only with the Incarnate Word, to the point of being able to say that she truly is the Body of Christ (cf. LG 7), but also with the Holy Spirit. And this is true not only because the Spirit, the great gift of the Risen One (cf. Jn 7:39; 14:26; 15:26; 20:22), is at work in her constitution (cf. LG 4), dwells within her and in the faithful as in a temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), unifies her, and generates the missionary dynamism inherent in her (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: these gifts strengthen the sacramentality of the Church.[34]

36. [The Sacramental Continuity of the Salvific Order]. The salvation that was offered in Jesus Christ in history is continued through the Church (cf. Lk 10:16)—the Body of Christ—through life-giving sacraments, thanks to the action of the Spirit[35]; “what was visible in Christ has passed into the sacraments” of the Church.[36] The Catholic Church holds that the seven sacraments have been instituted by Christ,[37] since only He can authoritatively unite the gift of His saving grace to certain signs in an efficacious way.[38] This statement highlights the fact that the sacraments are not an ecclesial creation and that the Church cannot change their substance,[39] but that they are based on the event of Christ taken as a whole: Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection. The institution of the sacraments gives meaning to the Incarnation (cf. §§ 30–32), for they specify characteristics of Jesus’s humanity; that is, 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, including the gift of the Spirit. The Church is enlightened by the Spirit whom 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 Christ Himself in different ways,[40] while maintaining that divine grace is not exclusively limited to the seven sacraments.[41]

37. [Sacramental Grace and non-Christians]. The Church affirms that the grace that justifies and saves 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 confined to the limits of the visible Church, but “its presence and action are universal, without any limit of space or time.”[42] Non-Christian religions may contain elements 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 that run parallel to Christ or that are independent of Christ and His Church.[43]

38. [Sacramental Grace and Faith]. In short, the Word of God, creative and efficacious, 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 the minister pronounces in the name of the Church, e.g. “I baptize you,” the Risen Christ continues to speak and act.[44] Since the sacraments make possible today, by the Spirit, a personal relationship with the Lord who died and rose again, 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 character: in them the Church brings her own being into play, in the service of transmitting the saving grace of the risen Christ, through the aid 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 individual faithful. It is, in fact, a personal exercise of the faith of the Church. Therefore, without participation in the faith of the Church, such symbolic acts are rendered void, insofar as faith is what opens the door to the sacramental signification at work.

40. [Sacramentals]. Ecclesial sacramentality is not expressed only in the sacraments. There is another series of sacramental realities that form part of the life and faith of the Church, from which Sacred Scripture stands out. The so-called sacramentals are immensely important for Christian piety. The sacramentals are sacred signs, designed according to the model of the sacraments. Sacramentals dispose one 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 assured ecclesial commitment to the transmission of the grace of Christ, provided that all the requirements are fulfilled. However, the efficacy in the sacramentals is not like that of the sacraments.[45] In the former, there is a preparation for the reception of grace and a disposition to cooperate with it, not an efficacy ex opere operato (cf. § 65), which is exclusive to the sacraments. Thus, although the water of baptism produces the effect of forgiveness of sins within the sacramental celebration, holy water, a remembrance of baptism, does not have an effect by itself, but only to the extent to which it is received with faith, for example when crossing oneself at the entrance to the church.

e) The Axes of the Sacramental Economy

41. Outlining the main findings of our journey, we can establish the following fundamental points:

a) The divine Trinitarian economy is sacramental because it is incarnational. Since the economy is sacramental in character, the seven sacraments instituted by Christ, which are preserved and celebrated by the Church, are of the utmost importance within the Church.

b) The sacramentality of the divine economy derives from faith. It is through faith that one comes to grasp this sacramentality and dwell within it. 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; to the Holy Spirit, who perpetuates the gifts of Christ by transmitting saving grace through sacramental symbols; to the Church, a visible and historical institution that, 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 involves not only the communication of doctrinal content of an intellectual nature, but also (and alongside it) the existential incorporation into the fabric of the sacramental economy, which the encyclical 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 eternal.”[46]

d) The structure of the sacramental economy is dialogical. Faith represents the moment of the human person’s graceful response 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 character (faith) of the economy involves a series of significant consequences when it comes to theologically understanding and to pastorally offering each of the different sacraments. From the previous statements, one can argue with good reason that effective sacraments without faith would mean either: a mere causal mechanism that is extraneous to the realm of the relations between the Trinitarian God and men, which are dialogical and interpersonal in nature; a kind of magical action that is foreign to the Christian faith and to the sacramental logic of the economy; or else a conception of God that is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, and which does not take into account that the same divine gift contains the grace that enables the creature to consent and collaborate with divine action to the extent that is proper to the creature. In other words: since the Trinitarian economy is dialogical insofar as it is sacramental, it is not possible to understand the action of grace in them according to the model of a kind of sacramental automatism.

2.2. Faith and the Sacraments of Faith

a) Insights from the Disciples’ Path of Faith

42. [Growth of Faith]. As spokesman for the disciples, Peter responds to Jesus’ question, by formulating a confession of faith: “You are the Christ” (Mk 8:29 and parallel passages). However, Peter had to mature in this initial faith because when Jesus begins to explain that He is Messiah in 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 follow a path of growth in faith, combining his unconditional adherence to Jesus as Christ with the knowledge of the doctrinal aspects that this implied. This is not just Peter’s concern, but it 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 notices this gradual growth and counts on it, since it refers to “the measure of faith which God has apportioned” (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 in 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 meant for believers who in their Christian lives exercise discernment of good and evil, to those whose entire existence is illuminated by the light of faith.[47]

43. The disciples and other admirers of Jesus, the multitudes, grasped something special in the figure of Jesus before Passover. Specifically, in the context of healings we are told of a “faith.” The phenomenology we find is quite varied: Jesus performs miracles without explicitly mentioning 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 meager (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 role of Jesus in God’s plan (Jn 14:1).

44. The death of Jesus put this initial adherence 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 news of the resurrection and the gift of the promised Spirit (Jn 14:16–17, 26), the faith of the disciples was 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 culmination 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, filled with parresia, and able to speak of God’s deeds and transmit the 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 model 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 transition to faith in the resurrection was neither easy nor automatic, particularly for those who, like us, did not enjoy the benefit of 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:[48] walking at the pace of those who, going through disillusionment, express some uneasiness; listening to their concerns and welcoming them; and patiently contrasting them with the light of salvation history reflected in Scripture, stimulating the desire to have more and better knowledge of the plan of God. This opens the way to a faith that matures in the sacramental and ecclesial dimensions proper to faith.

45. [The Need for Patient Discernment]. The Bible, a reflection of salvation history, presents a multitude of situations in which faith, as a dynamic and vital reality with triumphs 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 sacrificial 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 does not exclude unresolved questions and hesitations in its desire to know God, the imperfect faith that finds some difficulty in adhering to the totality of the content that the Church holds as revealed. It is the task of all pastoral agents to help in the growth of faith, at any stage, so that it may discover the full countenance of Christ and the record of doctrinal elements which includes the believing adherence 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.

b) Modulations of Faith

46. [The Need for Some Clarifications]. Classical reflection on faith and the sacraments has emphasized the articulation both of the irrevocability of the gift of Christ (ex opere operato) and of the dispositions necessary for a valid and fruitful reception of the sacraments. These provisions are fundamentally misunderstood if they are seen as a sort of arbitrarily imposed impediment to hinder access to the sacraments. Nor do they have to do with “elitism,” which would scorn the faith of the simple. It is simply a matter of highlighting the believer’s internal dispositions for receiving what Christ freely wants to give us in the sacraments. That is to say, what is manifested in these dispositions is the proper match between faith and the sacraments of faith: what faith do the sacraments of faith require by their very nature? Without losing the gains made through theological reflection, it is useful 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. [The 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 single act of faith.[49] This is the difference between “credere Deum” or believing that God exists (which refers to the cognitive element of faith) from what is believed (fides quae). The essence of 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. However, these fundamental aspects do not reflect the act of faith in its entirety. There is also “credere in Deum,” believing toward God. Here the volitional aspect is more clearly manifested, insofar as, integrating the two previous elements, faith also includes a desire and a movement towards God and 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. [The Trinitarian Dimension]. In Christian faith, believing in God implies believing in Jesus Christ as the Son, thanks to the Spirit. Characteristically, the symbol repeats “in Deum” three times, referring to each of the divine persons, which marks the Trinitarian dimension. The formulation refers to the difference from any other act of comparable trust, for example, trust in a human person.[50] The relationship with the Trinitarian God is distinguished from the relationship with what has been produced or created by Him. In Deum credere represents the perfect figure of personal relationship; it includes hope and love,[51] or as Augustine describes it: “to adhere by believing God, him who does good, in order to do good by cooperating with him.”[52] This is the true form of faith, which includes the two aforementioned dimensions: believing in God and believing God (credere Deum and credere Deo).[53] The formula “credo in Deum” is not reduced to an expression of a confession and conviction, but the process of conversion and surrender: the believer’s journey of faith. It is precisely this personal dimension that endows the symbol and its various articles with coherence. This takes place with particular intensity in sacramental celebrations, proper to the economy of the Spirit,[54] in which one perceives that faith is always ecclesial[55]:

In the celebration of the sacraments, the Church hands down her memory especially through the profession of faith. The creed does not involve only 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.[56]

49. Implicit in the Trinitarian faith is a personal relationship of the believer with each Person of the Holy Trinity. By faith, the Spirit leads us to knowledge of the full 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, and to live in hope, so that he may reach the maturity of the fullness of the believer, according to the measure of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13). The Spirit therefore acts in the believer in the subjective act of believing itself, 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.[57] With His gifts, the Spirit strengthens the individual believer[58] as well as 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 a 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, which is difficult to overstate, on the supremacy of the individual act of faith over the confession of ecclesial faith. The individual 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 subjectivization of truth has also influenced part of the theology of faith of recent Catholicism when, under the umbrella of personalism, it has taken on a unilateral subjectivist orientation. For this reason, these approaches describe faith less as confession than as a personal relationship of trust (faith in someone), and at least tendentially, is opposed to doctrinal faith (faith in something).

51. [Fides qua: fides quae]. If the dialogue between God and man involves a sacramental character that runs through 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) that is not linked to the authentic truth of God (fides quae), which is 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).”[59] It is the sacramental signs of God’s presence in the world and in history that inspire, express, and preserve faith. In the Christian conception, it is neither 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). When 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 is a temptation that runs through the history of Christianity.[60] But there is often the opposite tendency too: an outward faith that adheres verbally to the confession of faith without appropriating it through personal understanding or prayer. Subjectivist privatization and ritualism represent the two dangers that the Christian faith must overcome at all costs.[61]

52. [The Fundamental Equality of All Believers in the Faith]. Each believer’s personal faith can admit varying degrees both in terms of the intensity of the relationship with the Trinitarian God and to the extent to which its contents are made explicit. Since faith is a personal relationship, the capacity to grow in both dimensions is intrinsic to its own dynamics: the capacity to grow in the knowledge and appropriation of the truths of the faith and its internal consistency, on the one hand, and in the confidence and the determination to orient one’s whole existence based on the intimate relationship with God, on the other.[62]

53. In the history of theology, some have raised the question of the indispensable minimum with respect to the reflective knowledge of the content of faith, as well as that of the role of what we call “implicit faith.” The scholastic theologians showed great appreciation of the faith of the simple (simplices, minores). According to Thomas Aquinas, not everyone should be required to have the same level of explicitness when it comes to knowing how to reflect the contents of the faith.[63] The difference between “implicit” and “explicit” faith refers to certain contents of the faith that are either included in the faith itself 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 includes in itself the fundamental predisposition to identify with the faith of the Church and to unite oneself to it.[64]

54. [The Creed: Minimum Content of Faith]. According to St. Thomas, all the baptized are obliged to believe the articles of the Creed in an explicit way.[65] 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 possible only through faith in the Trinitarian God. This is the faith “in which all attain new life,” in which every Christian is baptized.[66] The rule of faith played a similar role in the Fathers’ time: 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.[67] St. Thomas argues that this knowledge of the faith does not presuppose other prior knowledge but is accessible to simple people. Moreover, thanks to the feasts of the liturgical year, its content is present to everyone. The fact that all members of the Church have the obligation of an explicit faith in the Creed consequently means the recognition of the equal dignity of all Christians.

