The Three Witnesses, The Initiation Sacraments and Sacramental Life

Simone_Martini_066-567x920

Simone Martini – Crucifixtion – Orsini Altarpiece 1333

“This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.  So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord.” 1 John 5:6-8

This piece was written by Susan Skinner and Ashley Blackburn.

As I, Susan, spoke to the Protestant Minister the other day about purgatory, it became abundantly clear to me that there is a gaping hole in the lives of some Christians because of the lack of belief in the full Sacramental Life.  This is not to say that each individual person is fully culpable in this lack of knowledge, but there is a sadness that comes over me from this hole that it left.  In our effort to eradicate suffering, we have ignored how we can cooperate with what Christ has done for us.  It’s a glossing over of the Cross, and jumping straight to Resurrection.  But you cannot have Resurrection without the Cross.

Let me try to explain further.  The Kingdom of God has three Cardinal virtues.  They are Faith, Hope and Love.  When we look at the Sacraments of the Catholic Church we can see these virtues in action, particularly in the three Initiation Sacraments.  Though all three Sacraments require Faith, Hope and Love, each has a Cardinal Virtue that stands out the most.  It is through these Sacraments that the kingdom of God is sustained and is how we should interpret living in the Kingdom of God.

First, the very first of the Initiation Sacraments is Baptism.  At Baptism we are infused with the Most Holy Trinity and sanctifying grace floods our soul breaking the bond of original sin and any personal sin we have.  We become transformed from death into life and into the supernatural world of God’s Kingdom.  Faith hope and love are flooded into our souls through Baptism but I want to focus on the fact that this Sacrament is grounded in HOPE, expressed through cleansing water, and marked by the Holy Spirit.  This is the Sacrament where you actually become a part of God’s Kingdom and are freed from the darkness of the Pagan world.  You are indelibly marked.  Almost all Christians believe in this Sacrament.  Though in more recent years, I would argue the devil is even trying to stop that by saying it isn’t necessary.  That’s a dangerous game to play, because it is the mark of Baptism that enters you in covenant with God and frees you from original sin.  This is also why the Catholic Church baptizes infants.  There is a recognition that this is the most important thing a parent can do for a child.  They bring their child into covenant with God.  The Jews understood this so well, that’s why circumcision was at 8 days.  We make all kinds of decisions for our children, telling them what to eat and what to wear.  Freeing them from death into life, flooding them with sanctifying grace and marking them in God’s greatest covenant through Jesus Christ is the most imperative decision of their life and they should not be left out of God’s kingdom.  This Sacrament requires Hope because it is the hope that there is something greater than ourselves and that heaven is real.  It is with great hope that almost all Christians accept this Sacrament, and it is here that we find unity.  For this reason it is actually also a Sacrament of Mercy.   When we are marked with God’s kingdom, we have been accepted into the covenant, we are sanctified into the supernatural world.  God will do everything in His power to bring us to Salvation.  What a mercy that is.

The second Initiation Sacrament is Confirmation.  Confirmation is the Sacrament where Faith, grounded in the Truth of the Holy Spirit, stands out.  Many denominations do not believe this to be a separate Sacrament from Baptism.  After Jesus’ Ascension the Apostles were afraid.  They were hiding in the upper room.  It wasn’t until the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them that their faith was boosted and they were able to go out and proclaim the truth to all nations.  They were not only given the courage to testify to the Truth, but they were also given the words and the understanding of what to say.  These words and their profound understanding of the truth was something they did not have prior to being filled with the Spirit.  When we see a Catholic take their confirmation seriously, we see a future Saint.  How many of us are hiding, for fear of offending another?  How many of us do not want to “rock the boat” and say nothing of our love for Christ to the world?  How many of us do not feel it important to deepen our faith, both in understanding and in relationship with Jesus through prayer and the reading of Holy Scripture?  It is through the Sacrament of Confirmation that we are given the courage and the understanding to put our faith into action, but only when we are open to cooperating with the gifts of the Sacrament.  The apostles were not given the gift of the Holy Spirit without their free consent and their desire to receive the gift.  We see them praying for 9 days in the upper room. Evidence of their desire to receive the gift God was wanting to give them.  The Sacrament of Confirmation is the gift of complete confidence and realization of what we were marked with at our Baptism. We see this so clearly in the Apostles after Pentecost.

