A sacrament is a rite through which God confers sanctifying grace upon believers. The nature and number of sacraments, as well as the term used to denote them, vary across Christian denominations. Catholics believe in the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The Catholic Church holds that the sacraments are necessary for salvation, though it is not absolutely required that every believer receive them all. The term used in Eastern Orthodoxy for sacrament is Sacred Mystery. Orthodoxy upholds the same seven as Catholicism as principal Mysteries but also allows for anything within one’s spiritual life to be considered a Mystery. Protestant churches vary in their views of sacraments; most view baptism and the Eucharist as sacramental, while some do not believe in a sacramental classification apart from the rest of religious life.
Sacraments are important in the religious lives of Christians as they are visible signs of God’s grace being active in a believer. For most Christians, sacraments represent stages of progression in both their religious and personal lives. For example, baptism brings a person into a church community, and marriage is a major personal event with religious significance. In many churches, sacraments form the basis of liturgical life, especially the Eucharist. Sacraments have also proven to be effective agents for ecumenism, with the Catholic Church reaching substantial agreements on the nature of sacraments with the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches. However, differences in interpretation of what makes something sacramental reflect the divisions within Christianity; in Roman Catholicism, the sacraments are necessary for salvation and must be administered by ordained clergy, while many Protestant churches downplay the importance of clergy and emphasize personal faith over ecclesiastical rites.