55. [Notes on Lack of Faith]. The opposite of faith is not the deficiency of knowledge, but the obstinate rejection of some truths of faith[68] and indifference. Along these lines, Hugh of St. Victor makes a clear distinction between 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 and who nevertheless cling to their belonging to the ecclesial community and put their faith into practice in their lives.[69] Others, however, are believers only “in name and by custom.” They “receive the sacraments together with the other believers, but without any thought for the goods of the world to come.”[70] A crucial element of the Christian faith is mentioned here: whether “future goods are expected” (cf. Heb 11:1), and whether this believing hope is strong enough to guide human action.

c) The Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments

56. [The Concept of Sacrament]. The Triune God, who creates to transmit His gifts and who created man in order to call him to communion with Him, enters into relation with man in a mediated way, through creation and history, and through signs, as we have seen. The Christian sacraments occupy a very prominent place among these signs, for they are the signs to which God has linked the transmission of His grace in a definite and objective way. In fact, the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious signs that transmit grace.[71] As we have already said, this does not mean that the sacraments are the only means by which God transmits His grace;[72] it does mean that they occupy a privileged position, marked by certainty and an ecclesial nature. Devotion and personal piety can unfold through different practices such as different forms of prayer linked to Sacred Scripture, lectio or contemplation of the mysteries of the life of Christ, contemplation of God’s works in creation and history, the various sacramentals (cf. §40), and more.

57. [Faith and Sacraments in the Second Vatican Council’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 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.[73]

This dense text emphasizes several fundamental aspects of the essential reciprocity between faith and the sacraments, which we shall summarize. First, the sacraments have a pedagogical purpose for our faith in that they illustrate the way salvation history happens, that is, in a “sacramental” way. Jesus Christ instituted them to teach us that He communicates Himself and transmits His salvation to us in a sensatory and visible way, that is, adapted to the human condition[74] (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 becoming a kind of magical gesture; and as a necessary condition for the sacrament to subjectively produce 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 one professes the faith by which man is justified. The sacramental word requires the response of the faith of the believer who, because of it, learns and recognizes the mystery fulfilled 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, forming 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 it is through faith and the sacraments of faith that we enter into dialogue, into vital contact with the Redeemer, who is seated at the right hand of the Father. The glorious Christ does not just reach us internally, but in the concreteness of our historical being, elevating the fundamental circumstances of our existence to sacramental circumstances of salvation.

58. [Connecting Faith and the Sacraments]. Faith is not forever guaranteed at the time of conversion. It must be cultivated through the practice of charity, prayer, listening to the Word, communal life, instruction, as well as—pre-eminently—through the assiduous reception of the sacraments. In the realm of relationships, what is not explicit and expressed runs the risk of becoming diluted or even disappearing. The gift, which is Christ, cannot be accepted only in an invisible or private way. On the contrary, he who receives it is empowered and called to incarnate it in his life, words, thoughts, and actions. 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) achieve what they signify. For their reception to be fruitful, however, it is necessary that the recipient be willing to deepen, to live, and to bear witness to what he or she has received.

59. The intrinsic connection between faith and the sacraments is evident if we consider other essential aspects. Noteworthy aspects include

a) The sacramental celebration: in which a particular action or material reality, which already has a meaning of its own, is put in relation with the history of salvation and determined by the event of Christ. Through the Word, the sign becomes the presence, memory, and promise of the fullness of salvation.[75] Thus, for example, water as such possesses the property of cleansing. However, only coupled 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 ages past in God” (Eph 3:9) and now are made known as Christ: He who through His incarnation, passion, and resurrection, wants to “draw everyone to [Him]self” (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 God’s salvific plan.[76] The New Testament concept of “mystérion” designates the reality of God, who communicates Himself to human beings in Jesus Christ. To the extent to which it is an inexhaustible reality, it remains hidden even in the very event of revelation, because it surpasses all understanding and conceptualization. Although the Latin translation “sacramentum” highlights revelation more than concealment, the Latin concept also preserves the dimension of reference to the inapprehensible. It follows that whoever celebrates the liturgy of the Church or receives a sacrament is called to transcend (through his personally believed faith) the believed content in view of the infinitely greater mystery.

c) There is a second aspect also relating to the terminology that is very revealing. Originally sacramentum means a “sacred oath” that, in contrast with “ius iurandum,” produces a sacred bond. This is the meaning that Tertullian has in mind when he calls baptism a “sacrament”[77] and compares it to the commitment that soldiers make when they pledge allegiance. It is not possible to commit oneself to something without knowing what its content is.

60. [The Need for Catechesis]. Based on what has already been said, we are starting from a dual basis. First, there can be no sacramental celebration without faith. Second, personal faith is a participation in the faith of the Church, 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 character, an adequate catechesis must precede the celebration of the sacrament. In such catechesis, the paschal mystery must occupy a predominant 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.[78] 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, continuously progressing in knowledge through participation in the mysteries celebrated.

61. [The 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.” Faith as “virtue” is the capacity for action made possible by grace and which, like every faculty, can be perfected. In other words, the deeper a believer’s relationship with Christ, the more intense is the sacramentality of his faith, his prayer, his confession, his identification with the Church, and his love. Consequently, since faith is a virtue, it must be manifested in an external and visible way, in a style of life that corresponds to the double commandment to love God and neighbor, and in a relationship with the praying Church.

62. There can be a general faith, as assent to divine revelation, without including the hope in God and the love of God inherent to it. The scholastic distinction between “fides informis” and “fides (caritate) formata” reflects the problem of a faith that has not yet reached the level of maturity that is essential for it. According to the letter to the Hebrews, faith is necessary for salvation: “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Heb 11:6); conviction is rooted in the medieval understanding of faith.[79] While a mere desire to believe the truth (fides informis) does not establish communion with Christ, loving faith (fides caritate formata) results in rootedness in the participation in the salvific and blessed reality of God. In other words, there can be a form of faith 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 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 seeks to express.

63. Following this distinction, it must be established that loving faith is indeed the beginning of eternal life.[80] The personal act of believing (actus credendi) and the virtue of faith (virtus fidei) are the only things that make the salvific event effective in the believer. Now, the act of faith is not possible without the affirmation of that reality which 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 level of faith imbued with love as the Eucharist does. 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” cannot be ascertained based on human criteria. Consequently, no one can know for sure whether the faith of another person, or even one’s own faith, possesses this quality. This can only be inferred from certain indications or effects.[81] Therefore, one can in no way claim to make a judgment about how a person presents himself before God or seek to confirm or deny another person’s belief as a supernatural gift of grace. However, since the reception of a sacrament is an ecclesial public act, the external and visible is decisive: that is, the intention expressed, the confession of faith, and the fidelity to the baptismal promise in life.

d) The Dialogical Character of the Sacraments

65. [Faith, Validity, and Fecundity]. The Council of Trent (DH 1608) used the term “ex opera 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, it always conveys what it signifies. This clarification does not imply a disregard for 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 recipient, 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 the sacrament nor the faith of the one who receives it produces salvation, but only the sacramentally mediated grace of the Redeemer. Thus, it is not that because the one who dispenses the sacrament and the one who receives it believe in what they perform in the sacrament, and then Christ acts through the sacrament for that reason. Rather, it is true 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, in contrast to the theology of the reformers, the Council of Trent clearly affirmed the efficacy of the sacraments.[82] However, an ecclesial practice that attends only to 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]. As an essential constituent, sacramental logic includes the free response, the acceptance of God’s gift, in a word: faith—however incipient that faith may be, especially in the case of baptism. The most recent theology has taken the world of meaning that is proper to symbols and signs as a reference point to illuminate the transmission of grace that takes place in the sacraments. This area lies in an order very close to human language and interpersonal relations. Since the sacraments are in the dialogical and relational realm of the believer with Christ, this approach has its advantages. The meaning 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 door to that world which 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 to not externally or internally contradict what the sacrament means. 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 are varying 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 of 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 thus part of the dialogue between Christ and the individual believer.

69. While it is true that the doctrine regarding 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 preserves the efficacy “ex opera 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 intact the dialogical character 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. The sacramental symbols and symbolic actions, performed through water, oil, bread, wine, and other visible and external factors, invite each believer to open their “inner eye of faith”[83] and see the salvific effects of each sacrament. These symbolic actions, carried out with these material elements, are in fact in the service 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, including 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 service of the intensification of faith in the beneficiaries and of sanctification, thanks to the inner faith-vision. The strengthened faith must be translated into a believing confession through the Christian witness of life in the world.

71. [Dialogical Character]. The liturgical celebration of the sacraments describes not only God’s katabatic (descending) salvific action, but also, and inseparably 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 in the salvific economy: of the historical unfolding of God’s desire to enter into a personal relationship with human beings. Thus, the character of being a covenant which marks and accompanies the whole history of salvation is reflected in the sacraments. Where the dialogical character of the sacrament diminishes, misunderstandings of a magical nature (ritualism), and those centered on individual salvation (subjectivist privatization), arise.

e) The Sacramental Organism

72. [The Sacramental Organism]. The sacramental organism of the Church,[84] shaped through an evolution spanning centuries, attends to the key circumstances of the life of the individual person and of the community in order to strengthen Christians in their faith, to incorporate them more vividly into the mystery of Christ and of the Church, accompanying and strengthening them throughout the whole journey of their life of faith. Not only does it gather rich moments of the unfolding of the mystery of Christ in His earthly life, but by making these moments sacramentally present, it ensures that His work is continued. 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 incorporated in 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, located at the beginning of the journey, incorporate the believer fully into Christ and into the ecclesial community, enabling him—by grace—to in a way be the sacrament of Christ with his life. Thus, baptism is the gateway. Being immersed in the waters and coming out of them expresses participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, becoming part of His Body and being conformed to Him, becoming a living and active member of Christ’s Church (cf. infra Chapter 3.1). Confirmation, with the reception of the chrism, implies a further step in this 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), incorporation, communion, and full participation in the Body of Christ is expressed in every sense: 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 witness.

74. [Sacraments of Healing]. Those who receive the sacraments of initiation do not always behave with full fidelity and integrity with respect 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 one’s 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 can once again set his journey of faith back on course. Since the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Body of Christ par excellence, full participation in it is meaningless for those who, having seriously damaged what incorporation into this Body means, have not received the gift of forgiveness which reconciles one to God and joyfully reintegrates one into community membership.

75. The Anointing of the Sick is celebrated in a state of frailty, such as in 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 frailty.

76. [Sacraments in the Service of Communion]. Other sacraments look more directly at the service of communion. The community requires a structure and governance that reflects its sacramental reality. That is why ordained ministers represent Christ the Head and configure themselves expressly to Him through the exercise of pastoral charity. Thus, Christ remains present in His Church not only as the gift that begot her, but also sacramentally as the one who continually gives Himself to her, unceasingly 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, again and again, how it is due to the gift of the Lord, in His Word and in His sacraments, while ordained ministers are to conform their life to Christ to be pastors after His own heart.

77. Those who have been born again of water and the Spirit also exercise their common priesthood (cf. LG 10), which is inseparable from the life of faith, in the love they profess to each other as spouses. The love publicly professed by husband and wife 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 and thanks to marriage, the Christian community grows, and children are begotten. They are the 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, expression, and living of faith (cf. infra Chapter 4).

f) Faith and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy

78. This joint review of faith and the sacraments in the sacramental economy has shown us several aspects that are of vital importance for our topic.

a) In the divine economy everything starts from the salvific revelation of the Trinitarian God. This economy reaches its apex 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 character: invisible grace is transmitted through visible signs. The sacramental character of revelation is perceived through faith.

c) Faith is a personal relationship with the Trinitarian God, through which one responds to His grace and His sacramental revelation. Therefore, faith is essential and constitutively dialogical. It is also a dynamic reality that accompanies the believer through his or her whole life. Like any relationship, it can grow and become stronger, but also the opposite: it can weaken and may even be 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 confines of the Church. This factor would seem to deny the sacramental character of the salvific economy. However, a careful consideration of the way salvation works in such cases shows that God’s salvific action, welcomed by an implicit faith, is not done outside the sacramentality of the divine economy, but precisely because of it.[85]

e) Under different forms 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 faith of the Church 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)  In its very essence, faith itself has a natural tendency to express itself and nourish itself sacramentally, precisely because of the sacramental structure of the economy that 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 considered different.

2.3. CONCLUSION: Dynamisms of Faith and Sacramentality

79. Finally, we can conclude with a series of outstanding dynamisms that have emerged from this consideration of the dialogical character of the sacramental economy:

a) Faith constitutes the dialogical response to the sacramental exchange of the Trinitarian God. This factor seals the reciprocity between faith and the sacraments. In the believer’s journey, faith is modulated and expressed in the various situations of his life, accompanied by the various sacraments that the Church offers for 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 identified more with the faith of the Church. Reciprocity between faith and the sacraments excludes the possibility of a sacramental celebration that is totally detached from the faith of the Church (intention).

d) The sacramentality proper to faith always entails a missionary dynamism because it actively involves the believer in the dynamics of the divine economy, endowing him with a certain leading role, for which divine grace provides. Those who receive a sacrament intensify their christification thanks to the Spirit, reaffirm their ecclesial incorporation, and perform a liturgical act of praise to God, who distributes His goods to us through the sacraments. From this standpoint, it is understood, for example, that those who receive baptism are—first and foremost—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 the proper living of them, the Body of Christ is strengthened.

3. Reciprocity of Faith and the Sacraments in Christian Initiation

80. [Introduction]. Now that we have seen the essential reciprocity that prevails between faith and the sacraments on a general twofold level, from the standpoint of sacramental economy and from that of faith and the sacraments, we shall now consider its implications for the sacraments of Christian initiation. It is therefore a matter 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 the reciprocity between faith and sacrament in each of the sacraments of initiation.

3.1. The Reciprocity between Faith and Baptism

a) Biblical Foundation

81. After the great kerygmatic preaching on the day of Pentecost, the listeners were “cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles: ‘What are we to do, my brothers?’ Peter [said] to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. […] Those who accepted his message 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: the remission of sins, the gift of the Spirit, and belonging to the community (cf. 1 Cor 1:11–16). Through baptism, the believer participates in the paschal mystery of Christ (cf. Rom 6:1–11), anticipated by Christ in his own baptism and fulfilled in his passion and resurrection (cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50); the believer is clothed in Christ, is configured to Him, and he comes to be in Christ and with Christ. Thus, we become adopted children and new creatures. The apostle Paul also understands that with baptism:

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.[86]

One is also incorporated into the Church, the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 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 life.

b) Faith and Adult Baptism

82. Baptism is the sacrament of faith par excellence. Mark 16:16 already links faith and baptism: “Whoever 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 recognized the synthesis of her Trinitarian faith. Moreover, 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.”[87] In the ancient Church, the rite of triple immersion was accompanied by responses to an interrogative creed.[88] Today, the renunciations and profession of faith are an integral part of the rite. The ritual celebration itself, with its scrutinies, highlights the dialogical character 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 conferred by an ecclesial minister. The scrutinies themselves carry out the function of ensuring adherence to the Church’s faith on the part of the one being baptized, beyond the previous demonstrations of knowledge of doctrine, conformity to moral demands, and the practice of prayer during the catechumenate. Since a sacrament is a gift from God, no one administers it 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 the gift of God.

83. The Christian thus configured to Christ continues his pilgrimage in faith, receiving the Holy Spirit on other occasions 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); and most importantly, the whole public ministry of Jesus, marked by the reception of the Spirit sent by the Father. The Spirit was the one with whom he was anointed in baptism (Mk 1:10 and parallel passages), the one who led him into the desert (Mk 1:12 and parallel passages), and the one with whom he proclaimed to be anointed in the synagogue of Nazareth (Lk 4:16–21); the Spirit was the one through whom he expelled demons (Mt 12:28), and the one whom he exhaled on the cross (Mt 27:50; Lk 23:46).His entire mission can be described as a baptism, with reference to Easter (cf. Lk 12:50). In this way, the life of the Christian is understood as a progressive unfolding of what 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, as Jesus has done.

c) Pastoral Proposal: Faith for Adult Baptism

84. With baptism—the sacrament of new birth and new life in Christ[89]—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 call for preparation through the catechumenate or other forms of instruction, but there has also been much awareness of the initiating character of the baptismal faith. For this reason, the previous catechumenal process must have been followed seriously and assiduously, with the catechumen making a responsible proclamation of his adherence to the Trinitarian faith he received, the desire to grow in knowledge of it, and the desire to progress in conforming his life to it, thanks to the gift of baptismal grace. Since baptism is the port of entry, the faith required for baptism need not be perfect, but incipient and accompanied with a desire for growth.

85. Just as the catechumenate is understood as a part of initiation, baptism likewise does not consist of a rite that is closed in on itself, but rather its internal dynamic requires a dynamic manifestation of life as a baptized person. Nor has the understanding of the faith been closed, despite the equivalence between the faith that is celebrated in the rite and the faith that is believed.[90] Post-baptismal catechesis corresponds to this, in a certain 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 its reception.[91] In any case, it was not assumed that the understanding happened by itself, but that neophytes were introduced to the sacraments through mystagogical catechesis.

86. [Insights 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.”[92] He 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.”[93] Faith can and must grow; the willingness to grow in faith is part of the very decision to be.[94]

87. When the classical catechumenate, with its seriousness and its various stages, was gradually disappearing during the Constantinian shift, the Church adapted to a new circumstance: society became predominantly Christian. In this situation, general socialization included a certain religious socialization, which was at least comparatively greater than in the previous epoch. However, the Church maintained the necessity of an ecclesial figure of the faith (godparents); and of a minimum prior instruction, which allowed a responsible and conscious personal adherence. The case of the Americas is instructive. In spite of the existence of different tendencies and of the fact that in the theology of the time salvation was closely linked to baptism, the opinion that best safeguarded the dignity of the indigenous people and the dialogical character of the sacraments ultimately prevailed.[95] 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 the burden of catechesis fell: '

They are not to 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 plausible that they understand what they are receiving or before they respond and confess in baptism and wish to live and persevere in the faith and Christian religion.[96]

88. [Pastoral Proposal]. The Church is always eager to celebrate baptism. It involves the joy that new believers are receiving justification, are incorporated into Christ, recognize Him as their Savior, configure their life with Him, become part of the Church, and witness to the new life in the Spirit, with which they have been graced and enlightened. However, in the complete absence of personal faith, the sacramental rite loses its meaning. While validity is based on the administration 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 the 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, and entry into filial life. In this case, baptism becomes a mere social convention or is imbued with pagan elements.

89. This minimum of faith seems indispensable for those who receive the sacrament to minimum of faith seems indispensable for those who receive the sacrament to begin to possess the intention of carrying out what the Church believes. Some of the elements of this minimum of faith can be deduced from the very dynamic of the sacramental celebration[97]: the Trinitarian faith, with the invocation of the Three Divine Persons over the neophyte; the conviction of being reborn in Christ, symbolized by immersion in the waters, as waters of life;[98] the birth to a new life, signified by the clothing with the white garment; and 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. Therefore, fidelity to the doctrine of the Church, charity, and pastoral prudence, together with creativity in welcoming and in the selection of catechumenal itineraries, are required. Failure to defend sufficiently what the sacrament is and means, out of fear of the minimum requirements, does greater damage to the sacramentality of the faith and of the Church. It is detrimental to the integrity and coherence of the very faith that it is intended to safeguard. The faith of the recipient is certainly not the cause of the grace at work in the sacrament, but it is part of the adequate disposition that is necessary for the efficacy 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 the very least, not putting any obstacles in the way.[99] In this sense, without a modicum of faith, the gift of God which makes the baptized person the living “sacrament” of Christ, a letter from Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:3), he fails to produce the fruit that is proper to it. On the other hand, those who confess Christ as their Lord and Savior will not hesitate to associate themselves as intimately as possible, sacramentally, with the central nucleus of Christ’s saving mystery: Easter.

d) Faith and Baptism of Children

91. The baptism of infants has been attested since ancient times.[100] It is justified on the basis of parents’ desire for their children to participate in sacramental grace, to be incorporated into Christ and the Church, and to become members of the community of God’s children just as they are members of the family, since baptism is an effective means of salvation, of forgiving sins, beginning with original sin, and of transmitting grace. The infant does not knowingly seal his or her membership in his or her natural family, nor is he or she proud of it. If socialization follows its ordinary course, he will do so as a youth and as an 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 our integration into the communal “we.”[101] The celebration solemnly initiates it after the profession of faith: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it.”[102] On this occasion, the parents act as representatives of the Church, which welcomes these children into her bosom.[103] For this reason, the baptism of children is justified by the responsibility of educating them in the faith, which the parents and godparents assume, parallel to the responsibility of educating them in all other areas of life.

e) Pastoral Recommendation: Faith for the Baptism of Children

92. Many families live the faith and explicitly and implicitly pass it on to their children, whom they educate in the faith having baptized them shortly after birth, following an ancestral Christian custom. There are, however, several problems. In some places, the number of baptisms is decreasing 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, parents request baptism for their children out of social convention or because of family pressure, without participating in the life of the Church and leaving serious doubts about their intention and ability to provide a future education in the faith for their children.

93. [Insights from the Tradition]. The Church has consistently defended the legitimacy of infant baptism, despite the criticisms that this practice has received since ancient times. We are told of baptisms of entire families in early times (cf. Acts 16:15, 33). The tradition of infant baptism is very old. It is already witnessed by the Apostolic Tradition.[104] A synod of Carthage, from the year 252, defends it.[105] Tertullian’s well-known challenge to the baptism of infants only makes sense if it was a widespread custom.[106] This practice has always been accompanied by a significant ecclesial figure close to the children (parents, godparents), who committed to provide education in the faith along with the ordinary education of the children. Moreover, to the extent that infant baptism became the most common practice, the need for a post-baptismal catechesis to instruct the baptized in the faith, and thus contribute to avoiding (as much as possible) their total estrangement or distancing from the faith, was accentuated.[107] Without this representative figure of the ecclesial faith, baptism, a sacrament of faith with a marked dialogical character, would be missing one of its essential components.

94. [Pastoral Recommendation]. In the case of children, there must be a hope based on education in the faith, thanks to the faith of the adults who assume this responsibility. Without any hope for a future education in the faith, the minimum conditions for a meaningful reception of baptism are not met.[108]

3.2. The Reciprocity between Faith and Confirmation

a) The Biblical and Historical Foundation

95. [The Biblical Foundation]. Like baptism, the sacrament of confirmation also finds its foundation in Scripture. The Spirit, as we have said, plays a crucial role in the life and mission of Jesus and occupies a prominent place in 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 to 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 progress in their life of faith and bear witness to it before the world. Some passages distinguish the reception of baptism from a subsequent outpouring of the Spirit, linked to the intervention of the apostles through the laying of hands on Christians who are already living 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 incorporated 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, and to full incorporation into the ecclesial mission. In the Christian initiation of adults both aspects take place in a single joint celebration.

