Joseph Martos
Part Two of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Dr. Joe Martos - Friday, 17 February 2012, 1:47 AM
Explain the following concepts in your own words: (a) sacramental reality, (b) sacramental character, (c) sacramental causality, (d) sacramental effectiveness. Evaluate the appropriateness and usefulness of these concepts for talking about the sacraments today.
Picture of arnetta sims
Re: Part Two of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by arnetta sims - Monday, 16 July 2012, 5:11 PM

Sacramental reality can be explained as it relates to the ritual of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Within the celebration we experience the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We realize the divinity of Christ in the host and as we experience the mystery. It is through the symbolism of the host that we feel Christ's presence. The outward expression becomes a sign which is the ritual and the inner is the spiritual reality. The presence of Christ is presented in the form of bread and wine, which represents the body and blood.

The sacramental character is what is received through the sacraments .The inner effect experienced in the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Confirmation and Holy Orders can only be experienced one time. The seal of these sacramental rituals can only be experienced once in a lifetime because of the permanent effect. In Baptism the seal is conferred to brand the image of Christ's ownership. The inner effect is forgiveness of our offenses which is a spiritual reality. The effect of the sacrament points to what is received and its purpose. We can say that the sacraments cause things to happen to us through effective signs.

Sacramental causality is the cause and the effect of the sacraments. A sacrament does this and because it does that it becomes dependent on a formal cause, God. The sacrament becomes dependent on its formal cause to be effective. An example: a table is a table because of its design. This concept of a table is determined by the formal cause. The material in which it was made out of becomes the material cause. The effect of the cause is the designer that caused it to come into being. The tools which helped make the table is the instrumental cause.

Sacramental effectiveness are the causes and effects that connect to one another. In theory if something has a real effect what is its cause? In Baptism we become Christians, but in reverse order we are Christians because we were baptized. It is also through Baptism that we gain the ability to exercise powers given to us. We receive virtues of faith, hope and love that comes from God.

There are many misconceptions and illicit uses of sacramental effectiveness. One thing that must be stressed that the powers and abilities do not belong to the agents, This power and ability comes from God and belongs to Him. We must begin to understand that each ritual has its rubrics with necessary elements needed for its performance. Certain elements can not be omitted from the rite for the sake of validation. Neither the state of the agent performing the ritual determines its validity.

Some abuse of sacramental rituals was charging money for spiritual favors in later days. Today there has been a crackdown on priest offerings and the amount he can receive for saying mass intentions.

The concepts on sacramental reality, cause, effectiveness and causality has helped me understand the true and authentic meaning and purpose for sacraments. The sacraments of today have changes from their initial development, therefore today's theology should reflect the purpose, cause and effect in a broader sense.

GRADE 3 (Shows growth in understanding, if not completeness of comprehension.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Wednesday, 27 June 2012, 03:07 PM)

Picture of Monica Okon
Re: Part Two of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Monica Okon - Monday, 16 July 2012, 5:21 PM
Sacramental Reality:

Sacramental reality is made up of both symbol and reality. The use of these Latin words helped to explain the concept of sacramental reality. To explain the sacrament in their own understanding, the medieval scholars used three Latin words: Sacramentum tantum (Just the sign), Sacramentum et res (sign and reality), and res tamtum (just a reality). They agreed that a sacrament cannot be referred to as only a sign or only a reality. Instead, both the sign and what it represents are important. The effects of the sacraments are what we call the ‘sacramental reality.’ It is the very thing that happens during sacraments, that is, both the ritual and the effect of the ritual is combined and called sacramental reality. This very change in the recipient is something that is both a sacramentum and a res. Sacramental reality is the effect in the soul of the candidate for any sacrament. In the video talk, the sacramental reality focuses on the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, and later applied to other sacraments. I understand that what make up the sacramental reality is both the signs (symbols) and the spiritual effects of the sacraments. It is the essential nature of what happens when the rituals of sacraments are performed. It is the real change, the real action or both visible and invisible realities. Sacramental reality is the product of the ritual for each sacrament.

Sacramental Character:

Sacramental character as I understand it is a mark or sign on the soul of someone who is baptized, confirmed, and ordained. To say a character is indelible means the person cannot lose this mark on the soul even if the person does not live up to the required standard or even if the person loses the grace of the baptism. A character is an imprint of a certain quality on the soul by a particular sacrament and this quality cannot be erased from the soul. Martos says a character is a permanent effect, and a supernatural power.

