QUESTION 60: WHAT IS A SACRAMENT?
After considering those things that concern the mystery of the incarnate
Word, we must consider the sacraments of the Church which derive their
efficacy from the Word incarnate Himself. First we shall consider the
sacraments in general; secondly, we shall consider specially each
Concerning the first our consideration will be fivefold: (1) What is a
sacrament? (2) Of the necessity of the sacraments; (3) of the effects of
the sacraments; (4) Of their cause; (5) Of their number.
Under the first heading there are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether a sacrament is a kind of sign?
(2) Whether every sign of a sacred thing is a sacrament?
(3) Whether a sacrament is a sign of one thing only, or of several?
(4) Whether a sacrament is a sign that is something sensible?
(5) Whether some determinate sensible thing is required for a sacrament?
(6) Whether signification expressed by words is necessary for a
(7) Whether determinate words are required?
(8) Whether anything may be added to or subtracted from these words?
Article 1: Whether a sacrament is a kind of sign?
Objection 1: It seems that a sacrament is not a kind of sign. For sacrament
appears to be derived from "sacring" [sacrando]; just as medicament, from
"medicando" [healing]. But this seems to be of the nature of a cause
rather than of a sign. Therefore a sacrament is a kind of cause rather
than a kind of sign.
Objection 2: Further, sacrament seems to signify something hidden, according
to Tobias 12:7: "It is good to hide the secret [sacramentum] of a king";
and Eph. 3:9: "What is the dispensation of the mystery [sacramenti] which
hath been hidden from eternity in God." But that which is hidden, seems
foreign to the nature of a sign; for "a sign is that which conveys
something else to the mind, besides the species which it impresses on the
senses," as Augustine explains (De Doctr. Christ. ii). Therefore it seems
that a sacrament is not a kind of sign.
Objection 3: Further, an oath is sometimes called a sacrament: for it is
written in the Decretals (Caus. xxii, qu. 5): "Children who have not
attained the use of reason must not be obliged to swear: and whoever has
foresworn himself once, must no more be a witness, nor be allowed to take
a sacrament," i.e. an oath. But an oath is not a kind of sign, therefore
it seems that a sacrament is not a kind of sign.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x): "The visible sacrifice
is the sacrament, i.e. the sacred sign, of the invisible sacrifice."
I answer that, All things that are ordained to one, even in different
ways, can be denominated from it: thus, from health which is in an
animal, not only is the animal said to be healthy through being the
subject of health: but medicine also is said to be healthy through
producing health; diet through preserving it; and urine, through being a
sign of health. Consequently, a thing may be called a "sacrament," either
from having a certain hidden sanctity, and in this sense a sacrament is a
"sacred secret"; or from having some relationship to this sanctity, which
relationship may be that of a cause, or of a sign or of any other
relation. But now we are speaking of sacraments in a special sense, as
implying the habitude of sign: and in this way a sacrament is a kind of
Reply to Objection 1: Because medicine is an efficient cause of health,
consequently whatever things are denominated from medicine are to be
referred to some first active cause: so that a medicament implies a
certain causality. But sanctity from which a sacrament is denominated, is
not there taken as an efficient cause, but rather as a formal or a final
cause. Therefore it does not follow that a sacrament need always imply
Reply to Objection 2: This argument considers sacrament in the sense of a "sacred
secret." Now not only God's but also the king's, secret, is said to be
sacred and to be a sacrament: because according to the ancients, whatever
it was unlawful to lay violent hands on was said to be holy or
sacrosanct, such as the city walls, and persons of high rank.
Consequently those secrets, whether Divine or human, which it is unlawful
to violate by making them known to anybody whatever, are called "sacred
secrets or sacraments."
Reply to Objection 3: Even an oath has a certain relation to sacred things, in so
far as it consists in calling a sacred thing to witness. And in this
sense it is called a sacrament: not in the sense in which we speak of
sacraments now; the word "sacrament" being thus used not equivocally but
analogically, i.e. by reason of a different relation to the one thing,
viz. something sacred.
Article 2: Whether every sign of a holy thing is a sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that not every sign of a sacred thing is a sacrament.
For all sensible creatures are signs of sacred things; according to Rm.
