Names of the Sacraments?

Q. Can you please tell me how all seven sacraments received their names and what the name of each sacrament means or implies?

Patrick, Quakertown, Pa.

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

Generally speaking, we may say that the names of the sacraments are reflections of their function. They all involve particular actions for their efficacy.

"Baptism" comes from the Greek word baptisma, which means a washing or cleansing. The sacrament is a washing away of the guilt of original sin and the bestowal of sanctifying grace.

"Confirmation" comes from the Latin confirmatio, which means to make fast or to secure. This sacrament confirms and strengthens the gift of the Holy Spirit received in baptism. To use a military analogy, to receive confirmation is to be empowered and sent on active duty as a servant and witness of Christ.

"Eucharist" comes from the Greek word eucharisteo, which means "to give thanks." All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) use a form of this word in describing Christ's action at the Last Supper, when He instituted this sacrament. They use the term eucharistesas, which means "having given thanks." The same word is used in St. Paul's account of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:24.

"Matrimony" comes from the Latin word matrimonium, which simply means "wedlock."

The word "order" in the Sacrament of Holy Orders designates the proper arrangement of things according to their appropriate place. It also means "rank." The name "holy orders" not only designates the bestowing of a specific rank in the Church; it also denotes the action by which that rank is bestowed. Hence it also means "ordination."

"Penance" comes from the Latin word paenitentia. It designates dealing with sins by contrition or sorrow for those sins, confession of them and receiving absolution. "Reconciliation" refers to the restoration of our friendship with God and the Church.

"Anointing of the Sick" is a description of what occurs in this sacrament. The person in need is anointed with the holy chrism (blessed oil) by the priest, with laying on of hands and appropriate prayers for the person's healing. (The name previously used, "Extreme Unction," literally means "final anointing.")