Abstract and Keywords
There was no theory of the sacraments in the pre-Nicene period. After defining sacramentum and mystērion, the article examines the seven ceremonies later recognized as sacraments. Baptism as the central act in initiation into the church was the occasion when God through his Spirit applied the benefits of the death and resurrection of Christ (forgiveness of sins, gift of the Holy Spirit, new birth, enlightenment) to the penitent believer. The Eucharist brought participation in the sacrifice of Christ, communion with the crucified and risen Savior, and nourishment for eternal life. These two ceremonies experienced by all Christians, along with penance, have the best claim during the early period of the church to being considered sacraments according to later definitions. The basis for later reflection on confirmation and ordination as sacraments was laid. The basis for a sacramental theology of marriage and anointing the sick was little developed.
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