1:20: "The invisible things of God are clearly seen being understood by
the things that are made." And yet all sensible things cannot be called
sacraments. Therefore not every sign of a sacred thing is a sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, whatever was done under the Old Law was a figure of
Christ Who is the "Holy of Holies" (Dan. 9:24), according to 1 Cor.
10:11: "All (these) things happened to them in figure"; and Col. 2:17:
"Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is Christ's." And yet
not all that was done by the Fathers of the Old Testament, not even all
the ceremonies of the Law, were sacraments, but only in certain special
cases, as stated in the FS, Question , Article . Therefore it seems that not
every sign of a sacred thing is a sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, even in the New Testament many things are done in sign
of some sacred thing; yet they are not called sacraments; such as
sprinkling with holy water, the consecration of an altar, and such like.
Therefore not every sign of a sacred thing is a sacrament.
On the contrary, A definition is convertible with the thing defined. Now
some define a sacrament as being "the sign of a sacred thing"; moreover,
this is clear from the passage quoted above (Article ) from Augustine.
Therefore it seems that every sign of a sacred thing is a sacrament.
I answer that, Signs are given to men, to whom it is proper to discover
the unknown by means of the known. Consequently a sacrament properly so
called is that which is the sign of some sacred thing pertaining to man;
so that properly speaking a sacrament, as considered by us now, is
defined as being the "sign of a holy thing so far as it makes men holy."
Reply to Objection 1: Sensible creatures signify something holy, viz. Divine
wisdom and goodness inasmuch as these are holy in themselves; but not
inasmuch as we are made holy by them. Therefore they cannot be called
sacraments as we understand sacraments now.
Reply to Objection 2: Some things pertaining to the Old Testament signified the
holiness of Christ considered as holy in Himself. Others signified His
holiness considered as the cause of our holiness; thus the sacrifice of
the Paschal Lamb signified Christ's Sacrifice whereby we are made holy:
and such like are properly styled sacraments of the Old Law.
Reply to Objection 3: Names are given to things considered in reference to their
end and state of completeness. Now a disposition is not an end, whereas
perfection is. Consequently things that signify disposition to holiness
are not called sacraments, and with regard to these the objection is
verified: only those are called sacraments which signify the perfection
of holiness in man.
Article 3: Whether a sacrament is a sign of one thing only?
Objection 1: It seems that a sacrament is a sign of one thing only. For that
which signifies many things is an ambiguous sign, and consequently
occasions deception: this is clearly seen in equivocal words. But all
deception should be removed from the Christian religion, according to
Col. 2:8: "Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit."
Therefore it seems that a sacrament is not a sign of several things.
Objection 2: Further, as stated above (Article ), a sacrament signifies a holy
thing in so far as it makes man holy. But there is only one cause of
man's holiness, viz. the blood of Christ; according to Heb. 13:12:
"Jesus, that He might sanctify the people by His own blood, suffered
without the gate." Therefore it seems that a sacrament does not signify
Objection 3: Further, it has been said above (Article , ad 3) that a sacrament
signifies properly the very end of sanctification. Now the end of
sanctification is eternal life, according to Rm. 6:22: "You have your
fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting." Therefore it
seems that the sacraments signify one thing only, viz. eternal life.
On the contrary, In the Sacrament of the Altar, two things are
signified, viz. Christ's true body, and Christ's mystical body; as
Augustine says (Liber Sent. Prosper.).
I answer that, As stated above (Article ) a sacrament properly speaking is
that which is ordained to signify our sanctification. In which three
things may be considered; viz. the very cause of our sanctification,
which is Christ's passion; the form of our sanctification, which is grace
and the virtues; and the ultimate end of our sanctification, which is
eternal life. And all these are signified by the sacraments. Consequently
a sacrament is a sign that is both a reminder of the past, i.e. the
passion of Christ; and an indication of that which is effected in us by
Christ's passion, i.e. grace; and a prognostic, that is, a foretelling of
Reply to Objection 1: Then is a sign ambiguous and the occasion of deception,
when it signifies many things not ordained to one another. But when it
signifies many things inasmuch as, through being mutually ordained, they
form one thing, then the sign is not ambiguous but certain: thus this
word "man" signifies the soul and body inasmuch as together they form the
human nature. In this way a sacrament signifies the three things
aforesaid, inasmuch as by being in a certain order they are one thing.
