Sacraments

Overview

The Sacraments of the Church, according to the Divine Scriptures, are seven in number:

The Priesthood, which is the ministry of all the other Sacraments
Holy Baptism
The Oil of Unction
The Oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ
Absolution
The Holy Leaven, namely, the king
The sign of the life giving Cross

These are necessary because of the wants of man in this carnal world. In order for a man to be, and to exist in the world, he must be born of a carnal mother through a carnal father, though the figure and perfection of man come from the Father of Lights.

Priesthood

The Priesthood is the ministry of mediation between GOD and man in those things which impart forgiveness of sins, convey blessings, and put away wrath. It is divided into imperfect, as was that of the law; and perfect, as is that of the Church.

The foundation of the Priesthood in the Church is laid on that declaration of the LORD of the Priesthood to St. Peter, in the region of Caesarea Philippi: “To thee I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; And whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven”. Its superstructure comes from that other injuction: “Feed My lambs. Feed My sheep. Feed My ewes Its completion and perfection from that He breathed on them saying: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit; if ye forgive a man his sins, they are forgiven to him; and you withhold forgiveness of a man’s sins, they shall be held”.
The old Priesthood was one of generation, and not one that was based upon manner of life and will, but the new Priesthood by Apostolic succession, and imparted in the Church through the laying on of hands, is given to those who are deemed worthy of it after examination of their manner of life and thought.—”Let these be first examined, and then let them minister being found blameless.”

Therefore the perfection of this and the imperfection of that Priesthood is evident, since we know that very many wicked children are begotten to righteous fathers, as Cain, Kham, and the children of Lot, of Moses, Eli, and others; and good children are begotten of wicked fathers, as Melchizedek, Abraham, and others. Moreover, the former Priesthood was conferred by material oil; but this latter by the immaterial unction of the SPIRIT, through the laying on of hands.

As to the matter of the rules whereby he who desires the Priesthood is to be tried, whether he be worthy or not, let him who wishes to know this attend to the words of St. Paul, the tongue of the SPIRIT; this is a true saying: “If a man desire the priesthood he desireth a good work.

He who becomes a priest must be blameless, the husband of one wife, alert mentally, modest, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt at teaching; not given to wine, not hasty to strike, but patient, not quarrelsome, not greedy of lucre. One who rules well his own house, having his children under submission to bring them up with all purity. For if a man know not how to rule his own household, how can he take care of the Church of God?

He should not be a recent convert, lest he become proud and fall into the condemnation of satan. Moreover, he must have a good report from outsiders; lest he fall into reproach, and snares of satan. Likewise the deacons must be pure, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, and they should not love impure profits; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

And let these. “that is all the degrees of the Priesthood, be first proved, and only then should they minister, being found blameless.

Baptism

Baptism is the immersion in and the washing with water and this is divided into five kinds: First, the washing off the filth of the body, as is commonly done by all men. Second, the washings according to usages of the law, ]whereby it was believed that purity towards God from all carnal uncleanness was attained. Thirdly, those of the traditions of the elders, such as “the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, beds”, and as “when they come from the market, except they bathe, they eat not.” Fourth, the baptism of John, whereby he preached only repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Fifth, the baptism of our Saviour , which is received, through the Holy Spirit, for the gift of adoption of sons, for the resurrection from the dead, and for everlasting life; which is “the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” For as the circumcision of the flesh was given for a sign denoting those who were of the family of Israel of old according to the flesh; so the baptism of Christ is a sign of spiritual relationship to the new Israel, viz., those who are the called, and the children of God. “But those who received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God.

The matter of Baptism is pure water. If a man is not born of water and the Spirit , he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. The form, of baptism is:
Should any from without inquire what constitutes the holiness and sacramental nature of each of these Seven Sacraments, we reply that these three things sanctify them; First, a true priest, who has attained the priesthood rightly, according to the requirements of the Church. Secondly, the word and command of the Lord of Sacraments, whereby He ordained each of them.

Thirdly, right intention and confirmed faith on the part of those who partake of them, believing that the effect of the Sacraments takes place by a heavenly power. We shall now treat briefly of each of the Sacraments separately.

Oil of Unction

The Oil of Unction is an apostolical tradition, originating from the oil consecrated by the Apostles themselves, and which by succession has been handed down in the Church of God to this day. The purpose of its use we learn from its own physical properties, and from the sacred Scriptures.

The Divine book (Bible) instructs us that, according to the Law, such as were set apart for the symbolical priesthood, or for earthly sovereignty, were anointed with the oil of unction. And in like manner with us: such as are set apart for the kingdom of heaven and for the true priesthood, must be anointed with this same manifoldly symbolical unction; in order that they may be truly anointed ones and brethren of Christ, who by oneness and His union with God is truly and supernaturally anointed. “Therefore hath the Lord Thy God anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” He is the Anointer and the Anointed: the Anointer by His Godhead, and the Anointed by his humanity.

As to the natural properties of oil, we know that the most eminent artists, after having completed a picture with all its rich colouring, anoint it with oil, in order that it may not easily be injured, or receive damage when brought into contact with other objects. In like manner, those who are drawn after the likeness of the Heavenly King are for the same reason anointed, lest they should receive damage from the chances of the world and from the opposition of the devil.

The matter of the Oil of Unction is pure olive oil. The form the apostolical benediction.

Holy Oblation

The oblation is a service offered up by those below to those above, through material elements, in hope of the forgiveness of sins and of an answer to prayer. The old oblations consisted of irrational animals and of the blood of bodies, but with us the Only-begotten of God, Who took upon Him the form of a servant, He offered His own body a sacrifice to His Father for the life of the world, and hence He is called by John, “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” And again it is said of Him, that “His blood is the new testament, shed for many for the remission of sin.” And again: “So God loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son,” Who was offered up to His Father a living, rational sacrifice for all the created, thereby reconciling the world with His Greatness, and bringing salvation to angels and to men. Now, seeing that it was impossible that His sacrifice upon the cross for the salvation of all could identically be enacted, in every place, throughout all ages, and to all men, just as it was, without any alteration, He beheld with an eye of mercy, and devised in compassion and with great wisdom; and in that night in which He was betrayed for the life of the world, He took bread into His holy, pure, and immaculate hands, blessed, broke, and gave it to His disciples and he said unto them, this is my body which is being broken for the sake of the life of the world unto remission of sins, likewise he blessed the cup and gave it to them saying “This is My Blood of the new testament, which will be shed for many for the remission of sins. Take therefore eat all of you of this bread, and drink of this cup, and do this, whenever ye shall meet together, in remembrance of Me.” Through this divine command the bread is changed into His Holy Body, and the wine into His Precious Blood, and they impart, to all who receive them in faith and without doubting, the forgiveness of sins, purification, enlightenment, pardon, the great hope of the resurrection from the dead, the inheritance of heaven, and the new life, Whenever we approach these Sacraments we meet with CHRIST Himself and Him we bear upon our hands and kiss and in partaking thereof, we are being united with Him, His Holy Body mixing with our bodies, and His innocent Blood mingling with our blood, and by faith we know Him that is in heaven and Him that is in the Church, to be but one Body.

The matter of this Sacrament CHRIST ordained to be of wheat and wine, as being most fit to represent body and blood. The form He conveys through His life-giving word, and by the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Absolution

The human race is apt to err and easily inclined to sin, and it is hardly possible that all should not be tried with spiritual diseases; and on this account the healing priesthood was given to heal freely. “If you forgive a man his sins, they shall be forgiven”. “Those that are well need no physician; but those who are seriously sick “. And, again: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners unto repentance”. Three parables I quote to this effect, that of the Prodigal Son, of the Hundred Sheep, and of the Two Debtors, which were intended to increase the hope of sinners, and to open to them the gate of repentance which leads to heaven and imparts heavenly happiness. And in demonstration thereof, the case of Peter after his denial of CHRIST, and of Paul after his persecution, and the woman who was a sinner, the Publican, and the Thief upon the cross. Hence it is incumbent upon believers when, through the infirmity of their human nature, which all cannot keep upright, they are overcome of sin, to seek the Christian Dispensary, and to open their diseases to the spiritual Physicians, that by absolution and penance they may obtain the cure of their souls, and afterwards go and partake of the Lord’s Feast in purity, agreeably with the injunction of the eminent doctor, who writes thus: “Our Lord has committed the medicine of repentance to learned physicians, the priests of the Church. Whomsoever, therefore, Satan has cast into the disease of sin, let him come and show his wounds to the disciples of the Wise Physician who will heal him with spiritual medicine”

These things will most assuredly result if they are done in faith, and not after a worldly manner, for ‘‘whatsoever is not of faith is sin’’ just as some, people, for lucre’s sake, have made of this sacred thing a merchandize, and a source of temporal profit.

Holy Leaven (Malka)

The holy and blessed Apostles, Thomas and Bartholomew of the Twelve, and Adai and Man of the Seventy, who discipled the East, committed to all the Churches in the East the Holy Leaven, to be kept for the perfecting of the administration of the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body until His coming again. And should any Christians dispute the fact of the above mentioned Apostles having committed to those of the East this sanctified Leaven, on the ground that Peter, the head of the Apostles, and his companions did not commit it to the Western, and should object to us on this wise: “If what you say is true, then one of these two consequences must result: either the Apostles did not agree in their mode of discipling, which is unseemly to think, or this tradition of yours is false”. Against these we reply: The Easterners from the day of their discipleship up to this day have kept their faith as a sacred trust, and have observed, without change,. the Apostolical Canons; and notwithstanding all the persecutions which they have suffered from many kings, and their subjection to the severe yoke of a foreign power, they have never altered their creed nor changed their canons.

Sign of the living Cross


This is also a special sacrament exclusive to this church. This is used as a substitute to marriage, which is not counted as a sacrament in this church. A reasonable doubt has been raised by many how the sign of the cross is a sacrament. Mar Abdisho has put it as a sacrament because “cross is that by which Christians are ever kept, and by it all the other sacraments are sealed and perfected”. Mar Abdisho himself has added to the confusion of the state of this sacrament by not explaining about it in Memra 4 where he has written about other sacraments in detail. To make the confusion worse confounded Mar Abdisho has a chapter ‘of Matrimony and of Virginity’ in the same Memra where he deals with sacraments only. Instead in the following Memra, he has a chapter “on the worship of the Lord’s Cross”. “By this sign the Apostles wrought miracles and the laying on the hands for the priesthood, and all the other sacraments of the church are perfected thereby”. Abdisho concludes his treatment of the subject quoting the well known Pauline passage “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God”. Mar Abdisho reminds that “the great foundation of Christianity is the confession that through the cross renewal and universal salvation were obtained for all”. It is believed that the sign of the cross will appear in the sky at the second coming of our Lord. Abdisho also states that the cross is to be worshipped. Hence we offer a fervent and eucharistic worship, not to the fashioned matter of the cross: but to Him whom we figure as upon it, and above all to God, who gave His son to be a cross (i.e crucified) for us, through Whom He gives to such as are worthy everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven.It must be be noted in this connection that cross is the only object of veneration in the Church of East. They do not use crucifix and images. But the cross is kissed in the churches and in the homes.