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1 

Finally, the third Initiation Sacrament is Eucharist.  This is where the Sacrament of Love stands out.  The greatest of all the Cardinal virtues.  True Love requires the blood sacrifice and the sacrifice Christ made on the Cross is the ultimate witness to Love. During his public ministry, Jesus taught us how to Love our neighbor, but then he led us deeper by showing us how to participate in self-sacrificial love.  When we receive Him in the Eucharist, we receive the eternal sacrifice of Christ’s love for us that was demonstrated on the cross.  While speaking to the apostles, immediately after Jesus foretells what will happen to him at Calvary, scripture tells us Jesus said;

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 

Here we see Jesus teaching the apostles, as well as us, that in order to truly follow him, we must DO something.  He could have left this part out and only foretold His death.  But we see him take his self-sacrificial act of his passion and death and give us a participation in it.  We are not only saved by Jesus’s one act of Love over 2000 years ago, but we are also saved by how we participate in that act.  We have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves.  This is something that is truly lacking in our society today.  Sacrifice of yourself requires thinking of the other.  It requires forgiveness of the other.  It requires examining how we sin.  This is also the reason the Sacrament of Confession is so important.  We see true love when we see one sacrifice for another.  A mother sacrifices for her child.  A father sacrifices for his family.  A soldier sacrifices for his fellow men. Somewhere along the way, in our effort to eradicate our suffering because of our limited understanding, we started to believe that Jesus did it for us and we have no participation in it.  We stopped sacrificing for one another.  It became, save ME at all costs, no matter the effect on the other.  But Jesus urged the apostles to “deny themselves and take up their cross” in order to follow Him. This implies not only that we must be sacrificial Christians through the act of denying ourselves, but also that we will have crosses in our lives and these crosses are to be accepted as we follow Jesus.  True Love’s sacrifice actually brings Thanksgiving, which is what Eucharist means.  When we don’t accept sacrifice, we become bitter and angry at our fellow man.  Our society is missing true love.  The Eucharistic Sacrifice.

In order to live the Sacramental life, we must fully understand what these three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are, as well as what they are for us through our full participation in them.  The Kingdom of God is sustained and kept alive by Christians who are living the Sacramental life. The three Cardinal virtues, Faith, Hope and Love, are given to us through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, and the Church has given us these Sacraments in order to help us live these virtues more fully.  This makes us co-redeemers in the Kingdom of God.

In the end of my conversation with the Protestant Minister, she proclaimed that it didn’t matter what church you belong to, you just have to have faith.  But it does matter.  There is one fullness of truth.  It lies in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church where the Sacramental life is proclaimed and should be lived.  If society doesn’t accept this and start living this life, the Kingdom of God begins to crumble, because we have not accepted the fullness of truth.  We have not proclaimed the Kingdom of God at hand.  So it may take an act of God, like a Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, to reclaim the Kingdom of God.

About veilofveronica

I am a mother and wife as well as an RCIA and Adult Faith Formation catechist at a parish in the south. I have 3 children and a great husband.
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19 Responses to The Three Witnesses, The Initiation Sacraments and Sacramental Life

  1. Anne says:

    Thank you Holy Spirit and the 2 women for listening and sharing. This is one of the clearest explanations given. Yes…. Sacrificial love has faded in our narcissistic society as we have turned away from the Truth. We are drowning in self and so we call on the Holy Spirit to come through Mary’s powerful intercession and enlighten all. Our prayers and following the way of Love enable us to cooperate in this process.

  2. sheralyn80 says:

    Beautiful! I sent this on yo several close friends, including a Deacon and two Priests.

  3. Marie says:

    Something very important, at the very minimum, needs to be added here about Baptism.

