The Number of the Mysteries

In recent centuries, the Orthodox Church has recognized seven mysteries for sacraments: baptism; chrismation; the Eucharist; confession; marriage; anointing of the sick and the priesthood.

The Apostolic Church received people through baptism and chrismation (confirmation); celebrated the Eucharist at least weekly on the Lord’s day; readmitted penitents through confession; sanctified the union of husband and wife; extended the healing ministry of Christ to those who were sick and selected and ordained her ministers. It is evident, therefore, that the Church gave special attention to these acts from the beginning. The mysteries are founded upon the words and actions of the Lord in Scripture and are, in a particular way, a continuation and an extension of his saving ministry. Among them, baptism and the Eucharist hold a preeminent position. While emphasizing the importance of the holy mysteries, Orthodox theology is careful not to separate or isolate them from the Church’s many other rites of blessing, consecration and passage. "Between the wider and narrower sense of the term 'sacrament' (mystery) there is no rigid division: the whole Christian life must be seen as a unity, as a single mystery or one great sacrament, whose different aspects are expressed in a great variety of acts, some performed but once in a man's life, others perhaps daily."

Written by Tenny Thomas


[1] Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology, (London, 1966).
[2] Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, A Study in Early Syriac Tradition (Cambridge, 1975). Also refer to Rev. Baby Varghese, West Syrian Liturgical Theology, (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 35.
[3] James Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, (Grand Rapids, 1997).
[4] John Meyendorff, "The Sacraments in the Orthodox Church", in Byzantine Theology, (New York, 1979).
[5] Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, "The Church as a Eucharistic Community " in the Report of the 12th General Assembly of Syndesmos, (1988), pp. 37-45.
[6] Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, "The Sacraments." http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7105. Also refer to Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, "Christ, True and Perfect Man," Sourozh 14, (1983), pp. 1 – 13.
[7] Rev. Alciviadis C. Calivas, "The Sacramental Life in the Orthodox Church," http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7106. Also refer to Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology.