The Sacrament of Confirmation
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES (8: 14-17)
"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit".
Baptism, Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the Sacraments of initiation. These three sacraments lay the foundation to every Christian life. The faithful are born anew in Baptism, strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, and nourished by the Eucharist.
The reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of the grace received at baptism.
It is Christ who through the Church is the giver of the Sacraments. He gives them so that in receiving them, we become more an intimate part of his body of Christ, and grow in a life of grace. Each Sacrament, through the sacramental symbol and the words spoken by the minister of the sacrament, make Christ present to the person receiving the sacrament and enable him or her to receive the sacramental grace.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) we are reminded that on several occasions Jesus promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God". Those who believed in the apostolic preaching of the Apostles and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.
In the first centuries, Baptism and Confirmation was generally administered together in one single celebration. However, this gradual changed for a number of reasons: Firstly, the baptism of infants became more common and would take place throughout the year. The Sacrament of Confirmation is traditionally conferred by the Bishop and it became increasing more difficult for the bishop to be present at all baptisms and so while priests were to administer the Sacrament of Baptism the Bishop would gather with the people who were to be confirmed.
These days it has become the norm for adults to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Anyone who is not baptized will received both the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation together, before then receiving Holy Communion at the appropriate time during the celebration of the Mass.
Children who have been baptized as infants will be confirmed when they are around the age of 11 years old. These days, in the Diocese of Paisley, this takes place during the season of Easter in the Cathedral.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
The Sacrament of Confirmation is administered through the Prayer of Consecration and the Anointing with the Oil of Chrism.
The Bishop raises his hands over those to be confirmed as prays the Prayer of Consecration:
“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.”
The actual sacrament is then conferred through the anointing with the oil of Chrism on the forehead, and by the laying on of the hand: The Bishop will say the words: Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
Finally there is the sign of peace, which concludes the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation signifies and demonstrates ecclesial communion with the bishop and with all the faithful.
By anointing, with the Oil of Chrism in Confirmation, the person confirmed shares more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and in the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he/she is filled.
By this anointing the person confirmed receives the Mark of the Holy Spirit.
A mark or seal shows that a person is in the service of someone. Thus the term “mark” is used to show that the person confirmed is now in the service of the Holy Spirit.
Christ himself declared that he was marked with his “Father’s” seal.
This seal of the Holy Spirit mark’s our total belonging to Christ, our enrolment in his service forever, as well as the promise of Salvation.
The Oil of Chrism is consecrated by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass in the Cathedral during Holy Week. This symbolizes and reflects the link between the bishop, the oil and the Sacrament of Confirmation.
THE EFFECTS OF CONFIRMATION
The effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted on the day of Pentecost to the Disciples.
-Brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace.
-It roots us more deeply in our relationship as children of the Father.
-It unites us more closely to Jesus.
-It makes 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.
Like baptism, which it completes, Confirmation is only given once.
FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
1316 Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life at the present time?
- What does it mean to you to be a member of the Catholic Church?
- It what way do you see yourself living out your commitment to God and to the Church in your daily life?