Reply to Objection 2: Since a sacrament signifies that which sanctifies, it must
needs signify the effect, which is implied in the sanctifying cause as
Reply to Objection 3: It is enough for a sacrament that it signify that
perfection which consists in the form, nor is it necessary that it should
signify only that perfection which is the end.
Article 4: Whether a sacrament is always something sensible?
Objection 1: It seems that a sacrament is not always something sensible.
Because, according to the Philosopher (Prior. Anal. ii), every effect is
a sign of its cause. But just as there are some sensible effects, so are
there some intelligible effects; thus science is the effect of a
demonstration. Therefore not every sign is sensible. Now all that is
required for a sacrament is something that is a sign of some sacred
thing, inasmuch as thereby man is sanctified, as stated above (Article ).
Therefore something sensible is not required for a sacrament.
Objection 2: Further, sacraments belong to the kingdom of God and the Divine
worship. But sensible things do not seem to belong to the Divine worship:
for we are told (Jn. 4:24) that "God is a spirit; and they that adore
Him, must adore Him in spirit and in truth"; and (Rm. 14:17) that "the
kingdom of God is not meat and drink." Therefore sensible things are not
required for the sacraments.
Objection 3: Further. Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. ii) that "sensible things
are goods of least account, since without them man can live aright." But
the sacraments are necessary for man's salvation, as we shall show
farther on (Question , Article ): so that man cannot live aright without them.
Therefore sensible things are not required for the sacraments.
On the contrary, Augustine says (Tract. lxxx super Joan.): "The word is
added to the element and this becomes a sacrament"; and he is speaking
there of water which is a sensible element. Therefore sensible things are
required for the sacraments.
I answer that, Divine wisdom provides for each thing according to its
mode; hence it is written (Wis. 8:1) that "she . . . ordereth all things
sweetly": wherefore also we are told (Mt. 25:15) that she "gave to
everyone according to his proper ability." Now it is part of man's nature
to acquire knowledge of the intelligible from the sensible. But a sign is
that by means of which one attains to the knowledge of something else.
Consequently, since the sacred things which are signified by the
sacraments, are the spiritual and intelligible goods by means of which
man is sanctified, it follows that the sacramental signs consist in
sensible things: just as in the Divine Scriptures spiritual things are
set before us under the guise of things sensible. And hence it is that
sensible things are required for the sacraments; as Dionysius also proves
in his book on the heavenly hierarchy (Coel. Hier. i).
Reply to Objection 1: The name and definition of a thing is taken principally from that which belongs to a thing primarily and essentially: and not from that which belongs to it through something else. Now a sensible effect being the primary and direct object of man's knowledge (since all our knowledge springs from the senses) by its very nature leads to the knowledge of something else: whereas intelligible effects are not such as to be able to lead us to the knowledge of something else, except in so far as they are manifested by some other thing, i.e. by certain sensibles. It is for this reason that the name sign is given primarily and principally to things which are offered to the senses; hence Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. ii) that a sign "is that which conveys something else to the mind, besides the species which it impresses on the senses." But intelligible effects do not partake of the nature of a sign except in so far as they are pointed out by certain signs. And in this way, too, certain things which are not sensible are termed sacraments as it were, in so far as they are signified by certain sensible things, of which we shall treat further on (Question , Article , ad 2; Article , ad 2; Question , Article ; Question , Article , ad 3).
Reply to Objection 2: Sensible things considered in their own nature do not
belong to the worship or kingdom of God: but considered only as signs of
spiritual things in which the kingdom of God consists.
Reply to Objection 3: Augustine speaks there of sensible things, considered in
their nature; but not as employed to signify spiritual things, which are
the highest goods.
Article 5: Whether determinate things are required for a sacrament?
Objection 1: It seems that determinate things are not required for a
sacrament. For sensible things are required in sacraments for the purpose
of signification, as stated above (Article ). But nothing hinders the same
thing being signified by divers sensible things: thus in Holy Scripture
God is signified metaphorically, sometimes by a stone (2 Kgs. 22:2; Zach. 3:9; 1 Cor. 10:4; Apoc. 4:3); sometimes by a lion (Is. 31:4; Apoc. 5:5);
sometimes by the sun (Is. 60:19,20; Mal. 4:2), or by something similar.
Therefore it seems that divers things can be suitable to the same
sacrament. Therefore determinate things are not required for the
Objection 2: Further, the health of the soul is more necessary than that of
the body. But in bodily medicines, which are ordained to the health of
the body, one thing can be substituted for another which happens to be
wanting. Therefore much more in the sacraments, which are spiritual
remedies ordained to the health of the soul, can one thing be substituted
for another when this happens to be lacking.
Objection 3: Further, it is not fitting that the salvation of men be
restricted by the Divine Law: still less by the Law of Christ, Who came
to save all. But in the state of the Law of nature determinate things
were not required in the sacraments, but were put to that use through a
vow, as appears from Gn. 28, where Jacob vowed that he would offer to God
tithes and peace-offerings. Therefore it seems that man should not have
been restricted, especially under the New Law, to the use of any
determinate thing in the sacraments.
On the contrary, our Lord said (Jn. 3:5): "Unless a man be born again of
water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
I answer that, In the use of the sacraments two things may be
considered, namely, the worship of God, and the sanctification of man:
the former of which pertains to man as referred to God, and the latter
pertains to God in reference to man. Now it is not for anyone to
determine that which is in the power of another, but only that which is
in his own power. Since, therefore, the sanctification of man is in the
power of God Who sanctifies, it is not for man to decide what things
should be used for his sanctification, but this should be determined by
Divine institution. Therefore in the sacraments of the New Law, by which
man is sanctified according to 1 Cor. 6:11, "You are washed, you are
sanctified," we must use those things which are determined by Divine
Reply to Objection 1: Though the same thing can be signified by divers signs, yet
to determine which sign must be used belongs to the signifier. Now it is
God Who signifies spiritual things to us by means of the sensible things
in the sacraments, and of similitudes in the Scriptures. And
consequently, just as the Holy Ghost decides by what similitudes
spiritual things are to be signified in certain passages of Scripture, so
also must it be determined by Divine institution what things are to be
employed for the purpose of signification in this or that sacrament.
Reply to Objection 2: Sensible things are endowed with natural powers conducive
to the health of the body: and therefore if two of them have the same
virtue, it matters not which we use. Yet they are ordained unto
sanctification not through any power that they possess naturally, but
only in virtue of the Divine institution. And therefore it was necessary
that God should determine the sensible things to be employed in the
Reply to Objection 3: As Augustine says (Contra Faust. xix), diverse sacraments suit different times; just as different times are signified by different parts of the verb, viz. present, past, and future. Consequently, just as under the state of the Law of nature man was moved by inward instinct and without any outward law, to worship God, so also the sensible things to be employed in the worship of God were determined by inward instinct. But later on it became necessary for a law to be given (to man) from without: both because the Law of nature had become obscured by man's sins; and in order to signify more expressly the grace of Christ, by which the human race is sanctified. And hence the need for those things to be determinate, of which men have to make use in the sacraments. Nor is the way of salvation narrowed thereby: because the things which need to be used in the sacraments, are either in everyone's possession or can be had with little trouble.
Article 6: Whether words are required for the signification of the sacraments?
Objection 1: It seems that words are not required for the signification of the
sacraments. For Augustine says (Contra Faust. xix): "What else is a
corporeal sacrament but a kind of visible word?" Wherefore to add words
to the sensible things in the sacraments seems to be the same as to add
words to words. But this is superfluous. Therefore words are not required
besides the sensible things in the sacraments .
Objection 2: Further, a sacrament is some one thing, but it does not seem
possible to make one thing of those that belong to different genera.
Since, therefore, sensible things and words are of different genera, for
sensible things are the product of nature, but words, of reason; it seems
that in the sacraments, words are not required besides sensible things.
