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General Editor: 

THE REV. GEORGE D. SMITH, PH.D., D.D., 

Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Edmund's. 
College, Old Hall 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 




THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

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TORONTO 



THE SACRAMENTAL 
SYSTEM 

By the Reverend 

C. C. MARTINDALE, SJ. 



Introduction by 
NEIL McNEIL 

Archbishop of Toronto 



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NEW YORK 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
1928 



NIHIL OBSTAT 

ARTHUR J. SCANLAN, S.T.D., 

Censor Librorum 

IMPRIMATUR 

%i PATRICK CARDINAL HAYES, 

Archbishop, New "York 

New York, January 14, 1928. 

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COPYRIGHT, 1928, 
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY. 

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9Y THE STRATFORD PRESS, INC. 



811571 



INTRODUCTION 

IN this little book the Rev. Father Martin- 
dale has taken great pains to come down to 
the mental level of the man in the street. He 
makes it very clear that sacrificial and sacra- 
mental worship is in accord with the nature 
of man, and that our human nature requires 
external forms of symbol and ceremony in 
religion. He leads the reader to expect and 
to find that in fact our Lord did make ample 
provision for such human needs. 

The natural man requires symbol and 
ceremony; but the sinful man requires more, 
namely, redemption from sin by the grace 
of God. It was for this especially that our 
Saviour came into the world, and, when he 
provided symbol and ceremony, he made 
them the channels of his saving grace. This 
is the thesis of the book. 

"We need symbols and ceremonies as indi- 
viduals, but we need them more as members 
of society. Every society feels the need of 
some form of initiation. A nation needs a 
flag as the symbol of its unity and appointed 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

days for commemoration of great national 
events. Father Martindale expresses this in 
the case of the Jews (page 7) by saying that 
they as a people were held together by their 
worship of one God, by tribal and national 
and family ceremonies, and by great festivals 
like the Pasch, the Day of Atonement, and 
Pentecost. "When, therefore, we know that 
Christ came to "cleanse to himself a people" 
and impart truth and grace by means of a 
world-wide society, which He called His 
Church, and that His solemn prayer between 
the Supper and the Cross was for union 
among the members of this society, we should 
be sadly disappointed, even from a human 
point of view, if He had failed to provide 
those means of social union which we call 
symbols and ceremonies; and, from a Chris- 
tian point of view, if He had failed to make 
them a means of preserving truth and of im- 
parting grace. The consciousness of this con- 
nection of social strength with symbol and 
ceremony is well illustrated by the action of 
those civil rulers who sought to reduce the 
Church to a function of the State. Two 
Sacraments suit their purpose better than 
seven. 

The New Testament is not the only means 
of knowing what Christ taught. The daily 
life and tradition of the Church is also a 

vi 



INTRODUCTION 

source of Christian knowledge. The Church 
saw and heard and remembers Christ. Dur- 
ing forty days after the Resurrection, the 
Acts tell us, our Lord appeared to the Apos- 
tles, "speaking of the Kingdom of God." 
That is, He discoursed with them about the 
Church. Some of His acts and words during 
this period are recorded in the Gospels. Thus, 
St John (xx 22) tells of the institution of 
the Sacrament of Penance. As St Paul ex- 
presses it, he gave to them the Ministry of 
Reconciliation (n Cor. v). Father Martin- 
dale refers to this on pages 47 and 68. It 
may surprise some readers that on page 48 he 
states that, except in the case of Baptism and 
the Eucharist, we can never know precisely 
how our Lord instituted the seven Sacra- 
ments. This is true of some of them. Con- 
firmation is an instance. Historically we 
only know from the practice and the words 
of the Apostles and their successors that 
Christ did institute Confirmation. It is true 
even of Penance in the sense that St John 
does not tell us precisely how the power to 
forgive sin then imparted to the Apostles was 
to be administered, whereas, in the case of 
Baptism and the Eucharist, the very ceremo- 
nies of administration are stated. 

f& NEIL McNniL, 
Archbishop of Toronto. 



Vll 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. MAN'S APPROACH TO GOD . . .1 

H. GOD'S DESCENT TO MAN . . .II 

m. THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM . . 1 8 

IV. THE THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 32 

V. RECAPITULATION . . . .65 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 



THE 
SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

CHAPTER I 

MAN'S APPROACH TO GOD 

SINCE these books make a series, and follow 
one another in a definite order, I might as- 
sume that readers of this one have read those 
that come before it, and therefore, the one 
that treats of the nature of Man. 

However, I must be forgiven if I recall 
the essential point of that book. Man is not 
an Automaton, nor an Ape, nor an Angel. 
By this I mean, a man is not just a piece of 
mechanism, like a steam-engine; nor yet is 
he merely an animal, that has but instinct 
and cannot think nor choose. Nor yet is he 
an angel, for angels are simply Minds they 
have no bodies: "a spirit hath not flesh nor 
bones as ye see me having," said our Lord, 
when after the Resurrection the Apostles 
thought they were seeing a ghost. Man is 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

Body-Soul. He is flesh-and-Blood, and mind. 
Mind means the power of thinking, and the 
power of choosing. And in Man, Mind 
works along with the brain, in a way which 
we need not here discuss, provided we re- 
member it; and when I say "brain," I include 
all the rest that man's living body involves 
the nervous system, the senses, the instincts. 
Therefore, whenever the ordinary living man 
feels, he also thinks; and when he thinks, his 
imagination and his emotions and his nervous 
system, and in fact all that is in him, re- 
spond and become active at least in some 
degree. 

Therefore when you are dealing with man, 
it is quite useless to try to separate him into 
two, and pretend he is either just a body, or 
just a mind. This book will show that God, 
according to the Catholic Faith, does not do 
so: but first, it is worth seeing that man, 
when he has dealt with God, or has sought 
to get into touch with him in a word, to 
"worship" him has always acted in accord- 
ance with this double nature of his: or, on 
the rare occasions when he has tried to do 
otherwise, has got into grave trouble. 

I speak, of course, of the normal man be- 
having normally, and not of morbid, nor of 
mystical states; and of course, I am speaking 
of man in this life, and not in the next. 



MAN'S APPROACH TO GOD 



From what I have said, you will see that 
man cannot so much as think of God as if 
man were merely Mind. He has to use his 
brain, and when he does this, he makes pic- 
tures with his imagination even today, after 
all our training, we make some sort of picture 
to ourselves when we say the word "God." 
Even the Scriptures are full of phrases that 
represent God as though he were like our- 
selves our Lord's eternal exaltation in 
heaven is described as "sitting down at the 
right hand of God," "not," as the Cate- 
chism reminds us, "that God has hands. ' He 
is a Spirit: but we, being men, have to picture 
him to ourselves somehow. As a matter of 
fact, the human mind has always risen to the 
thought of God from the experience of ma- 
terial objects that is, of course, save in the 
case of direct and special revelations: but 
these are abnormal and I am speaking only of 
the normal. For example, a quite uneducated 
man, call him a "savage" if you like, is quite 
able to rise from the spectacle of limited, 
changing things to the notion of that great 
Cause which must be at the back of them. 

That he can do so, is defined by the Vatican 
Council, though of course, that Council does 
not say that all men as it were hatch the 

3 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

notion of God from what they see around 
them, or that they do it in the same way, or 
successfully. In fact, experience shows that 
though the most simple man can quite well 
use the sight and touch of things in order 
to reach a notion of a God who made them, 
and keeps them, and arranges them, yet he 
can quite well go on to misuse his mind on 
the subject, and make many a mistake about 
it. For example, if he sees a violent storm, 
or a raging mountain fire, or volcano, he will 
very easily proceed to say that the God who 
is responsible for this must be not only 
powerful, but cruel or destructive. The fact 
remains, that he has got, by means of his 
mind, to the thought of God, by way of his 
senses; and then has proceeded, also because 
of what he sees and feels, to use his mind 
awry, and to draw deductions that careful 
training would show him to be unwarranted. 
Let us therefore keep to this conclusion 
When a man so much as begins to think 
about God, he always starts from something 
that touches his senses, and he can never alto- 
gether exclude the fact that he is Body as 
well as Mind, and in his life never will so 
exclude it. Nor should he. It is quite use- 
less to try to pretend you are something that 
you are not, and God does not mean you to 
try. Why should he? If he has made you a 

4 



MAN'S APPROACH TO GOD 

man, he does not wish you to behave as if 
you were something quite different, like an 
ape, or like an angel. Some men practically 
behave like the former, and you call them 
"sensualists." A minority of students and 
over-cultured persons would like to behave as 
if they were just minds you call them "in- 
tellectualists." Each sort is lop-sided. You 
are sometimes tempted to think that the 
latter sort is in the greater danger. For the 
sensualist may always pull himself up 
human nature does not take kindly to a com- 
plete collapse into animalism. But the man 
who despises material things, is quite likely to 
experience a sudden fatigue, to give up, and 
to suffer a "reaction," and become extremely 
greedy for the good things of life. If he does 
not, he is none the less quite out of touch 
with ordinary men and women. 



Now when a man is very convinced of 
anything, he always wants to do something 
about it. If he is a simple person, he prob- 
ably does it at once, and rather noisily. With 
education, he may behave with greater re- 
straint: but if he never tends to express him- 
self, as we say, he is probably a languid and 
colourless person. If children are pleased, 
they jump and dance. When a man feels in 

5 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

good form, he sings in his bath. "When he 
is in love he wants to kiss the girl he loves; 
and in short, he wishes to do something ex- 
terior to give vent to the interior state of his 
feelings. So when men have been convinced 
of the existence of God, they have always 
done and said things to reveal the fact. They 
feel how small they are compared to him 
they fall flat on the ground, or kneel. They 
feel he is good and great and takes care of 
them they sing hymns or gesticulate or even 
dance. Above all, when they feel that every- 
thing, and themselves in particular, belongs 
to him, they have invariably tended to show 
this outwardly usually by "giving" him 
something, to prove that they recognise his 
right to everything. Men interested in fields, 
will offer him field-produce: in orchards, 
fruit: in flocks, a sheep or goat or ox. This 
has gone so far that they feel they ought to 
offer him something which represents them- 
selves even more adequately, and you find in- 
stances of men killing their eldest son, or 
mutilating themselves so that the "life-blood" 
flows. Why "killing"? It seems fairly clear 
that men, by destroying the "gift" they offer 
to God, are trying to prove to themselves, 
and even to show to God, that they truly 
recognise that he deserves the whole of the 
gift, and that nothing is kept in reserve: 

6 



MAN'S APPROACH TO GOD 

and, that they must never take it back, be- 
cause they have in reality no "right" in it at 
all. They will also feel the need of express- 
ing outwardly what they think in their minds 
and picture with their imaginations, and so 
they make images, and surround these images 
with signs symbolical of the homage they 
want to pay to the invisible God. They will 
do all the things that occur to them; and 
everything that their senses or imagination 
can suggest, does occur to them. They will 
burn sweet spices: they will light bright fires; 
they will sing and dance, and they will collect 
coloured flowers or stones or anything else 
that strikes them. And above all, since man 
is "social" and lives together in groups, of 
which he feels the unity very acutely, men 
will tend to do all these things in common, 
and make social acts of them. 

