This is the essay for the 22 week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering three questions. The first one is, What was the Great Schism and what factors made it happen?
The second one is, What are the sacraments?
The third one is, What are indulgences?
The Great Schism is when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches split away from each other completely. The Great Schism happened back in 1054 and almost a millennium later they are still separated from each other. The Churches split in 1054 because the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople named Michael Cerularius banned all Catholic churches in Constantinople. The Roman legates tried to settle this problem, but Micheal Cerularius refuses to do so. The Roman legates subsequently excommunicate Micheal Cerularius and his companions. This divide slowly grew bigger and bigger until it became as big as we know it as today. The ironic thing is that the historians in that time-period didn’t see it as anything major. They thought the situation would cool down and it would be resolved, but it didn’t.
What I just told you was the event that finalized the split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but they had problems with each other before that. The problems first started in the 381 when Constantinople started arguing over their see. The see meant the seat of religious authority. Rome was the 1st see. Constantinople argued that they should be the 2nd see. This was because Constantinople was a very wealthy and politically influential city. Rome disagreed, however saying that non-religious things were unimportant and that what mattered was that apostle Peter gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven to his successor in Rome. Constantinople’s efforts to change their see turned out to be uneventful. But this is not the only other problem that the east and west faced. They also had major differences in their liturgies. Liturgy means the way that Christianity is worshipped. The biggest difference being that Catholic liturgy was in Latin, while the Orthodox in Greek. This made it hard for the two churches to communicate with each other.
Sacraments are sensible signs of the invisible grace of God. This grace is conveyed by the sacraments. By sensible I don’t mean that it makes sense, but instead that they can be perceived by at least one of the five senses. The sacraments are meant to guide somebody through their religious life. There are seven different sacraments all of them with different purposes.
These next few sacraments are the sacraments of the dead, which means that they can only be done to people whose soul is dead. A person’s soul is dead when they have committed sins. The first sacrament someone does is always baptism. In baptism, the person is doused in water. Baptism can only be done once, but it cleanses all of the person’s previous sins, including the original sin. The next sacrament is penance. If people commit crimes after they are baptized, they can’t be baptized again so they have to do the sacrament of penance. In penance, you confess your mortal sins to a priest. These mortal sins will be forgiven if the person does their penance. This is where the name of the sacrament comes from. Although, the venial sins are not forgiven. The next sacrament is done when somebody is near death. It is called extreme unction or anointing of the sick. In the sacrament, the sick person is covered with consecrated oils, which is meant to strengthen the person’s grace. Extreme unction is a special case because it can be done for people whose soul is dead or living.
The previous sacraments are sacraments of the dead. The rest of the sacraments are sacraments of the living. The next sacrament is Confirmation. It is done only to teenagers, who are nearing adulthood. Confirmation is meant to prepare that person for adulthood. That person is covered in consecrated oils by a bishop. The next sacrament is matrimony. This is when a priest helps a couple get married. A common misconception is that the priest marries the couple, but the couple is marrying each other. The next sacrament is holy communion which is otherwise known as the Eucharist. Holy communion is when the body and blood of Christ are infused into bread and wine respectively. Then people feast on the bread and wine. Holy communion is mostly done during the mass. The mass is a re-representation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The next sacrament is holy orders. In the holy order, a man becomes a priest. This is done by covering him in consecrated oils.
Unforgiven venial sins can be forgiven if they complete their punishment for that sin. But If a person has unforgiven venial sins when they die, then they will have to complete the venial punishments in purgatory before moving onto heaven. The venial punishment can be reduced or gotten rid of entirely with indulgences. But what many people think is that indulgences are sold to people, so the church can make money. This is incorrect and not how indulgences are received nowadays. It used to be possible to receive indulgences in this way, but the Church ended this practice. Indulgences are actually received by doing good Christian deeds.