The Sacrament of Confirmation
The Sacrament of Confirmation
What is the Sacrament of Confirmation?
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1212
The sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – lay the foundations of every Christian life…. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life….
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1242
In the liturgy of the Eastern Churches, the post-baptismal anointing is the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation). In the Roman liturgy the post-baptismal anointing announces a second anointing with sacred chrism to be conferred by the bishop – Confirmation, which will as it were “confirm” and complete the baptismal anointing.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1285
Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the ‘sacraments of Christian initiation,’ whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.
The Signs and Rite of Confirmation
Renewal of Baptismal Promises
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1298
When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, as is the case in the Roman Rite, the Liturgy of Confirmation begins with the renewal of baptismal promises and the profession of faith by the confirmands. This clearly shows that Confirmation follows Baptism. When adults are baptized, they immediately receive Confirmation and participate in the Eucharist.
The renewal of baptismal promises is an integral part of the Rite of Confirmation; it expresses what the candidate and the community believes, their relationship to the paschal mystery and the call of each believer to discipleship.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy called for revision of the Rite of Confirmation so that the Rite would more clearly focus on the intimate connection between Confirmation and the other sacraments of initiation. Furthermore, the Rite of Confirmation states that ‘Confirmation takes place as a rule within Mass in order that the fundamental connection of this sacrament with all of Christian initiation may stand out in clearer light. Christian initiation reaches its culmination in the communion of the body and blood of Christ. The newly confirmed therefore participate in the Eucharist, which completes their Christian initiation.
- Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?
- Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
- Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
- Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
- Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his own Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
- Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
- This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen
Anointing with Chrism
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1293
In treating the Rite of Confirmation, it is fitting to consider the sign of anointing and what it signifies and imprints: a spiritual seal.
Anointing in Biblical and other ancient symbolism, is rich in meaning; oil is a sign of abundance and joy; it cleanses (anointing before and after a bath) and limbers (the anointing of athletes and wrestlers); oil is a sign of healing; since it is soothing to bruises and wounds; and it makes radiant with beauty, health and strength.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #695
Oil, sacred chrism and anointing are terms synonymous with each other much in the same way that anointing is synonymous with the Holy Spirit. The primary anointing with the Holy Spirit is the anointing with Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew, Messiah) means ‘anointed’ one, anointed by God’s spirit. Jesus’ humanity is transformed by this anointing; the fullness of humanity through Jesus receives the Spirit of God. In Jesus’ life, the Spirit fills him and pours forth from him. Jesus’ acts of healing and saving are evidence of the Spirit’s presence and salvific power.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1183
The sacred chrism (myron), used in anointings as the sacramental sign of the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, is traditionally reserved and venerated in a secure place in the sanctuary. The oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick may also be placed there.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1294
Anointing with oil has all these meanings in the sacramental life. The pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of catechumens signifies cleansing and strengthening; the anointing of the sick expresses healing and comfort. The post-baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in Confirmation and ordination is the sign of consecration. By Confirmation Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off ‘the aroma of Christ.’
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1297
The consecration of the sacred chrism is an important action that precedes the celebration of Confirmation, but is in a certain way a part of it. It is the bishop who, in the course of the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, consecrates the sacred chrism for his whole diocese.
The sacramental signs of the Church are the means by which the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification. Signs and symbols of the earth and of social interaction (i.e. oil, wine, bread) are purified and integrated in all their richness in the sacraments of the Church.
The anointing in Confirmation with sacred oil, which is a post-baptismal anointing, signifies one’s consecration to partnership in the mission of Jesus:
We are the aroma of Christ for God’s sake, both among those who are being saved and those on the way to destruction; to the latter an odor dealing death, to the former a breath bringing life. For such a mission as this, is anyone really qualified? But anointed with the Holy Spirit, ‘we speak in Christ’s name, pure in motivation, conscious of having been sent by God and of standing in his presence.” 2 Corinthians 15:17
The rite of anointing is sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing which “derives from that of Christ himself whom God ‘anointed with the Holy Spirit.’ The Catechism explains that ‘in the West, Confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace – both fruits of the Holy Spirit.’
Sacred chrism is the sacramental sign of the seal of of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The anointing with the chrism signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the confirmed; through the Holy Spirit we are incorporated into Christ. The sacrament ‘is conferred through the anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand, and through the words: Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Kings were anointed with oil (1 Samuel 10:1), as well as priests (Leviticus 8:12) and various objects. The anointing with oil set the person apart as a sacred person. The roots for the Greek Christ come from the Hebrew Messiah, Anointed One. We see this link to the anointed one particularly with the anointing of David (1 Samuel 16:13) and the subsequent Messiah who is to come.
