The Holy Mysteries (also known as “Sacraments”) express how God restores people to a loving, trusting relationship with Him through the Church. They are the primary means of communicating His peace, love and grace in the form of His indwelling presence.
Let’s explore the Holy Mysteries.
From the earliest days, the Church considered that there was exactly one Holy Mystery—the Church itself. St Irenaeus wrote:
“Where the church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the church, and every kind of grace.”
Twentieth-century Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky describes the Church-as-sacrament like this:
“The Church is a unique and immense sacrament, and her rituals manifest permanently the mystery of the one who properly is the mystery being manifested: Christ, as the face of the Father. For God is a mystery, and Christ has come to reveal him; and the Church after him and in him, manifests him.”
So, the Church and its services, its liturgies and prayers, reading the Holy Scriptures, its vigils and ascetic practices—all these constitute the Holy Mystery that unveils and reveals the Grace of God to the members of the Church.
As the life of the Church developed, specific rituals within the Church began to be regarded especially prominently as sacraments. Different people created different lists. Some lists were longer than ours today and some shorter. The lists included things like:
- Reading the Holy Scriptures
- Monastic tonsure, and
Between the twelfth and sixteenth century, the Church settled its list of especially prominent sacraments:
- The Holy Mystery of Baptism
- The Holy Mystery of Chrismation
- The Holy Mystery of Repentance (otherwise known as “Confession”)
- The Holy Mystery of Eucharist
- The Holy Mystery of Unction (or “Anointing the Sick”)
- The Holy Mystery of Matrimony
- The Mystery of Holy Orders
You can discover a lot more about the Holy Mysteries in these linked pages.
Baptism is how a Christian is united with Christ.
Through Chrismation, a Christian is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Commonly called “Confession,” the mystery of Repentance allows a Christian to know his or her sins are forgiven.
Eucharist is the “Thanksgiving of God’s People,” the “Mystery of Mysteries,” “the Sacrament of Sacraments,” and “the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood.” It is the participation of the Church in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The Mystery of Holy Unction is offered for the healing of soul and body and for the forgiveness of sins.
Marriage is the Mystery through which the union of man and woman is sanctified by God.
See: The Holy Mystery of Matrimony (external link)
The sacrament of Holy Orders is the objective guarantee of the perpetual presence of Christ with His people.
See: The Mystery of Holy Orders (external link)