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At life’s many crossroads, the sacraments of the Church—Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Eucharist, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick—bring people into contact with the saving work of God. In this collection of homilies, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) explains these celebrations of the Church and shows how they always offer an opportunity to announce our faith in Christ and to deepen our understanding of it.
Ratzinger endeavored as a theologian to develop an understanding of the sacraments that would help to make participation in them, and in the Paschal Mystery, more fruitful. Many of these homilies connect the sacraments with a profound interpretation of Scripture. The scriptural passages interpreted in each homily are listed at the beginning of the chapter, so that this volume can also be used for scriptural meditation.
Since the Church herself is both a sacrament—that is, a sign of God’s saving action in the world—and the place where the sacraments take place, two of the chapters are about the Church, the body of believers where God dwells.
"Can a theologian reveal the height of the faith to the simple believer . . . without trivializing the exalted truth? And can he also help the simple believer in the very concrete circumstances of life, explain the sacramental character of this very life for the believer? In my opinion, the homilies of Joseph Ratzinger/ Benedict XVI are often a masterly textbook example of this."
— Most Reverend Stefan Oster, S.D.B., Bishop of Passau, from the Introduction