Thanks to the capital of California everybody knows this word, though it’s not found in the Bible. But it is another example of valuable doctrinal shorthand to sum up what Scripture teaches and thus does not come under God’s curse on biblical additions.
Sacrament comes from the Latin word sacer, which means “holy.” The sacraments are holy rituals that Christ instituted, which use some kind of tangible material as a vehicle for God’s Word and power and which bring the gospel of forgiveness to the receiver. It is a beautiful way of personalizing the Word by literally touching the person, so that there can be no doubt as to who is meant by God’s forgiving grace. The washing of Baptism fits that definition, and so does the sacred Supper of the Lord: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27,28).
The holiness of the acts of the Lord’s Supper can be seen in this, that it is a direct encounter with the very body and blood of Christ himself. Thus St. Paul urges communicants to prepare themselves spiritually so that Christ will be worshiped and glorified and the recipient nourished and comforted.
How good it is to be washed and fed!