This is what I mean by worship any and 
every piece of human homage paid to God: 
and while it is quite true that the supreme 
and only necessary homage is that of the 
mind, whereby we know God, and the will, 
whereby we love him and choose to subordi- 
nate ourselves to him, yet man rightly tends 
to express himself exteriorly, and "cult" or 
"worship" has always, in accord with com- 
plete human nature, contained an exterior, 
material element. 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

It is well to see that neither in the Old 
nor the New Testament has exterior cult 
been disapproved of, any more than the use 
of our brains concerning God and the things 
of God has been rebuked. It is perfectly 
clear from what I have said that just as a 
man can make all sorts of mistakes when he 
starts thinking about God, so he can make 
mistakes about the ways in which God likes 
to be worshipped. For example, the human 
sacrifices and multilations I mentioned above, 
are not really an apt way of expressing the 
completeness of our response to God's all- 
inclusive claim. So what you will find in 
the Old and New Testaments is a progressive 
check upon inadequate -ways of showing your 
worship of God, but you will not find that 
the exterior worship is in itself condemned. 
The Hebrews inherited from their pagan an- 
cestors a number of forms of worship, and 
picked up a number more during their so- 
journs among pagans. When Moses gave 
them their Law, he abolished many of these, 
and regulated others, and above all taught 
a true knowledge of God's nature and attri- 
butes so as to prevent a wrong meaning being 
given to the acts of worship they still used. 
The one thing that was absolutely forbidden 
was, the making of images of God for the 
eye. It was too easy for men to attach a 

8 



MAN'S APPROACH TO GOD 

wrong value a "person-value," so to say, 
to such images. But the Hebrews still went 
on talking about God in terms that suit the 
imagination, for they were not abstract philo- 
sophers: and as late as you like in Hebrew 
history, ritual is very minute and exact, and 
even increasingly so in some ways. As to 
the New Testament, I say no more than this, 
so as not to anticipate: Our Lord shows per- 
fectly well that he recognises the duty of 
expressing exteriorly our interior worship, if 
only because in the Our Father he provided 
his disciples with a form of words; and what 
he rebuked was, not exterior actions, but the 
idea that exterior actions were good enough 
without interior dispositions, or, hypocrisy in 
the carrying out of such actions, for example, 
in order to win esteem, and not to worship 
God. And he himself, in the Garden of 
Gethsemani, allowed his body to reveal the 
agony of his mind, by falling prostrate, and 
lifted his eyes to heaven when giving thanks, 
and raised his hands when he blessed the 
apostles, and by the use of clay cured the 
blind man, and by the use of formulas like 
the very term "Father" as applied to God 
sanctioned our drawing help from customary 
things of sense, and pictured heaven as a 
feast. 

This leads me to my second point: the 

9 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

first has been, that man by his very nature 
tends to worship as well as think about God 
by means of his knowledge and experience of 
created things, and that God has not pro- 
hibited him from, doing so. 



xo 



CHAPTER II 

GOD'S DESCENT TO MAN 

I WANT now to go much further than this, 
and say that God not only as it were puts up, 
reluctantly, not to say disdainfully, with this 
sort of worship from the men whom he has 
made, but spontaneously deals with them in 
accordance with their whole nature, in which 
the material element plays so great a part. 



After all, God is himself the Author of 
nature. He could quite well, had he chosen, 
have created nothing but angels. (Even had 
he done so, the angels would have had to 
worship him, as in fact they do, in accordance 
with their nature.) However, he not only 
created this visible universe, but created Man 
in particular, and continually thrusts nature 
into his eyes and on to his attention so that 
to worship God by means of nature and in 
nature is the very suggestion, so to say, of 
God himself. St Paul (Rom. i) insists that 
he had no excuse for not knowing and wor- 

ii 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

shipping God, since "what is invisible in God 
is (none the less) ever since the foundation 
of the world made visible to human reflection 
through his works, even his eternal power and 
divinity": and to the Lystrians (Acts xiv) he 
preaches a charming little sermon to those 
simple-minded pagans about how God has 
never left himself without sufficient witness, 
by means of his ceaseless gifts of rain and 
sun, of harvests and happiness. As I said, the 
nature of pagan notions about God, and wor- 
ship of God, could easily degenerate; but the 
root of the matter is there, and was supplied 
by God himself. 



** 

11 



Catholics hold, no less than the Protestant 
tradition does, that God revealed himself 
freely and specially to the Hebrews. From 
the first, we read how God revealed himself 
and worked through what struck the senses 
objects, like the Burning Bush, the Pillar of 
Fire, the Glory over the Ark in a sense, 
through the symbol of the Ark itself: pheno- 
mena, like the storm upon Mount Sinai: 
events, like the Plagues of Egypt. The rules 
for sacrifice and ritual were not just tolerated 
by God, but sanctioned positively by him: 
and altogether, the Old Testament dispensa- 
tion was so made up of material things in- 

12 



GOD'S DESCENT TO MAN 

tended to be used spiritually in a greater or 
a less degree, that the Prophets had to spend 
much more time in recalling the Jews to in- 
terior dispositions of soul, than in exhorting 
them to be true to the details of the Law. I 
add, that God chose to reveal himself by 
means of writings the Old Testament reli- 
gion is a "book-religion" and again, through 
men: prophets, priests and kings. And all 
this was essentially social: the People was held 
together not only by its worship of One and 
the selfsame God, but by tribal and national 
and family ceremonies, from what concerned 
marriage right up to the great festivals like 
the Pasch, the Day of Atonement, and Pen- 
tecost. 



111 

Concerning the manifold reasons for, and 
nature of, the Incarnation, this series already 
contains a book. Let me then say here only 
one thing: It establishes once and for ever, 
and in fullest measure, the principle that 
God will not save human nature apart from 
human nature. The material side of the 
transaction of our Saving might have been 
minimised. God might have saved us by a 
prayer, a hope, by just one act of love. He 
might have remained invisible to eye, inaudi- 
ble to ear. But he did not. He took our 

13 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

human nature the whole of it. Nothing that 
is in us, was not in him. Jesus Christ was 
true God, and true Man. In him was that 
twofold nature, in one Person. And indeed, 
in his human nature was that double princi- 
ple that is in ours there was body, and there 
was soul. In Jesus Christ are for ever joined 
the visible and the invisible; the Infinite, and 
the created, limited thing that man is: Man, in 
short, and God. Since, then, the Incarnation, 
no one can possibly criticise a religion because 
it is not wholly "spiritual." We are not 
wholly spiritual: Christ is not wholly spiri- 
tual. The religion that we need, the religion 
that he gives, will not be totally unlike what 
we are, and what he is. Christ did not treat 
us as though we were stones: nor yet, as if we 
were angels. He became Man, because we 
are men; and as men he, perfect Man, will 
treat us. 

iv 

You expect that a man's work will be 
characteristic of him. When therefore you 
observe that the whole method of our salva- 
tion was an incarnational one, wherein the 
Spirit operates in and by means of the flesh, 
you will expect to see this work itself out in 
detail. You see that it does so, first, in the 
massive fact of the sort of Church that Christ 



GOD'S DESCENT TO MAN 

founded. The Church, existing as it does upon 
this earth for the sake of men who live on the 
earth, and not for disembodied souls, still less 
for angels, is so constructed as to suit the 
situation. It is visible, yet invisible. It has 
its way in, and its way out. It has quite 
definite frontiers. It has a perfectly unmis- 
takable form of Government. Of the struc- 
ture of the Church, this series has also spoken. 
I need therefore not dwell on it, any more 
than I need upon the Incarnation itself. I 
need but add, that the nature of its Founder 
being what it is, and the nature of the Church 
being what it is, and our nature being such as 
we have described it, you cannot possibly be 
surprised if what goes on within the Church 
is hi keeping with all the rest. The object of 
the Church being the salvation and sanctifi- 
cation of ourselves, the method of the Church 
will include and not disdain a material ele- 
ment. Even beforehand, we might have ex- 
pected this, nay, felt sure that it would be so. 
In the concrete, this method will turn out to 
be, normally, the Sacramental System. This 
is what we have to study. 

Let me but add, that we should be glad 
that this is so. Had our Lord given us a 
wholly "spiritual" religion (if such a thing 
is conceivable), we might have reproached 
him for neglecting those bodies of ours, which 

15 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

minister to us so much good pleasure, and 
provide for us such grave difficulties. "We 
might have grieved that he had done nothing 
for our social instinct, that always, in every 
department, forces us to create some social 
unit or other. Again, knowing ourselves all 
too well, we might have felt that the ideal, 
just because so disembodied, would prove 
to be beyond us: we would be sure that the 
weight of our bodily humanity would sooner 
or later drag us down. After all, we must 
eat and drink: men marry: they mingle with 
their fellows if we can in no way co-ordi- 
nate all this with what is spiritual, catch it up, 
use it, see how it is legitimate and can be 
made of value we are practically being asked 
to despair of human life. On the other hand, 
if we see that no part of human nature is 
neglected by our Lord, we are, as I said, not 
only grateful but most humbly grateful, see- 
ing that what has so often supplied material 
for sin, is judged, by Christ, as none the less 
able to be given a lofty task, the sublimest 
duty that of co-operating with Grace, nay, 
being used by Grace and in its interests. And 
once and for all, we see that God scorns 
nothing that he has made: that Jesus Christ 
was Man, not despising nor hating his man- 
hood: that his Church understands, as he does, 
all that is "in man"; and that as the Eternal 

16 



GOD'S DESCENT TO MAN 

Son of God assumed a human nature, never 
to lay it down, so too in our very bodies, and 
helped by bodily things, we are to enter into 
that supernatural union with God through 
Christ, wherein is to consist our everlasting 

joy- 



CHAPTER III 

THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

we read the earliest documents relat- 
ing to the Christian Church, we find Chris- 
tians at once using all sorts of religious be- 
haviour. They do not only pray, or propound 
a moral code you find them being dipped in 
water: meeting for common meals of greater 
or less solemnity: "laying hands" on one an- 
other: maintaining the institution of mar- 
riage: anointing sick persons with oil: not eat- 
ing certain sorts of foods: paying attention to 
certain days, such as that of the New Moon, 
and also the first day of the week, and some- 
times adopting quite strange rites, like putting 
honey upon the lips of children or even 
adults. 



These rites did not all stand upon the same 
footing. Some were prohibited: some were 
tolerated or kept within certain bounds (like 
the observance of special days) : some were 
regarded as quite exceptionally solemn, and 

18 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

were imposed officially. Looking at the matter 
from outside, you see, on the whole, that 
what these last-named had of special about 
them was, that Christ himself had instituted 
them, or at least his Apostles officially im- 
posed or used them: and, that they implied 
something beyond themselves, and even pro- 
duced certain results in the soul. No one, for 
example, professed to suppose that Christ had 
ordered the observance of the New Moon: 
though placing honey on the lips of a child, or 
milk, might signify something spiritual, no 
one quite claimed that it produced any spe- 
cial result in the child's soul. On the other 
hand, you will hear expressions such as that 
we are "saved by means of the Bath of New 
Birth" (Titus iii 5) : that the Holy Spirit, or 
Grace, is given "by means of the laying-on of 
hands" (2 Tim. i 6: Acts viii 18). And mar- 
riage is spoken of as a "mighty symbol" (Eph. 
v. 25). * 

It is easily seen that there was much here 
that might induce confusion, and even abuses, 
and needed clearing up. Indeed, the confu- 
sion is often manifest. Some people urged 
that it was better not to marry at all: others 
acted as though Christianity had abolished 
all restrictions upon whom you married. Some 

1 The word "musterton" here translated as "symbol," is 
explained below. 

19 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

began to make life intolerable by introducing 
all sorts of food-restrictions; others went 
freely to pagan feasts. Some seemed to think 
that the "bath of New Birth" was meant to 
give you even bodily immortality: others that 
you could bathe in it vicariously, on behalf 
of those who had already died. Some turned 
the meals, taken in common, into an occasion 
for creating social cliques, and quite failed to 
see in the meal that which it stood for or 
signified to put it at the lowest, for Paul 
- makes clear that as the ceremony to which it 
was but a preface proceeded, there was more 
in it than just a noble or pure idea: the 
"Lord's Body" itself was to be discerned 
therein, to be fed upon as he had ordained, 
with vast consequences to those who thus re- 
ceived it. Hence even the preface to this, 
with its signification of union in charity, was 
being travestied by these social schismatics. 

