Christian Worship and Practices
Christianity is comprised of certain practices and rituals that aim to express the individual’s faith as well as his devotion to God. As such, Christian practices and Christian worship serve to reaffirm commitment to God and to the values and principles of the Church. Christian worship practices include the sacraments as well as the act of the Eucharist and are based on a liturgical calendar that is the basis of religious practice.
Christian Worship and Practices: Sacraments
The Catholic, Orthodox and some Anglican churches define worship in seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders. In addition, these sacraments are also practiced in some Anglican denominations.
Each sacrament has a unique theological significance and is practiced at specific times. The seven sacraments of Christian theology are as follows:
- Baptism: this sacrament is marked by a ritual of water purification and is usually performed when the individual is an infant. The child’s parents as well as witnesses known as godparents pledge her commitment to God so that the infant may become a member of the Church. Some Protestants recognize the sacrament of baptism, while others reject sacramental theology. This Christian ritual may be compared to the Jewish ritual of mikveh or mikvah, a purification ceremony of ritual immersion, although the two rituals have unique religious significance respective to the religious traditions to which they pertain.
- Confirmation: also known as Chrismation, this sacrament is an act of reaffirmation on the part of the individual of the commitment made at Baptism to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is performed at the same time as the sacrament of Baptism, while in the Western Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, confirmation is performed during adolescence.
- Eucharist: this sacrament refers to the act of consuming blessed wine and bread in remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Greek for “thanksgiving”, this Christian worship practice is aimed to allow the individual to enter in communion with God, and as such is also referred to as the act of communion. An individual usually first participates in this sacrament as a young child. Certain Protestant denominations recognize the sacrament, while others reject it due to their views regarding sacramental theology.
- Penance: a sacrament in which the individual seeks reconciliation with God after committing certain sins, such as being hateful or uncompassionate towards others. Also known as confession or contrition, this sacrament involves telling one’s sins to a member of the clergy and repenting for one’s sins through good deeds and prayer.
- Anointing of the Sick: performed to the seriously ill or dying, the Christian sacrament of last rites includes prayer and anointment by a clergy member so that the individual may repent any final sins in order to be in good communion with God upon death.
- Holy Orders: this sacrament of Christianity is only received by those individuals who wish to serve God as their vocation. It refers to the process of admission into the Christian order, for example, as a priest, deacon, minister or bishop.
- Matrimony: the holy union between a man and a woman who desire to unite their lives together in the witness of God.
The Eucharist is one of the cornerstones in Christian worship. Also referred to as the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion, it is a practice that consists of a consecrated meal, which typically consists of bread and wine.
Members of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, as well as individuals of many Anglican denominations, believe that the bread and wine used in this ritual is the body and blood of Jesus, in accordance to the doctrine of the Real Presence. However, the majority of Protestant denominations, in particular Reformed Protestants, believe that the bread and wine are merely representative of the body and blood of Jesus.
In addition, the Eucharist is celebrated at distinct times in different branches of Christianity. While Protestants celebrate this sacrament occasionally, Catholics celebrate it at daily service. Orthodox and Catholic Churches regard the Lord’s Supper as a participatory act that involves members of the community, while other denominations view the act of Holy Communion as an invitation to all individuals to know God.
Christian Liturgical Calendar
In Christianity, worship and practices, including special feast days, are centered on a liturgical calendar.
This calendar is based on Paul of Tarsus, whose missionary travels were based on Pentecost, which is in turn based on the Jewish traditions of Passover, the Feast of the Tabernacles and the Jubilee.
Major feast days of the Christian faith are Christmas (December 25 for Roman Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans), which celebrates the birth of Jesus and the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) which celebrates the visitation of the religious leaders known as the Three Magi which occurred twelve days after Jesus’ birth. This latter feast day is considered to be of superior religious significance to Christmas in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In addition, individual feast days celebrate the lives of the saints. For example, St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19 in Roman Catholicism while St. Francis of Assisi has his feast day on October 4.