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  Originally sacramentum in Latin meant a soldier\'s oath of allegiance, but in Christian worship loyalty to the Roman emperor was replaced by commitment to Christ. The word ‘sacrament’ was then applied to anything from a creed or the Lord\'s Prayer to the rituals of baptism and the Eucharist. However, it was also taken as the equivalent of the Greek musterion (‘mystery’) and hence to mean a ceremony which was not for unbelieving eyes. The definition given in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’, and from the 4th century a sacrament was held to be the sign of a divine reality or grace which sanctifies humankind. In the 12th century, Peter Lombard enumerated seven sacraments universally accepted in Catholic churches: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, unction (anointing with oil), marriage and ordination. The Orthodox churches retain the original combined baptism/confirmation order. Interestingly, the taking of monastic vows is not a sacrament, though full of sacramental actions in Buddhism and Hinduism, as in Christianity. A distinction is made between baptism and the Eucharist (The Lord\'s Supper), believed to have Christ\'s special authorization and ‘necessary of salvation’ in the Protestant tradition, and those sacraments such as marriage which are essentially rites of passage or signs of a God-given vocation (for example ordination). EMJ

Further reading O.C. Quick, The Christian Sacraments.



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