Friday, October 15, 2010

7 Sacraments, Depending on Which Century

There was no intention during early centuries to limit the number of sacraments to seven. Any ritual that celebrated a divine saving action was considered a mystery or sacrament: feasts days such as Easter and Pentecost, actions such as ritual washing of feet and imposition of blessed ashes, along with the more major ones we would come to know as "the seven." Some lists of sacraments were very short, others had as many as thirty. In the mid-13th century the number was finally set at seven. Other holy rituals came to be called sacramentals. -Greg Dues, Catholic Customs & Traditions (revised edition, 2007) [New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2007] pp.145-146

Matthew D. Schultz also points out: Consider Orthodox Bishop Timothy Ware's comments on the sacraments being numbered at 7:

"Only in the seventeenth century, when Latin influence was at its height, did this list [of seven sacraments] become fixed and definite. Before that date Orthodox writers vary considerably as to the number of sacraments: John of Damascus speaks of two; Dionysius the Areopagite of six; Joasaph, Metropolitan of Ephesus (fifteenth century), of ten; and those Byzantine theologians who in fact speak of seven sacraments differ as to the items which they include in their list. Even today the number seven has no particular dogmatic significance for Orthodox theology, but is used primarily as a convenience in teaching." -The Orthodox Church [New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1997], p. 275

9 comments:

Ikonophile said...

Is this a big deal for Catholics? As Ware notes, the Orthodox are not concerned with numbers necessarily, but I do not know what this means to the Roman Catholic.

John

James Swan said...

Is this a big deal for Catholics?

Probably not most of those I know in-person. Those that defend Rome in cyber-space though take the sacraments very seriously.

steelikat said...

That's remarkable. The RC settled on 7, 2 centuries after the great schism, the Eastern Orthodox settled on not only the same number, but the same seven sacraments, 6 centuries after the great schism. The Oriental Orthodox (5th century schism, I think?) highlight 7, and so does at least one (nestorian) church from an even earlier schism. It would be interesting to see when the Oriental Orthodox settled on 7, since they were separated from both the RC and EOC.

Ikonophile said...

Steelikat,

"the Eastern Orthodox settled on not only the same number, but the same seven sacraments"

Apparently you didn't read the second part of the post. The Orthodox only use seven as a teaching tool, but haven't settled dogmatically on seven at all as Ware states (shown below) Prayer, fasting etc. are also sacramental. The entire Orthodox life is sacramental in nature.

"Even today the number seven has no particular dogmatic significance for Orthodox theology, but is used primarily as a convenience in teaching."

James Swan,

I guess what I meant was what does this do to Roman Catholic theology?

John

Lvka said...

The Ethiopians count four, and one of them is the sign of the cross.

Now back to the Seven:

Ordination, for instance, is not a single sacrament: there are priests (headed by a bishop) and deacons. There were female deacons, but there were never female priests or women-bishops.

If infant baptism and marriage are sacraments, then why isn't burial also?

If matrimony is a mystery, then why isn't monasticism also counted as one?

If confession and repentance is a sacrament, then why aren't acts of penance such as fasting, praying, and alms-giving also counted?

How about the Trinity or the Incarnation? Are they're not also mysteries?

Counting sacraments is like counting the books of the Bible: does the OT have 22 books, like the Jews say, or 39, like the Protestants say? ;-) Or maybe even more, like the Catholics say? Etc.

Lvka said...

John of Damascus speaks of two


In the Eastern Church, Baptism and Chrismation form a single service.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Orthodox Bishop Timothy Ware: "Only in the seventeenth century, when Latin influence was at its height, did this list [of seven sacraments] become fixed and definite. Before that date Orthodox writers vary considerably as to the number of sacraments:"

Thanks for pointing this out, James.

steelikat said...

Ikonophile,

I'd say that's a good thing that the orthodox aren't so eager to "settle dogmatically" on things.

steelikat said...

Ikonophile,

OK, I get it. By saying "settled on" I may have sounded like I was accusing the EOC of creating "settled dogma," especially to RCs who are accustomed to their church doing that at the drop of the hat, the immaculate conception and the assumption for example.

I'll rephrase it:
That's remarkable! the EO picked (neutral vague word) not only the same number, but the very same seven, 6 centuries after the schism!

Better? Do I still give you the unsettling feeling that I didn't read the second half of the post?