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The Mysteries or Sacraments of the Church
In the Church man is completely sanctified and saved. Not only is man’s soul sanctified, but his body is sanctified as well. All of God’s creation acquires an incalculable value, and redemption from corruption awaits it (Rom. 8,19- 21). In the life of the Church, with the sacred Mysteries and the liturgical acts, this hope of the entire creation is prefigured and pre-announced.
God uses the water, oil, etc. – material and sensate things – in order to transmit His invisible Grace. This is certainly an expression of God’s love for man: in order to transmit His Grace to us, He uses in His condescension for our salvation material things, adapting the Holy Mysteries to our reality. At the same time however, it also constitutes proof of the worth and honor to be accorded to material creation.
God condescends to human weakness and uses for the Mystery [Sacrament] of Confession, men who have the same imperfections with us, without this weakness of theirs hindering Grace, for Grace comes from God and not from the holiness of the confessor. God could regenerate man only in and from the Spirit, in contradiction, that is to say, of John 3, 3-5, which states that in order for one to enter the Kingdom of God he must be reborn “of water and the Spirit”. But He does not do so; He condescends to our weakness and He offers us tangible elements, in order to free us from uncertainty and to eliminate subjectivity.
All the sacred Mysteries constitute the expression of God’s love for His people and the Church’s care. They are not “individual services” of the Church to her individual members, independent of their relationship to the entire body. They are ecclesiastical acts which serve the sanctification and growth of the members in relationship with the entire body. This is why in the sacred Mysteries there is no private element.
If the Church is indeed salvation, then it is not possible for the Christian to participate in the life of God, that is in salvation, outside of the Church. His entire spiritual life is carried on within the framework of the life of the body of the Church. This is where the sacred Mysteries have their true place. Hence the sacred Mysteries do not separate the individual faithful from the body of the Church nor do they single him out. On the contrary, they initiate him into the body so that he can thus experience salvation, i.e., live the life of the body and not a private spiritual life.