Joseph Martos
Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 2
by Dr. Joe Martos - Friday, 17 February 2012, 1:46 AM

How did Christians come to talk about "administering" and "receiving" sacraments? What problems do you see with this way of talking about sacraments? If sacraments today are understood to be church rituals, why may it be no longer appropriate to talk about the giving and receiving of sacraments?

Picture of arnetta sims
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 2
by arnetta sims - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:42 PM

The Christians use of the terminology of "administering " and "receiving" developed in connection to the "legality" and validity" of the sacraments. Administering and receiving was looked upon in comparson to taking an oath (pg.37).

As early theologians struggled to grasp an understanding of the sacramental practices they found it necessary to study the rituals.They believed that every action needed divine approval. The traditions dated back to the time of the apostles, therefore having biblical foundations that reveal the divinity and humanity of Christ.

Rendering explanations from Greek philosophers, theologians used their concepts to make meaning to the mysteries; invisible and visible realities to understand the sacramental practices.The concept of the sacramental seal became instrumental to give meaning to the very nature of the sacraments. "The impression of the seal showed that whatever it was on belonged to or came from the owner of the seal" (pg.33). In theory this would mean that one who receives the sacramental seal was branded belonging to God.

St. Augustine argued that the one administering the seal did not "bear the impression of the minister, but of Christ and it was conferred on the recipients because baptism was Christ's baptism." "The sacrament was Christ's, not the ministers" (pg.41). The effect and rite does not belong to the minister, therefore the state of the minister has no control over the sacramental seal (pg.42).

I believe that the concepts of administering and receiving were developed in early times when theologians reasoned within their limits of the era. But today the development has grown and thinkers are more advanced.

Today a new meaning should be compatible with modern time and modern expression. The experiences are very different than in early years. The rituals and instructions have under gone adjustments, therefore the terminology should be reflective.

GRADE 2 (Hits the target, but not the bull's eye.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Monday, 25 June 2012, 10:53 PM)

Picture of Monica Okon
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 2
by Monica Okon - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:56 PM
The beginning of the use of ‘receiving’ and ‘administering’ the sacraments by Christians can be traced from many angles. These terms came into use during the development of sacramental theology. As we have seen earlier, it was through ritual practices that people had sacramental experiences through symbols even though they did not use the word sacrament. In a very broad sense, I would say the use of administering and receiving came from the big umbrella of the sacramental seal. Next, to be more specific, these words came into use during the controversies over rebaptism and re-ordination, the translation of Greek mysterion to Latin mysterium and sacramentum.

The patristic era’s efforts in theologizing the sacraments laid hands on different sources. They paid utmost attentions to what the bible had to say about the sacraments. They also delved into the meaning of their religious experiences. The early fathers did not limit themselves to the above mentioned two sources in order to understand God’s role in the sacraments. For example, issues in the scriptures that could have more than one interpretation, Greek Philosophy on Christian mysteries. They found out that some of the interpretations were relevant to the people of past generations, not for contemporaries, and generations to come. Martos remarks that, “Many of these speculations were found wanting by later generations and have long since been forgotten, but some of them eventually became a permanent part of Catholic sacramental theology.” "They were philosophical theories that pulled revelation and experience, belief and practice, together into a coherent picture for the fathers and for later ages as well” (33). One of the terms that have this description is the sacramental seal.

Explanations were needed for the meaning, use, and, effects of sacramental seal during the patristic times. One of the questions that interest me which I think is closely related to “administering” and “receiving” the sacraments asks, Is the effectiveness of a ritual dependent on the holiness or beliefs of the minister?” (33). There are many interpretations, description, explanations and meaning given to sacramental seal. To some, it is a stamp. To others, it is a sign of authority, and mark of a document authenticity found in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, “this literal meaning was often extended into a poetic metaphor to signify that something belong to or comes from God” (33). There are a number of references to the seal in the New Testament such found in the book of revelation, in Johns gospel, by Saint Paul in his letters to Ephesians, Corinthians etc. Later, being sealed by the spirit in the letters of Saint Paul was understood as being filled with the Holy Spirit from God himself. The understanding later shifted from symbolic speaking about being filled with the Holy Spirit to literally understanding as real. In other words the “seal appears to be a reality which marks Christians as different from others, even as God’s seals on Christ” (34). A search for further understanding about being sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit Continued in the bible and developed into being anointed with the Spirit. It was found in 2Cor.1:21-22 that the words given and anointed were used. In the first letter of John he “speaks about receiving the Spirit in terms of anointing. This is how the patristic age came to conclusion that receiving the Holy Spirit means receiving the image of God on one’s soul, or being impressed with God’s seal. This continuous search for understanding the seal also led them to speak of the seal as a metaphysical reality since it was received in the soul. This is how the sacramental ritual of pouring water on the head of the baptized was connected to the Holy Spirit being poured out on the baptized. When is the seal received? “other writers considered the seal to be the bishop’s making the sign of the cross on the forehead of the baptismal candidates” (35). I would therefore think that Cyril of Jerusalem used the term receive earlier when he addressed the candidates for baptism “come forward and receive the mystic seal so that the master will recognize you” (36). Since it is the bishop who makes the sign of the cross and pours water on the candidates and now Cyril of Jerusalem actually used the word “receive”, this is one of the developments of “administering” and “receiving” the sacraments came about.