We must not be surprised that these Chris- 
tian rites were not, at first, exhaustively ex- 
plained, nor perfectly understood by all. Very 
little, in Christian doctrine, was or could be 
immediately stated in an adequate formula: 
even in the simpler matter of issuing orders, 
it was at once found that questions were 
asked, and interpretations had to be given. 
Thus, the Apostles decreed that meat that 
had been used in a pagan sacrifice must not 

20 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

be eaten. "What," asked the Christians, 
"are we to do when marketing? what, when 
invited to dinner? How can we tell whether 
the meat in the butchers' shops, or offered at 
table, has come from a pagan temple or not?" 
Such questions needed answering whenever 
they arose. So with dogma. The Christians 
knew that they worshipped Christ as God. 
"How then," some of them asked, "could 
he have been also man? He could not. His 
humanity must have been merely apparent 
he was a ghost-man." "No," said the Church, 
"he was true man." Already St John has 
to make this point. Thereupon the pendu- 
lum swung back. "Then he cannot have 
been true God his sonship can only have 
been one of adoption, not of nature. He 
must have been 'divine,' not God." "No," 
insisted the Church, "he was true God too." 
Questions and answers continued till the the- 
ology of the Incarnation, as we say, was 
worked out the complete theory and the 
proper official expressions in which the dogma 
was to be stated, were provided. The same 
sort of process is seen in regard of these pieces 
of ritual behaviour that the Christians car- 
ried through. It will be clear that I am not 
remotely suggesting that what we now know 
as the Seven Sacraments did not exist from 
the beginning, and exist in substance just as 

21 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

they do now: but, if I may say so reverently, 
the first Christians needed desperately to use 
our Lord Jesus Christ himself, rather than 
speculate about him though the time came 
and came soon when they had to do that, 
and did it: and somewhat in the same way 
they were baptised, married, confirmed, went 
to Communion, but had no "covering for- 
mula," so to call it, to apply to all these 
transactions precisely from what we call the 
"sacramental" point of view. 



11 



You first see coming to light the notion 
that certain transactions are "signs" they 
visibly represent something you do not see 
an idea, or an event. Washing with water 
is a very natural symbol of spiritual purifica- 
tion; sharing in a common meal naturally 
symbolises social unity, and indeed, the break- 
ing of bread could well represent the sacrifice 
of Christ himself: oil had always stood for 
a symbol of health and well-being. Hence 
the word "mystery" began very soon to be 
used by Christians of their rites, and the 
Latin word "sacramentum" after a while 
began to be used as a translation of "mys- 
tery." But be careful about these words. 
"Musterion" originally only meant something 

22 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

"shut up," and then, something which had 
a meaning concealed within it, and then, just 
a "secret." The pagan rites known as 
"Mysteries" consisted in ceremonies of a sym- 
bolical sort, wherein religious impressions 
were made on the minds of the participants 
for example, the solemn exhibition of an 
ear of corn represented the presence of a 
god: an elaborate dance or procession repre- 
sented the progress of a soul in the under- 
world, and so forth. What the devotee had 
learnt or experienced was to be kept a dead 
secret. *'Mystery," then, in this original 
sense has nothing to do with the word tech- 
nically used now to mean a Truth in itself 
surpassing human intelligence, and needing 
to be revealed by God, and even so, not fully 
intelligible to our natural powers of thinking. 
Similarly "sacrament" meant at first no more 
than a "holy thing," or rather, a "religion- 
ified" thing, so to say. It was first applied 
to money deposited by litigants in some re- 
ligious place, or, forfeited by the loser and 
given to religious purposes. It came thus to 
mean any solemn engagement, and in par- 
ticular the military oath. As equivalent (very 
roughly: the Latins were not skilful in find- 
ing equivalents for Greek words) to "mys- 
tery," it meant little more than that what 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

it was applied to was more sacred than its 
mere external nature would lead you to 
suppose. 

But you see at once that this notion of 
"sign" extends so widely as to cover almost 
anything; similarly, almost any religious per- 
formance could be called a "holy thing," 
and indeed the word "sacrament" for a long 
time was applied to all sorts of religious 
activities the Lord's Prayer was a sacrament 
in this sense. We ourselves apply the word 
"mystery" not only in the technical sense, 
but, for example, to the incidents commem- 
orated in the Rosary, because they were ma- 
terial occurrences with profound significa- 
tions. The notion then admits of much fur- 
ther definition. 

It is at once clear that some "significant" 
transactions stood out as quite special because 
they had been instituted by Christ himself. 
He said: "Go, baptise in the Name of the 
Father and of the Son and of the Holy 
Ghost." He said: "Do this is commemoration 
of me." Yet even this would not be sufficient 
as a definition of certain special transactions; 
for Christ told his apostles to "Wash one 
another's feet," for example. Here is an 
obvious symbol, and it was instituted by 
himself, and the institution is duly observed 
from time to time in the Church even now. 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

Yet it stood on quite a different footing, for 
instance, from baptism. But why did it do 
so? 

Because it became clear that some of these 
signs were instituted by Christ to produce 
certain results in those who used them, and, 
by no means ordinary results of a moral or 
devotional sort, such as the looking at a pious 
picture might do, or even what I have just 
quoted the "Washing of Feet. Our Lord says 
definitely that Baptism is necessary for sal- 
vation (Mark xvi 16); that to enter the 
Kingdom of Heaven you must be born again 
by water as well as by the Holy Spirit (John 
iii 5); and St Paul (quoted above) says we 
are "saved by means of the bath of New 
Birth." When, after baptism, hands are laid 
on the newly baptised, or when they are laid 
on those set apart for the Christian ministry, 
the Holy Ghost, and Grace, are said to be 
given "by means" of this laying-on of hands. 

We see then that there exist in the Church 
certain material transactions, such that they 
stand as signs of something spiritual, and 
also, somehow cause and confer and contain 
what they signify, and that these efficacious 
signs were in some sense instituted by Christ 
himself. There is one more preliminary re- 
mark to be made. 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

* 

111 

I have called this booklet The Sacramental 
**System" This implies that Christ has not 
as it were instituted "sacraments" casually, 
but according to a principle; and, that the 
sacraments are not thrown haphazard into 
the Church, but form an orderly series: not 
only that their existence is governed by an 
idea, but that an idea rules, no less, their 
number and their nature, gives them coher- 
ence and a unity. The idea that governs 
their existence has already been sufficiently, 
perhaps, explained. I therefore merely re- 
call that it involves the doctrine that matter 
is not bad, nor to be despised, but can be, and 
is, made use of by God and by Christ and 
by the Church in the work of our sanctifica- 
tion. The opposite to this would be the doc- 
trine that matter, or the body, or the visible 
world at large are somehow bad, and this 
doctrine was best seen in the sect of the 
Manicheans a curious sect, Persian in origin, 
but made up as time went on of all sorts of 
ideas and practices. As a matter of fact, 
the notion has always existed in some shape 
side by side with the true Catholic one, which 
is, that nothing that God has made is bad, 
nor has it become bad since and because of 
the Fall. Right down to our own day, a 

26 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

false Puritanism has existed: the Middle Ages 
saw many strange versions of it, involving 
strange results, such as, that food, marriage, 
and in fact anything to do with the physical 
life of man, was bad, owing to his fallen state, 
or even to the essential badness of matter. It 
is no part of my duty to go into this here; 
but you will see at once that the Sacramental 
System opposes this definitely. No part of 
God's creation is bad: every part of it can 
be used by God for the most spiritual pur- 
poses. The results, on the other hand, of the 
false doctrine have been very bad indeed. 
Men, by dint of thinking that matter and 
the body were bad, have developed a sort of 
insane hatred of them, and have gone so far 
in their desire to be rid of them as even to 
commit suicide. Or again, since they saw 
that they had not the strength thus to inflict 
pain and denial upon themselves consistently, 
they took refuge in the notion that their 
body was not really part of themselves at all, 
but that the real "self" resided somehow in- 
side the body, like a jewel in an ugly and 
filthy case or shell; and so they said that it 
could not really matter what their body did, 
because it was not really "they." They could 
then allow the body to indulge in every kind 
of debauchery, while still maintaining that 
their soul, or "self," was living a lofty and 

27 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

holy life. The sacramental doctrine of the 
Church prevents both these disastrous notions 
taking root amongst us. Even were the body 
no more than the shell of the soul, it has to 
be treated with extreme respect, and kept 
holy and pure, because it contains so precious 
a thing. But it is more than the soul's shell: 
along with the soul it constitutes "man": and 
so, body must be saved no less than soul, and 
by means of bodily or material things the 
living man is approached and may be helped 
as well as by spiritual things. We thank 
God that this is so: were it not, we might 
despair. 

When I said that the sacramental "system" 
also implies that the actual Sacraments can 
be arranged in an "order" of an intelligible 
sort, I meant that they could be thought of 
by us, in proportion as we understand them 
better, in that sort of way. Thus There is 
obviously such a thing as natural life the 
life by which we all of us live by dint of being 
born and not having yet died. In the book 
on Grace you have seen that God has freely 
willed to make to man a "free gift" (which 
is what the word Grace really means), 
namely, a supernatural life which is in no 
way due to him nor can be earned by him, 
but which involves a far greater happiness 

28 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

and well-being for him if he lives by it. Now 
just as a man requires to be born, in order to 
live at all, so must he have a "new birth/' 
if he is to begin to live by this "new life." 
This New Birth is given by the first Sacra- 
ment, Baptism. After a while, boys and girls 
begin to "grow up": they take stock of their 
position and responsibilities: also, their bodies 
and their minds change in many ways, and 
their human nature may be described as being 
"completed." They also require not a little 
strengthening, body and mind, during this 
period. In many ways the Sacrament of Con- 
firmation may be regarded as fulfilling a 
like "completing" function in the superna- 
tural life: it does not give that life, but it 
completes and establishes it, and St Thomas 
compares it to adolescence. As life proceeds, 
it is normal for men and women to go even 
further in the completing of their human life, 
by joining another life to their own in mar- 
riage. The Church does not substitute any- 
thing for human marriage, but it so infuses 
grace into and through the Christian mar- 
riage contract as to raise it to the dignity of 
a Sacrament, and a supernatural element 
enters into this great human crisis-in-life. 
Within the Christian Church, however, men 
may be called to consecrate their lives to the 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

immediate service of God as priests. This 
choice and vocation are of such overwhelming 
importance, and so unlike anything else, that 
we are not surprised to see that Ordination, 
in the Catholic Church, is a Sacrament too, 
nor merely a setting aside of a man for a 
special duty. But for the proper mainten- 
ance of any part of life, appropriate food has 
to be given: for the maintenance and develop- 
ment of the supernatural life it will be seen 
that there is in the Church a unique and a 
uniquely appropriate food, the Eucharist. 
Again, a man may fall sick: he thereupon 
requires doctoring: there is in the Church a 
Sacrament instituted precisely for the pur- 
pose of healing even the gravest sicknesses 
of the soul, which are all due to sin. But 
after all, no human life lasts for ever upon 
this earth: men die. "When death is imminent, 
or probable, in how great a need does the 
spirit stand ! for the body and its brain can 
now no more assist it. At such an hour the 
supernatural life, too, runs its grave risks; 
and the "Last Sacraments" are there to suc- 
cour it. 

Thus it will be seen that the Sacraments can 
all be thought of under the heading, or gen- 
eral idea, of "Life" and its needs. In this way 
their unity of purpose and order in action 

30 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

can be clearly seen, and more easily appre- 
ciated and remembered. 

I have now to enter with somewhat more 
detail into the Catholic teaching concerning 
the various elements that make up a "Sacra- 



ment." 