    We are born enslaved by all the darkness and crippling consequences of Original Sin, not the least of which is the deprivation of Sanctifying Grace.

    At Baptism we are infused with a flood of transforming, sanctifying grace, and the infusion of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, along with the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity which then comes to take up It’s within our souls in an operative and effective manner.

    With Baptism, our souls are delivered from bondage to Original and personal sin and we are given helps to transcend our fallen nature and to live as children of God.

    Baptism is far more than a simple Mark of Initiation. By Baptism we are utterly transformed from death into life, from merely natural into supernatural creations of God, bearing His likeness and image, and now possessing the capacity to operate in a supernatural manner, with God informing our entire being and urging us towards our sanctification and perfection.

    It is often easy even on a natural level to discern when a human being has been baptized, so transformative is this Sacrament. It changes the way one thinks and acts, and the way one perceives the world around them.

    This is why so much evil and so much darkness is perpetrated by those cultures and ideologies which do not have the transforming effects of Baptism to purify, guide and enlighten their civilizations and cultures. Their souls are steeped in death and darkness, and all their works are a fruit of natural depravity unaided by the light and influence of sanctifying grace, the indwelling of Divine Life in the soul, which is inaugurated by the Sacrament of Baptism alone.

    • Yes, the covenant bond that delivers us. And it’s why it saddens me that so many aren’t baptizing their children.

      • Marie says:

        Yes, my concern is that the point which needs to be made is that we have abandoned the clear and explicit Catholic Catechism and are starting to use Protestant language — such as convenant bond, initiation, etc., — which are broad, undefined terms which were never used in explaining the Sacraments for centuries before Vatican II.

        This vague, Protestant terminology dangerously obscures clear and startlingly beautiful facts about the actual effects and purpose of the various Sacraments, and — in this case — Baptism.

        Baptism is much, much more than simply entering a Covenant. Even Abraham and the Jewish people, for example, had a covenant with God; however, that covenant did nothing to bestow Divine Life upon the soul, or remit Origninal Sin; not was it capable of bestowing ETERNAL LIFE upon the soul.

        Baptism transforms the soul, bestowing upon it a supernatural capacity and participation in the Life of God Himself, which it did not and could not previously possess. This transformation was purchased for us by the Blood of Christ.

        I have 2 adult goddaughters (one is my sister-in-law and one a convert from Judaism) who were converted when they were exposed to the compellingly clear and concrete teachings of the Pre-Vatican II Catechism.

        Perhaps if the Sacraments were actually TAUGHT the way they were before Vatican II (instead of hearing vague, generic notions, such as “Sacrament of Initiation”), parents WOULD baptize their children.

        This obfuscation is intentional on the part of Modernists, and serves the aims of satan. I am very concerned about this loss of proper catechetical formation, which is why I replied to this post.

        Here is how the five (5) unique effects Baptism were explained before Vatican II:
        (this is a long post so I hope there are no errors, since there is no preview option)
        __________________________

        This sacrament is the door of the Church of Christ and the entrance into a new life. We are reborn from the state of slaves of sin into the freedom of the Sons of God. Baptism incorporates us with Christ’s mystical body and makes us partakers of all the privileges flowing from the redemptive act of the Church’s Divine Founder. We shall now outline the principal effects of baptism.

        (1) The Remission of All Sin, Original and Actual
        This is the solemn teaching of the Church. In the profession of faith prescribed by Pope Innocent III for the Waldensians in 1210, we read: We believe that all sins are remitted in baptism, both original sin and those sins which have been voluntarily committed.”

        The Council of Trent (Sess. V., can. v) anathematizes whomsoever denies that the grace of Christ which is conferred in Baptism does not remit the guilt of original sin; or asserts that everything which can truly and properly be called sin is not thereby taken away.

        “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38)

        Tertullian writes: “Baptism is a carnal act in as much as we are submerged in the water; but the effect is spiritual, for we are freed from our sins.”

        (2) Remission of Temporal Punishment Due to Sin
        Baptism not only washes away sin, it also remits the punishment of sin. This was the plain teaching of the primitive Church. We read in Clement of Alexandria of Baptism: “It is called a washing because we are washed from our sins: it is called grace, because by it the punishments which are due to sin are remitted.”

        St. Jerome writes: “After the pardon (indulgentiam) of Baptism, the severity of the Judge is not to be feared.”

        And St. Augustine says plainly: “If immediately [after baptism] there follows the departure from this life, there will be absolutely nothing that a man must answer for, for he will have been freed from everything that bound him.”

        In perfect accord with the early doctrine, the Florentine decree states: “No satisfaction is to be enjoined upon the baptized for past sins; and if they die before any sin, they will immediately attain to the kingdom of heaven and to the vision of God.”

        In like manner the Council of Trent teaches: “There is no cause of damnation in those who have been truly buried with Christ by baptism . . . Nothing whatever will delay their entrance into heaven.”

        (3) Infusion of Supernatural Grace, Gifts, and Virtues
        Another effect of Baptism is the infusion of sanctifying grace (i.e. the Divine Life within the soul, and the Presence of the Most Holy Trinity) and supernatural gifts and virtues. It is this sanctifying grace which renders men the adopted sons of God and confers the right to heavenly glory.

        (4) Conferral of the Right to Special Graces
        Theologians likewise teach that Baptism gives man the right to those special graces which are necessary for attaining the end for which the Sacrament was instituted and for enabling him to fulfill the Baptismal promises.

        (5) Impression of a Character on the Soul
        Baptism is said to impress an ineffaceable character on the soul, which the Tridentine Fathers call a spiritual and indelible mark. That Baptism (as well as Confirmation and Holy orders) really does imprint such a character, is defined explicitly by the Council of Trent. St. Cyril calls Baptism a “holy and indelible seal”, and Clement of Alexandria, “the seal of the Lord”. St. Augustine compares this character or mark imprinted upon the Christian soul with the character militaris impressed upon soldiers in the imperial service. St. Thomas treats of the nature of this indelible seal, or character, in the Summa (III:63:2).

      • Okay, I understand. I actually don’t think saying being left out of the Kingdom of God is vague. But I see what you’re saying about language. I will add some of this to the post. My point is that Baptism alone doesn’t sustain the Kingdom. You have to have all the Sacraments. It seems the Protestants and Modernists have done a good job making us think we don’t. I even am in favor of restored order when it comes to Sacraments. Thanks for your comments, I will use them. Sometimes it is hard to hear a criticism of something I have written, but upon reflection I see that you are correct and your input only makes it better, so thank you for commenting. Together working as the Mystical Body of Christ, we can make the world better.

      • Marie says:

        Absolutely agree, which is why we desperately need a return to sound, clear, explicit pre-Vatican II Catechesis from childhood on up.

        I once considered helping with Catechesis in my local parish, until I met with the Director and found out their Catechism for First Holy Communion, for example, doesn’t mention or explain the Real Presence even ONE SINGLE TIME throughout the entire book, describing it simply as a “communal meal”; and that they believe Adam and Eve didn’t actually exist, therefore making it impossible to explain the Fall of Man, mankind’s original justice and the doctrine of Original Sin and the purpose of the promised Messiah and the Sacrament of Baptism, and so on and so on.

        I was heartsick to discover such a wholesale abandonmemt of doctrine in the catechetical formation program for children.

        The Order of Sisters assisting at the Parish had left by that time due to differences with the Pastor responsible for all this and now I understand why.

        I also know a young and zealous priest who tried to return his Parish to the use of pre-Vatican II catechisms and he was removed by our Bishop.

        There’s been a deliberate and concerted and strategic deconstruction of Catholic Catechesis beginning with the very catechisms being used.

        It’s no wonder that the vast majority of Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence any longer, let alone understand the seven Sacraments and their purpose and necessity.

        I don’t know if you have access to pre-Vatucsn II Catechisms. They’re available online. If you can make a comparison you will see that it’s like night and day in the penetrating clarity with which the Catholic Faith used to be taught vs. the vagaries and ambiguity of today’s Catechetics.

