Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


A sacrament is a Christian rite that mediates or symbolizes divine grace. Sacraments are performed by the Clergy upon a recipient or recipients, and are generally understood to involve visible and invisible components. The invisible component (manifested inwardly) is understood to be God's grace working in the sacrament's participants, whilst the visible (or outward) component entails the use of water, wine, or oil that is blessed or consecrated.


The term sacrament is derived from the Latin sacramentum, meaning "a consecrating"; Sacramentum is derived from sacrare, meaning "to consecrate", which itself was a Church Latin translation of the Greek mysterion, meaning "mystery".


The sacraments recognized by Roman Catholicism are:

In addition to these seven, some Christian groups consider foot washing to be a sacrament.

The seven sacraments accepted by Catholicism are generally accepted by Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, but these traditions do not limit the number of sacraments to these seven.

The numeration, naming, and understanding of sacraments and the adoption of the remaining sacraments vary according to denomination.

Most Protestants believe that sacraments are an "outward sign of an inward grace", or symbolic of what is taking place or has taken place invisibly. What Protestants consider to be a sacrament differs from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox positions. Most Protestants consider only baptism and Communion, the usual Protestant term for the Eucharist, to be sacraments. They believe that the other five rites considered to be sacraments are not made sacraments by the New Testament; so while almost all Protestant churches have marriage ceremonies, and many have an ordained clergy and a ceremony conferring their version of holy orders, they do not consider these rites to be sacraments. Some Protestants in the Anglican communion are Anglo-Catholics, and may accept all of the Catholic sacraments; these believers often do not identify themselves as Protestants, however.

Many Anabaptists practice foot washing, citing the commandment of Jesus Christ: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet." (John 13:14 KJV) Foot washing is a sacrament in this faith tradition.

Catholics hold that the sacrament itself is an effective means of grace, and not merely symbolic. They traditionally practice seven sacraments but acknowledge that additional means of grace exist without sacraments. Roman Catholics also have sacramentals, acts of worship that differ from sacraments proper, but which are also means of grace. Items such as the rosary or the various scapulars and holy medals issued by some Roman Catholic groups are counted among these sacramentals.

Eastern Orthodox believers share the general understanding of sacraments held by Catholics, but differ on some matters. On a broad level, the use of sacraments is an affirmation of the goodness of created matter, and is an emphatic declaration of what that matter was originally created to be. On a specific level, while not systematically enumerating sacraments, the central sacrament is the Eucharist. Furthermore, sacraments are sometimes referred to as "mysteries", as in the "Mystery of Repentance".

The Salvation Army does not practice formal sacraments for a variety of reasons, but does not however forbid its members from receiving sacraments in other denominations [1].

Quakers also do not practice formal sacraments, believing that all activities should be considered holy.

See also: Sacrament (Mormonism)