The significance of oil is illustrated throughout scripture; oil’s symbolism is deep and rich. In Deuteronomy, oil is a symbol of wealth and abundance, “…he will give the rain for our land in its season, the early rain and the late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.” Deuteronomy 11:14. In the Psalms, a person anointed on the head with oil by the Lord is set apart from his enemies. (Psalm 23:5. IN Psalm 104 oil brings joy, life, and beauty to one’s face (Psalm 104:15).
The Good Samaritan, in caring for the man lying on the road, “went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke 10:34
Other touch in scriptures:
John 9:6 – cure of the man born blind
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43 – healing the daughter of Jairus
Luke 5:27-34; Mark 5:25-34 – the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak
Luke 18:15 – touching children
John 12:3; Luke 7:36-50 – Mary anointed Jesus
Acts 8:14-19 – the apostles received the Spirit
Holy oils are kept in a cupboard called the ambry, which is built into the sanctuary wall or hung on it, or maybe in the sacristy. Pure olive is generally used, though other vegetable oils are now permitted.
The Oil of Catechumens – used in rites during preliminary states of a catechumen’s journey toward Baptism
The oil of the Sick – used for the Anointing of the Sick.
Sacred Chrism – used for Baptism, Confirmation and for priestly and episcopal ordinations. Anointing with chrism signifies a fullness of grace as well as dedication to the service of God.
Seal of the Holy Spirit
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1295
By this anointing the confirmand receives the ‘mark,’ the seal of the Holy Spirit. A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object. Hence soldiers were marked with their leader’s seal and slaves with their master’s. A seal authenticates a juridical act or document and occasionally makes it secret.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1296
Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. Christians are also marked with a seal: ‘It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. This seal of the Holy Spirit marks out total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service forever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.
A person’s seal symbolizes a direct and intimate connection between that person and the recipient of the seal. A seal marks a relationship, be it of authority over another, of shared leadership, or of ownership. For example, in Genesis 41-42 we read that ‘Pharoah took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed his garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck…’ By this action, the Pharoah places Joseph in charge of the land of Egypt. His seal symbolizes the leadership he shares with Joseph.
In the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, a sacramental character or “seal” is conferred. This seal symbolizes the Christian’s sharing in the priesthood of Christ and membership in the Church according to varying functions and states. Our relationship to Christ and to the Church is accomplished by the Spirit who is symbolized through this spiritual and indelible mark.
The smbolism of the seal is carried forth in the New Testament; Jesus identifies himself as carrying the seal of God the Father. Therefore, he identifies himself as carrying his Father’s mission (John 6:27). In the sacrament of Confirmation we are sealed with the seal of the Holy Spirit, a seal which sets us apart as sharers with God and spirit in the oneness of Christ’s body. The seal is both a protection and a commission, and it is an invitation to full participation in the mission of Christ which is the mission of the Church.
Laying on of Hands
In the Roman Rite the bishop extends his hands over the whole group of the confirmands. Since the time of the apostles this gesture has signified the gift of the Spirit. The bishop invokes the outpouring of the Spirit in these words:
All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1299)
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1300
The essential rite of the sacrament follows. In the Latin rite, ‘the sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is done by the laying on of the hand, and through the words: ‘Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti” (Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit).
The gesture of hands extended in blessing (also known as the first laying of hands in the Rite of Confirmation) symbolizes that the gift of the Spirit is being invoked to come upon the confirmande. While this laying of hands is not the essence of the sacramental rite, it is to be regarded as very important: ‘It contributes to the complete perfection of the rite and to a more thorough understanding of the sacrament.”
The laying on of hands is an important sign of the all-powerful pouring forth of the Holy Spirit. Jesus healed the sick and blessed little children with this gesture. His apostles did the same. And in the Acts 8:17-19 we see that it is in the laying on of hands that the Holy Spirit is given: ‘Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” In the Rite of Confirmation, the anointing with chrism is done by the laying on of the hand and through the words: ‘Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 8:17 notes the conferral of the Spirit at Baptism.
Acts 9:17 there is laying on of hands on Paul by Ananias at the time of Paul’s conversion
Acts 6:6 and Acts 13:3 there is laying on of hands for service and ministry.
