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"The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands" (Psalm 18:2). God], from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity" (Romans ).
The redemption of man was not accomplished in an invisible manner.
The principal reason for a sacramental system is found in man. Thomas (III:61:1), to be led by things corporeal and sense-perceptible to things spiritual and intelligible; now Divine Providence provides for everything in accordance with its nature (); therefore it is fitting that Divine Wisdom should provide means of salvation for men in the form of certain corporeal and sensible signs which are called sacraments. For this reason the majority of theologians hold that no sacraments would have been instituted even if that state had lasted for a long time. Apart from what was or might have been in that extraordinary state, the use of sacred symbols is universal. Augustine says that every religion, true or false, has its visible signs or sacraments.
"In nullum nomen religionis, seu verum seu falsum, coadunari homines possunt, nisi aliquo signaculorum seu sacramentorum visibilium consortio colligantur" ( XIX.11).
(a) for the people, various expiations, (b) for the priests, the washing of hands and feet, the shaving of the head, etc. Augustine says the sacraments of the Old Law were abolished because they had been fulfilled (cf.
Matthew ), and others have been instituted which are more efficacious, more useful, easier to administer and to receive, fewer in number ("virtute majora, utilitate meliora, actu faciliora, numero pauciora", XIX.13). The Decree for the Armenians, published by order of the Council of Florence, says that the sacraments of the Old Law did not confer grace, but only prefigured the grace which was to be given by the Passion of Christ.
But about the time of Abraham, when faith had been weakened, many had fallen into idolatry, and the light of reason had been obscured by indulgence of the passions, even unto the commission of sins against nature, God intervened and appointed as a sign of faith the rite of circumcision (Genesis 17; III:70:2, ad 1; see CIRCUMCISION).
Writers on the sacraments refer to this as the , the necessity of suitableness.Of this there is no reasonable doubt, as regards the very ancient days, of which St. Cyril's catechetical lectures may be taken as characteristic documents.