CHAPTER IV 

THE THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

IT used to be said that the Sacraments, as 
Catholics understand them, were medieval in- 
ventions. Research showed that St Augus- 
tine, who died in 430, taught a fully "sacra- 
mental" theology. He was therefore said to 
be the guilty innovator. Finally it is clear 
that well before his time, in fact from the be- 
ginning, the Church contained the fact and, 
better than that, the use of those things 
which we now call Sacraments. 



That the Sacraments always included and 
could not but include the element of "sign," 
"symbol," is evident. The Water used in 
baptism symbolised at once the washing away 
of spiritual stains: also, as St Paul saw, it 
symbolised (especially when the candidate for 
baptism was often, though not always, im- 
mersed in the baptismal water) the complete 
passing away of the "old man," the merely 
natural man, and the emergence of the New 

32 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

Man, the supernatural self. The "bath" is a 
"bath of second and new birth." The Eu- 
charistic meal symbolised forthwith a unity 
among Christians, in charity, which any 
common meal, taken among men, naturally 
symbolises even in our Western world, and 
still more in the Eastern one. The Bread, 
one loaf of many grains, symbolised that 
mystical Body of Christ which the Church is. 
And the Breaking of the Bread, the Sacrifice 
of Christ upon the Cross; and again, the par- 
ticipation of all in that one Bread, the fellow- 
ship of Christians in Christ himself. The 
wine, again, so manifestly symbolised Christ's 
Blood outpoured in sacrifice, that the heresy 
of the Aquarians, who wished to use water 
instead of wine, stood condemned, if for no 
other reason, because the "sign" provided by 
the wine thus disappeared. The "imposition 
of hands," used in confirmation and in ordina- 
tion, was even more obviously a sign of the 
giving of the Holy Ghost when the metaphor 
of "God's Right Hand," meaning that same 
Holy Ghost, was more in use than it is now. 
The hand, issuing from clouds, so common in 
ancient days, was at once recognised as mean- 
ing the Holy Spirit; when the priest today, 
at the Blessing of the Font, plunges his hand 
into the water, this symbolises the same thing 
the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Oil, used 

33 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

in Confirmation, Ordination, and in the Sac- 
rament of the Sick, also carried an obvious 
symbolical value both to Jewish and ex-pagan 
converts. For among the Jews, the olive had 
always gone along with the vine and the fig- 
tree as symbol of prosperity, and oil had been 
poured on those who were consecrated to 
kingship and so forth, in sign of the gift of 
the richness of God's blessing. Among the 
Greeks, its use by athletes at once connected 
it with the idea of suppleness and strength. 
Marriage, even natural marriage among 
pagans, had always been fenced about with 
ceremonies expressive of union, even when 
that union was far rather one of possession 
by the man, than of true union between two. 
But the very event of a marriage, necessarily 
expressing itself outwardly, enabled St Paul 
to present it as the sign and symbol of a far 
higher union, that between Christ and his 
Church, and indeed the metaphor of Espousal 
as applied to the union between God and 
the chosen people, or God and the individual 
soul, was quite ancient and familiar. Finally, 
the whole concrete behaviour of penitent and 
priest, could not but express, exteriorly, the 
spiritual events of forgiveness and restoration 
to grace. 

Naturally enough, those Sacraments which 
were not only most necessary, but whose in- 

34 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

stitution was most vividly described in Scrip- 
ture, and whose material element was most 
obvious, such as water, bread and wine, were 
most dwelt upon by early writers; and, again 
naturally enough, the idea of their symbolic 
character was chiefly worked out in a place 
like Alexandria, where people tended to see 
signs in almost everything, and attached sym- 
bolical values to the most concrete historical 
events. The Latin world was far less inclined 
to look below the surface of things, yet here 
too from the beginning the "sign" value of 
Sacramental transactions is perfectly clear. 

St Augustine, who was very fond of work- 
ing out the notion of God's "traces" in nature 
even in connection with such doctrines as 
the Holy Trinity naturally elaborates the 
meaning of "signs" in general. He says that 
a "sign" is a thing which because of its out- 
ward form which it thrusts upon the senses, 
makes something else, by its own nature, 
come into the mind. A Sacrament, then, he 
says, is a "sacred sign of a spiritual object." 
It is a natural object that evokes the idea of, 
because picturing, a spiritual object. Of 
course he says much more than this; but we 
are keeping close to the "sign-element" in 
Sacraments. 

As the Middle Ages began to dawn, it was 
seen that men were insisting rather upon the 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

"mystery-element" in Sacraments, i.e., of the 
hiddenness of what was in them, rather than 
on the manifesting of the spiritual and in- 
visible by the material and visible. But the 
balance soon swung back, or ratherj reached 
a good equilibrium in Sacraments was seen 
both the outward sign, and the inward thing 
that was symbolised. The thing by its na- 
ture was "secret," because invisible; but it 
was meant to become visible by means of 
what signified its presence. 

[I might perhaps just mention here that 
you may often read the phrase "the matter 
and the form" of the Sacraments. This is a 
philosophical notion that need not really de- 
lay us. In practice it means that the exterior 
element in the Sacraments can be seen as 
consisting of two parts, one more general, like 
the water in baptism for water can stand 
for all sorts of things, as oil can^ or bread 
and the other more specifical and more 
accurately expressing what the general sym- 
bol really stands for in the circumstances; 
this second part consists of words or their 
equivalent actions: thus "I baptise thee" 
shows for what, precisely, the water is being 
used, and what, in consequence, it symbolises: 
something more is required than the mere 
fact of meeting and living together, to show 
that a man and woman really mean to 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

be husband and wife. And so for the rest. 

These philosophical terms, derived from 
Aristotle, have been found useful, so as to 
make clear what are the essential elements of 
the sacramental sign, i.e., what is necessary 
for the validity of the sacrament.} 

So far, then, it is at least clear how foolish 
are they who talk about Catholic Sacraments 
as "meaningless bits of ritual" and so forth. 
They include ritual; but since they are es- 
sentially and from the nature of the case 
signs, they cannot possibly be "meaningless." 



11 

We have, however, insisted that the Sacra- 
ments are a very special sort of "sign." They 
are not mere pictures. The essence of the 
matter is seen in phrases like: "you are saved 
by means of the bath of New Birth." "The 
grace which is in thee by means of the impo- 
sition of my hands." If I decide to become 
a Christian, and then go through a ceremony 
to show that I have acted on my decision, 
that ceremony is a sign of my decision, but 
need not be anything else. If I went to Holy 
Communion, and it made me remember the 
Passion, and this memory touched my heart, 
my act of Communion might well count as 
a "commemoration" of the Passion, which 
occasioned my having religious sentiments, 

37 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

but it still would not be more than an exterior 
commemoration, even symbolical, of a past 
event, such as my touching my hat when I 
pass the Cenotaph, which may well fill me 
with affectionate or patriotic emotions and 
resolves. Nay, even though on the occasion 
of my doing this or that, God gives me grace, 
the thing that I do remains merely the occa- 
sion of that gift. Thus I might do a kind 
act to a sick man, and on occasion of this 
God might bless and help me. But the doing 
of that act would not be a Sacrament. You 
see then the difference between a sign which 
is a mere representation of something else; 
and a sign of something invisible which is 
the mere occasion of my obtaining that in- 
visible thing; and a sign which is that by 
-means of which I obtain the invisible thing 
it symbolises. It is in this last sense that the 
Sacraments are Signs. 

Since the perfectly definite "by means of 3 ' 
so clearly to be read in the Scriptures, and the 
almost violent description of the effects pro- 
duced by good or bad Communions, given 
by St Paul (i Cor. xi), there could be no 
doubt as to the work done by the Sacra- 
mental Signs, which become, as Origen says 
(about 250 A. D.), symbols which are the 
"origin and fount" of the invisible thing they 
symbolise. The notion became clear pre- 
38 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

cisely by way of that double nature of man on 
which we have already insisted. The Sacra- 
ment was one thing, and yet it reached and 
affected both elements in man, the invisible 
spiritual soul no less than the body. When 
these very early writers asked themselves 
how this might be, they contented themselves 
on the whole by answering: "By means of the 
Spirit of Power of God, working in" the 
water, and so forth. The fact that a Sacra- 
ment is an efficacious symbol, as we now say, 
was then clearly realised well before Augus- 
tine. Cyprian, indeed, insists that the Euchar- 
ist at once symbolises, and is, the Sacrifice of 
Christ; it is a representation which contains 
the reality. In Augustine, the notion of 
efficacy is so strong, that he keeps saying that 
in the Sacrament it is Christ who acts; Christ 
who washes; Christ who cleanses. But it 
could still be argued that Augustine does not 
make clear the difference between a divine 
action on the occasion of a sacramental rite 
carried through and a divine action so bound 
to the rite that it is done through and by 
means of it. But you can see from an exam- 
ination of his whole mind that if you had 
asked him directly this question: Am I given 
grace by means of the Sacrament? he would 
have answered: Yes. But as language be- 
came ever more exact, keeping pace with 

39 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

thought ever more accurate, the nature of the 
bond between the divine action and the sacra- 
mental sign become perfectly clear. Hugh 
of St Victor (c. 1140) says: A sacrament is 
a corporal or material element, set forth ex- 
teriorly to the senses, which by its similarity 
portrays, and by its institution means, and 
by blessing contains some invisible and spir- 
itual grace. While Peter Lombard (c. 1150) 
says even more clearly: A Sacrament is 
properly so called because it is the sign of 
the grace of God, and the expression of in- 
visible grace, in such a way as to be not only 
its image, but its cause. 



m 

"What perhaps helped more swiftly than 
anything else to make this nature of a Sacra- 
ment "efficacious sign" quite clear, was 
a series of three questions: What exactly is it 
that is done to us by our using a Sacrament? 
Who can administer a Sacrament? if not just 
anyone, how far does the effect of the Sacra- 
ment depend on the person of its minister? 
and how far do my personal dispositions 
enter into the affair? does the good result 
obtained from using a Sacrament depend 
upon me? Many details of the answers to 
be given to these questions belong to other 
books of this series which deal with the Sacra- 

40 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

ments severally. Here I need do little more 
than get at the various principles involved, 
illustrating them by allusion to the several 
Sacraments rather than examining each Sac- 
rament separately. 

(a) The answer to the first question 
"What does the (due) use of a Sacrament 
bring about in me? was easily and imme- 
diately answered Sanctification. Baptism 
was from the very words of Christ seen to be 
absolutely necessary if the soul was to be 
saved at all. But salvation comes through 
grace and only through grace. Therefore 
sanctifying Grace is what is given through 
the use of the Sacraments. I need but add 
one point here. This grace is, quite simply, 
a divine life infused into the soul a super- 
natural union with God. Grace then is always 
and everywhere one and the same thing. But 
Grace may be given to a soul in which grace 
is not as to the unbaptised, or again to 
those who by mortal sin have lost grace; 
or, more grace may be given to those who 
already possess grace. There may be the first 
infusion of Grace, or the restoration of Grace, 
or the ever renewed intensification of Grace. 
Already, then, you can see that though the 
gift be, in all the Sacraments, one and the 
same thing, yet it may be given in various 
circumstances, and in fact is variously given 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

according to the circumstances of those using 
the various Sacraments for example, Bap- 
tism, Penance, or Confirmation. However, 
this is not the only difference between Sacra- 
ments. Marriage and Ordination, for ex- 
ample, are not just means of providing more 
grace to people who happen to be going to 
get married or be ordained. They are meant 
to provide them with grace because they are 
going to be married or ordained; that isj 
grace so acting as to help them in their cir- 
cumstances to sanctify them precisely as 
married people or as priests. That is, grace 
is given not just in general, but in view of 
the state upon which its recipients are enter- 
ing or in which they live and need special 
assistance. Baptism gives the first grace of 
all which unites a man to God through 
Christ: confirmation establishes him in this: 
penance restores a man to that supernatural 
life if he have lost it: the special needs of 
the married or of the clergy are obvious; 
so, too, are those of the sick: all our life 
through we have need of more and more 
grace, especially in difficult moments, and we 
gain it supremely through Holy Commun- 
ion. This special grace is called "sacramental 
grace," to distinguish it from "sanctifying" 
grace at large. 

The fact that the whole existence of the 

4* 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

Sacraments, and of each Sacrament, is con- 
cerned with the giving of Grace, involves a 
point so important that it may be touched 
on here. It is, that the Sacraments were in- 
stituted by Christ. Historically, this fact 
became emphasised for the very reason that 
we have been giving. It was because the 
Sacraments give grace, that men saw, and 
insisted on, the fact that they were instituted 
by Christ; it was not because they were in- 
stituted by Christ, that men concluded they 
gave grace. Both ways of looking at the 
thing can be true; but the former was the 
way in which men first and chiefly looked at 
it. The Sacraments give grace. But Grace 
is only given by God through the merits of 
Jesus Christ. Therefore if the gift of Grace 
is so annexed to the Sacraments as to make 
their reception (anyhow in the case of bap- 
tism) a sine qua non of salvation, they must 
have been of divine institution: but since 
everything in the Church, that is essential 
and substantial, was created by Christ him- 
self upon earth, therefore the Sacraments 
were instituted not just by God, but by the 
God-Man, Christ. 

Not that such a statement settles a variety 
of subsidiary questions, any more than the 
definition of the Council of Trent does, which 
simply states that the Sacraments were "all 

43 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

of them instituted by Jesus Christ;" and even 
the Modernist errors condemned by Pius X 
can be grouped under the general notion 
that it was not Christ who instituted the 
Sacraments in any real sense, but that they 
grew up under pressure of circumstances, 
either in the time of the Apostles or even 
after it, and began by being mere rites of 
various sorts, quite different in nature from 
anything we have been talking about. 

This clumsy notion is as alien to facts as 
would be the idea that for a Sacrament to 
have been instituted by Christ, it was neces- 
sary for Christ personally and in so many 
words to institute it just as it is at present 
carried out in the liturgy of the Church. The 
earlier writers of the Church did not go into 
details on the subject: no one ever disputed 
that Baptism and the Eucharist were insti- 
tuted by Christ in person and in a form from 
which the Church must never recede. But 
it was usually through something else that 
the point was reached and the fact asserted 
I mean, for example, it was the habit of the 
Gnostics to appeal to a kind of inner light, 
as settling truth and right, which drove an* 
Irenaeus to insist that the proper guardian of 
truth was the episcopate, whose origin was 
Christ himself by way of the Apostles, though 
Ignatius had already been clear enough on the 

44 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

subject. 1 But when it began to be thought 
that the administration of the Sacraments 
or at least their "matter and form" must 
always remain, and have remained, unchanged 
in every way, then writers were either forced 
to assert that Christ had so instituted them 
in person, or, since that would be very diffi- 
cult and in fact impossible to show, that he 
need not have instituted them in person at 
all, but that, for example, the Holy Ghost, 
not Christ, instituted Confirmation, and a 
Church council in the ninth century insti- 
tuted Penance (so Alexander of Hales, c. 
1245). In this department, Dominican and 
Franciscan schools of thought seem to have 
clashed not a little, the Franciscan ones go- 
ing too far away from the doctrine of insti- 
tution by Christ himself St Bonaventure, 
for example, allowing that Confirmation and 
Unction might have been instituted either by 
the Apostles or immediately after their death,; 
though by divine authority. There was, 
however, current the idea that Christ might 
have instituted the Sacraments quite gener- 
ally, and no more that is, have appointed 
the divine effect, leaving the method of its 
obtaining to the arrangement of his Church. 
The real point is reached when one sees 
that a man can be described as "instituting" 

1 Irenaeus fl. about 140-200; Ignatius, "f 107. 

45 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

a thing whether he does so in detail, or 
whether he initiates a thing only "in the 
rough," and leaves the working out of it to 
others. 

Take the case of Confirmation. You 
could, conceivably, imagine Christ saying: 
"When a man has been baptised, lay your 
hands on him and anoint him with oil, saying 
certain words: this sign will produce grace 
in him, such as to 'confirm' him and 'com- 
plete' his baptism." Or, "When a man has 
been baptised, he will require to be 'con- 
firmed': do this by some suitable sign." 
Though the Council of Trent has denned 
that all the Sacraments were instituted by 
Christ, which settles for us that they were 
not merely invented by the Apostles, nor 
merely grew up under pressure of circum- 
stances, yet that Council does not state in 
what way exactly they were instituted by 
Christ. It does not, to start with, follow 
that they were all instituted in the same way. 
But it would never be admitted by a Catholic 
theologian, and should not be asserted by 
any historian, that Christ merely gave the 
Apostles some vague hint that there were to 
be transactions of a sacramental sort in his 
Church, and then left them to do what they 
thought best in the matter. Apart from all 
other considerations, a historian would, I 

46 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

think, see that the older Apostles were so 
very conservative and among them all, per- 
haps, St James the most conservative that 
they would never have started anything at 
all unless they were quite sure that Christ 
meant them to do exactly that. Hence since 
no one ought to dispute that Baptism and 
the Eucharist were instituted immediately 
and explicitly by Christ Himself; and since 
the Apostles immediately began to confirm, 
and to ordain; and since it was precisely St 
James who promulgated what was to be done 
in the way of anointing the sick; and since 
it was St Paul (who positively piqued him- 
self on not being an innovator) who declares 
the sacramental value of Christian marriage; 
and given Christ's assertion that those sins 
which the Apostles remitted, were remitted 
and those that they retained, were retained 
with the necessary consequence that they 
would be called upon at times to remit and 
to retain sins we are right to be morally 
certain, historically, that the Apostles had 
Christ's direct order to do, in substance, all 
those things which we now know as the ad- 
ministration of the Sacraments. 

Historically, then, we can show that all 
the Sacraments can be connected up with 
something that Christ said; and a foundation 
for the assertion that he instituted them can 

47 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

be found in his own words: the general be- 
haviour and temperament of the Apostles 
bears out that herein they acted on some sort 
of mandate received from Christ in person: 
precisely in what way he gave it, save in 
the case of Baptism and the Eucharist,; we 
cannot ever know. What further is certain, 
is, that the Church cannot substantially alter 
anything that he instituted, though in what 
precisely the substance of the material ele- 
ment of the Sacrament, by his order, con- 
sists, again can be matter for discussion. 
What the Church has the perfect right to do 
is to ordain that a Sacrament has now to be 
administered in such and such a way, under 
pain of its being illicitly or even invalidly 
administered. Thus the Church can add 
conditions to the administering of the Sacra- 
ments, but she cannot subtract anything in 
them that is of Christ's ordaining and has 
been substantial in them from the beginning. 
Our purpose is rather the explanation of 
Catholic doctrine than the refutation of false 
doctrines. It is however so often said, nowa- 
days, that St Paul practically invented the 
Sacraments by introducing into certain cur- 
rent practices quite new ideas, that this 
theory has to be glanced at. I might notice, 
in passing, how far things have travelled 
since the time when the Sacraments were 

48 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

called "medieval accretions." So thoroughly 
"sacramental" is the earliest Church seen to 
have been, that no one short of St Paul is 
appealed to as the originator of Sacraments. 
Paul therefore is said to have borrowed re- 
ligious terms and notions from the "mystery- 
cults" of the contemporary pagans. These 
mystery religions involved the exercise of a 
great deal of magical ritual (magic is spoken 
of briefly below) and the recitation of for- 
mulas, so that the "initiate," as he was called, 
became on the one hand much impressed by 
the uncanny spectacles he had seen^ and, on 
the other, was convinced he now was guar- 
anteed to escape the dangers in the next 
world which were calculated to befall one 
who found himself there without some such 
magical preliminary. In more philosophical 
forms of these cults, a good deal of allegory 
was introduced, and a more philosophical 
initiate might maintain that in some sense 
he was incorporated with the god in whose 
honour the mystery was celebrated. Indeed, 
the god's history might be enacted during 
the celebration by means of a symbolical 
dance or other piece of ritual. Briefly: Paul 
knew of, as did everyone, the existence and 
general nature of mystery-cults, and once or 
twice remotely alludes, with contempt, to 
them. The rule observed by himself, St John, 

49 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

and early Christians in general, with regard 
to pagan forms of worship, was to keep from 
all contact with them: their abhorrence of 
them was almost ferocious. Paul does not 
use any of the characteristic words of the 
mystery-religions; he insists that he intro- 
duced nothing into the Christian creed or 
code that was new save, if you will, the 
emphasis laid by him on the truth that non- 
Jews were to be admitted as freely into the 
Church as Jews were, and, that none of them 
had to observe the Jewish ritual. The mys- 
teries moreover were expensive affairs, and 
reserved for a small minority who were 
pledged under secrecy to reveal nothing that 
they experienced; Christianity on the other 
hand was for all. Christianity was a doc- 
trine; there was no doctrine in the mysteries 
they affected not the intelligence, but the 
imagination and the nerves. The whole 
method and effect of the mysteries was 
"magical" you recited the due formula, 
performed the proper programme, and the 
effects occurred automatically. There was 
nothing moral about the mysteries, the purity 
you there gained was merely a ritual one 
in the concrete the celebration of the mys- 
teries was anything but pure: one writer 
has called them a mixture of shambles and 
brothel. If anyone imagines that Paul is 

So 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

going deliberately to borrow or even un- 
consciously to absorb anything from such a 
source, with which to improve the Faith to 
which he had turned, we abandon such a 
critic as foolish, or, as determined to discover 
at any and every cost some non-Christian 
source for the Christian Sacraments. 

(&) The Sacraments therefore receive their 
efficacy from Christ. What then is the role 
played by the "minister" of the Sacrament? 
for after all you cannot baptise nor confirm 
nor ordain nor anoint nor absolve yourself, 
nor can a layman at any rate consecrate the 
Eucharist; and though the man and the wo- 
man are the ministers, each to the other, of 
the sacrament of Marriage, yet each does 
require the other, and obviously cannot ad- 
minister that Sacrament to himself by him- 
self. 

Again, the role of the minister in the ad- 
ministration of Sacraments did not come up 
on, so to say, its own merits, but, because of 
the claim of heretics to administer the Sacra- 
ments equally with the orthodox. This claim 
seemed so horrible to certain groups, or to 
fierce-tempered individuals like the African 
Cyprian, that, on the grounds that where 
the Church was not, the Holy Spirit was not, 
and where he was not, nothing of a sancti- 
fying nature could exist, and therefore not 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

the Sacraments, they denied to heretic min- 
isters the power to administer any Sacrament 
whatsoever validly. This dispute will be 
found explained, and the course it took, in 
the pages of this series dealing with Baptism 
and Orders. But behind that dispute existed 
the universally admitted certainty, that a 
proper minister is necessary in the case of 
each and every Sacrament, and the dispute 
really turned upon the question Who was 
the proper one? It was, all admitted, the 
"word" of the proper minister that made the 
bread to be Christ's Body, that made the 
water to be no mere water^ but baptismal 
water. This conjunction of the word with 
the thing, so that a moral whole was created, 
supplied that due material element through 
which the Spirit of God could act. But the 
minister was not ever regarded simply as a 
man. Had he been so regarded, certainly 
much might have turned upon his moral or 
mental dispositions. But he was definitely 
regarded as representing, in his person, the 
Church; and the Church was the continua- 
tion of Christ, and the dwelling place of his 
Spirit. Therefore, albeit it was a man who 
spoke the words, Christ spoke through them 
"Christ cleanses/" 

It is therefore certain that the moral con- 
dition of the minister of the Sacrament does 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

not interfere with its validity on its own 
account. The mere fact that his soul has 
sin in it, does not render him useless as an 
instrument in the hands of the Church and 
of Christ, for the "making" of the Sacra- 
ment. It is desirable, in every way, that a 
priest, for example, should be a holy and 
even a cultured man. But the fact that he 
is immoral, or boorish, cannot affect the 
Sacrament as such. Certainly a devout priest 
will obtain, by his holiness and the fervour 
of his prayerj additional grace for those on 
whose behalf he administers a Sacrament; but 
this is a consideration exterior to the essence 
of the Sacrament itself. Similarly, two 
people who intend to get married and go 
through the marriage ceremony in proper 
circumstances, may, if they be frivolous, ob- 
tain little enough actual grace, but they will 
be truly married, and have administered to 
one another the Sacrament. It is very im- 
portant even here to distinguish between a 
valid Sacrament and a fruitful one. 