Effects of Confirmation
It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1302)
Pentecost is the fulfillment of Christ’s Passover, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who is manifested, given, and communicated as divine person, one with God and Son. Through the Holy Spirit, God’s love is given to us. Charity, the love portrayed in 1 Corinthian 13, is the ‘source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received ‘power’ from the Holy Spirit. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit revealed as a divine person, is the fulfillment of Christ’s Passover. The Spirit is the vehicle through whom God’s love is poured into our hearts. The Spirit comes to us with the grace and power that draws us to Christ. Through the Spirit’s action, the risen Jesus is manifested to us and the mystery of his life and death are made present and real; we are called into oneness with God to ‘bear much fruit.’
Increase and Deepening of Baptismal Grace
From this fact, Confirmation brings and increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba Father!”
- It unites us more firmly to Christ;
- It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- It renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- It gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses to Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:
Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear of God’s presence. Guard what you have received, God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1303)
Purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit are the two principal effects of Baptism. “Baptsmal graces,” or the effects of Baptism, are signified through the elements used in the baptismal rite. Death and purification, regeneration and renewal are symbolized by water.
The celebration of Confirmation plunges us ever more deeply into the mystery of God’s power and love within us and the Church. Already rooted in the Trinity and experiencing the Spirit of Life in Christ through the waters of Baptism, we celebrate the unending, all-encompassing presence of the Spirit – Spirit who draws us into deeper, yet more intimate relationship with ‘Abba Father.’ This same Spirit whose gifts continue to unfold in our lives calls us to ever more faithful union with Christ, and is given to us in Confirmation for strength, a strength that allows us to boldly witness to Christ.
The increasing and deepening of baptismal grace is illuminated in Lumen Gentium 11,12. Chapter 11 explains the particular nature and role of each sacrament as a means by which ‘all the faithful whatever their condition or state, though each in his own way- are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect.” Regarding Confirmation, Lumen Gentium states, “By the sacrament of Confirmation they are more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread the faith by word and deed.
The Holy Spirit makes holy the People of God through the sacraments; in Confirmation we are led and enriched as the Body of Christ by the Spirit’s virtues and gifts. These gifts, allotted by the Spirit to each member of the Body of Christ are ‘fitting and useful for the needs of the Church.”
The Holy Spirit manifested through the multitude of gifts and fruits of the Spirit, guides, empowers and blesses baptized believers.
Gifts of the Spirit
Wisdom – which helps a person value the things of heaven
Understanding – which enables the person to grasp the truths of religion
Counsel – which helps one see and correctly choose the best practical approach in serving God
Fortitude – which steels a person’s resolve in overcoming obstacles to living the faith
Knowledge – which helps one see the path to follow and the dangers to one’s faith
Piety – which fills a person with confidence in the Lord and an eagerness to serve him
Fear of the Lord – which makes a person keenly aware of God’s sovereignty and the respect due to him and his laws.
Charisms of the Spirit
Speaking with wisdom
Speaking with knowledge
Discerning of spirits
Fruits of the Spirit
Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1304)
The sealing with the Spirit of Confirmation is an indelible seal, the spiritual mark which signifies that one is clothed with power from on high in order to witness Jesus Christ to the world. (Luke 24: 48-49)
This character perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and ‘the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio) (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1305)
Through our Baptism, we are sharers in the common priesthood of all believers, we share Christ’s prophetic and royal mission. The character received at Confirmation, namely the indelible spiritual mark, gives us the power to proclaim Christ publicly.
Conformity to Christ
The Spirit brings about a new identity, making us other Christs.
As the rite states: “The gift of the Holy Spirit…will be a spiritual sign and seal to make you more like Christ and more perfect members of his Church.”
Those who are joined to Christ by the Spirit share in the very work and mission of Christ: the mission of the reign of God (Mark 1:9-11, Luke 10: 21-24). We live lives that are in conformity or agreement with Christ’s life, no matter what the cost (Matthew 16:24-27. Attentive to the word of God (Luke 8:4-10, 11-15), we are called to live according to the Spirit that God has given to us (Galatians 5:16-17, 22-23, 24-25). The virtues that embody such a way of life in conformity with Christ are articulated in the Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). They have as their foundation the fundamental commandment of Christ: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34) Those chosen by God live the unity given them by the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Bishop Robert reflects on the Sacrament of Confirmation in this video: