Answer.—A sacrament is a visible sign permanently instituted by Jesus Christ to signify and confer grace upon men.
Three things are necessary for a sacrament:
1st, the sensible sign, as in Baptism the outward washing of the body with the invocation of the Blessed Trinity;
2nd, the inward grace signified and conferred, as in Baptism, the cleansing of original sin and actual sin if it exitst; and
3rd, institution by Jesus Christ. The chief reason of the sacraments is the will of Jesus Christ manifested in the gospels, and infallibly witnessed to by His Church. It is perfectly in accord with man's nature that sensible things should be made by God the stepping-stones to things supernatural.
The whole idea of the Incarnation is "a redemption of the internal through the external" (George Tyrrell, S.J., External Religion, ch. i. B. Herder, 1900), and the sacraments are merely the application to the individual soul of the fruits of the Incarnation.
They are the seven channels cf the blood and merits of the Atonement, flowing from the cross upon the hearts of sinful men to wash away their sins, and give them the life of grace which Christ died to gain. They give the Church, a visible society, a visible bond of union, and visibly witness, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, to the oneness of her children in the faith and love of Christ. Practically speaking, they have helped religion wonderfully, for they give certain, concrete, and ready helps to uproot sin from the hearts of men, and to promote, as in the Blessed Sacrament, the highest love for and the closest union with Jesus Christ (Humphrey, The One Mediator; Wilhelm-Scannell, A Manual of Theology, vol. ii ; Hunter, Outlines of Theology vol. iii.).
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, March 23rd, 1935 (1935.pdf pp119)