The Fathers of the Church utilized literal translation of the Bible as their guide when defining the sacramental seal. They also utilized church practices as a guide reasoning that there must be a divine approval as the practices were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The religious traditions dating back to the Apostles, such as the body of Christian beliefs that were not stated clearly and unambiguously in the Bible but that were commonly accepted as part of their religious tradition”, were utilized as another source. (DTTS, Matros, p34).
The Church Fathers, in their effort to better define the understanding of their sacramental practices, discovered that they needed to develop more philosophical explanations of Christians’ sacramental practices. (DTTS, Matros, p35). This led to the theory of the sacramental seal. This was the idea that some sacraments are imprinted upon the soul.
Martos goes deeper into explaining the significance of a seal in Jewish scriptures and how the seal on the soul is like the branding of a sheep or the tattooing of a soldier. Martos references several New Testament Gospels and letters. In St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:22), Martos highlights Paul’s perspective, “God has put his seal on the followers of Christ by sending his spirit into their hearts as a foretaste of things to come.”
A later challenge presented itself during Christian persecution in the year 303 A.D. Martos explains that some clergy who were in places of severe persecution renounced their faith. This created a bit of a schism between those who stayed strong in their faith and those who felt no other option but to renounce their faith. The question then presented itself about whether those baptized by these clergy who renounced their faith, needed to be baptized again. Further, would these clergy also need to be re-ordained. This was later resolved by Augustine who explained that their sin was against God’s grace and that they needed to reconcile. The original baptism or ordination by the Spirit was not removed or lost.
Today, the sacramental seal is recognized in the 7 sacraments. We define the “seal” as a magnificent gift (CCC, 1216) of God starting with Baptism. We are wholly blessed by God’s gifts and his ever-renewing grace, for us, sinners.
Martos, Joseph, Doors To the Sacred, Liguori Missouri, Liguori Publications ©2014 Print
USCCB. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. Washington, D.C. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013 Print.