Our Anglican tradition recognizes sacraments as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 857) Holy Baptism and the Eucharist (or Holy Communion) are the two great sacraments given by Christ to his Church.
In the case of Baptism, the outward and visible sign is water, in which the person is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; the inward and spiritual grace is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit. In the case of the Eucharist, the outward and visible sign is bread and wine, given and received according to Christ’s command. The inward and spiritual grace is the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people, and received by faith.
In addition to these two, there are other spiritual markers in our journey of faith that can serve as means of grace. These include:
- Confirmation: the adult affirmation of our baptismal vows
- Reconciliation of a Penitent: private confession
- Matrimony: Christian marriage
- Orders: ordination to the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopacy
- Unction: anointing those who are sick or dying with holy oil