The Meaning of Sacrament (From a Linguistic View)

In the study of linguistics, it is normal to see that the meaning of words may change over time.  One such word that fits the category is the word “sacrament”.  When we hear that word, we think of the seven sacraments administered by the church.  They are a promise from Christ to show that he is still among us.  To do this properly we look to the Latin term sacramentum.

What does the word sacramentum mean?  To the Roman soldier it is a solemn obligation to carry out one’s duty even to the point of death.  It is similar to the oath that soldiers in the 21st century make in the United States.  They take an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all foreign and domestic enemies.  An oath is made to obey the orders of the President of the United States and those officers appointed over them.  When the Roman soldier enters military service an oath is made to the Senate and the People.  As the American soldier is called to make the ultimate sacrifice, the Roman soldier by virtue of his oath will fulfill his service to the point of death.

In regard to the sacraments it is a solemn pledge from God to us.  We are physical creatures, and sacramentum shows a personal relationship through physical matter.  God gave us an oath at the beginning of salvation history and carried it out to death on the cross.  The sacraments are a continued sign that he is always with us.

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