Is there then no way in which the minister 
can interfere with the validity of the rite he 
accomplishes? Certainly, but only one 
that is, by not "intending" to accomplish a 
Sacramental rite at all, even though he goes 
through the ritual quite scrupulously. Illus- 
trate this as follows. If an unbaptised per- 

53 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

son says to me: I do not intend to become a 
Christian, but I wish you would show me 
how people are baptised. And if I were to 
answer: Very well. I do not intend to bap- 
tise you; but were I to do so, this is how I 
would do it and proceeded to pour the 
water, pronouncing the words. I did not 
mean to baptise the person, and the person 
did not intend to be baptised; therefore I did 
not baptise him despite the complete per- 
formance of the ritual. After all, this is 
the merest common sense. In just the same 
way, if a woman, for example, is forced to 
go through a marriage ceremony, and does 
so, but does not intend that her submission 
to the rite should mean a real marriage, mar- 
ried she is not. Observe what a denial of this 
would imply. It would mean that a woman 
could be married off, willy nilly, like a head 
of cattle. All civilised persons would reject 
so barbarous a notion. 

However, just what sort of intention must 
the minister have? He must have "the in- 
tention of doing what the Church does." 
The Council of Trent, while denning that 
intention was necessary, did not settle 
whether a purely external intention of doing 
the rite properly sufficed, or whether some 
deeper kind of intention was needed too. 
It is at least certain that the minister need 

54 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

not personally believe that the Church's doc- 
trine is true: provided he intends to do what 
the Church does, whatever that may be, he 
does do it. Of course, if the minister in- 
tends, positively, to do something different 
from what the Church does, he has not the 
requisite intention: I mention this, because 
while the ordaining bishops in the days of 
the Protestant revolution in this country 
would undoubtedly have said that they meant 
to do what Christ did when ordaining, and 
therefore, what his true Church did, yet they 
meant definitely not to create sacrificing- 
priests in the old sense; therefore they did 
not create them. Add to this that the men 
who were then being ordained had not the 
slightest intention of being made priests in 
the old sense. So, owing to this double lack 
of due intention (as well as for other rea- 
sons) , the old sort of priest was not made. The 
traditional sort of Order was no more given. 
(c) This leads us to the final question, 
How far do the dispositions of the recipient 
of the Sacrament affect its work in his soul? 
The question was most urgently asked when 
the Reformers began to say that nothing 
save the dispositions of the recipient mattered. 
There could be two extremes one, where the 
action of the Sacrament would be described 
as purely mechanical; carry the rite through, 

55 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

and then, whatever be your interior disposi- 
tions, its effect is produced; this would be 
the extreme of "magic:" the other extreme 
would involve (as among many of the Re- 
formers it actually did) the assertion that the 
minister and the form of administration mat- 
tered nothing at all; all that mattered was 
the faith of the recipient: this would be com- 
plete subjectivism. Anyhow the question, 
so far as Catholic doctrine goes, has already 
been half answered above. If the subject to 
whom the sacramental rite is administered, 
does not in any sense intend to receive the 
Sacrament, he does not receive it. I say, 
"in any sense," because there can be such a 
thing as an habitual intention: the recipient 
may be distracted at the moment and not 
think about what he is doing; or (in the case, 
for example, of Penance and the Eucharist) 
the action may have become so customary 
that he does what he does without reflecting 
on the nature of his action at all. However, 
were you to interrupt, and ask him what he 
intends to be doing, he would answer that 
he means to be getting absolved, or to be 
receiving Communion. He has therefore an 
habitual intention, and validly, so far as that 
is concerned, receives the Sacrament in ques- 
tion. In order not to receive it, he has s0 
to retract his original intention as to will not 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

to receive it. But that original intention is 
necessary. It is not sufficient simply to offer 
no resistance. 

The special question of Baptism being 
given to unconscious children is treated of in 
the book upon that Sacrament. Enough here 
to say that the will of the Church, and in a 
sense of the parents or sponsors, creates a 
social solidarity such that the child, embedded 
therein, can be answered for by that will. 

But the real problem arises when a man 
approaches a Sacrament with such disposi- 
tions as to present an obstacle to grace. Such 
obstacle, in the case of the "Sacraments of 
the Living," x would be mortal sin; in the 
case of the "Sacraments of the Dead," unre- 
pented mortal sin. The question is particu- 
larly important for those Sacraments which 
cannot be repeated i.e.. Baptism, Confir- 
mation, Orders and Matrimony (which can- 
not be repeated, at any rate, while the matri- 
monial bond persists) . If I approach these 
sacraments with an obstacle to grace, yet de- 
siring to receive the sacrament, I am indeed 
validly baptised, confirmed, ordained, or mar- 
ried, but, I cannot actually receive grace 
(which is the union of the soul with God) , 

a The Sacraments of the Living are those which pre- 
suppose the state of grace in the recipient i.e., all the 
sacraments except Baptism and Penance, which two are 
called Sacraments of the Dead. 

57 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

since I am all the while resolving to be dis- 
united from him. What then happens? 
Theologians teach that the grace of the Sac- 
rament is produced in my soul when I re- 
move the obstacle set by my evil will. 

Does this then mean that the whole of the 
effects of the Sacraments are achieved within 
me if I merely interpose no obstacle of evil 
will to those effects? Is grace given wholly 
"ex opere operato," as they say by means 
of the work donet the mere subjecting my- 
self to a certain rite? By no means. There 
is also the effect which comes "ex opere 
operands," which means, through the effort 
I myself put into the transaction. If I ap- 
proach a Sacrament without an obstacle to 
grace indeed, yet dully, Grace will no doubt 
reach me: but if I approach it with, so to 
say, an appetite, Grace will be appropriated 
and assimilated by me far more richly. All 
our Christian religious life, and our sacra- 
mental life most certainly, is in reality co- 
operative. The special feature about Christ's 
activity is, that it always comes first the 
very impulse to seek or desire a Sacrament or 
any other good thing comes from God before 
it exists in our own heart; and, that it creates, 
and creates what is supernatural, whereas our 
own best efforts, unaided, cannot create more 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

than what is commensurate to them, that is, 
what is natural. I cannot lift myself up by 
the hair of my own head. 

Three Sacraments, then, produce an effect 
such that they cannot be repeated. They im- 
press upon the soul what is called a "Char- 
acter," or seal. The sacramental "Character" 
is not grace, but is a separate effect produced 
in the soul by the three sacraments of Bap- 
tism, Confirmation, and Orders. They place 
my soul for ever in a special relation to 
Christ, and I cannot be replaced in it. I am 
for ever a baptised, confirmed, or ordained 
person. Even apostasy cannot alter this fact. 
Even though, by my evil will, I prevent the 
Sacrament from producing grace within me, 
yet I cannot prevent it from producing this 
"Character," if I will to receive the Sacra- 
ment validly at all. The theory of the Sac- 
ramental Character followed on the Church's 
consistent practice of not re-baptising, re- 
confirming, re-ordaining anyone who had 
properly been baptised and the rest. The 
controversies on this matter concerned, not 
the principle, but the concrete question 
whether so and so had been properly baptised, 
and the rest. I think that further discussion 
of these points, and of allied speculations, is 
now unnecessary. 

59 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

Certain critics of the Catholic Faith and 
practice are never tired of denouncing the 
Sacraments as pieces of "magic." It is seen 
by now how wrong at every point they are. 
A magical transaction would be of the fol- 
lowing nature. I repeat a formula, or per- 
form an act, like "Open Sesame!" or, sticking 
pins into a wax figure of my enemy, either 
without knowing why, or merely because 
someone whom I consider to know why, tells 
me to. Automatically, an effect takes place, 
such as, a door opening, or the sickness and 
death of my foe. All I have to do, is, to 
carry my part through with mechanical ac- 
curacy. In the use of a Sacrament, first of 
all, the rite means something: it is a sign. 
Further, I use that rite because Christ, the 
Son of God, appointed it and told me to use 
it. Further, I do so, not because there are 
any mechanical consequences attached to it, 
but because it is the cause in me of Grace, 
a purely supernatural thing of which God 
alone is the origin and giver. Again, he 
who administers to me that rite, does not do 
so in any private capacity, nor because he 
has the key to certain spells or pieces of 
esoteric knowledge, but because he acts as 
the Church's minister, and she acts in him, 
and Christ acts in her. Finally, whether or 
no the Sacrament be fruitful in me, depends 

60 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

on my intention and will, wholly or in part. 
Hence at no point do a magical transaction 
and a sacramental transaction coincide. 

iv 

Before concluding, it may be of service to 
summarise the teaching of the Council of 
Trent, our classical source of information, 
upon the Sacraments in general. That 
Council denounces those who should say that 
the Sacraments of the New Law were not, 
all of them, instituted by Christ, or, that they 
are more, or fewer, than the seven often 
enumerated above. That any of these is not 
a true and proper Sacrament. That these 
Christian Sacraments differ in no way from 
Old Testament Sacraments save in their cere- 
monial. (Observe, that this implies that 
there were Sacraments under the old Law, 
but that they were different from ours. The 
main differences are, that the Old . Testa- 
ment Sacraments were indeed Signs instituted 
by God, but that they looked forward to and 
promised the Grace of Christ, yet did not 
impart it: in so far as they were efficacious 
signs, they effected not a moral, but a legal 
and ritual purity.) The Council proceeds 
to denounce anyone who says that the Seven 
Sacraments are all of them on an equal foot- 
ing, so that none is in any way nobler than 

61 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

another (clearly Baptism, an absolutely neces- 
sary Sacrament, is on a different footing 
from Marriage or Ordination, since no one 
is obliged to get married or ordained) . That 
the Sacraments of the New Law are not 
necessary for salvation, but superfluous, and 
that without them or the desire of them a 
man obtains the grace of justification from 
God by means of faith alone. Not, the 
Council adds, that all the Sacraments are 
necessary for each and every man. The allu- 
sion to the "desire" for a Sacrament alludes 
primarily to "baptism by desire," which is 
explained in the book on baptism: briefly 
it means that if a man does not know of 
baptism, he can (by means of an act of per- 
fect charity, that is, of love of God for his 
own sake, and of detestation of sin for his 
sake, with the implied readiness to do all that 
God might command him, if he knew it) 
obtain grace and salvation. Similarly, if he 
knows of baptism, and wishes for it, and can- 
not obtain e.g. anyone to baptise him, or 
water, he can cleanse his soul from sin, as I 
have just explained. The "faith" alluded 
to by the Council means faith as Protestants 
conceived of it, i.e., trust. The Council fur- 
ther denounces one who should say that Sac- 
\ raments exist only in order to nourish faith 
in the recipient. That they do not contain 



THEOLOGY OF THE SACRAMENTS 

the Grace that they signify, or do not confer 
that grace upon those who interpose no ob- 
stacle, as though they were merely external 
signs of grace or justice, received by means 
of faith, or were mere marks, as it were, of 
the Christian profession, whereby believers 
might be distinguished from unbelievers. Or 
that Grace is not always given, and to all, 
so far as God's action goes, even if the Sacra- 
ment be duly received; but only sometimes, 
and to certain persons. (This regards the 
false Protestant doctrines of predestination, 
according to which God so predestines cer- 
tain souls to hell, that no matter what they 
desire and do, they are not given Grace.) Or 
that Grace is not given through the Chris- 
tian Sacraments "ex opere operato," but that 
sheer trust in the divine promise suffices for 
the obtaining of Grace. That the three Sac- 
raments, Baptism, Confirmation, Orders, do 
not impress a "character" on the soul, that 
is, a spiritual and indelible sign, so that these 
three Sacraments cannot be reiterated. Or 
that all Christians have power to celebrate 
and administer all the sacraments. That the 
intention at least of doing what the Church 
does, is not required in the ministers when 
they celebrate and impart the Sacraments. 
That a sinful minister, who observes all the 
essential elements in the celebration or impart- 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

ing of a sacrament, yet does not celebrate or 
impart it at all. Finally, that the traditional 
Catholic rites, wherewith the sacraments are 
surrounded, can be despised, omitted, or al- 
tered at the whim of any and every pastor. 

