The Church Mysteries
The Church exists to lead the faithful to the Love, the Light, and the Life in Christ through His sacred Mysteries that are offered in the sacramental life of the church. The sacraments in the Orthodox Church are called the ‘Holy Mysteries’. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist, Confession, Marriage, Ordination and Holy Unction. However, the Mysteries of the Church are not limited to these but rather encompass all things of a mystical nature in the Church. These can include, and are not limited to, the service for the burial of the dead, monastic tonsuring, blessing of the waters at Epiphany, blessing of homes, etc.
The sacraments, like the Church, are both visible and invisible. In every sacrament there is a combination of an outward visible sign with an inward spiritual grace. St John Chrysostom wrote that they are called mysteries because what we believe is not the same as what we see. For instance, at Baptism the Christian undergoes an outward washing in water, but at the same time is cleansed inwardly from their sins. Similarly, at the Eucharist what visibly appears to be bread and wine is in reality the Body and Blood of Christ that is offered. In most of the sacraments the Church takes material things such as water, bread, wine, oil and makes them a vehicle of the Holy Spirit.
In this way the sacraments look back to the Incarnation, when Christ took material flesh and made it a vehicle of the Holy Spirit. The sacraments are personal to each one of us. They are the means whereby God’s Grace is appropriated to every Christian individually. For this reason the priest mentions the Christian name of each person as he administers the sacrament. The Church with all Her Mysteries, transforms us, sanctifies us, and brings us into Communion with God, and a life in Christ.
Source: Lychnos December 2018 / January 2019