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)