Central to the medieval Church and the ultimate source of its power, both spiritual and temporal, was its possession of the sacraments. The sacraments were based on the belief that what man could not do for himself God could and would do for him. Medieval man believed that there were at least two things that it was impossible for him to do: he could not create himself and he could not save himself. But the same God who had created man stood ready to snatch him from the terrible consequences of his sinfulness. This great favor was accomplished through the sacrament. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "2. The Means of Grace. Pt. III: The Medieval Church." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 14-21.