What does the expression ex opere operato mean? Doesn't it have something to do with the sacraments?
AnswerEx opere operato is a Latin expression meaning "by the work worked." It refers to the fact that the sacraments confer grace when the sign is validly effected -- not as the result of activity on the part of the recipient but by the power and promise of God.
Now, to receive the fruits of the sacraments, you should be properly disposed. At least in adults, there must be a predispositional receptivity to receive the grace that is always available in a validly effected sacrament. This means reception of grace via the sacraments is not automatic. But the ex opere operato nature of the sacraments reminds us that, while a proper disposition is necessary to receive grace in the sacraments, it isn't the cause of that grace.
This being properly disposed is summed up by:
Latin TermEX OPERE OPERANTIS
DefinitionA term mainly applied to the good dispositions with which a sacrament is received, to distinguish it from the ex opere operato, which is the built-in efficacy of a sacrament properly conferred. But it may refer to any subjective factor that at least partially determines the amount of grace obtained by a person who performs some act of piety. Thus in the use of sacramentals or in the gaining of indulgences, the blessings received depend largely on the faith and love of God with which a sacramental is employed or an indulgenced prayer or good work is performed.
When we speak of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in either form, these two terms, Ex Opere Operato and Operantis are extremely important for those who are so critical of either form no matter how justified the criticism is.
If one attends Mass and only sees the flies in the healing ointment, one's ability to receive the built-in graces that come from God alone may be stifled. One's faith and love for God is necessary for meriting the grace that is present even if that grace is hidden under a bushel basket because of the manner in which the Holy Sacrifice is being celebrated.
One's critique of the Holy Sacrifice must be based upon what the Church intends for the sacrifice based upon its rubrics. To critique the OF Mass because it lacks the ethos of an EF Mass creates a situation for the person attending that Mass to undermine the graces God wishes to give that person, what God has built into that valid celebration no matter how poorly designed or executed the rubrics.
The same for the person who brings to an EF Mass the mentality of the OF Mass expecting the same. Being overly critical of its regimentation, language and the perception of its clericalism causes that person to miss out on what God intends the faithful to receive.
So this is a cautionary tale to accept the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass through the eyes of faith and allowing every valid expression of the Mass to convey what God intends for the communicant.