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SACRAMENT – Literally, a “mystery.” A sacrament is a way in which God imparts grace to His people. Orthodox Christians frequently speak of seven sacraments, but God’s gift of grace is not limited only to these seven – the entire life of the Church is mystical and sacramental.

The sacraments, like the Church, are both visible and invisible. In every sacrament there is a combination of an outward visible sign with an inward spiritual grace. Saint John Chrysostom wrote that they are called mysteries because what we believe is not the same as what we see; instead, we see one thing and believe another.

The sacraments are personal – they are the means whereby God’s grace is appropriated to each individual Christian. In most of the sacraments, the priest mentions the Christian name of each person as he administers the sacrament.

The sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself (John 1:16, 17). The seven mysteries are baptism (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:4; Gal. 3:27), chrismation (Acts 8:15-17; 1 John 2:27), the Holy Eucharist (Matt. 26:26 28; John 6:30-58; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-31), confession (John 20:22, 23; 1 John 1:8, 9), ordination (Mark 3:14; Acts 1:15-26; 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 4:14), marriage (Gen. 2:18 25; Eph. 5:22-33), and healing or unction (Luke 9:1 6; James 5:14, 15).

The more ancient and traditional practice is not to isolate these seven from the many other actions in the Church which also possess a sacramental character. Some of these sacramental activities are the service for the burial of the dead, the rites for a monastic profession, the blessing of waters at Epiphany, and the anointing of a monarch. These also contain a combination of outward visible signs, and inward spiritual grace. Even the blessings of homes, fields, fruits, cars, and pets have a sacramental nature.