The Seven Sacraments of our church
The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church serves the faithful through the seven sacraments. These sacraments are called mysteries because the invisible grace of the Holy Spirit is granted through them. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo church, taking the example from the pillars as has been said in the Proverbs of Solomon as a starting point, teaches that there are seven sacraments (Proverbs 9:1). The seven sacraments are:
- Holy Communion
- Unction of the Sick
- Holy Matrimony
- Holy Orders
Of the seven, a bishop and a priest can perform the six sacraments. A bishop confers ordination only. Of the seven sacraments, the sacrament of Baptism and Communion are sacraments which are also considered as two of the five mysteries of the Orthodox Tewahdo faith.
The Sacrament of Baptism is a sacrament which we receive the grace of childhood from God by being baptized in water by the priest so that we may be born of the Holy Spirit. In the Orthodox Tewahdo faith, one is baptized with water and in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Trinity (Silassie or Holy Trinity) and the believer can only be baptized once by a priest (Kahn). Males are baptized at 40 days-old and Females baptized at 80 days-old; the mystery behind this is that Adam entered the Garden of Eden 40 days after he was created; Meanwhile, Eve entered the Garden of Eden 40 days after Adam (80 days total). As such, males and females in the Orthodox Tewahdo church are both baptized at 40 days and 80 days-old respectively. The sacrament of the baptism is one which given to us by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself. In the Gospel of John for example, Christ teaches us by saying “Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5. Furthermore, we see the command He gave the disciples saying “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” Mark16:16. What we learn here are two things: 1. To enter the kingdom of heaven we need to get baptized and 2. The one getting baptized must believe.
The sacrament of the Holy Communion is one which we as Orthodox tewahdo believers receive the consecrated body and blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By partaking of the flesh and blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we become commune or become One with him. We accept the sacrifice which God for sending his only begotten Son to die on the cross for 1. Fulfill the prophecy and so that we may be saved and have eternal life with him. Of the Seven sacraments, Four sacraments (Sacrament of Baptism, Confession, Matrimony, and priesthood) are received by partaking of the Holy Communion.
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 1 Cor. 11:23-25
“This is the lamb of God , who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29.
It is the Holy ointment, which one is anointed after Baptism. Confirmation like Baptism is performed once and cannot be repeated. Through the sacrament of confirmation, the believer is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the Apostolic times the baptized person was granted the Holy Spirit by the laying of the hands. (Acts 20:14-17). When the church expanded, however, the bishops who continued the works of the Apostles permitted the replacement of the laying of hands by the anointing of the Holy Oil. The gift of the Holy Spirit with mayron, confirmation, has Biblical foundation. The believer is anointed with the Holy Oil immediately after Baptism.
When the Apostles baptized children and grown ups, the baptized person was granted the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8: 14-17; 19:5-6). Children should be anointed with Myron as soon as they are baptized so that they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible confirms that let alone after birth, there were children who were granted the Holy Spirit while they were still in the wombs of their mothers. (Lk. 1:15; Jer. 1:1-8). The right to anoint was originally confined to the Apostles but later passed on to bishops, and then priests were also authorized to administer the sacrament.
This is the sacrament through which the clergy are entitled to perform the various services of the Church. This sacrament has Biblical basis. (Mt. 28:19,20; Eph. 4:11; Acts 26:20). There are three hierarchical ranks of Ordination. These are deacon, priest and bishop. Priest: The order of priesthood is conferred either after marriage or after becoming a monk. He can perform all the sacraments except, conferring Ordination, consecration of the Holy Oil used for sacrament of confirmation, consecration of the altar, the Ark of the Covenant, new church and new vessels. If he becomes a priest in celibacy, he can attain the rank of bishop; but if he is married, he will be limited to the rank of priesthood. A priest is ordained by the laying of hands and the breath of bishop.
Deacon: Deacons are ordained into this Order before marriage. After marriage, the deacons become priests but if they wish to be monks and be ordained priests they have to remain celibate. The duty of the deacons is to assist priests and bishops to be ordained by bishops.
In our Church, there are three ranks under the deacon-hood, which qualify one to serve the church. These ranks are conferred through blessing and not by the laying of hands. No payment is made for receiving any of the Ordinations. (Acts 8:18-26). Ordination is not attained through inheritance but through a calling of the Holy Spirit and in accordance with the canons of the Church.
A Christian marriage is one of the seven sacraments, which is performed in a church by means of which the grace of the Holy Spirit is obtained. Holy Matrimony is based on the Bible. (Gen. 1:27,28, 2:18, Mt. 19:4-6). The Canon of the Church requires that before matrimony, there are some conditions which must be must be met:
- Both couples should be Christians to obtain the grace of God
- Both should belong to the Orthodox Tewahido Church. If any one of them is not a member, he/she should first be a member of the Church.
- No pre-martial sexual relationship is permitted.
- Both should consent to be united in marriage.
- No marriage is allowed within seven generations so as not to break the rule of kinship that forbids marriage between close family relations. (Lev. 18:6-21; Deut. 7:3-4).
- As the marriage of Christians epitomizes the unity between Christ and the Church, it shall not be broken. (Eph. 5:32),
- In our Church one to one marriage only is allowed.
- Re-marriage cannot be conducted by any one of the two partners unless divorce is affected because of adultery or one of the partners dies. (Mt. 19:6-9)
- Bishops and priests celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony.
- Matrimony is not performed without Holy Communion. (Fetha Negest Article 24:899).
- Parents should be consulted and their consent should be secured.
Penance means to feel remorse, repent and cleanse oneself from sin. Although Christians are reborn through Baptism, men are liable to commit sins. Therefore: Every Christian should have a father confessor (soul-father) Every one should go to the father confessor and confess his/her sins. (Lev. 14:30, Mt. 8:4; Epiphanius Faith of Fathers Hai. Ab. 59:20). Those who confess their sins and return to God receive the grace of God and by receiving the Holy Communion they will enter to their former place of honor. Confessions and remissions are performed only by bishops or priests only. Penance is based on the Bible. (Mt.16: 19, 8:4). The confession of the penitent made in front of the father-confessor and the tears shed for the sins committed will enable them to be rejuvenated by the Holy Sprit. (Liturgy of Athanasius). Penance is one of the Sacraments that are repeated. The main objectives of the teachings starting from the Prophets, of John the Baptist; Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and his disciples that Apostles is to enable people to inherit the kingdom of God through repentance. Repent Ye: for the Kingdom of God is at hand.? On the basis of this truth, the Church teaches the need and virtue of Penance. (Mt. 3:1-2,4:17, Zach. 1:3)
Unction of the Sick
It is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Church. It is an anointment administered to the sick. It has Biblical origin and is administered by bishops and priests. (Mk. 6:13; Jas. 5:13-15). In our Church, since Unction is proffered to cleanse sins of the flesh as well as of the soul, Unction is administered to one who afflicted by sin. Unction is performed by bishops and priests only. Each of the Seven Sacraments has its own book of prayer and system of application. The seven Sacraments as a whole are considered as manifestations of the faith and tenets of the religion of the Church. These Sacraments are all performed in the Church. However, it is not also forbidden if they are performed elsewhere as and when conditions are met. The main aim of all the Sacraments is to redeem mankind.