The Holy Sacraments/Mysteries

The sacraments are the actions of God within the Church in which God grants us His grace by means of this material world. It is in the sacraments that the grace of God is brought to us as a gift. God takes this world, the matter of this material creation, and unites it in an incomprehensible way with Himself, and this material world brings to us the grace, which we are unable to raise ourselves up to.

The Syriac word for mystery, rozo, is used often to describe types found in Creation and in Scripture. The word roz is of Persian origin and referred to private and secret counsels held by court officials. Its Hebrew counterpart in the Old Testament was used to signify heavenly secrets. The Hebrew term in Daniel was translated in the Septuagint by the Greek mysterion and used to describe a vision of the future given to humans by God in symbols. In the New Testament, the term "mystery" was used in the sense of Jesus' teaching regarding the "secrets of the kingdom," and St. Paul's teaching regarding the dispensation of God's plan throughout the course of history.

Mystery is the accomplishment in Christ of a plan of God hidden at first, but subsequently manifested to humans. The two opposing aspects of "hidden, then manifest, or enveloped in silence, then announced and unveiled", characterize it. Mystery signifies both the manifesting and concealment of the divine act of salvation. While mystery manifests truth communicated in the revelation of Christ, still even after the communication, the unfathomable nature of the divine utterance remains concealed and cannot be fully understood, but is apprehended by faith.

"The great drama of the revelation of God in Christ, and in particular the whole Old Testament story of salvation conceived as a single parable finding its key and explanation in Christ; Christ's acts, particularly his death on the Cross; the Church, and within the Church the sacraments and formulations of the truths embodied in the symbol of faith--all these are called mysterion, because they are acts and rites and words that flow from God's unfathomable plan and that themselves in turn, in their visible, modest, unpretentious cloak conceal and intimate and communicate God's unfathomable depths."

Christian praxis from the very beginning has been centered on a sacramental celebration, which was experienced as an encounter with Christ. The grace of the Kingdom experienced in the Church are manifested through the divine mysteries or sacraments offered in faith. It is through the sacraments, as through windows, that the risen Christ enters this dark world to put sin and corruption to death and introduce abiding and immortal life.

God's life is infused into the present age and mingled with it, through the mysteries. God touches, purifies, illumines, sanctifies and deifies human life in his uncreated divine energies through the mysteries. All that He did one and for all for the salvation of the world has now passed over into the mysteries. Thus, the mysteries become the various manifestations of our Lord's saving power, and the means by which Christ is


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." 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," Also refer to Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology.