“The seven sacraments touch all the stages of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life” (Catechism 1210).
God’s eternal Plan of Salvation is made known to mankind by the gradual disclosure of His will that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and the fullness of this revelation is the life, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians).
This Plan of Salvation is called a Mystery, meaning a thing in the mind of God but not known by us until it was revealed. The Greek word mysterion can be translated by two Latin words: mysterium and sacramentum, and it is from these words that we get our English terms mystery and sacrament.
The seven sacred rituals given to the Church by the Lord Jesus are therefore called sacraments because they disclose to us the Paschal or Passover Mystery of Christ and unite us to His Person. In the Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches, the seven sacraments are called the Sacred Mysteries, and this terminology occurs many times in our liturgical texts.
The seven sacraments are customarily grouped into three categories: Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist), Healing (Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick), the Service of Communion (Holy Orders, Matrimony).
According to the Second Vatican Council (1963 – 1968), “The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify the people of God, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith.’ They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them disposes the faithful most effectively to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity” (Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy, 59).