Why do Catholics invest so much time and effort in the celebration of the Sacraments? In this episode, we briefly outline some of the differences between the Protestant and Catholic worlds with regard to beliefs and practices concerning the Sacraments.
One of the things non-Catholic Christians immediately perceive in their initial impressions of the Catholic Church is the centrality of the sacraments. They notice that from week-to-week Catholic services always include the celebration of the Eucharist.
Although normal for many Catholics, such regularity in the celebration of the Eucharist is anything but normal for many non-Catholic Christians. This weekly celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist may come as a surprise to many Protestant Christians.
The practice of frequent communion can be startling because the Eucharist in some Protestant traditions is celebrated once a month or perhaps even less frequently than that. Furthermore, the Eucharist is sometimes celebrated on a Sunday or Wednesday evening service. At these services, the entire congregation may not be present but perhaps only a certain percentage of a given community.
In this episode, we talk about why the Sacraments occupy such a central place in Catholic liturgies. We briefly discuss the fact that at every Catholic worship service, ecumenical gatherings aside, the Eucharist is celebrated. We also note that some Sunday liturgies even have a baptism of an infant placed in the service itself.
So, what accounts for this stark difference in sacramental practice? If one could put the answer as concisely as possible, one would have to say that the answer is salvation.
In this episode, we talk about the Catholic belief in the central role of the Sacraments in the salvation of the Catholic Christian. This one belief about the salvific efficacy of the Sacraments accounts for the great importance accorded to the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. It also explains why the Sacraments are celebrated with such frequency.
In the end, the differences between Catholic and Protestant practices surrounding the Sacraments emerge largely as a result of differing belief structures. The Catholic view is dominated by belief about the roles of Sacraments in the process of salvation. The Protestant worldview about salvation, broadly construed, depends far less on the salvific efficacy of the Sacraments and far more on the faith of the Christian.
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