The straw that breaks the camel’s back on understanding the seal issue is that about rebaptism and re-ordination. Some people accepted the permanency of these two rituals while others did not. Dilemma arose during persecution about the effectiveness of those who were baptized by heretics and schismatics in order to establish the notion on true and false church of Christ. Hence, “If the former, then it seemed there would be no real difference between the true church of Christ and false churches, making any notion of spiritual authority in the church meaningless. If the latter then those who were outside the true church would have to be re-baptized or re- should they wish to join it.” This dilemma created factions between bishops in the West and those in the East. This led to another problem of right authority to perform sacraments. In other words, there were a juridical and legal validity of those who could ordain and those who couldn’t ordain. As a result of legality and validity in attempt to understand the theology of the sacrament, there came the problem of “administering” and “receiving” the sacraments. I think when the Greek mysterion which means hidden reality or invisible reality was being translated to Latin-both were called sacramentum. the seal was the sacramentum, “and “receiving the sacramentum” became synonymous with receiving the seal” (38). In conclusion, I think the sacrament started being spoken of as administering and receiving as a result of controversies about rebaptism and re-ordianation during and after persecution. Martos acknowledges this by stating that, “What sparked the controversy was the persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian, beginning 303” (38).

The problem of talking about the sacraments as being received and given is that it is too broad. The only sacrament that is actually received is the Eucharist. The rest of the sacraments have metaphysical realities that are invisible and non observable.

If the sacraments today are rituals, it is no longer proper to talk about receiving and administering because these are theological languages that developed over time (Mysterion to sacramentum). It is no longer fitting since Vatican II to refer to sacraments as being administered and receiving because the effects are invisible not observable realities. For example, the seal of the Holy Spirit received in baptism as mentioned in the video talk by Dr. Martos cannot be seen, forgiveness in penance, and priestly power are all non-experienced metaphysical realities received into the soul. This language is no longer relevant to our contemporary understanding of sacraments. It came to be during the early development of sacramental theology.

GRADE 4 (Not perfect, but as well as can be expected after studying this the first time.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Sunday, 1 July 2012, 10:40 PM)

Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 2
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 16 July 2012, 4:59 PM

The use of the terminology “administering” and “receiving” the sacraments began as an answer to a practical issue. In the last days of the Roman persecutions and the early years of the legalizing of Christianity, the community was working out some basic theological issues. Several heresies arose that split the communities. Each faction developed its own set of clergy to perform their rites. While the Martos book discusses the Donatists, two other heresies were rampant in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire at the time. The Marcionites and the Arians both held sway in the church in Egypt, Palestine and what is now modern Turkey. It became important at the time to distinguish among these various factions, particularly when the leaders of the various factions were trying to determine who “belonged” to whom.

The decline of the Roman Empire in the West also contributed to the widespread use of these terms. Bishops became the prime authority in many areas. And so matters of faith were treated like legal matters. Just as tribal leaders, princes, and kings administered justice, so people began to refer to the clergy as administering the rites of the church. And if something is administered, it has to be received by someone.

Language difficulties

Many teachers of expository writing decry the use of the passive tense common in many forms of writing. They recommend using the verb in the present tense. When writing or talking about the Sacraments it would be preferable to use the name as a verb. For example…instead of “The current age for receiving Confirmation in this diocese is sixteen.” it would be more accurate to say, “Sixteen is the age when young people are confirmed in this diocese.” In mulling over what terms should be used to describe a ritual I came up with nothing but verbs. Rituals are celebrated; a person participates in a ritual; or a person officiates at one; finally a person can observe a ritual.

My major problem with removing the use of the phase “receiving a sacrament” is that it seems to diminish the concept of the graces that are specifically attached to the sacraments. Is the reason why the Sacraments do not always appear effective a problem with the Sacrament or with the person “receiving the sacrament?” Is the matter of the fifty percent failure of marriages in Catholic couples because Marriage is not indissoluble or because Catholic couples like a good portion of the population of many countries in the West have unrealistic attitudes and expectations concerning marriage. As someone who has been married for over forty years I know about the ups and downs of relationships. It is my firm belief that the graces I received when my husband and I received the Sacrament of Matrimony helped me to weather the storms that plague all marriages. Striving for the ideal, in the case of marriage a long term monogamous relationship with a member of the opposite sex, is not something to be diminished.

I was confirmed as a young child at the age of seven, even before I made my first Penance or First Holy Communion. It was a matter of practicality. The Sisters at school had first planned for me to make First Communion while I was in the first grade since I have a very early May birthday and First Communion was scheduled for after my birthday. I was eventually deemed not mature enough and I would wait another school year and make my First Communion with the rest of my classmates. But the bishop could only make the rounds of the parishes every three years, and he was scheduled to come in the fall of the year I was in second grade. The Sisters felt I should not wait until the next visit, especially since my next sister would be part of that group. I remember the infinite wisdom of a seven year old in choosing my Confirmation name, and of being slapped by the bishop. I had become a “soldier of God and an heir of heaven.” In the era of the Cold War that made sense, and it may make sense to young people now when we are engaged in a battle with the secular world over our rights and responsibilities as Christians. I believe we are seeing a failure of catechesis not a failure of the Sacraments

GRADE 4 (Some of your concerns will be addressed in later chapters.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Friday, 6 July 2012, 09:40 AM)

Picture of Tim Talbott
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 2
by Tim Talbott - Monday, 16 July 2012, 5:04 PM

As most everyone has already noted, the verbiage of administering and receiving the Sacraments came about as a practical way of describing them and the processes that occurred. As with many of the other concepts in Catholicism, it was a gradual process that actually took centuries to develop fully. Although there are numerous factors regarding this, for the sake of brevity I will discuss two: the development of the idea of a sacramental seal and St. Augustine.

The text notes that it was due to the inheritance of previous philosophical and intellectual thought that this concept was even able to be understood. The early Christians were developing their theology in understanding that reality existed beyond what can be seen or experienced, and attempting to do so rationally. One root of this concept came from the debate over effects of sacraments. Questions were being raised basically over ideas such as whether or not people’s sins were forgiven if the minister was a sinner. Some reasoned that if he was a sinner than he was outside of the Church, therefore incapable of transferring the grace. In addition, there were many scriptural references to the Holy Spirit’s being “poured out” and “seal of the Spirit”. These served as the basis of the concept of a sacramental seal which in turn added to Augustine’s understanding of the Sacraments as well. The text points out the key feats of Augustine, regarding Sacraments, in that he taught that the minister’s state of grace had no bearing on the transmission of it, made the practice of the terms administering/receiving Sacraments more common, and the effect of the Sacraments regardless of any visible sign.

I have to say that I honestly do not see anything wrong with the terminology of receiving and administering the Sacraments. I agree with Eileen that it is the administering and reception of grace that does occur during the Sacraments, and not the physical act of receiving such as with the Eucharist, that is being referred to with this verbiage.

I think people do not understand the Sacraments in the same way that they do not know anything else about their faith. I believe that the answer to the crisis of a lack of faith is explaining to people the reason and significance of the Sacraments, not trying to change them to fit people’s uninformed understanding.

GRADE 2 (Misses some early changes in meaning. Shorter than required length.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Friday, 13 July 2012, 08:24 PM)

Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Two of the Course, Second Assignment, Question 2
by Marvin Fitchett - Thursday, 26 July 2012, 1:50 AM

Christians came to talk about “administering" and "receiving" sacraments during the Patristic period of Catholicism. The early theologians were developing their understanding of how the spiritual gift or reality was received. In their efforts, the church fathers gave minimal consideration to the record of how the early converts’ experienced their sealing. They gave more weight to the experience of the Patristic period converts and to the writings of St. Paul, and leaned heavily on their reasoning of a new way of referring to receiving spiritual gifts.

During their inquiry, the early theologians sifted the records of the early converts, seeking an understanding of how they processed receiving spiritual gifts/ realities. Of course, the early convert spoken about receiving their spiritual gift from God as the seal of the spirit. The early Christian converts talked about receiving the seal of the spirit as it was an outer reality, because when a convert was baptized, the community could observe the public acknowledge of God becoming their father, and shortly afterwards, the convert would behave in a distinctively different manner. They would behave as servants, imitating the Jesus Christ.

Next, the early theologians observed the growing number of converts and infant baptism. They could not repeat what the early converts describe as receiving the seal of the spirit, so they searched the writings of St. Paul. They found the scripture to say the seal of the spirit was giving to those who participated in baptism rituals. Their next question was how the sealing of the spirit happened. Some theologians thought the seal of the spirit came directly from God through the water. Other thought the seal of the spirit came indirectly through the minister of baptism.

Therefore, the early theologians reasoned the seal of the spirit was an inner or metaphysical reality. Where the seal of the spirit was neither experienced or observe. The seal of the spirit happened in the spirit realm. Their reasoning led to a change in Christian thinking of how the seal of spirit occurred during baptism. The early theologians deduced a theology that changed the sealing of the spirit from an experiential and observable phenomenon to a metaphysical occurrence where the sealing can’t be experienced nor observed.

Specifically, the point that was the catalysis of Christians started talking about “administering" and "receiving" sacraments occurred when the early theologians reasoned how the sealing of the spirit happened. Their reasoning led to a metaphysical explanation to how the sealing of the spirit happened. Their discovery has affected the Catholic Church to the present.

The problem that arises when sacraments are talked about in the manner “administering" and "receiving" sacraments is it removes the sovereignty of God and his will out of the equation and place emphasizes on the individual doing the administering and receiving. The Church’s established authority and those they appoint become the focus of the seal of the spirit rather than God directing his grace for administration to those who repented and received his salvation.

As church sacraments, it would not be appropriate to talk about the giving and receiving of sacraments, because participants of the sacramental rituals would perceive the sealing of God’s spirit originating from the church rather than coming from God.

Grade 4

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Sunday, 22 July 2012, 11:31 PM)