The Seven Sacraments held by the various Catholic communions are often dismissed by Protestants as superfluous to Scripture. Perhaps they are, but that is not the argument I want to make. Rather, I want to suggest we see them as the exact representation of the Gospel story.
St. Bonaventure sees them mystically in relation to the seven ages,
Concerning the number and division of the sacraments of the new law, the following must be held. There are seven sacraments corresponding to the sevenfold grace which, through the seven ages of time,† leads us to the Principle, to repose, to the circle of eternity, as to an eighth age, that of universal resurrection. († See Prologue (2), On the Length of Holy Scripture, page 8.)
But, I think there is more to the institution of these sacraments. If you step back from the Articles of Religion and the great Anglican Divines, you see something of a myth enacted throughout the life of the Christian, that of the gospels’ telling of the life of Jesus. Again, from St Bonaventure:
For He instituted these sacraments in words and material elements for the sake of conveying clear meaning and effective sanctification; but in such a way that while they would always signify truly, they would not always heal effectively, by reason of a defect, not of their own, but of the recipient.
These sacraments Christ instituted in different ways. Some, He confirmed, approved, and brought to full perfection, to wit, Matrimony and Penance; others He established implicitly in their original form, to wit, Confirmation and Extreme Unction; others again, He originated, brought to full perfection, and received in Person, to wit, Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Orders. He fully instituted these three, and was also their first Recipient
Each sacrament is traced directly back to the Gospels.
- Baptism — Mark 1.9
- Eucharist — Mark 14.12-26
- Confirmation/Chrismation — Mark 1.10-11
- Reconciliation — Mark 1.15, among other times and places
- Anointing of the sick — Mark 1.140-45
- Marriage — John 2.1-12
- Holy orders — Mark 1.16-20
The Sacraments, seven in number, are hardly a late invention. Rather, they serve to incorporate the life of the Christian into the story of Jesus. The Christian becomes Christ-like in their actions, taking very literally the command to follow Him.