96. [The Historical Foundation]. Since ancient times, a series of post-baptismal rites have been recognized, which are not always clearly distinguished from baptism itself. Such post-baptismal rites include the laying on of hands; the anointing with the oil of chrism; and the signing with the sign of the cross.[109] The Church has always maintained that these post-baptismal rites were part of full Christian initiation. With the passing of history and the growing number 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,[110] and for centuries (until an intervention by Pius X in 1910[111]) this took place during the bishop’s visit, before First Communion. The difference and temporal distance between baptism and confirmation is recognized as early as the beginning of the fourth century, in the Council of Elvira (ca. 302).[112]

b) Faith and Confirmation

97. In the ritual of Confirmation, the renunciations are renewed, and the profession of baptismal faith is repeated. This marks its continuity with baptism as well as the need for the precedence of the latter. The uniqueness of Confirmation resides in a double element related to faith. In the first place, a fuller adherence to 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.”[113] Secondly, Confirmation implies a “closer bond with the Church” (LG 11). Thus, the ecclesial nature of faith is reaffirmed. Consequently, baptismal faith is strengthened in several dimensions: 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, insofar as it is more conformed by the gift of the Spirit, after the first baptismal reception of the Spirit. These aspects denote a maturing of faith with respect 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), emphatically expresses the ecclesial character of Confirmation. Union with the Church is added to the union with the Holy Spirit. 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 person is incorporated into the Church, contributing to the building of the body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:12; 1 Cor 12). In addition, Confirmation strengthens his or her Christian life, which began with baptism. Through the new gift of the Spirit, he or she is better prepared to be a living witness of the faith received, as happened with the early Christians 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 specific nature of the sacrament. In the Christian initiation of adults, the original and more theologically consistent pattern is maintained: Baptism, Confirmation, and then the Eucharist. Although the sacrament of Confirmation offers the possibility of continuing instruction in the faith, incorporation into the Church and the personalization of the decision that the parents and godparents once made for the child, it cannot be expected to resolve the difficulties of youth ministry or the disaffection of young people who were once baptized with respect to the ecclesial institution and the faith. Despite praiseworthy efforts and the fact that at times it supposes a more mature rediscovery of the faith with the passage to a more conscious and adult active belonging, on more than a few occasions young people experience the celebration of Confirmation as if it were a school graduation: once they have their diploma, there is no need to go back to the classroom. Others simply think of Confirmation as a condition for further steps, such as marriage, without grasping what is proper to this sacrament, which has eroded in the feelings of many faithful.

d) Pastoral Recommendation: Faith for Confirmation

100. The importance of baptism has been steadfastly maintained, as has its theological profile. The postponement of Confirmation, where it is deferred for a long time—or even not administered at all—has made it difficult to appreciate its place in Christian initiation as a sacrament of the Spirit and of the Church, both fundamental elements in Christian initiation. A missionary Church is made up of confirmed Christians who, in the power of the Spirit, assume 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.[114]

101. In adult Christian initiation, the faith required for Confirmation coincides with the faith necessary for baptism. In the case of deferred reception of both sacraments, baptismal faith will have matured in several dimensions. 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 one’s life to it. There will also be a path for a personal relationship with the Trinitarian God, particularly through prayer. More decisively, faith will have shaped the Christian’s biography, since he or she will have made a journey of following Christ in the Church. Confirmation implies the desire and decision to continue walking this path, to find, 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 end with Easter, but includes Pentecost, so Christian initiation does not end 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—both doctrinal and moral—offers the opportunity for an intensification and personalization of the Christian’s relationship with the Lord through prayer.

3.3. The Reciprocity between Faith and the Eucharist

a) Biblical Foundation

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. There are also other events in which the Church has observed a Eucharistic tenor: the multiplication of the loaves (Mk 6:30–44 and parallel passages; 8:1–10 and parallel passages; 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) to the present day, wherever there are Christians and the Church, the Eucharist is celebrated, as the memorial of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord until He returns, His saving gift for “many,” for all (cf. Rom 5:18–19; 8:32).

103. At the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus condenses the meaning of His whole life, His impending death, and His future resurrection, so that He may 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 richness. In the Eucharist, the Church celebrates the actualization and making present 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”[115] 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.[116] Since the Eucharist contains 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 (LG 11; SC 10).

b) Faith and the Eucharist

104. [Trinitarian Faith]. Every Eucharist begins “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.”[117] 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 “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14). In the Eucharist, we are made partakers of this loving flow, inherent in the 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 sealed with the praise which involves personal witness in ordinary life.

105. [The Unity of Faith and Charity]. The penitential act, situated at the beginning of the Eucharistic 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, so that he can enter into communion with God. Furthermore, the penitential act highlights the inseparability between the vertical communion with Christ, whose surrender will be remembered immediately (anamnesis), and the horizontal communion with other Christians and, beyond that, with all people. 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.”[118]

106. [Faith as a Response to the Word of God]. Since the eleventh century, the same creed that concludes the baptismal rite has been a fixed part of the Eucharistic 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.[119] The prophetic dimension of faith also emerges. This Word is powerful: 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 harbinger.

107. [Pneumatic Dimension of Faith]. The pneumatic character of the sacraments is seen clearly 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 Spirit’s power 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[120] (the mystery of faith). This solemn acclamation is simultaneously an affirmation, an announcement, and an invitation addressed to all. To such an extent is the Eucharist a mystery of faith, and without faith it 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. Like 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.[121] 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).

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 in 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 educated and strengthened in the Eucharistic liturgy.

110. [The Eschatological Dimension of Faith]. The sacramental celebration of the mystery brings together the past (the memory of what happened), the present (the making present or the actualization of what happened), and the future (which is anticipation of the final fullness that we await).[122] 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 implies, expresses an intimate union with Christ, through the Spirit, which is impossible without faith. One cannot commune intimately with someone while ignoring them or against one’s will. The faith that responds to the Eucharistic gifts with the word “amen” is related to the disposition to not only receive the sacrament, but to embody it. This communion with Christ brings about the personal sanctification of the Christian, concomitant with the communion of life with Christ. This sanctification necessarily implies a sending.

112. [The Missionary Character of Faith]. The final sending forth with which the Eucharist ends, “Ite, missa est,”[123] supposes a missionary return to ordinary life, to make the life received in the sacrament present in it, and to become a Eucharist for the world in the likeness of Christ and in his own way. In fact, not only does Jesus Christ offer himself in the Eucharistic offering, 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, as well as the acceptance of being sent and its associated practice, 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, as a Christianized person, 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 celebration.

113. [Strengthening Personal Faith]. The faith of the believer is enriched and strengthened by intimate communion with Christ. The ecclesial being of those who participate in the Eucharist, their incorporation 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.”[124] In short, in faith we recognize that the Eucharist constitutes the most intense way of Christ’s presence among us, since it is a real, corporal, and substantial presence.[125] For this very reason, full participation in the Eucharist from the standpoint of faith implies maximum communion with Christ.

114. [Building the Ecclesial Body]. Not only is the individual faith of the believer strengthened in the Eucharist, but the Church is generated in the Eucharist[126]: Christ, who gives Himself to her in sacrifice as to His beloved Spouse, constitutes her in His body.[127] Communion among the Churches, that is, the sharing of the same faith received, is expressed through Eucharistic communion following a very ancient tradition. The Church herself is the body of Christ, constituted as such by divine design, thanks to the sacramental Trinitarian action. This body actualizes what it is when it proclaims the faith received, sanctifies history, sings the praises of the Trinity, and undertakes the mission to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

115. [The Eucharist: The Highest 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.”[128]

116. [The 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 having been initiated into the Christian faith and being a member of the Body of Christ, but also a coherence of life with what is meant therein. In the same way, a conduct so inconsistent with the Christian faith as divisiveness in the community and a notable lack of charity towards one’s brethren (1 Cor 11:21) is incompatible with “[eating] the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor 11:20). This requires us to discern whether 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 the exercise of charity as well as doctrinal conformity and ecclesial incorporation.

117. The penitential institution of the ancient Church temporarily excluded 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 for life prescribed by the Church. After a public confession, the sinner, converted on occasion of public scandal, was expelled from Eucharistic communion for a time (excommunication), to be received again solemnly after having completed his 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 this 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 (reconciliation).[129] Despite the change in the way penance is celebrated, which is no longer public, the basic theology has not changed. Nowadays, however, this close relationship between penance and the Eucharist has been obscured in many practicing environments.

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 receiving communion every time they attend Mass, without ever going to the sacrament of confession. More than 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 non-habitual faithful who come to participate in the Eucharist, including reception of 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 people who are non-practicing or distant. This remnant of Christian influence, albeit with deviations, can serve as a starting point for a more conscious ecclesial reintegration and offers the possibility of reviving a lifeless faith. However, these practices also show, in their ambivalence, how in many ways there is a gap between what the Church professes to be celebrated in the Eucharist, the requirements for full participation in the Eucharist, the consequences it entails in ordinary life, and what many believers are seeking in occasional or sporadic celebrations of the Eucharist.

d) Insights from the Tradition

119. The conditions for the reception of the Eucharist have been established since the earliest times. As we have said, Paul warns those who approach the Eucharist: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgement upon himself” (1 Cor 11:29), highlighting certain indispensable requirements. From the Gospel of John, it can be inferred that a reception of the sacramental species without faith, that is, without Spirit, is of no avail, 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 recipient must be baptized, and must not deny the doctrine of Christ through his life.[130] 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!”,[131] and in a similar way in the Apostolic Constitutions.[132] It is reflected in the liturgical invitation “the holy to the saints”[133] that was already commented on by Theodore of Mopsuestia. By “saints” he is referring first of all to the baptized (as did Paul), that is, those who live with the Church. This thinking is manifested both in the homilies of John Chrysostom[134] and in Cyprian: Communion with Christ cannot be dissociated from communion with the Church.[135] The doctor of the Eucharist demands that his priests, if necessary, reject some people.[136] Augustine, too, warns just as clearly 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.[137] That is to say, with a life that corresponds to the love of Christ and His members.

120. Scholastic theology calls this disposition “fides formata,” a faith shaped by love[138] (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” (mysterium fidei).[139] “Infidelity” (infidelitas) makes one unfit in eminent degree for the reception of the sacrament, since unbelief “separates from the unity of the Church”[140]; unity that the Eucharist signifies. In certain circumstances, however, when one “wants to receive what the Church gives,” then in that case one does receive the sacrament, even if his faith is deficient in its contents.[141] Someone who believes in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist but is not in a state of grace receives the sacrament, but he commits a grave sin.[142] St. Thomas argues that a lie has been perpetrated (falsitas): what the sacrament expresses, the love that unites Christ with His faithful, does not take place in the recipient.[143] St. Thomas realizes that a fruitful participation in baptism and in the Eucharist requires a different degree of disposition generated by faith in each case. 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 to believe.[144]

121. This interconnection between faith, love, and the reception of the Eucharist is clearly perceived in the liturgical traditions, particularly in the East. For example, in the convocation to the communion of the people, it says: “Draw near with faith, charity and fear of God.”[145] In the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and in that of St. Basil, the deacon, the priest, and the people recite a confession of Christological faith expressed before Christ, who is present in Body and Blood. It 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.”[146] 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 of eating of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” produced a fall, which had to be redressed. Eating from the “tree of life” becomes a reality in Eucharistic communion with the Eucharistic offering of Christ on the tree that is the Cross.[147] 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 righteous meal, all are invited to eat from the “tree of life” in Eucharistic Communion.

e) Pastoral Recommendation: Faith for the Eucharist

122. Baptism is the beginning of a pilgrimage, the culmination of which can only be reached at the Eschaton. That is why Christians receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, the food for this journey, again and again. For this reason, the Church has never ceased to gather to celebrate the mystery of the Passover, to read in this context “what referred 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 to believers. However, one cannot adequately receive the gift that is inherent in the existential sacrifice of Christ if one is not willing to allow oneself to be existentially configured by this gift in faith. Without faith, neither Pilate, the Roman soldiers, nor the people understood how in Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross, God was reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). Without faith one cannot perceive 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 power of the Church.[148] The Son of God truly becomes “Emmanuel” in every Christian through their participation in the Body and Blood of Christ.[149]

123. [Sacramental Faith and the Eucharist]. Without sacramental faith, participation in the Eucharist, especially—the reception of 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 have received through the gift of His Son in the power of the Spirit, which is now recalled and made present in the celebration.

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 through, 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-binding of Jesus Christ to the sacrament (ex opere operato) with the species of bread and wine consecrated through the invocation of the Spirit in the epiclesis. The result is that the recipient can not only hope, but he knows in faith that at a certain moment he receives what the consecrated species signify.

