The most solemn, majestic, and beautiful gifts that Jesus Christ gave to the world are His sacraments. He endowed them with unprecedented and unparalleled power—power to change lives, save souls, and share God’s very life. The sacraments are the ordinary means by which God directs the course of each human life and all of world history.
The Church celebrates seven sacraments: baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, matrimony, holy orders, confession, and anointing of the sick. Each was established by Jesus for the sake of salvation. When Jesus spoke of the sacraments, He made clear that they were essential: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5) . . . unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6: 53).
In Swear to God, Dr. Scott Hahn explores the richness of Christ’s sacraments—their doctrine, history, symbols, and rituals. Drawing upon the Bible and the Church’s tradition, he shows how God’s covenants—with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David—became the driving forces in history. When Jesus came to fulfill all these covenants, He established a new covenant, with greater power than ever before. Christians are God’s children now. Joined to Christ by baptism, we can already share in the eternal life of the Trinity, a life we hope to know fully in heaven. But heaven is with us, even now, in the sacraments.
Hahn, a convert to Catholicism who is professor of biblical theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, continues his popular expositions on various aspects of the Catholic faith in this treatise on the church's seven sacraments. Written in the easy style that has opened the depths of Catholic theology to scores of laypeople, Hahn shares how he once regarded sacraments as "boring," but reconsidered that view after a challenge from his wife, Kimberly, while both were still Protestants. In reading the works of the church fathers, Hahn came to see the sacraments as signs of God's covenant with humanity and thus more than mere rituals. When Catholics receive them, he writes, they make a covenant with God that has weighty implications. He explains how in ancient times, parties to covenants would swear a sacred oath, offer a sacrifice and share a meal, all elements contained in the sacraments today. Hahn insists sacraments are based in scripture and makes a convincing case that they were not late additions to Christianity, but were practiced by the early church. He offers personal testimony as well, crediting grace from the sacrament of matrimony with sustaining him and his wife through the difficult period in which he left the Protestant ministry and converted to Catholicism. Catholics in search of a fresh look at their faith will find Hahn's enthusiasm inviting. His frequent references to the Catechism also should make this a helpful resource. (May 18) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.