Sacraments

Although not all Christian denominations practice the sacraments (defined as sacred acts which channel God’s grace), most do officially recognise and mark key rites of passage in Christian growth and development, including birth, entering into adulthood, marriage, and death.

The Catholic Church recognises seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders. These can be divided into three categories: sacraments of initiation, of healing, and of service. Traditionally, Catholics and Orthodox believe that these special graces are available only through the ministry of their particular Church, although there has been some growing acceptance of each other’s ministry in recent years.

Protestant churches will generally recognise baptism and communion as special commands of Jesus, but do not accept that for instance, the bread and wine of communion become the actual body and blood of Jesus (transubstantiation) as Catholics and Orthodox do. Rather, they would interpret Jesus words (“This is my body… this is my blood”) as metaphorical (giving spiritual nourishment), or as giving special spiritual blessings, but according to your faith rather than as a result of the actions of a priest.

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