A validly administered Sacrament of the Church, if it is unproductive of grace because of some impediment or obex in the recipient, is said to revive when the obstacle is subsequently removed; that is, the Sacrament confers the grace by virtue of the initial validly administered rite. Reviviscence of sacramental power requires: that the obstacle be removed, for example, by sincere contrition; that the Sacrament have been validly administered; that the rite have left in the recipient some real effect; and that God will in His mercy that this be the sacramental action. This is the general teaching of theologians with respect to Baptism, Confirmation, Orders, Anointing of the Sick, and Matrimony. Some theologians extend the doctrine to the Eucharist and Penance.
The belief implicit in this teaching, that Sacraments confer some real effect other than grace, is derived from the early Church's practice of not repeating some Sacraments, notably Baptism and Orders, once validly administered. From this practice St. Augustine (d. 430) derived and developed his teaching of the sacramental character. His frequent assertions that although Sacraments received unworthily do not avail for salvation, yet do so immediately upon the recipient's repenting, are the clearest expression of reviviscence in the teaching of the Fathers of the Church.
With the renewal of interest in sacramentology in the Middle Ages, given impetus by disputes about simoniacal ordinations, the Church approved theologians' distinguishing in a Sacrament the external rite (sacramentum tantum ), the symbolic reality (sacramentum et res ), and the grace (res tantum ). Some theologians think that the symbolic reality that the recipient receives as a real effect from a validly administered Sacrament causes the giving of grace after the obstacle has been removed; others speak of the real effect left in the soul as a disposition for grace; others, as an impression in the faculties of the soul; still others, as a modification of the baptismal character.
Theologians usually assign the symbolic reality, i.e., the character of Baptism, Confirmation, and Orders, and the vinculum, or interior sacramental bond, of Matrimony, as the cause of grace in reviviscence. They deduce the will of God from this, that if reviviscence were not His will, original sin could never be removed in one who receives Baptism validly, but unworthily. Moreover, the faithful would never receive the grace of those states of life into which Confirmation, Orders, and Matrimony admit them. Most theologians reason that the real effect of the Anointing of the Sick is a consecrating of the sick to God's mercy during a particular illness; and the ritual for conditional administration seems to confirm this opinion. Much less agreement exists among theologians as to whether the Eucharist and Penance also in some sense "revive."
Bibliography: b. leeming, Principles of Sacramental Theology (new ed. Westminster, Md. 1956). f. solÁ, "De sacramentis initiationis Christianae," Sacrae Theologiae Summa (Biblioteca de autores cristianos 4; 1953) 183–185. a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 1903–50) 13.2:2618–19.
[p. l. hanley]