When the younger Pliny wrote to the Emperor Trajan about the Christians, he described them as meeting together to bind themselves with a sacramentum.
Initially, a sacramentum was the soldier’s oath of fidelity, that which bound him to the service of his captain. The fidelity of the Christians to the Captain of their Salvation was manifested in the love feast, which they assembled together to partake of, in memory of the sacrifice that had drawn them out of the world, and separated them to the hope of eternal life. This distinguishing communal observance was the sacramentum to which Pliny referred. As none but Christians were allowed to participate in it, it became a rite of identification, marking off this body of people from all other classes of worshippers.
With the passage of time, the church enriched itself by developing doctrine and ceremonial unknown to the initiators of Christianity. One result of this development was that other phases of the church’s activities were given the distinction of sacraments, and in the church of Rome there are seven which are regarded as “efficacious sacred signs, i.e., ceremonies which by divine ordinance signify, contain, and confer grace”.
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Author: A. Norris
Keywords: Sacraments, Baptism, Water baptism, Roman Church, Roman Catholic Church, Catholic, Catholic Church, Church of Rome, Penance, apostolic succession, confirmation, Confession of sins, Confession, Catholic priest, Communion, sacramentum, Catholicism, death bed, Death bed ceremony, last rites, last rights, Marriage, Marriage ceremony, Christen, Christening, Christened, Infant baptism, Infant sprinkling, Holy Eucharist, Eucharist
Bible reference(s): John 20:22-23, James 5:16
Source: “The Sacraments,” The Testimony, Vol. 3, Nos. 28-30, April, May, June 1933, pp. 109-14, 135-9, 176-80.
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