Sacramental Causality/Sacramental Effectiveness:

It is difficult to talk about causality and effectiveness of sacraments separately. This is because one leads to another. To my understanding, Sacramental causality means the purpose or aim of each sacrament. It could also be understood as the reason. In other words whatever the effects of the sacrament may be, whatever the special seal or mark that sacraments give, that which is given and received comes from God. If we apply Thomas’s theory of ‘cause’ and effect that stemmed from Aristotle, the real cause or end of the sacrament is God. God is the ultimate cause of the sacrament. In other words it is through the power of God that the graces of each sacrament are received. God is the principal cause of each sacrament. The video explains that the medieval understanding of causality is different from the modern/ technological age’s understanding of causality. Their understanding was more general and kept going back to find the original cause. This takes them back to their original or real experience that makes something else to happen. Later theologians reasoned from cause to effects and not the other way round. The sacramental effectiveness is that it is the ritual that makes the sacrament effective. The effectiveness does not depend on the holiness of the person who is performing but on the performance. The effects of each sacrament are the outcome of the administration. For example, the effect of the sacrament of marriage is to make the recipient husband and wife.

Evaluation of appropriateness usefulness of these concepts:

It is difficult to apply and explain some of these terms in the present times because as we have seen the evolution of sacramental theology is continuous. What was relevant, necessary and deemed significant at a particular time may not have the same effect in another age. For example some of the effects were later developed into canon law such as “matrimony gave the power to have lawful intercourse; penance gave the power to receive communion and other sacraments worthily” (73). These laws are no longer effective . This period in time needs another explanation of the effectiveness of sacraments that will fit the current rate of broken marriages, leaving churches, many people not embracing the sacrament of penance, etc. There is always going to be challenges and misunderstanding of terms because even in the medieval ages, there were misunderstanding and challenges. One of the instances is described by Martos saying, “Sacramental theology in the late Middle ages could no longer depend on philosophy for its explanations and so it turned to canon law. The words of the canonists were still the words of the great scholastics, but now they had legal rather than theological meanings" (73). What I am saying is that there is a gradual development of liturgical life of the church and the evolvement of sacramental theology continues to have short comings especially in our modern world without losing the original purpose. The only thing is the church should be vigilant to make updates as necessary to avoid a major crackdown.

GRADE 2 (A valiant attempt to comprehend some truly difficult concepts.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Tuesday, 3 July 2012, 12:33 PM)

Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Two of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 16 July 2012, 6:05 PM

The medieval theologians looked for a way to describe the effects of the rituals deemed important for the Christian of that day. For the most part they had to either develop a new vocabulary or modify already established philosophical terms to define and describe how these sacred ceremonies worked both on earth and in heaven. One difficulty lay in the patristic understanding of the Latin word sacramentum as defined by Augustine of Hippo. In Augustine’s time sacramentum meant something that was a sign of something sacred. The question becomes then how is a sign a symbol, also a reality.

Sacramental reality

This term was coined to define what a Christian had that a non-Christian did not have. It says that the sacrament is neither a pure sign nor a pure grace. That is to say it is not just part of the material world or just part of the spiritual world but both. Something happens in the material world (the words said, the actions performed, physical substances used), the sacramentum tantum. Martos in Doors to the Sacred states, “A change in the soul of the subject of the rite could be considered as the sacramental reality, the sacramentum res”(54). The res tantum is the gift of God’s grace bestowed through the ritual.

Sacramental character

Sacraments are described as having specific effects. Baptism makes a person a Christian. Matrimony unites a couple for life. Holy Orders makes a man a deacon, priest or bishop. The desired effect is an essential part of the sacramental character of the ritual. Several sacraments have such a profound effect on the soul of the recipient that they are only received once in a person’s life. These sacraments are Baptism, which makes a person a Christian; Confirmation, which is said to strengthen a person’s faith and instill the special gifts of the Holy Spirit; and Holy Orders, once a man is ordained as a member of the clergy he has certain powers and authority which only need to be given once.

Sacramental causality

This concept is a little more difficult to discuss, primarily because those of us educated in the modern era do not look at cause and effect the same way the theologians of the medieval era did. We see the phenomenon from scientific and in many ways a simple point of view: a given action is the source for an effect. The medieval concept was based on the Latin causa with has a much broader connotation. It meant anything (and everything) upon which any other thing depended, therefore it was possible to have multiple causes (reasons) for a thing. According to Martos, Aquinas explained that God used signs and intermediary symbols to convey special graces to humanity because we needed material signs and symbols to understand what was happening. The sacraments were instrumental causes through which God worked in human lives (63).

Sacramental effectiveness

This concept was developed to explain how a person reacted to the graces of the sacrament administered. Did an newly baptized adult demonstrate a change in lifestyle that was more in line with the Christian way of life? Did a confirmed person exhibit an understanding and exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? These questions could be asked for each of the sacraments. Sometimes it did not appear that the sacrament had the desired effect, but that did not mean that the graces of the sacrament could not become evident at a later time. God does not force Himself on a person but His gifts are available at any point after the sacrament.