Objection 3: Further, the sacraments of the New Law succeed those of the Old
Law: since "the former were instituted when the latter were abolished,"
as Augustine says (Contra Faust. xix). But no form of words was required
in the sacraments of the Old Law. Therefore neither is it required in
those of the New Law.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Eph. 5:25,26): "Christ loved the
Church, and delivered Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it,
cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life." And Augustine
says (Tract. xxx in Joan.): "The word is added to the element, and this
becomes a sacrament."
I answer that, The sacraments, as stated above (Articles ,3), are employed
as signs for man's sanctification. Consequently they can be considered in
three ways: and in each way it is fitting for words to be added to the
sensible signs. For in the first place they can be considered in regard
to the cause of sanctification, which is the Word incarnate: to Whom the
sacraments have a certain conformity, in that the word is joined to the
sensible sign, just as in the mystery of the Incarnation the Word of God
is united to sensible flesh.
Secondly, sacraments may be considered on the part of man who is
sanctified, and who is composed of soul and body: to whom the sacramental
remedy is adjusted, since it touches the body through the sensible
element, and the soul through faith in the words. Hence Augustine says
(Tract. lxxx in Joan.) on Jn. 15:3, "Now you are clean by reason of the
word," etc.: "Whence hath water this so great virtue, to touch the body
and wash the heart, but by the word doing it, not because it is spoken,
but because it is believed?"
Thirdly, a sacrament may be considered on the part of the sacramental
signification. Now Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. ii) that "words are
the principal signs used by men"; because words can be formed in various
ways for the purpose of signifying various mental concepts, so that we
are able to express our thoughts with greater distinctness by means of
words. And therefore in order to insure the perfection of sacramental
signification it was necessary to determine the signification of the
sensible things by means of certain words. For water may signify both a
cleansing by reason of its humidity, and refreshment by reason of its
being cool: but when we say, "I baptize thee," it is clear that we use
water in baptism in order to signify a spiritual cleansing.
Reply to Objection 1: The sensible elements of the sacraments are called words by
way of a certain likeness, in so far as they partake of a certain
significative power, which resides principally in the very words, as
stated above. Consequently it is not a superfluous repetition to add
words to the visible element in the sacraments; because one determines
the other, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 2: Although words and other sensible things are not in the
same genus, considered in their natures, yet have they something in
common as to the thing signified by them: which is more perfectly done in
words than in other things. Wherefore in the sacraments, words and
things, like form and matter, combine in the formation of one thing, in
so far as the signification of things is completed by means of words, as
above stated. And under words are comprised also sensible actions, such
as cleansing and anointing and such like: because they have a like
signification with the things.
Reply to Objection 3: As Augustine says (Contra Faust. xix), the sacraments of
things present should be different from sacraments of things to come. Now
the sacraments of the Old Law foretold the coming of Christ. Consequently
they did not signify Christ so clearly as the sacraments of the New Law,
which flow from Christ Himself, and have a certain likeness to Him, as
stated above. Nevertheless in the Old Law, certain words were used in
things pertaining to the worship of God, both by the priests, who were
the ministers of those sacraments, according to Num. 6:23,24: "Thus shall
you bless the children of Israel, and you shall say to them: The Lord
bless thee," etc.; and by those who made use of those sacraments,
according to Dt. 26:3: "I profess this day before the Lord thy God," etc.
Article 7: Whether determinate words are required in the sacraments?
Objection 1: It seems that determinate words are not required in the
sacraments. For as the Philosopher says (Peri Herm. i), "words are not
the same for all." But salvation, which is sought through the sacraments,
is the same for all. Therefore determinate words are not required in the
Objection 2: Further, words are required in the sacraments forasmuch as they
are the principal means of signification, as stated above (Article ). But it
happens that various words mean the same. Therefore determinate words are
not required in the sacraments.
Objection 3: Further, corruption of anything changes its species. But some
corrupt the pronunciation of words, and yet it is not credible that the
sacramental effect is hindered thereby; else unlettered men and
stammerers, in conferring sacraments, would frequently do so invalidly.
Therefore it seems that determinate words are not required in the
On the contrary, our Lord used determinate words in consecrating the
sacrament of the Eucharist, when He said (Mt. 26:26): "This is My Body."
