As the name implies, the Sacraments are sacred rites instituted in the Church by Jesus. Properly speaking, there are seven Sacraments in the Catholic faith: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Confession, Matrimony, Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick.
Through the Sacraments believers receive God’s grace through material things like water, bread, wine and oil.
The Sacraments may be understood as outward signs that convey the grace they signify. Water, for example, signifies cleanliness and life. By the grace of God, the waters of Baptism actually cleanse the soul of sin and fill it with divine life (see Gospel of John, 3:5, and the Acts of the Apostles, 2:38). The Sacraments are patterned after the Incarnation, in which God, a spiritual being, took on human flesh–and the invisible one became visible.
The idea of grace being transferred through material things is a Biblical concept.
In the New Testament alone, we see water used in this way (again, see John 3:5; 9:7; Acts of the Apostles, 8:37; Paul’s Letter to Titus 3:5; or Peter’s First Letter 3:20 – 21); as well as oil (see the Gospel of Mark 6:13, or the Letter of James 5:14); clay (see John 9:6); garments (Mark 5:25 or Luke 8:43); and even handkerchiefs (see the Acts of the Apostles 19:11-12).
God’s grace is transmitted through other sensible things, too, such as Mary’s voice and Peter’s shadow (see the Gospel of Luke 1:41, 44, and the Acts of the Apostles 5:15, respectively).