The Holy Mysteries (Sacraments)

What are the Holy Mysteries?

The Maronite church along with other Eastern Churches use the term mysteries to describe the sacred rites by which the Church perpetuates the saving action of Christ on earth, and this is what they are referred to as by the Syriac Fathers. The Western Church uses the term sacrament which derives from the Latin. In the Eastern Churches, mystery generally refers to the realm of the holy and to God's plan of salvation. In the Syriac/Maronite world, we believe that that which is observed by the senses is only the surface of the real. With the eyes of faith we are able to appreciate the real presence of God in creation.


The seven Holy Mysteries are Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), and the Eucharist which make up the the three Mysteries of Initiation, Reconciliation (Confession) and Anointing of the Sick which are the Mysteries of Healing and Matrimony (Marriage) and Holy Orders which make up the Mysteries of Vocation.


As apostolic Christians, we believe Christ's presence in creation did not end with his death. His resurrection confirms his continued presence among us. Christ is present in his disciples and all those who form his Mystical Body. By being united to Christ, the image of God, which each one of us reflects, reaches fulfillment.


The process of being united to Christ is achieved through the mysteries. Christ not only performed acts of divine power during his public life, but he continues his divinizing power in the mysteries that he instituted. Just as Christ used earthly things and gestures as instruments of divine power, so he provided that through the invoking of the Holy Spirit by the Church on water, oil, bread and wine, and the laying on of hands, we would have the means of sanctification and be able to participate in our own sanctification. Therefore baptism, chrismation, Eucharist and the other sacred rites are called mysteries because they introduce us to the world of the holy which is incarnated in our visible world. They enable us with the eyes of faith to realize that God is truly with us and that his Spirit is available to us.


The Maronite liturgy is a celebration of the divine mysteries and it teaches us that during the service of the Eucharist, our earthly celebration mirrors the angelic liturgy in heaven. In other words, during the course of the anaphora (the final section of the liturgy including the Eucharistic prayers) we are brought into sacred time and sacred space, the realm of mysteries. In the same way, when we celebrate baptism, chrismation and the other mysteries, we also enter the world of sacred time and space and partake of holy things, in turn becoming holy ourselves.

 


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