Likewise He commanded His disciples to baptize under a form of
determinate words, saying (Mt. 28:19): "Go ye and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
I answer that, As stated above (Article , ad 2), in the sacraments the words
are as the form, and sensible things are as the matter. Now in all things
composed of matter and form, the determining principle is on the part of
the form, which is as it were the end and terminus of the matter.
Consequently for the being of a thing the need of a determinate form is
prior to the need of determinate matter: for determinate matter is needed
that it may be adapted to the determinate form. Since, therefore, in the
sacraments determinate sensible things are required, which are as the
sacramental matter, much more is there need in them of a determinate form
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine says (Tract. lxxx super Joan.), the word
operates in the sacraments "not because it is spoken," i.e. not by the
outward sound of the voice, "but because it is believed" in accordance
with the sense of the words which is held by faith. And this sense is
indeed the same for all, though the same words as to their sound be not
used by all. Consequently no matter in what language this sense is
expressed, the sacrament is complete.
Reply to Objection 2: Although it happens in every language that various words
signify the same thing, yet one of those words is that which those who
speak that language use principally and more commonly to signify that
particular thing: and this is the word which should be used for the
sacramental signification. So also among sensible things, that one is
used for the sacramental signification which is most commonly employed
for the action by which the sacramental effect is signified: thus water
is most commonly used by men for bodily cleansing, by which the spiritual
cleansing is signified: and therefore water is employed as the matter of
Reply to Objection 3: If he who corrupts the pronunciation of the sacramental
words---does so on purpose, he does not seem to intend to do what the
Church intends: and thus the sacrament seems to be defective. But if he
do this through error or a slip of the tongue, and if he so far
mispronounce the words as to deprive them of sense, the sacrament seems
to be defective. This would be the case especially if the
mispronunciation be in the beginning of a word, for instance, if one were
to say "in nomine matris" instead of "in nomine Patris." If, however,
the sense of the words be not entirely lost by this mispronunciation, the
sacrament is complete. This would be the case principally if the end of a
word be mispronounced; for instance, if one were to say "patrias et
filias." For although the words thus mispronounced have no appointed
meaning, yet we allow them an accommodated meaning corresponding to the
usual forms of speech. And so, although the sensible sound is changed,
yet the sense remains the same.
What has been said about the various mispronunciations of words, either
at the beginning or at the end, holds forasmuch as with us a change at
the beginning of a word changes the meaning, whereas a change at the end
generally speaking does not effect such a change: whereas with the Greeks
the sense is changed also in the beginning of words in the conjugation of
Nevertheless the principle point to observe is the extent of the
corruption entailed by mispronunciation: for in either case it may be so
little that it does not alter the sense of the words; or so great that it
destroys it. But it is easier for the one to happen on the part of the
beginning of the words, and the other at the end.
Article 8: Whether it is lawful to add anything to the words in which the sacramental form consists?
Objection 1: It seems that it is not lawful to add anything to the words in
which the sacramental form consists. For these sacramental words are not
of less importance than are the words of Holy Scripture. But it is not
lawful to add anything to, or to take anything from, the words of Holy
Scripture: for it is written (Dt. 4:2): "You shall not add to the word
that I speak to you, neither shall you take away from it"; and (Apoc. 22:18,19): "I testify to everyone that heareth the words of the prophecy
of this book: if any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him
the plagues written in this book. And if any man shall take away . . .
God shall take away his part out of the book of life." Therefore it seems
that neither is it lawful to add anything to, or to take anything from,
the sacramental forms.
Objection 2: Further, in the sacraments words are by way of form, as stated
above (Article , ad 2; Article ). But any addition or subtraction in forms
changes the species, as also in numbers (Metaph. viii). Therefore it
seems that if anything be added to or subtracted from a sacramental form,
it will not be the same sacrament.
Objection 3: Further, just as the sacramental form demands a certain number of words, so does it require that these words should be pronounced in a certain order and without interruption. If therefore, the sacrament is not rendered invalid by addition or subtraction of words, in like manner it seems that neither is it, if the words be pronounced in a different order or with interruptions.