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 enables him to offer himself to God as a living and spiritual sacrifice (cf. Rom 12:1) and to bear witness to the Christian life. In other words, he is transformed into a living stone of the confessing community, which Vatican II calls Christ’s means and instrument to bring all men to His home.

127. [Sacramental Faith and Ecclesial Communion in the Eucharist]. From this standpoint, the individual living out 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) 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. Each individual’s Eucharistic communion with Christ is to be effected through the communion of faith with the Pope and the local bishop, mentioned by name in each Eucharistic celebration. Those who receive Holy Communion do not confess Christ alone, but also commune 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: the Trinitarian faith embodied in the Creed; Christological faith centered around the redemptive meaning of the death of Christ, the Son of God, the Lord, “for many” and “for me,” and of the resurrection; pneumatological faith, particularly active and present through the double epiclesis, which is fundamental for 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 part of a believing journey, 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 amid the vicissitudes of life. On this journey, Christians often turn to the 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; if one rejects the Trinitarian faith of the Church, invoked at various times during the celebration and sealed with the recitation of the Creed; if Christian charity is suffering serious deficiencies in one’s personal life; or if any conscious and deliberate act has been committed regarding a matter that seriously compromises what faith and ecclesial morals dictate (mortal sin[150]).

130. [Ways of Growing]. Those who are on a journey with Christ attend the Sunday Eucharist not because it is an obligation established by the Church, but out of 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, they are also aware that their sacramental participation and, concretely, the Eucharist is part of the public witness to which they have freely committed themselves. They commit 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, their community of belonging.

131. Because of the reciprocal causality between faith and the Eucharist, in areas where, due to the limits of the ecclesial institution, there was not or is not usually a celebration of Mass and sacramental catechesis, 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 privation that hinders growth toward a fuller sacramental faith. In addition to taking care of every detail of Eucharistic celebrations, in accordance with their meaning, it is appropriate to propose paths of reintegration into the ecclesial faith when it has been lost; paths that culminate in the Eucharist as the crowning of this return. It is also appropriate to propose other types of non-Eucharistic celebrations and spaces for encounter, prayer, and extended Christian catechesis for people with a still-limited immersion in Christianity, whose evangelization has not yet matured to the point where they participate consciously in the Eucharist.

4. The Reciprocity between Faith and Marriage

132. [The Problem]. If there is one sacrament in which the essential reciprocity between faith and the sacraments is put to the test, it is marriage. This is true 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[151]; it not required that the persons have the desire or awareness of the sacramentality of the marriage union, but only the intention to contract a natural marriage, with the properties that the Church considers inherent in natural marriage. In this understanding of marriage, it is incumbent upon theology to elucidate the complex case of marriages between “baptized non-believers.” An extreme defense of the sacramentality of such unions would undermine the essential reciprocity of faith and the sacraments, as proper to the sacramental economy, and would sustain (at least in the case of marriage) a sacramental automatism that we have been rejecting as improper to the Christian faith (cf. supra ch. 2).

133. [The Approach]. Aware of the difficulty of the question posed under the heading “reciprocity of faith and marriage,” we shall proceed as follows. First, since (while sharing a common origin) there are notable differences in the theology of marriage between the Latin tradition and the Eastern tradition, we shall focus exclusively on the Latin understanding. The rich Eastern tradition has its own physiognomy. We shall 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 place 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.[152] 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.[153] This is due to a conception of the sacrament of marriage that springs from a theology with its own personality and profile, in which the sanctifying effects of the sacrament are brought to the forefront.[154]

134. Second, we shall refer to the usual methodology (cf. § 80), as adapted to marriage, to treat the ordinary case of this sacrament. Next, we shall investigate the thorny question about the sacramental quality of marriages between “baptized non-believers,” in a twofold approach: first looking at the state of the question; and then offering a theological proposal for a solution, congruent with sustained reciprocity, faith, and sacraments, which does not contradict the current theology of marriage.

4.1 The Sacrament of Marriage

a) Biblical Foundation

135. [Marriage in the Divine Plan]. Although each sacrament has its own specific uniqueness, the case of marriage stands out for its particularity. Marriage as such belongs to the creaturely order, within the divine plan (cf. GS 48). The natural 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 dialogue throughout the divine economy of salvation finds a reality here that is created by God in His image, in the image of the Trinitarian God,[155] which is very much able to be expressed by the loving, covenantal relationship between God and His people, His bride, always symbolically represented by a woman. In the Christian perspective, this creaturely 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 human being 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 divorces his wife, unless the marriage is unlawful (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 exact consequences it would have. It is for this reason that the Latin Tradition has always excluded the possibility of a second union[156] after 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 significance as a messianic wedding, along with other allusions of a nuptial nature (Mt 9:15 and parallel passages; Mt 25:5–6), highlight the capacity of the conjugal relationship to express profound aspects of the mystery of God, such as 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. Taking the biblical testimony 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, fulfils its truth in fidelity and in the 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 itself becomes in a certain way a sacramental representation of Christ’s fidelity.[157] 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 absolutely dissociated.

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: “The unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy by a believing husband” (1 Cor 7:14). This passage (esp. 1 Cor 7:15) is the foundation for the so-called Pauline privilege in which a higher qualification is discerned, in the order of grace, of sacramental marriage over natural marriage.

b) Insights from the Tradition

139. The typical “marrying in the Lord” that is characteristic of Christians, has been expressed in different ways throughout history. According to the letter to Diognetus, Christians did not at first distinguish themselves: “They marry like everyone else.”[158] However, this was soon to evolve. Ignatius of Antioch already maintains that it is advisable to communicate the marriage bond to the bishop.[159] Tertullian, for his part, praises the unions that the Church blesses.[160] Beyond the precise interpretation of the scope of the expressions of these early theologians, it is clear that the event of marriage was not foreign either to the faith of the bride and groom or to the ecclesial community. From the fourth and fifth centuries onward, the ecclesial blessing in the presence of a minister, was an established custom.[161] From this period forward, a Christian liturgy of its own was taking shape,[162] which integrates typically pagan customs and transforms them, as in the case of the “velatio,”[163] the coronation,[164] the giving away of the bride, the union of the hands,[165] the blessing of the rings, and the Arras or the kiss of the betrothed At the same time, it adds others, such as the presentation to the spouses of the “common cup,” which is typical of the Byzantine liturgy.[166] The marriage liturgy, in its prayers and the interpretation of gestures, expresses the unique 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 a sacrament; something that both the Council of Florence and the Council of Trent would emphatically endorse.[167] In this same 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 and the order of faith that happens “in facie Ecclesiae,”[168] as opposed to the doctrine of the reformers which considers marriage to be a merely civil matter.[169] In this way, the ecclesial character of marriage is recognized, far from being understood as a private matter between the spouses.

c) Marriage as a Sacrament

140. If the sacraments presuppose faith (SC 59), marriage is no exception: “Led by the love of Christ, pastors are to welcome engaged couples and, above all, to foster and nourish their faith: for the Sacrament of Matrimony presupposes and demands faith..”[170] A marital union between a non-baptized man and a non-baptized woman, is from the standpoint of the Christian faith, a tremendously valuable natural 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 was not lived apart from 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 may become cause for 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. This indissolubility is already present “from the beginning” in the divine plan and 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, and 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 basically consists in the fact 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.”[171] 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.[172] They form a “domestic Church”;[173] “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 intensely expresses that it is a project of life conceived and encouraged from the faith,[174] as a way of mutual sanctification, in which the spouses exercise the common priesthood by giving each other the sacrament[175] (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 efficaciously. 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.

d) Faith 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 standpoint of faith as the essential feature of the 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 from the personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. For faith puts us in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, while serving as a model of following the One who gave His life for sinners (Rom 5:6–8; 14:15; Eph 5:2). By faith Christian husbands and wives try to translate into their married and family life the maxim according to which “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). By faith we know fertility is inscribed in God’s plan (Gn 1:28), and offspring are one of the signs of the blessings of this plan. The love of the Trinitarian God teaches us, through faith, that true love always includes maximum loving reciprocity and 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 despite the environmental pressure of the surrounding culture.

4.2. A Quaestio Dubia: The Sacramental Quality of the Marriage of “Baptized Non-Believers”

a) Posing the Question

143. [Definition]. Marriage is a creatural reality. Through 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.”[176] According to the theological doctrine and the canonical practice currently in force, every valid marriage contract between baptized persons is “by that very fact” a sacrament,[177] even in the absence of faith of the contracting parties. In other words, in the case of the baptized, the inseparability between a valid marriage contract (which corresponds to the natural order of marriage) and the sacrament is affirmed. The baptized could not have simultaneously entered into the supernatural order through baptism, without this affecting such a life-determining and sacramentally significant reality as marriage, which would be removed from the supernatural 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 of faith and sacraments” that we have been defending seems to be called into question. To approach the question in an appropriate way, we need to clarify the status and terms of the question in greater detail.

144. [Baptized Non-Believers]. By “baptized non-believers” we mean those persons in whom there is no sign of the presence of the dialogical character of faith, which is proper to the personal response of the believer to the sacramental dialogue of the Trinitarian God, as we explained in the second chapter. This category includes two types of people. First, those who received baptism in infancy, but subsequently and for whatever reason have not managed to make a personal act of faith that involves their understanding and their will. This is a very common case in traditionally Christian countries, where the widespread de-Christianization of society is accompanied by great negligence in education in the faith. We also use “baptized non-believers” to refer to those baptized persons who consciously and explicitly deny the faith and do not consider themselves to be Catholic or Christian. They sometimes even make a formal act of abandonment of the Catholic faith and separation from the Church, without the purpose being to enter into another church, community, or Christian denomination. In both cases, no “disposition to believe”[178] is evident.

145. [Preliminary Formulation of the Question]. Thus, the question that arises is whether two unmarried baptized non-believers of opposite sexes, who fall into either of the two categories just described, are married by a sacramental celebration or by some other valid form of union: Is it a sacrament? 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 shall go through some significant milestones of its development in recent years, in order to responsibly consider the terms of the question.

b) Statement and Terms of the Question

146. [International Theological Commission]. In 1977, the International Theological Commission (ITC) produced a document entitled Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage. It supported a series of highly nuanced theses that suggest a 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 shall not reproduce in their entirety, the following are especially relevant to our topic.

147. The existence of a constitutive and reciprocal relationship between indissolubility and sacramentality. And the ITC specifies: “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, the ITC held that in the sacrament of marriage the source of grace is Jesus Christ, not the faith of the contracting parties. And it 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 baptized non-believers, the ITC said:

The existence today of “baptized non-believers” 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, which was published along with the document, 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.”[179]

150. Further on, 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 his pontificate, John Paul II repeatedly turned to the subject of marriage of the baptized non-believers and the necessity of faith for the sacrament of matrimony. Proposition 12.4 approved by the Fifth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family (1980), 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.”[180]

152. The post-synodal exhortation, Familiaris consortio, did not accept this suggestion. John Paul II would argue consistently that the marriage act is intrinsically qualified by the supernatural reality to which the baptized irrevocably belong, beyond the express awareness of this reality.[181] On our subject, it clearly states:

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 tradition.[182]

153. In spite of everything, John Paul II does not fail to recognize the possibility that the bride and groom could 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.”[183] We can interpret this to mean that in that case there would be no true sacrament. That is to say, John Paul II demands some minimum requirements, 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 automatism.[184]

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.”[185] John Paul II had already clearly defended this opinion in another address to the Roman Rota (February 1, 2001).[186] In 2001, he stressed that faith should not be demanded as a minimum requirement, because it is extraneous to tradition.[187] He reaffirmed 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.”[188] That is to say, the basis of everything lies in the natural, creaturely reality.

155. [The Development 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 marriage as a natural reality and sacramental marriage as a salvific reality was discussed extensively. In the end, the legislator opted 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 were included.[189] This inseparability was discussed during the Council of Trent. In those discussions, the figure of Melchior Cano stands out as one of its noteworthy opponents. It has not been defined, although it is the most constant opinion. Many classify the inseparability as Catholic doctrine,[190] and the Code of Canon Law includes it in canon 1055, § 2, already mentioned.[191]

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 deeply ingrained, the question arises whether in the absence of faith, the indissolubility of marriage is de facto accepted. Thus, for some years now, jurisprudence has held that lack of faith may influence the intention to enter into a natural marriage.[192] In a way, it seems to echo the sensibility 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 response to the issue of the divorced and remarried, it 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 Christian formation.[193]

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.”[194] As Pope Benedict XVI, he would qualify this opinion in an address to priests in 2005, indicating that the problem is very difficult, that he now had more doubts about faith as a reason for invalidity, and that the question still requires further exploration.[195]

158. In his last address to the Roman Rota,[196] Pope Benedict XVI once again discussed this issue that is so important to him. We quote some of his contributions below. 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, if 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.[197]

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 follows, according to Benedict XVI, “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.”[198]

160. This lack of faith does not automatically make a natural marriage impossible. 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.”[199]

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.”[200] He goes on to affirm how confession of faith, far from remaining on an abstract level, fully involves the person in the charity confessed, 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.”[201] 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).”[202]

162. [Pope Francis]. The need for further study which Benedict XVI requested, 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 if 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.”[203] The 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[204]; and so does the Intrumentum laboris for the XIV Assembly (2015).[205] 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.”[206] 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.”[207] The present reflection on “reciprocity between faith and marriage” is set modestly on this path.

163. Pope Francis has also addressed our issue on several occasions. In his address to the Roman Rota on January 23, 2015,[208] 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).”[209] 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.”[210]

164. Following this line, the apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio, Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus[211] (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.”[212] Thus, lack of faith may be decisive for validity.

165. When speaking to the Roman Rota[213] the following year (January 22, 2016), he expressed himself in this way: “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).”[214] And he endorsed the doctrine that holds the presence of the habitus fidei to be operative after baptism, even without a psychologically perceptible faith. 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.”[215]

166. [The Terms of the Question]. From this brief overview of the teachings of the most recent popes on our subject, as well as those of official ecclesial entities, it seems clear that the fundamental issue is not entirely resolved, even though it is quite focused. By making an interpretative and systematizing balance, these aspects come into play in dynamic interrelation and tension:

a) In marriage, as in every sacrament, 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 character 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 positively determining it, either in the spouses or in attributing all of it 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 point which is so central to a proper understanding of the sacrament of marriage.

d) Validly received baptism has irrevocably grafted the baptized into the sacramental economy with the imprint of the character (cf. § 65). His personal reality, beyond his conscious acts of understanding and will that are proper to faith,[216] is already marked by this belonging without sin or the absence of faith, whether formless 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 discussing. Given the present state of Catholic doctrine, we follow the current prevailing view about the inseparability of 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 requirement for there to be 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 they also cannot be completely separated (cf. §§ 149 and 158). Since it is clear that the sacramental truth of marriage depends 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 delve deeper into this last point for the case of the baptized non-believers described above (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 be thorough, let us look at some possible theoretical solutions to our topic and their theological soundness, evaluated from the theological perspective that we previously established and that we have been considering (Chapter 2).

a) First, one could defend an absolute sacramental automatism. Regardless of the faith of the spouses, the fact of baptism would imply that the marriage contract is elevated “eo ipso” to the supernatural reality of the sacrament. This solution clashes with the dialogical character of the sacramental economy, which we have explained sufficiently, and thus we shall 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 shall refrain from 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 faith of the Church, despite the absence of personal faith of the contracting parties. The faith of the Church would substitute the lack of a personal faith on the part of the contracting parties. This option, however, also presents some 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 product of a long history. On the other hand, during our exploration of the dialogical character of the sacramental economy (Chapter 2), we have shown how the faith of the Church precedes and accompanies personal faith, but never supplants it completely. To attribute the sacramentality of marriage exclusively to the faith of the Church would imply denying the interpersonal character of the sacramental economy.

d) A fourth possibility lies in attributing sacramentality to the efficacy linked to the character imprinted by baptism. The character is due to the irrevocability of Christ’s gift. It implies incorporation into the sacramental realty of the divine economy. It enables 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 an act or an enactment. It requires that it be exercised by a power, such as the will.[217] Thus, with the imprinting of the character and the infusion of habit, the sacramental dialogue 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 (who is still able to enact this response) is lacking.

e) As we have already noted, it is still possible to argue about the intention, since for the validity of every sacrament there must 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

a) Intention Is Necessary for There to Be a Sacrament

168. [Necessity of Intention]. As we have said[218] (§§ 67–69), the traditional doctrine of the sacraments includes the conviction that for the sacrament to be given, the intention to do what the Church does is a minimum requirement: “All these sacraments are accomplished by three elements: namely, by things as the matter, by words as the form, and by 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 any of these is absent, the sacrament is not accomplished.”[219] According to the Latin Church’s understanding, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the spouses, who mutually give themselves to each other in 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, then there is a serious lack of intention, which can call into question the very existence of a natural marriage, which is the necessary basis for sacramental marriage.[220]

169. [Interrelation between Faith and Intention]. With varying emphases, 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 sincere oblative charity, and open to offspring. John Paul II asks that spouses who reject “explicitly and formally what the Church intends to do when the marriage of baptized persons is celebrated” (cf. § 153) not be admitted, 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 even “damage the goods of marriage” (cf. § 161). Francis shows how the root of the marriage crisis lies in the “crisis of knowledge enlightened by faith” (cf. § 163) and invokes lack of faith as a possible motive for simulation of consent (cf. § 164). The jurisprudence of the Roman Rota is in conformity with Benedict XVI (cf. § 156). More precisely, with the exception of John Paul II, the aforementioned ecclesial instances 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 that is 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.

b) The Predominant Cultural Understanding of Marriage

170. [The Predominant Culture and Understanding of Marriage]. In countries whose predominant culture holds 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 the exclusivity inherent in natural marriage according to the Christian conception. Furthermore, the cultural context of polygamy, along with other things that can occur independently of polygamy, clashes with the “principle of parity” of the spouses, rooted in the fact of their creation in the image and likeness of God.[221] This is inherent in the very good of the spouses (bonum coniugum) and is one of the fundamental goods of natural marriage.

171. Years ago, in traditionally Christian countries there was a consensus on the reality of marriage, which was informed by the influence of the Christian faith in society. In this context, it could be assumed that every natural marriage, regardless 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 spread of other conceptions about the family that are clearly divergent from the Catholic one, greater caution is warranted, giving rise to new doctrinal and pastoral problems.

172. The fact that marriage is a creational reality implies that anthropology is an intrinsic part of its essence in a double sense, in which both are closely connected. On the one hand, the conception of what the human person is comes fully into play; the human person is 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 the divine covenant: a reflection of God with the people of Israel and of Christ with the Church. Both elements come fully into play in natural marriage. It is indissoluble, exclusive, and focused on the reciprocal good of the spouses, through interpersonal love, as well as on the offspring. Thus, the Church appears, sometimes 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 help but notice how aspects that lead to questioning the anthropological roots of the natural basis marriage are becoming increasingly entrenched as unquestionable axioms in postmodern culture. Thus, without wishing to be exhaustive, the predominant tendency embraces as evident, for example, these widespread, deep-seated, and sometimes legislatively sanctioned convictions that are clearly contrary to the Catholic faith:

a) The search for self-actualization, centered on the satisfaction of the self, as the main goal of life, which justifies the most substantive ethical decisions—including in the realm 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 its meaning and fulfillment in a magnificent way.

b) A “macho” type mentality that undervalues women, damaging the conjugal parity linked to the good of the spouses and understanding marriage as a covenant between two who would not be equal by divine design, nature, and juridical rights, versus the biblical conception and Christian faith.[222] Jesus’ counter-cultural stance against divorce (cf. Mt 19:3–8) was a defense of the most vulnerable party in the culture of the time: the woman.

c) A radical “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, this mentality leads people to consider the conjugal ties, more commonly known as “partnerships,” as essentially revisable realities, in direct contradiction with the Jesus’ teaching in Mk 10:9 and Mt 19:6 (cf. Gen 2:24).

e) A conception of the body as absolute personal property, freely available for maximum pleasure, especially in the sphere of sexual relations, detached from an institutional and stable conjugal bond. Paul, however, affirms that the body belongs to the Lord, excluding immorality (πορνεία), in such a way that the body becomes a channel for the glorification of God (cf. 1 Cor 6:13–20).

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 present day.[223]

g) The ethical and sometimes legal equating of all forms of pairing. Thus, not only successive unions, de facto unions, or those without a formal marriage contract, but also unions of persons of the same sex are all spreading. Successive unions de facto deny indissolubility. Temporary or probationary cohabitation disavows 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.

c) The Absence of Faith May Compromise the Intention to Contract Natural Marriage

173. [The Absence of Faith May Compromise the Intention to Celebrate a Marriage that Includes One of the Goods of Marriage]. From the standpoint 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 that is quasi-inherent in the lack of faith and enunciated differently by the last two pontiffs. The lack of faith in the case of the baptized non-believers described above 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. One cannot desire, pretend, or love what one does not know or explicitly rejects.

174. [The Effect of the Absence of Faith on the Natural Goods of Marriage]. In Christian marriage, there is a bond, much greater than in any other sacrament, between creaturely and supernatural reality and between the order of creation and that of redemption. “Marriage has been instituted by God the Creator,”[224] and then elevated to the dignity of a sacrament. Given this very close bond, it is understood that a modification of the natural reality of marriage, a departure from the creational project, directly affects the supernatural reality, the sacrament. This connection also takes place 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 creaturely source of marriage.

175. Indeed, if we consider together the previously outlined dominant cultural paradigm 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 regarding the essential goods of marriage suffers a serious detriment. Benedict XVI has clearly illustrated this with respect 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.”[225] In other words, the supernatural element directly affects the natural reality. And he goes on to say:

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.[226]

176. The truth of man in natural marriage is part of God’s plan. Benedict XVI links the sacrificial capacity of true generous love, a 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, they need to be open to the ultimate truth of love, that is, to the love of God. In a society that proclaims personal self-actualization as the supreme good, it seems difficult that in the clear 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.”[227] The understanding of life and the practice of love as unselfish self-transcendence, which seeks first the good of the other person, is perfected with divine grace.

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, then the good of offspring will directly and explicitly be affected.

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 debatable in the understanding of what it actually is as a bond; and the sadly abundant proliferation of separations means that, without specific source of knowledge, faith as a means of adherence to God’s creational plan, there are reasons to doubt that there is a true intention of indissolubility of the bond when contracting marriage.

179. In summary, we have articulated the following points. Faith determines very fundamentally the anthropology that is lived. The substantial reality of marriage is of an anthropological, creaturely nature. 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 paradigm. A lack of faith of this caliber in this context is good cause for doubting the existence of a true natural marriage, which is the indispensable foundation on which sacramental marriage is based. In other words, the intention to enter into a natural marriage cannot be presupposed as guaranteed, nor can it be excluded at the outset.

180. [From Sacramentality]. This point of view is in full conformity with the conception of sacramentality that 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 character. 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 that, by its particular qualities (goods of marriage: GS 48–50) and together with the help received by grace, can signify the love of God. In other words, a marital bond that does not include indissolubility, fidelity, the sacrificial disposition towards the other spouse, and openness to life would not be a sign that is 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 also 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.

182. [Pastoral Care]. Both the cultural context described (cf. §§ 156, 170–72) and the existence of marriages between “baptized non-believers” are motivation for the pastoral care of marriage to unfold all its vigor and potential, in line with the suggestions of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.[228] 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 lodestar 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,” which despite the difficulties is experienced everywhere, is “the joy of love experienced by families.”[229]

5. CONCLUSION: The Reciprocity between Faith and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy

183. [Sacramental Visibility of Grace]. The sacramental economy, as an incarnational economy, demands in itself a visibility of grace. The Church, heiress and perpetuator 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 herself renders a service for all. The Church is the means and instrument that proclaims the presence in 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 to 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 about the whole truth about the quality of that person’s faith. Christians of other denominations are not in full visible sacramental communion with the Catholic Church because of the persistence of profound differences in doctrine and Christian life. For this reason, the sacramental celebration cannot make full communion visible.[230] However, it is not excluded on principle that a non-Catholic Christian’s union with Christ, 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.”[231]

185. [Growth, Catechumenate]. Faith, as a virtue, is a dynamic reality. It can grow, strengthen, and mature; but it can also do the opposite. The catechumenate helps ensure that the sacraments are received with a faith that is more conscious about what one is receiving and about what one is committing to. 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 their religious background. The formation of catechists and their witness 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. Both growth in faith and a kind of continuous catechumenate are rightly present in some of the so-called new ecclesial movements. In these movements, there is a socialization achieved in faith and in ecclesial belonging. Moreover, they strongly emphasize the sacramental dimension of faith through the emphasis on the grateful reception of the gift, adoration of the Lord, and 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 receiving them. From the vertical dimension of sacramentality, they are strengthened, for they do not rely on themselves to witness horizontally before the world how God’s grace makes breaks through weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

186. [Insertion into the Sacramental Economy through Faith and the Sacraments]. The incorporation of the Christian into the sacramental economy happens through faith and the sacraments. The sacraments offer to those with the desire and the adequate disposition something as valuable as the pledge of eternal life and loving closeness of Christ.

187. In the realization of the sacramental economy, like the unfolding of the incarnation and its logic, the paschal mystery is highlighted as the culmination in which love is fulfilled 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 incorporation into the essential core of the sacramental economy.

188. The mystery of Christ included in its gift the gift of the 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 on a universal mission. The Christian is incorporated into the Pentecostal event through the sacraments of initiation, with a strengthening of his faith and of responsibility both ad intra of the ecclesial community and ad extra as a “missionary disciple.”

189. At the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated the meaning of His whole life and mystery in words and gestures: 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,” so that he himself may continue to be an active member of the body of Christ present in the world.

190. The dynamics of the sacramental economy can be interpreted as God’s covenant with His people: an image with some nuptial connotations. In the mystery of Christ as a whole, the definitive and irrevocable renewal of God’s covenant 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 among brethren 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, he is reconciled with God and with the Church by receiving the sacrament of penance with a repentant faith. Thus, if on the one hand the Church is renewed, the one forgiven becomes an ambassador of God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

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 in faith the victory of Christ and the hope of eternal life.

193. Jesus gathered around Himself a group of disciples and followers, whom He instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom of God and to whom He manifested the mystery of His person. Those who respond in faith to the Lord’s call and receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are configured to 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 Character of Faith]. The divine economy of salvation begins with creation, is carried out in history, and moves toward eternal consummation. However, not every look at history grasps the presence of God’s action in it; for example: that the departure from Egypt was a deliverance wrought by God. Likewise, one can know that Jesus performed miracles or that He was crucified, but only the gaze 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 that on the cross the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mt 27:39–44) and reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5:18–20) took place, and not only an execution.

195. Therefore, following Augustine and Origen,[232] we can distinguish what can be called a simple historicist look at the events of salvation history. It is characterized by limiting itself to the knowledge of the events and 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 the authentic sacramental reality of what is happening. By grasping the visibility of the historical, it perceives the depth of grace present and at work in these events. This form of faith, which is properly the Christian faith, is responsible not only for grasping 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 sum, the Christian faith is genuinely sacramental.


[1] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1116.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est (December 25, 2005), 1: AAS 98 (2006), 217. Quoted again by Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (November 24, 2013), 7: AAS 105 (2013), 1022.

[3] Cf. Origen, In Leviticum Hom. IV, 8 (PG 12, 442–43).

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150. Underlined in the original.

[5] Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto, XII, 28 (SCh 17bis, 346).

[6] International Theological Commission, Catholic Doctrine on Marriage [1977], § 2.3.

[7] Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio (September 14, 1998), 84–85: AAS 91 (1999), 71–73.

[8] Joseph Ratzinger. “Die sakramentale Begründung christicher Existenz,” [1965], en Gesammelte Schrifen 11. Theologie der Liturgie, Freiburg – Basel – Wien 2008, 197–98.

[9] Cf. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si (May 24, 2015), esp. 106–14: AAS 107 (2015), 889–93.

[10] St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio (September 14, 1998), 13: AAS 91 (1999), 16, has spoken of “the sacramental horizon of Revelation” (Underlined in the original). Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (February 22, 2007), 45: AAS 99 (2007), 140, takes up the central idea and refers to the “sacramental perspective of Christian revelation.”

[11] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076: “The Sacramental Economy.” See note 53.

[12] “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 A]).

[13] Gregory Nazianzus, Or. Theol. V (PG 36, 135 C [Or. 31, 3(SCh 250, 280)]).

[14] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1091.

[15] Cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (September 30, 2010), 56: AAS 102 (2010), 735–36.

[16] Cf. Fourth Lateran Council, Profession of Faith. Chapter 1: On the Catholic Faith (DH 800); Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 14.

[17] Cf. Ambrose, In Lucam II, 79 (PL 15, 1581).

[18] 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., no. 21 (Vat. X, 136–37); Catechism of the Catholic Church, 293.

[19] 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 (September 30, 2010), 7: AAS 102 (2010), 688.

[20] Ephrem, Hymni de fide, 18: 4–5 (CSCO 154, 70; 155, 54).

[21] Cf. International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship: The Human Person Created in the Image of God [2004]. See also our § 20.

[22] Cf. Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ (May 24, 2015), esp. 65–75: AAS 107 (2015), 872–77.

[23] “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).

[24] Irenaeus of Lyon, Adv. Haer. IV, 21, 3 (SCh 100/2, 684); Tertullian, De baptismo, 3 (CCSL 1, 278–79).

[25] “Caro salutis est cardo” (Tertullian, De Resurrectione, 8; CCSL 2, 931). Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Placuit Deo (February 22, 2018), 1–2, 4, 8 (incarnational) in correlation with 13–14 (sacramental).

[26] Joseph Ratzinger, “Prefazione,” in H. Luthe (ed.), Incontrare Cristo nei sacramenti, (Milan, 1988), 8.

[27] Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 60, a. 6, corp.

[28] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Placuit Deo (February 22, 2018), 11.

[29] “Moritur Christus ut fiat Ecclesia” (Augustine, In Johannis ev., IX, 10: CCSL, 36, 96; PL 35, 1463).

[30] Cf. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 1, 9, 48, 59; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 5, 26; Decree Ad Gentes 1, 5; Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 42, 45.

[31] Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio (December 7, 1990), 18: AAS 83 (1991), 265–66; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus (August 6, 2000), 18: AAS 92 (2000), 759–60.

[32] Cf. International Theological Commission,  Select Themes of Ecclesiology [1982], chap. 10: “The Eschatological Character of the Church: Kingdom and Church.”

[33] Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 4, with internal citation of Cyprian, De Dominica Oratione, 23 (PL 4, 553; CSEL 3/I, 285).

[34] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Iuvenescit Ecclesia (May 15, 2016).

[35] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1116.

[36] 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.

[37] Cf. Council of Trent, Session 7. Canons concerning the Sacraments, canon 1 (DH 1601); Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1114.

[38] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 64, a. 2.

[39] 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 Sacramentum ordinis of 1948 (DH 3857).

[40] Please see below for a brief note on the scriptural foundations for each of the sacraments we discuss.

[41] Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 64, a. 2, ad 3.

[42] St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio (December 7, 1990), 28: AAS 83 (1991), 273. Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem (May 18, 1986), 53: AAS 78 (1986), 874–75; Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 22.

[43] Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio (December 7, 1990), 28–29: AAS 83 (1991), 273–75; International Theological Commission, Christianity and the World Religions [1996], §§ 81–87.

[44] 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).

[45] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1670. Cf. Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 61.

[46] Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), 40: AAS 105 (2013), 582.

[47] Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), 4: AAS 105 (2013), 557.

[48] Cf. XV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment: Final Document, passim and spec. §4.

[49] E.g. Augustine, De symb. I, 181 (PL 40, 1190–1191); Peter Lombard, Summa Sentenciarium, III. d. 23, c. 2–4 (PL 192, 805–6); Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a. 2.

[50] Paschasius Radbertus, De fide, spe et car. I, 6 no. 1 (PL 120, 1402 ff.).

[51] Faustus of Riez, De spir. S. I, 1 (CEL 21, 103).

[52] “Credendo adhaerere ad bene cooperandum bona cooperanti Deo” (Enarr. in Ps. 77:8; CCSL 39, 1073).

[53] 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...” See also Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a. 2.

[54] “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).

[55] Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 1, a. 9, ad 3: “confessio fidei traditur in symbolo quasi ex persona totius Ecclesiae, quae per fidem unitur.”

[56] Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), 45: AAS 105 (2013), 585.

[57] Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (March 19, 2018), 65–94.

[58] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1830–1832.

[59] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio Porta fidei (October 11, 2011), 10: AAS 103 (2011), 728.

[60] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (March 19, 2018), 43; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Placuit Deo (February 22, 2018), § 12.

[61] Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (March 19, 2018), 48–49; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Placuit Deo (February 22, 2018), §§ 2–3.

[62] Hugh of St. Victor, Sacr. I pars 10 (PL 176, 327–44), Chapters 3 and 4: De increment fidei.

[63] Thomas Aquinas, De Ver. 14, a. 11, corp.; ST II-II, q. 2, a. 6–8.

[64] Thomas Aquinas, De Ver. 14, a. 11, ad 7.

[65] Thomas Aquinas, De Ver. 11, 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.”

[66] Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a. 7; a. 8.

[67] Cf. e.g. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I, 10, 1 (SCh 264, 154–58); III, 12, 13; III, pr. ff.; III, 5, 3 (SCh 211, 236–38; 20–22; 60–62); Clement of Alexandria, Strom. IV, 1, 3 (GCS 15, 249); Tertullian, Praesc. 13; 36 (CCSL 1, 197–98; 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, 120–24); Novatian, Trin. 1, 1; 9, 46 (CCSL 4, 11; 25).

[68] Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 5, a. 3.

[69] Sacr. I pars 10 chap. 3.

[70] Sacr. I pars 10 chap. 4.

[71] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1084.

[72] Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 64, a. 7.

[73] Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 59.

[74] Cf. St. Thomas, ST III, q. 61, a. 1.

[75] “Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum, etiam ipsum tamquam visibile verbum” (Augustine, In Johannis ev., LXXX, 3; CCSL 36, 529; PL 35, 1840).

[76] Cf. Augustine, Epist. 187, 34 (PL 33, 846).

[77] Tertullian, Ad mart. 3 (CCSL, 1,5).

[78] Traditio apostolica, 16 (entry into the catechumenate), 17–20 (course of the catechumenate), 21 (baptismal celebration; SCh 11, 43–51).

[79] “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).

[80] “inchoatio vitae aeternae in nobis” (ST II-II, q. 4, a. 1).

[81] 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.

[82] “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]).

[83] Ephrem, Hymni de fide, 53, 12; 5, 18 (CSCO 154, 167, 23; 155, 143, 17).

[84] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076.

[85] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus (August 6, 2000), 20–22: AAS 92 (2000), 761–64. See our §37.

[86] Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), 41: AAS 105 (2013), 583.

[87] Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, §75; cf. Ibid., §247.

[88] Traditio apostolica, 21 (SCh 11, 50–51).

[89] Augustine, Sermo VIII in octava Paschatis ad infantes, 1 (PL 46, 838).

[90] Cf. Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto, XI, 27 (SCh 17bis, 340–42).

[91] Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses mystagogicae, I, 1 (PG 33, 1065; SCh 126, 84).

[92] Procatech. Introd. n. 4 (PG 33, 340A).

[93] Procatech. V, 11 (PG 33, 520B).

[94] Procatech. I, 6; I, 4 (bear fruit; PG 33, 377 and 373–76). Above all in the catechesis of John Chrysostom to the neophytes: Cat. 3/5, 2. 15. 21 (FC 6/2, 412–15, 424ff., 428–31); cat. 3/7, 16–25 (FC 6/2, 478–87), among other things, there are warnings against negligence and lukewarmness.

[95] Cf. Paul III, Constitution Altitudo divini consilii (1 June 1537).

[96] “Parecer de los teólogos de la Universidad de Salamanca sobre el bautismo de los Indios,” [“Opinion of the theologians of the University of Salamanca on the baptism of the Indians”] in Colección de documentos inéditos, relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y colonización de las posesiones españolas en América y Oceanía [Collection of unpublished documents relating to the discovery, conquest and colonization of the Spanish possessions in America and Oceania.] vol. III, Madrid 1865, 545; see full report: 543–53.

[97] Cf. Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013) 42: AAS 105 (2013), 583–84.

[98] Cf. Is 33:16, read by the Epistula Barnabae, 11:5 (SCh 172, 162). Cited by Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013) 42: AAS 105 (2013), 584.

[99] Council of Trent, Session 7. Decrees on the Sacraments, canon 6 (DH 1606). See note 79.

[100] Cf. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. II, 22, 4 (SCh 294, 220); Origen, In Rom. V, 9 (PG 14, 1047); Cyprian, Epistula 64 (CSEL 3, 717–21); 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.

[101] Cf. Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013) 43: AAS 105 (2013), 584.

[102] Rite for Baptism of Children, 127, 152.

[103] “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.

[104] Traditio apostolica, 21 (SCh 11, 49).

[105] Cf. Cyprian, Epistula 64, 2–6 (CSEL 3/2, 718–21).

[106] Cf. Tertullian, De baptismo, 18, 4–6 (CCSL 1, 293; SCh 35, 92–93).

[107] Cf. Isidore of Seville, De Ecclesiasticis Officis, II, 21–27; Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 10, a. 12.

[108] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Pastoralis actio, 15 and 28, §2: AAS 72 (1980), 1144–1145 and 1151.

[109] Cf. Traditio apostolica, 22 (SCh 11, 52–53).

[110] Cf. Innocent I, Letter to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio (year 416; DH 215).

[111] Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments on First Communion “Quam singulari” (August 8, 1910): AAS 2 (1910), 582ff (DH 3530ff).

[112] Council of Elvira, canon 77 (DH 121; G. Martinez Diaz - F. Rodriguez, Colección canónica hispana, vol. IV, Madrid 1984, 267).

[113] Rite of Confirmation. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1294–1296.

[114] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285, 1294.

[115] Roman Missal.

[116] Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (April 17, 2003), especially 1 and 21–25: AAS 95 (2003), 433–34 and 447–50.

[117] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis (February 22, 2007), 7: AAS 99 (2007), 110.

[118] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est (December 25, 2006), 14: AAS 98 (2006), 229. Cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis (February 22, 2007), especially 88–89: AAS 99 (2007), 172–74.

[119] “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).

[120] Roman Canon, in the Roman Missal. See the commentary of Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis (February 22, 2007), 6: AAS 99 (2007), 109–10.

[121] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 76, a. 7. The well-known hymn, Adoro Te Devote, magnificently expresses what we are saying. 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 eucaristici extra missam, Vatican City 1973, § 198, pp. 61–62).

[122] Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 584–85. 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 Sangunis Christi,” in Liturgia Horarum iuxta ritum romanum, vol. III, Tempus per annum. Hebdomadae I-XVII, Vatican City 2000, 54).

[123] Roman Missal, Concluding Rites.

[124] “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).

[125] St. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Mysterium fidei (September 3, 1965), 5: AAS 57 (1965), 764.

[126] Cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, passim (April 17, 2003): AAS 95 (2003), 433–75.

[127] Cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis (February 22, 2007), 14 and 27: AAS 99 (2007), 115–16 and 127.

[128] Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei (June 29, 2013), 44: AAS 105 (2013), 584.

[129] Cf. The Shepherd of Hermas, Comp. IX (Funk, 211 and ff).

[130] First Apol. 66ff (Wartelle, 190ff).

[131] Didache, 10, 6; 9, 5 (Funk 6;5).

[132] 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 penance.”

[133] 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).

[134] 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, 464–66): Love of neighbor. Super Hebr. 17, 4–5 (PG 63, 131–34).

[135] Cyprian, Epistula 57, 2 (CSEL 3/2, 651–52).

[136] John Chrysostom, Hom. In Matth. 82, 5. 6 (PG 58, 743–46): responsibility of the priest in the administration.

[137] Augustine, In Johannis ev., XXVI, 11 (CCSL 36, 264ff).

[138] St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 80, a. 4.

[139] Cf. Also Bonaventure, IV Sent. dist. 9 a. 1 qq. 1–4: sacramentaliter, spiritualiter manducare.

[140] St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 80, a. 5, ad 2.

[141] “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 added).

[142] Cf. ST III, q. 79, a. 3.

[143] “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).

[144] 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).

[145] Liturgikon, 73.

[146] Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Liturgikon, 69–73); Liturgy of St. Basil (Ibid., 133–35). In a similar way the Coptic liturgy: Die koptische Liturgie, ubers. Und kommentiert von KARAM KHELLA, [1989], 186.

[147] In Genesim, II, 23 (CSCO 152, 39; 153, 29–30).

[148] Ephrem, Commentary on the Diatessaron, XXI, 11 (CSCO 137, 145; 145, 227–28).

[149] Ephrem, De virginitate, 37, 2 (CSCO 223, 133).

[150] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1855–1861.

[151] Cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1099. Hereafter CIC.

[152] Cf. Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, canon 828. Hereafter CCEO.

[153] Cf. CCEO, Titulus XVI: De cultu divino et praesertim de sacramentis. Caput VII: De matrimonio, canons 776–866.

[154] “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).

[155] International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God [2004], §§ 32–33, 39.

[156] Council of Trent, Session 24. Doctrine on the Sacrament of Marriage, canon 7 (DH 1807).

[157] Cf. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia, I, X, 11 (CSEL 42, 222–24; PL 40, 420).

[158] Ep. Ad Diognetum, 5, 6 (Funk, 137).

[159] Ep. Ad Polycarpum, 5, 2 (Funk, 107; FuP 1, 186).

[160] Ad Uxorem II, 8 (CCSL 1, 393; SCh 273, 148).

[161] 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, 984–85); Predestinatus, III, 31 (PL 53, 670).

[162] 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).

[163] Cf. Hadrianeum Sacramentary, 836 (ed. J Deshusses); Paulinus of Nola, Carmen 25, 199–232 (CSEL 30, 244–45).

[164] Cf. John Chrysostom, In 1 Tim. Cap. II, hom. IX, 2 (PG 62, 546).

[165] Gregory Nazianzus, Ep. 193 (PG 37, 316–18).

[166] 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 inden 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.

[167] 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).

[168] Council of Trent, Session 24. Canons on Reformation of Marriage. Decree “Tametsi” (DH 1813–1816).

[169] Martin Luther, De captivitate babylonica, De matrimonio (WA 6,550); John Calvin, Inst. Christ. Lib. IV, c. 19, 34 (Corp. Reform. 32, 1121).

[170] Ordo celebrandi matrimonium, Praenotanda § 16 (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1989), with reference to Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosantum Concilium, 59. The same idea as the Praenotanda § 7 of 1969.

[171] Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 11; cf. Ibid, 41; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1641–1642.

[172] Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Casti connubii (December 31, 1930): AAS 22 (1930), 583.

[173] Cf. Acts 16:15; 18:8; Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 11; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1655–1657.

[174] Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (March 19, 2016), 218: AAS 108 (2016), 398–99.

[175] Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exultate (March 19, 2018), 141.

[176] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601; cites literally the Code of Canon Law, canon 1055, § 1.

[177] “Quare inter baptizatos nequit matrimonialis contractus validus consistere, quin sit eo ipso sacramentum” (CIC, canon 1055, § 2).

[178] Cf. International Theological Commission, Doctrine on Christian Marriage [1977], § 2.3.

[179] Comentario II (in the Spanish edition: Comisión Teológica Internacional, Documentos 1969–1996, ed. C. Pozo, Madrid 1998, 195).

[180] “Forty-three propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the Family”: Ecclesia, no. 2039 (July 18 and 25, 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 [June 7, 1981] 540). See proposition 12 in its entirety, which deals directly with our topic.

[181] St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981), 13 and 68: AAS 74 (1982), 93–96 and 163–65.

[182] St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981), 68: AAS 74 (1982), 164–65.

[183] Ibid., 165.

[184] Cf. Council of Trent, Session 7. Canons on the Sacraments in General, canon 6 (DH 1606). See note 79.

[185] St. John Paul II, Address to the Prelate Auditors, Officials and Advocates of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 30, 2003, § 8: AAS 95 (2003), 397. The first italics are in the original. The last ones are added.

[189] Cf. Communicationes, 9 (1977), 122.

[190] Cf. Communicationes, 15 (1983), 222.

[191] See note 173.

[192] Sentence coram Stankiewicz, April 19, 1991: SRRD 83, 280–90.

[193] “Propositions of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist”: Ecclesia no. 3284 (November 19, 2005), 34. Emphasis added.

[194] Joseph Ratzinger, “Introduction,” In Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Concerning Some Objections to the Church’s Teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, Documentos, comentarios y estudios, Madrid 2000, 34.

[195] Benedict XVI, Address to Diocesan Clergy of Aosta, July 25, 2005: AAS 97 (2005), 856.

[196] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013: AAS 105 (2013), 168–72.

[197] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 1: AAS 105 (2013), 168.

[198] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 2: AAS 105 (2013), 169–70.

[199] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 2: AAS 105 (2013), 170.

[200] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 3: AAS 105 (2013), 171.

[201] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 4: AAS 105 (2013), 172.

[202] Ibid.

[203] III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. Instrumentum Laboris (2014), 96 (Ecclesia no. 3735–3736 [July 12 and 19, 2014], 1065–1066).

[204] “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).

[205] XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World. Instrumentum laboris (2015), 114–15 (Ecclesia no. 3795–3796 [September 5 and 12, 2015] 1356).

[206] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (March 19, 2016), 2: AAS 108 (2016), 311.

[207] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (March 19, 2016), 75: AAS 108 (2016), 341.

[208] Francis, Address to the Officials of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 23, 2015: AAS 107 (2015), 182–85.

[209] Ibid., 182–83.

[210] Ibid., 183. Emphasis added.

[211] Francis, Apostolic Letter Motu Propio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (August 15, 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 958–70.

[212] Art. 14, § 1: AAS 107 (2015), 969.

[213] Francis, Address to the Officials of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 22, 2016: AAS 108 (2016), 136–39.

[214] Ibid., 138–39.

[215] Ibid., 139.

[216] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 4, a. 4.

[217] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, q. 49–51.

[218] Cf. also § 86 and the text quoted from Cyril of Jerusalem, referring to baptism.

[219] Council of Florence, Bull Exultate Deo on Union with the Armenians (DH 1312).

[220] Cf. CIC, canon 1101.

[221] Cf. International Theological Commission, Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God [2004], §§ 32–39.

[222] Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota (January 26, 2013), § 3: AAS 105 (2013), 171.

[223] Cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 50; St. Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae vitae (July 25, 1968), esp. 12: AAS 60 (1968), 488–89.

[224] International Theological Commission, Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage [1977], chap. 3.

[225] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 1: AAS 105 (2013), 168.

[226] Benedict XVI, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, January 26, 2013, § 2: AAS 105 (2013), 169.

[227] Ibid.

[228] Cf. St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (November 22, 1981), esp. “IV. Pastoral Care of the Family: Stages, Structures, Agents and Situations”: AAS 74 (1982), 158–87; Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (March 19, 2016), esp. “VI. Some Pastoral Perspectives”: AAS 108 (2016), 390–415.

[229] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia (March 19, 2016), 1: AAS 108 (2016), 311.

[230] For extraordinary cases, cf. CIC, canon 844, § 5 and CCEO, canon 671, § 5; The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (March 25, 1993), §§ 122–31.

[231] Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer D.

[232] 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; 119–20; 166–69); Enarr. in Ps. 65: 5 (CCSL 39, 842–44); Ep. 120, 3, 15; 147 (PL 33, 459; 596–622); Origen, In Rm. 2, 14 (PG 14, 913ff); Hom. in Lc. 1, 4 (SCh 87, 104–6).