As for the errors of Modernism, condemned 
by Pius X, which concern the Sacraments, 
I have sufficiently indicated their general 
character. Those which touch upon the na- 
ture of Sacraments at large are, that the 
opinions concerning the origin of Sacra- 
ments, entertained by the Fathers of the 
Council of Trent and doubtless colouring 
their dogmatic decisions, are very different 
from those which are now rightly admitted 
by those who study the history of Christian- 
ity. That the Sacraments took their rise 
from the Apostles and their successors who 
interpreted some idea or intention of Christ 
according to the suggestion or impulse of 
circumstances. That the aim of Sacraments 
is merely to recall to men's minds the ever- 
beneficent presence of the Creator. 

How such doctrines fly in the face of the 
traditional Catholic dogma concerning the 
Sacraments, must by now be clear. 



CHAPTER V 

RECAPITULATION 

TURNING our eyes back, then, to those brief 
records of the life of Christ that the four 
Gospels are, we see that the Eternal Son of 
God was sent to redeem our race, and to 
elevate it to an unthinkably lofty state of 
union with its God, and was sent to do all 
this as Man, and by means of his manhood. 
We see that no thing that was in man did he 
despise: no human element did he fail to 
make his own. He did not, if I dare say so, 
just verify in himself the definition of "man," 
but in every way he lived as man in this our 
world of human men and women and of all 
material things. In his teaching he constantly 
helped himself, and his hearers, by using the 
things he saw around him for the conveying 
of his doctrine; and submitted himself not 
only to the rich and meaningful ritual of the 
Law, and was circumcised, and went to the 
Temple feasts, and observed the Pasch, and 
so forth, but spontaneously, for his own rea- 
sons, sought for and carried through an action 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

that in his case seems to us almost uncalled- 
for. He was baptised by John. Thus Christ 
our Lord was human, and lived as man 
among men, and used all simple and human 
things during his life, and caught them up 
into his own spiritual life, and wove them 
into his teaching. 

Hence we are not surprised to find him- 
saying that we too, his disciples, are to be 
dipped in water; salvation is to come, not 
just to him who "believes/* but to him who 
believes and is baptised. If we are surprised 
at anything herein, it is at the sudden increase 
of solemnity that invests his words when this 
topic of baptism arises. When after his 
resurrection he sends forth his apostles to that 
world-wide, world-enduring work that he 
came to inaugurate, he bids them not only 
to baptise, but to do so in a manner that 
involves the invocation of the whole of the 
Most Blessed Trinity the Father, the Son, 
and the Spirit, are all knit into this tremen- 
dous act; and into it, you would say, all that 
is, is taken up man's new birth, that trans- 
forms him from being child of earth into 
son of God, takes place by means of "water 
and the Spirit," the two in conjunction and 
co-operation: the new World of Grace is 
definitely seen in mysterious parallel with that 
first creation, when the Spirit of God was 

66 



RECAPITULATION 

borne over the face of the watery abyss and 
earth took shape and the world grew into 
life. 

Along with this, at the most solemn hour 
of all, when he was about to leave the house 
where for the last time before his Passion he 
had eaten with the men he loved and chose, 
he orders them to do what he has just done 
to take bread, to bless and break it to take 
wine, and to bless it and then to partake in 
what has been blessed, because it is his Body 
and his Blood Himself. What should be 
the consequences of entering thus into him- 
self, and receiving himself into us, if not the 
living by an intertwined life, his and ours? 
We become "one thing" with him, even as 
he with the Father is "One Thing." And if 
indeed it be true that without the New Birth 
by water and the Spirit, we cannot be said to 
live at all from the Christian point of view, 
so, in his words in the synagogue of Caphar- 
naum, he insists and re-insists that without 
this eating of his Flesh and drinking of his 
Blood, we cannot maintain that new life, still 
less develop it and bring it to its consumma- 
tion. 

There is another moment of exceptional 
solemnity when, breathing on his apostles, 
he tells them that they now possess the Holy 
Ghost, and adds that the sins they remit, are 

67 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

remitted, and the sins that they retain, are 
likewise retained. Elsewhere, doubtless, he 
definitely wishes his apostles to give a special, 
healing, Christian care to the sick; and cer- 
tainly he insists that the old permission for 
divorce, dating from Moses, was now to be 
regarded as over and done with, and indeed 
become impossible, for it is God, he says, that 
joins the hands and lives of those who marry. 

Sometimes then by Solemn declarations, 
sometimes by gentle hints and suggestions, 
amplified, it may be, in unrecorded parts of 
his instruction during those Forty Days after 
his resurrection when he must have fulfilled 
his intention of telling them the "many 
things" that earlier they "could not bear," 
or, perhaps, left just as hints to men whom 
his Spirit was going to guide into using even 
his hints aright well* by grave asseverations, 
or by quiet suggestion, he prepared the 
Apostles for their work* and started them off 
on that career which was to be theirs, and 
which was to continue itself in all the 
Church's history. 

Pentecost comes: the Spirit is given, and 
the Apostolic Age of the Church's history 
begins. From the outset we see that there 
is one Gate into that Church Baptism. 
"Here is water! What hinders me from be- 
ing baptised?" asks the convert officer. With- 

68 



RECAPITULATION 

out the slightest question, baptism, follows 
upon conversion. This mighty action is in- 
stalled upon the very highest plane: there 
is One Baptism just as there are one Faith, 
one Lord, one God. Into the baptismal laver 
we descend, just the men to whom our 
mothers gave life: we come forth therefrom, 
a New Creation, new-born, Christ-men: our 
lives are hid in Christ, and in us, Christ lives. 
And forthwith after Baptism, we see the 
Apostles again without discussion "laying 
hands" upon the new Christian, and at once 
the Holy Ghost is given; and similarly, when 
men are set apart for the Christian ministry, 
hands are laid upon them, the Holy Ghost 
descends, and a permanent gift exists within 
the man by means of this imposition of hands, 
so that it can be invoked, and stimulated by 
the will of him who has received it, for it 
is always there. 

Marriage, too, is declared by Paul to be a 
mighty "mystery," or symbol: henceforward 
it is not to be thought of save in terms of 
Christ and of his Church, between whom 
Grace has achieved an ineffable espousal; and 
James, manifestly initiating nothing but set- 
ting order in and explaining a rite already 
familiar and authoritative, bids the sick to be 
anointed so that sins be forgiven them, and 
they be saved. And even in life, men can be 

69 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

(as St Paul's action with regard to the inces- 
tuous Corinthian proves) cut off from the 
body of the Church, handed over to Satan, 
and thereafter, on the Apostle's own terms, 
reinstated. 

Finally, yet with paramount dignity, the 
Breaking of Bread is established among Chris- 
tians, and Paul leaves us in no doubt as to its 
meaning. It involves a real participation in 
the life and sacrifice of Christ, such that the 
soul, that shares in that Feast unworthily, 
becomes guilty in regard of the Body and 
Blood of Christ himself, and sickens to its 
death. The Eucharist is, in a unique sense, 
what it signifies. 

The Apostles passed: the Christians of the 
Early Church continued happily heaven- 
wise happily in their human-wise tragic con- 
ditions; living their Christian life; living in 
company with Christ, and experiencing his 
presence, experiencing too those overwhelm- 
ing gifts of the Spirit that were so necessary 
in days when there was no other accumulated 
experience such as we have, of what Chris- 
tianity means and can do for men; and using 
in all simplicity the practices that they had 
been taught to use. For a while there was 
little enough speculation, though even from 
the outset they began to draw conclusions 
sometimes exaggerated and mistaken ones, as 

70 



RECAPITULATION 

when it seems pretty clear that some of St 
Paul's converts were so impressed by the 
"life" which they had understood was given 
by baptism, that they were surprised and 
almost shocked when a convert died so much 
as physically, and anyway, felt sure that there 
must be some method of baptising, by proxy, 
those who had already died but would, they 
felt certain, have wished for baptism had 
they lived. Others soon enough were to sur- 
mise that Communion that "medicine that 
makes immortal" must confer even bodily 
incorruption; and others, again, began to 
wonder whether the Holy Ghost did not 
somehow actually take up his dwelling in the 
baptismal water, and whether the reality in 
that water were not somehow similar to that 
veiled beneath the Eucharistic Bread. It will 
be noticed that all the mistakes lie on the 
side of reality, not of understatement, so very 
far were they from imagining that the Sac- 
raments were mere ways of suggesting pious 
thoughts, of evoking faith, and so forth, or 
that the virtue of the Sacrament was wholly 
in the well-disposed recipient. 

Naturally, the two all-important Sacra- 
ments, Baptism and Eucharist, the necessary 
ingress into the Christian Life, and the un- 
utterably precious "daily bread" of the living 
soul, were what immediately and outstand- 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

ingly occupied the minds of those who had, 
after all, constantly to make use of the lat- 
ter when once they had made the vitally 
necessary use of the former. Naturally, too, 
I suppose, it was in the Latin half of the 
Empire Africa, at any rate that attention 
was first notably given to the Sacrament of 
Penance that rectification of violated Law. 
The Romans always understood Law better 
than the Greeks did; and the lawyer Tertul- 
lian, the first Christian thinker who wrote 
in Latin, began according to his temperament 
to think this topic out. Doubtless that same 
temperament, hard and even ferocious at 
times, caused him to err in his views of the 
merciful sacrament: still, he rendered great 
services to those who were, more accurately, 
to follow him. At first it may seem strange 
that along with Penance, Confirmation 
claimed his more close attention. Yet not 
strange; for Tertullian, personally, and like 
all good Roman men, was a soldier, and in 
the vigorous Sacrament he detected something 
that harmonised with his idea of what a 
Christian, militant in this antagonistic world, 
ought to be. 

Not much later, another African, Cyprian, 
again rendered great service to the better 
elucidation of the Sacraments of Baptism and 
of Order, because the tendency of his com- 

7* 



RECAPITULATION 

patriots to split off into a mere nationalist 
church, forced his attention to all that con- 
cerned unity and schism; and so passionate 
was his abhorrence of the latter, that inevi- 
tably he tended to deny to heretics and schis- 
matics powers that they actually possessed, 
or could possess, those, that is, of ordaining 
and baptising. Here then the question of 
who was the due minister of these or of other 
Sacraments began to get aired, and again, of 
Intention; and again, the fact of the non-re- 
petition of baptism, confirmation, and orders, 
if once it could be shown that they had been 
properly conferred, struck out the clear no- 
tion of the sacramental Character or Seal; 
while the deaths of unbaptised martyrs 
brought into the open the idea of baptism of 
blood, and by desire. Even, the tremendous 
importance seen to belong to the Blessing 
given by the minister of a Sacrament,; to the 
material element used in it, made a remote 
preparation for that theory of "matter and 
form" in Sacraments that was to have so 
great an historical importance later on. 

Thus little by little the thing that Chris- 
tians had always possessed and serenely made 
use of, came to be better understood, more 
clearly described and defined, shielded against 
abuse, linked up with other parts of the 
Christian Faith and practice, and to take its 

73 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

place within that mighty system of Theology 
that the ages are still bringing towards per- 
fection. 

The colossal figure of St Augustine domi- 
nated the imagination of the centuries that 
succeeded him; he did not complete the 
theology of the Sacraments: but scattered up 
and down his works may be found practically 
all the elements that were to compose it. It 
was he, perhaps, that brought into promi- 
nence the action of Christ himself in the sev- 
eral Sacraments, and who developed the 
notion of Character, and again, of that re- 
vival of Grace of which we spoke, when an 
obstacle placed by the human will in the way 
of the fruitful effects of a validly adminis- 
tered Sacrament was at last removed. This 
cleared up most usefully the problem which 
confronted those who observed that heretics 
of a manifestly rebellious sort were ordain- 
ing priests, who themselves continued rebel- 
lious and ill-disposed. They had felt it was 
all or nothing either these ordinations were 
valid, and then it looked as if a contumacious 
rebel could confer grace upon another con- 
tumacious rebel; or, that the ordination was 
not valid at all, and must be repeated when 
the heretic was converted. In its measure 
this problem had affected Confirmation too 
and even Baptism. However, the explana- 

74 



RECAPITULATION 

tion that a Sacrament could indeed be valid 
and therefore produce the Character, al- 
though grace was excluded so long as the 
obstacle remained, solved the difficulty, which 
returned however, when in the bad centuries 
of Europe the reformation of incontinent 
clergy which had obtained its ecclesiastical 
position by simony had to be thought . of. 
The practical question of whether these men 
had to be reordained when they repented 
can be solved along Augustinian lines without 
much difficulty. 1 

As I said, the theology of St Augustine 
contained in itself practically all the elements 
of a complete treatise upon the Sacraments. 
Not much was left to do but to co-ordinate 
them. When therefore all the elements 
which composed a Sacrament in the strict 
sense were set before the eyes, it was easily 
enough seen that seven rites, and no more 
nor less, contained them all. Hence we are 
not to be surprised when we find that a 
writer so far forward in the Church's history 
as Peter Lombard (c. njo) was the first 
definitely to catalogue the Sacraments as 
Seven. Other rites were seen to approximate 
to them, and to contain some but not all of 

1 There are theologians who suggest that all the Sacra- 
ments give grace that revives when an obstacle* set by 
sinful will, is removed. 

75 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

the requisite elements, and could be called 
with greater or less accuracy Sacramentals, 
but not Sacraments. 

I think it may safely be said that after the 
Middle Ages little more that was constructive 
in sacramental theology was done. Certain 
points were cleared up the distinction be- 
tween the opus operatum and the opus 
operantis was made explicit; the kind of 
causality brought into play when a Sacra- 
ment was described as "causing" Grace was 
thought out, and so forth. Since then what 
has really happened has been that the history 
of the several Sacraments has been far more 
closely studied, and the Catholic theory has 
been defended against attacks far more vigor- 
ous and definite than the old ones were. For 
of course the religious revolution of the fif- 
teenth and sixteenth centuries, with its claim 
to reinstate Christ in the position from which 
the cultus of Saints, ritual, sacerdotalism, the 
Papal authority j and so forth were said to 
have dislodged him, did all that it could to 
discredit the Catholic doctrine with regard to 
Sacraments in particular. If you had to find 
one word in which to crystallise the Catholic 
sacramental tradition, I think it would be 
"Efficacy." The Sacraments are, as we see, 
efficacious of themselves. It was this that the 
Reformers attacked. A Sacrament was an 



RECAPITULATION 

absolutely inert thing. They could not elim- 
inate all the Sacraments (as a matter of fact, 
the Quakers did, as the Salvation Army today 
also does) , but they got rid of five out of the 
seven, and then stripped the two that re- 
mained of any intrinsic value or force. The 
whole "work" was done by the recipient. He 
arrived with that trust in God to which the 
word "faith" was attached, and on the 
grounds of that faith, good was accomplished 
within him. At least this much credit has 
to be done to the Reformers they believed 
in certain fundamental things, such as sin 
and grace, forgiveness and salvation, to which 
modern creeds pay practically no attention at 
all. None the less, the Reformation was the 
immediate ancestor of that scepticism which 
today pervades almost everything religious, 
and has succeeded in making modern non- 
Catholics forget, above all, anything con- 
nected with the dogma of the Supernatural 
as such. But, as we saw, the Sacraments 
have no meaning save on the Supernatural 
plane. 

Catholics may well be grateful for the 
institution by our Lord Jesus Christ of those 
Seven Sacraments that we have been speaking 
of. We have had once or twice to look aside 
from the Catholic doctrine to those alien 
systems, or that alien chaos, that confronts 

77 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

all that we mean by the Sacramental System. 
We can afford to smile when non-Catholics 
talk of "meaningless" or "magical" rites, and 
we need not retort with gibes of "subjec- 
tivism," for not only are all gibes, directed 
even to the most mistaken of honest and sin- 
cere men, out of place, but they have prac- 
tically come to be off the point, for, save 
among Catholics, there is today very little 
theory about Sacraments at all, and less and 
less use of them or of their substitutes. 

As always, this doctrine carries us back to 
the love of God for man. Why, unless God 
had loved us, should he have willed so much 
as to offer us the gift of Supernatural Life, 
and why, save again because he loved us, 
should he have willed to restore to us that 
life, once our race had lost it through sin? 
"Well, he did decree to restore us to the place 
from which the race, in Adam, had fallen; 
and that restoration was not to be done as it 
were in some technical way, as though, for 
example, God taught us just how to make 
a "good act of contrition," and thereupon 
pronounced us once again his sons. The re- 
demption and restoration of mankind was to 
be done through God's eternal Son taking 
our human flesh so as to knit up our nature 
with his divine nature into one person, Jesus 
Christ. This torrential invasion of God's 

78 



RECAPITULATION 

love makes any sacramental doctrine we may 
proceed to tell of, quite "natural," since 
never can the Sacraments catch up, in their 
tender intimacy, with that tremendous and 
total approach of God in human guise. Or is 
there a way in which one of them, at least, so 
catches up? I suggest it in a moment. At 
any rate, God has entered our world as man, 
and in a sense, Christ himself can be called 
the Supreme Sacrament, since his humanity 
veils, yet is the vehicle of, his invisible divini- 
ty, and through that Humanity the eternal 
God energises and does his work in our souls 
if we but make use of him. 

But, after all, Jesus Christ our Lord no 
longer treads this earth. He has left it, and 
"sits ever at the right hand of the Father." 
Yet would he not leave us desolate and with- 
out himself. In that visible-invisible Society 
which the Church is, he continues himself, 
and in the Church lives and teaches and 
rules and gives life to the world. 

But that Church, like her Head, has never 
preached some chill doctrine of the salvation 
of our souls such that we must think that our 
bodies are of no interest or value. We are 
and ever hereafter shall be true men, body- 
soul, however much our bodies shall be per- 
fected and exalted by glory. And in many 
ways, though in seven chief and special ways, 

79 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

Grace, that is the germ of glory, reaches us, 
and all of these ways most mercifully take 
into account our bodies as well as our souls. 
Simple elements are taken up by Christ, and 
are made the visible part in those transactions 
through which we appropriate salvation. For 
ever, henceforward, Water must be regarded 
by us with awe and affection, since Christ 
has used it in his Sacrament of Baptism. 
Drowning and barren water has become that 
which washes from us all spiritual stain, and 
that from which we ascend, new-born sons 
to God. He takes that ancient gift of Oil, 
in which our forefathers saw so many hints 
of the richness and grace of God, and anoints 
and consecrates us by its means anoints our 
youth, that it may be strong for God and 
joyous in God; anoints the men who are to 
be priests, the royal priests, of God Most 
High; anoints too those sick who stand in 
such special need of consolation and spiritual 
power. Is there not a quite special tender- 
ness in the fact that the Sacrament of Mar- 
riage takes not, this time, some non-human 
element, but the human action and will of 
two human beings who should love one an- 
other and who desire to join in building up 
that true vital cell of the full human life, 
which a home is? The contract that these 
two freely enter upon, is the very stuff of 

80 



RECAPITULATION 

God's Sacrament; and, again a special deli- 
cacy of his goodness, it is these same two, the 
man and the woman, who are ministers of 
this Sacrament, and give to one another the 
Grace of Christ. For my part, I cannot but 
see once more in the Sacrament of Penance 
a great revelation of the gentle "homeliness" 
of our Lord, since here too he refrains from 
introducing some alien material on to which 
the divine forgiveness may descend and in 
which it may operate. Here too the material 
element in the Sacrament consists in human 
acts in the acts of that very penitent who 
might be thinking that he was not so much 
as worthy to enter into the house of his 
Father, nor lift up his head in the presence 
of his offended God. No. God calls him 
to his side, bids him confess his sins, and then 
uses the acts of contrition and resolution, as 
of confession, nay, uses the very sins them- 
selves that the penitent has spread forth be- 
fore him as that wherein his healing Grace 
may work. 

But it is the Eucharist beyond which the 
inventiveness of God's humble love could not 
proceed. God takes, once more, the simple 
elements of Bread and Wine, and, this time, 
not only becomes as it were their partner in 
the sacramental work, but, leaving only their 
appearance for the sake of our poor senses, 

81 



THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM 

transubstantiates their reality into His most 
real Self, so that the Gift here is the Giver; 
the means have become the End. We are 
given, not a memory, not a hope; not a meta- 
phor, not an instrument, but himself. 

We shall then be wise to practise living as 
it were upon this Sacramental principle. We 
shall seek ever to look below the surface. 
We shall see in all nature traces of God's 
presence and of his power. We shall rever- 
ently anticipate, as it were, the Church, by 
creating "sacramentals" for our own use, by 
seeking to see God in all things, and above 
all in our fellow-men, by worshipping him 
there for there indeed and of necessity he 
is and by drawing thence his reward, which 
is grace, love, and truth. But this is matter 
for our private devotion; and though we are 
wise to keep that devotion in the framework, 
so to say, of the Church's sanctioned ideas, 
yet we shall be wisest of all to recall contin- 
ually those great Sacraments that we have re- 
ceived and can receive no more Baptism, 
that opened every grace to us: Confirmation, 
that established in us that Christian Charac- 
ter owing to which we can call on the In- 
dwelling Spirit, as by right, to succour us: 
and above all we shall be wise and acting 
rightly if we make the maximum of use of 
the two great Sacraments of penance and of 

82 



RECAPITULATION 

the Eucharist, wherefrom we draw sure and 
certain healing if we are sick, even if we 
are spiritually sick to death, and increase of 
soul's health and strength if, as God grant, 
there be life in our souls and sin be absent 
from them. 

Finally, we shall pray for those who know 
nothing of these Sacraments: we shall pray 
that all men and women now alive may make 
those acts of faith and contrition upon which 
all the rest of the spiritual life is built (for 
they involve, too, charity) , and we shall ask 
that as many as possible may pass from the 
realm of desire and what is but implicit, to 
the full, conscious, deliberate and most joy- 
ous appropriation of all the riches of our 
God. 







mi-i 




UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 





19 503 934 




7