It is difficult to determine which if any of these concepts are useful to those of us in the twenty-first century. I think quite a bit of the theology defined by Aquinas is still usable, but I will admit that I do not have a strong background in philosophy. The only concept I have a problem with is causality, primarily because I was educated in the current scientific view of cause and effect as defined by Newton. The beauty of sacramental effectiveness is that is does allow for both the gift of grace and the possibility of a delayed acceptance by the person receiving the sacrament. Sacramental reality and the specific character of each sacrament are still viable. Just because we cannot see what is happening does not mean something is not happening. God created human beings with both bodies and souls. It is reasonable to expect He would distribute His Gifts in ways that are involve human senses along with effects that cannot be seen.

GRADE 4 (Not perfect, but pretty good for a first attempt.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Monday, 9 July 2012, 01:17 PM)

Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Two of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 1
by Marvin Fitchett - Thursday, 26 July 2012, 2:14 AM

The development of sacraments and sacramental theology was institutionalized in the latter part of the medieval period. A review of the sacramental evolution during the medieval period shall help in identifying key concepts concerning the sacraments and sacramental theology. The important concepts are sacramental reality, sacramental character, sacramental causality, and sacramental effectiveness.

During this turbulent time, the sacraments and sacramental theology went through the evolution process and arrived at Peter Lombard’s significant seven sacraments. Peter Lombard selection of the seven sacraments from his collection of sentences was a result of him analyzing the Holy Scriptures and patristic writings on theological issues. His analysis were accepted, used in universities, and recognized by the Catholic Church.

Peter Lombard’s collection of sentences formed the Catholic Church theological thinking regarding the sacraments, and his influence continues in the sacraments and sacramental theology. His work helped the theologians of the medieval period to distinguish between the seven sacraments and the other sacred signs and rituals (sacramentals). The seven sacraments involved the sacred rituals of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, matrimony, and ordination. The seven sacraments were signs of God’s grace. Whereas, the sacramentals, he categorize as simply signs that do not confer God’s grace, and they are statues, crucifixes, holy water, holy oil, blessings, and prayers.

After the Peter Lombard established the difference between the seven sacraments and the sacramentals, medieval theologians embarked on an academic quest to produce a logical construction of the etiology of the sacramentals. In their quest, they form concepts of sacramental reality, sacramental character, sacramental causality, and sacramental effectiveness.

Sacramental Reality

The concept of sacramental reality was accentuated when Berengar of Tours questioned the establish belief regarding the consecrated bread and wine literally became the body and blood of Jesus Christ. He was not subscribing to the tradition Catholic belief, and proposed it was a sign of Jesus Christ body and blood or it was his actual fleshly body and the blood from his veins. And Berengar of Tours cited Augustine’s definition of a sacramental, that it is a sign of a sacred reality. Berengar of Tours’ position set in motioned another quest to develop a suitable philosophical justification to support the traditional belief of the Eucharist. The twelfth century theologians deduced the Eucharist were both a sin and a reality which led to a third reality (sacramental reality). This triple distinction regarding the Eucharist being a sign, a reality, and both a sign and a reality were applied to the other six sacraments.

Sacramental Character

The concept of sacramental character finds its origin in sacramental reality. From sacramental reality, the thought of God’s spiritual seal possessed a permanent effect on the ritual participant. The character aspect was derived from Augustine, because he used the word character when referring to the sacrament’s permanent effect. During the medieval period, the theologians reasoned from observing the church sacramental rituals that the effect from the ritual had a permanent effect (sealing). So, the sacramental character is a permanent sealing from God and the participant received it one time.

Sacramental Causality

The concept of sacramental causality involves an analytical approach the medieval theologians utilized to discover the cause of the visible/invisible effect received by the sacramental participants. They applied a systematic method to develop an understanding of the sacramental realities’ permanent effects and sacramental character received from the sacramental ritual. The theologians concluded that the cause of the sacramental reality is God, who bestows the special set of powers and abilities as a result of the sacramental ritual.

Sacramental Effectiveness

The concept of sacramental effectiveness is link to sacramental causality because in order to quantify the effectiveness one must understand the cause of why certain things happened. The medieval theologians attempted to determine the effectiveness of sacrament. Using their inductive question, they were able to identify all the elements needed for a sacrament to be effective. As they continued their questioning, they realized the element, in a sense become defective, so they reasoned the performance of the sacrament made the sacrament effective. Although, there were negative attitudes and effects, the actions performed at the specific sacrament ritual made the sacrament effective.

The use the aforementioned concepts are appropriate and useful for the sacraments today because the present a clear and logical explanation of how God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit can be seen in the Catholic’s sacramental ceremonies.

Grade 3 (very good comprehension of very difficult concepts)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Tuesday, 24 July 2012, 12:05 AM)