Objective Faith and Subjective Faith

Ex opere operato is a Latin phrase meaning “from the work performed”. In reference to the Sacraments, the Sacraments derive their efficacy from the sign, matter, form and minister, independently of the personal merits of the minister or the recipient. This is objective faith. For example, that Eucharist is transformed into the real Body and real Blood of Christ is not dependent upon the merits of the priest or the communicant. It is like going into the sun, even if I do not believe that the sun can bring me warmth, going into the sun will bring me warmth.

Ex opere operantis, on the other hand, refers to the role and value of the recipient’s or minister’s moral condition in causing or receiving sacramental grace. This is subjective faith. For example, in a testimony I read recently, compelled by circumstances, an acolyte drank a few cupful of consecrated wine and immediately drove. He was stopped by the police and tested negative in the breadth analyser. This was a miracle that was conferred to the person on that particular instance. It is not to be concluded that another person or the same person at another time, should put the Lord to the test by consuming excessive amount of consecrated wine and expect the breadth analyser to test negative each and every time.

We must strive to apply both objective faith and subjective faith in our faith life. Through the Sacraments, we receive grace from God ex opere operato. By our faith and action, we let this grace flow out of us to touch others, helping them to experience the grace of God ex opera opertis. In this way, the grace flows in us and through us. Amen.


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