        It’s utterly heartbreaking, really… as the scriptures say, “An enemy has done this.”

      • Are you saying the current catechism is invalid?

  4. Marie says:

    What I am saying is that the Modernists about whom we were warned by several holy, prescient and vigilant Popes (Leo XIII, Pius IX, X, XI and XII) immediately prior to Vatican II, in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and incisive Encyclicals ever written on these very concern’s (Mortalium Animos, Quas Primus, Quanta Cura, Pascendis Dominici Gregis, to name just a few….we’ve been duly warned before this happened!!!), the Modernists have succeeded in their aim in replacing sound Catechesis which communicated a supernatural Doctrine and clear teaching on the sacraments with the ambiguous ideologies of naturalism and humanism.

    Make a comparison yourself and you will see how the clear doctrine of the seven Sacraments is either totally obscured or omitted in the post Vatican II catechisms.

  5. Marie says:

    Here’s a book that explains it all… a must-have for the library of every concerned, informed Catholic:

    • The old catechism was short and concise. The new one makes you think deeply. I use it when teaching my class. They need to be used in light of history. God tells me that he’s in control of all this, so I try not to worry at all.

      • Marie says:

        If you’re referring to the CCC, that’s not used for Catechesis for young children throughout the United States.

        The catechisms they use for the formation of children are horrific. There is no mention of, or explanation of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, nor Original Sin and the purpose and effects of Baptism….which is how this whole post began, without this clear explanation, which substantiates the concern and why I replied.

        It’s not a matter of worrying, it’s a matter of being informed and pushing back with sound catechetics, not Protestant formulations.

        God DOES care that our children are being deprived of the true Catholic Faith, and that families have abandoned the Sacraments without even knowing what they are, precisely because the Catechisms no longer explain them.

        Generations have been robbed of the Catholic faith and I believe God cares about that a great deal.

        In fact, it is one of the reasons why Our Lady came to Fatima and performed such a stupendous miracle, that all might be converted and return to the Sacraments.

        All the apparitions of Fatima were catechetical, beginning with the Real Presence and the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity, the existence of Purgatory and Hell, what is necessary to get to Heaven, Confession, Adoration and Eucharistic reparation, Guardian Angels, sacrificial prayer, etc.

        Our Lady came precisely to reinforce the doctrines and Sacramentsl practice of our Holy Catholic Faith, that’s how important Catechesis is.

        In an age where catechisms would be abandoned Our Lady came to present a series of catechetical apparitions to the world. God cares a great deal about catechetical formation.

        I think you care a great deal about that as well. However one needs to be careful not to slip into Protestant formulations and ideation while obscuring the clear doctrine of the Sacraments. That’s all. God bless.

      • I teach Adults. They are Protestants or unbaptized who are converting. Using their own language that they have grown up with helps draw them deeper into the truth where they are then introduced to Catholic language. If I started with Catholic language they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. I often get attacked for that. But not by the people converting, they appreciate it.

  6. Marie says:

    Well, I can understand some of that teaching adult converts; however, this is a public blog presumably for Catholics, and we both know the vast majority of Catholics – our brothers and sisters in the Faith – do not understand the Sacraments or care if their children do and / or even if their children receive the Sacraments!

    If 5 popes just prior to Vatican II were warning us of these dangers by writing Encyclical letters concerning them, then indeed it is something God wants us to be concerned about, informed about, and doing something about.

    The whole purpose of my replying on this post was to point out that we no longer have a sound catechetical process or resources for the vast majority of Catholics within the Church, and that even Catholics no longer have know how to explain the Sacraments according to the mind of the Church. This is a very sad state of affairs.

    God bless you in your work.

    • It is a public blog and I have my class read it and I have received messages from Lutherans and others regarding what I write. In the end, I can’t please everyone. Thanks for commenting and God Bless.

  7. Pingback: The Spirit of Arius – Are you ready for Persecution? | Veil of Veronica

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