On the contrary, Certain words are inserted by some in the sacramental
forms, which are not inserted by others: thus the Latins baptize under
this form: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost"; whereas the Greeks use the following form: "The
servant of God, N . . . is baptized in the name of the Father," etc. Yet
both confer the sacrament validly. Therefore it is lawful to add
something to, or to take something from, the sacramental forms.
I answer that, With regard to all the variations that may occur in the
sacramental forms, two points seem to call for our attention. one is on
the part of the person who says the words, and whose intention is
essential to the sacrament, as will be explained further on (Question , Article ). Wherefore if he intends by such addition or suppression to perform a
rite other from that which is recognized by the Church, it seems that the
sacrament is invalid: because he seems not to intend to do what the
The other point to be considered is the meaning of the words. For since
in the sacraments, the words produce an effect according to the sense
which they convey, as stated above (Article , ad 1), we must see whether the
change of words destroys the essential sense of the words: because then
the sacrament is clearly rendered invalid. Now it is clear, if any
substantial part of the sacramental form be suppressed, that the
essential sense of the words is destroyed; and consequently the sacrament
is invalid. Wherefore Didymus says (De Spir. Sanct. ii): "If anyone
attempt to baptize in such a way as to omit one of the aforesaid names,"
i.e. of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, "his baptism will be invalid."
But if that which is omitted be not a substantial part of the form, such
an omission does not destroy the essential sense of the words, nor
consequently the validity of the sacrament. Thus in the form of the
Eucharist---"For this is My Body," the omission of the word "for" does
not destroy the essential sense of the words, nor consequently cause the
sacrament to be invalid; although perhaps he who makes the omission may
sin from negligence or contempt.
Again, it is possible to add something that destroys the essential sense
of the words: for instance, if one were to say: "I baptize thee in the
name of the Father Who is greater, and of the Son Who is less," with
which form the Arians baptized: and consequently such an addition makes
the sacrament invalid. But if the addition be such as not to destroy the
essential sense, the sacrament is not rendered invalid. Nor does it
matter whether this addition be made at the beginning, in the middle, or
at the end: For instance, if one were to say, "I baptize thee in the name
of the Father Almighty, and of the only Begotten Son, and of the Holy
Ghost, the Paraclete," the baptism would be valid; and in like manner if
one were to say, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost"; and may the Blessed Virgin succour thee, the
baptism would be valid.
Perhaps, however, if one were to say, "I baptize thee in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and of the Blessed
Virgin Mary," the baptism would be void; because it is written (1 Cor. 1:13): "Was Paul crucified for you or were you baptized in the name of
Paul?" But this is true if the intention be to baptize in the name of the
Blessed Virgin as in the name of the Trinity, by which baptism is
consecrated: for such a sense would be contrary to faith, and would
therefore render the sacrament invalid: whereas if the addition, "and in
the name of the Blessed Virgin" be understood, not as if the name of the
Blessed Virgin effected anything in baptism, but as intimating that her
intercession may help the person baptized to preserve the baptismal
grace, then the sacrament is not rendered void.
Reply to Objection 1: It is not lawful to add anything to the words of Holy
Scripture as regards the sense; but many words are added by Doctors by
way of explanation of the Holy Scriptures. Nevertheless, it is not lawful
to add even words to Holy Scripture as though such words were a part
thereof, for this would amount to forgery. It would amount to the same if
anyone were to pretend that something is essential to a sacramental form,
which is not so.
Reply to Objection 2: Words belong to a sacramental form by reason of the sense
signified by them. Consequently any addition or suppression of words
which does not add to or take from the essential sense, does not destroy
the essence of the sacrament.
Reply to Objection 3: If the words are interrupted to such an extent that the
intention of the speaker is interrupted, the sacramental sense is
destroyed, and consequently, the validity of the sacrament. But this is
not the case if the interruption of the speaker is so slight, that his
intention and the sense of the words is not interrupted.
The same is to be said of a change in the order of the words. Because if
this destroys the sense of the words, the sacrament is invalidated: as
happens when a negation is made to precede or follow a word. But if the
order is so changed that the sense of the words does not vary, the
sacrament is not invalidated, according to the Philosopher's dictum:
"Nouns and verbs mean the same though they be transposed" (Peri Herm. x).