The sacraments have their foundation in the very life of Christ himself. They are a continuation of his saving actions and an elongation in time of what he did during his historic ministry. During his public ministry, Jesus called disciples and gave them the anticipation of the Holy Spirit. This is the basis of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.
Jesus shared meals with his disciples on a regular basis. Preeminent among these was the Last Supper. After his resurrection, Jesus made himself known in the meal shared on the way to Emmaus and on other similar occasions. This is the basis of the Eucharist.
Among Jesus’ most distinguishing actions was his calling of sinners to repentance and conversion. This is continued in the Sacrament of Penance. Jesus regularly healed the sick and raised up those who were bowed down. In the sacramental anointing of the sick, Jesus continues this ministry.
Jesus’ “blessing” of the marriage feast at Cana by his very presence is the basis of the Church’s rite of marriage. In calling apostles and sending them forth to preach the Good News, he laid the foundation for the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats the origins of the sacraments in this way: “Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life and public ministry were already salvific, for they anticipated the power of his paschal mystery. They announced and prepared what he was going to give the Church when all was accomplished. The mysteries of Christ’s life are the foundations of what he would henceforth dispense in the sacraments, through the ministers of his Church, for [quoting Leo the Great] ‘what was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries’” (No. 1115).
Read more: Christ and the Seven Sacraments
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