Sacrament of confirmation The Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation constitute the sacraments of Christian Initiation. Christ promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), and this he fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) The Apostles filled with the Holy Spirit began their ministry. All those who believed in the apostolic preaching got baptized and also received the gift of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1287). In this column, we will discuss briefly the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is often defined as a sacrament of mature Christian commitment and the deepening of the gifts received at baptism. It is called Chrismation (Eastern Church) because the rite of anointing is with chrism; it is also called Confirmation because it confirms the faith and strengthens the grace received at baptism. Sometimes, those who received it are called soldiers of Christ, a spiritual duty to defend the faith and fight the war between good and evil, light and darkness.
From the third century onward, baptism and confirmation were celebrated prior to the new Christians participating in their first reception Eucharistic liturgy at the Easter vigil. In 1313, he Edict of Milan promulgated Christianity as legal in the Roman Empire, and because of the large number of converts, it was difficult for the bishops going round to administer the baptisms. So the priests took over the celebration of sacrament of baptism, while the sacrament of confirmation was reserved for the bishops. It was the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that clarified the Church’s understanding of the sacraments and validated the seven sacraments as authentic, and also established the age of reason when the sacrament of confirmation should be received.
Signs and Rite of Confirmation Confirmation is the sacrament by which the baptized receives the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, just as the Holy Spirit was given to the Christ’s apostles at Pentecost. The rite of anointing the forehead with Chrism with words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” signifies the conferring of the Holy Spirit, and praying that the Spirit imparts each of the seven gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (right judgment), Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety (reverence), and Fear of the Lord. These are supernatural graces given to the soul. This anointing signifies and imprints a mark also known as an indelible character or spiritual seal on the person’s soul; this indicates that it cannot be repeated, but only taken once and for all. This seal is a symbol of authority or ownership. This seal of the Holy Spirit marks the total belonging of the confirmed to Christ, his/her enrolment in his service for ever, as well the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial” (CCC1296). Each candidate selects his/her confirmation name or keeps the original baptismal name. It must be a Christian name, such as one of the canonized saints or hero in the Bible. A sponsor is also required, if possible, one of the baptismal godparents. The sponsor must be a Catholic, above the age of 16, already confirmed and in good standing with the Church.
Who Can Receive Sacrament of Confirmation
Every baptized person who is yet to be confirmed can and should receive the sacrament to complete the Christian initiation into the Church. Confirmation means accepting responsibility for your faith and it empowers people to make a public profession of faith and strengthens them to defend same faith. As a child, you are told what to do and when or where to go, and you react positively to reward and negatively to punishment. As adult, though still young, you are expected to know and do what is right on your own, not for recognition or reward but because it is the right thing to do. Thus, spiritual maturity is not necessarily connected to physical maturity; the Church does not require candidates to be adults before the reception of the sacrament. Children who have reached the age of reason could receive this sacrament. It is not seen as a rite of passage to Christian adulthood, which could be interpreted or even result in an end to religious formation as many Catholics believe it to be, instead, the candidate is expected to take up the responsibility of furthering his/ her own participation in the life of the Church and its spiritual life.
Requirement for Confirmation:
• Must have reached the age of discretion
• Profess the Catholic faith and desire to receive the sacrament
• Be in a state of grace
• Be ready to bear witness to Jesus Christ in words and deeds The Minister of Confirmation The ordinary minister of confirmation is the bishop. As successors of the apostles, they have received the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. By administering this sacrament, it signifies its effect to unite those who receive the sacrament closely to the Church and in her mission of bearing witness to Christ. The bishop is also the symbol of the larger Church, which extends far beyond the immediate parish community. The priests may be given the faculty as in the case of adult baptism or reception of one baptized in another Christian community (accepted by the Catholic Church) into the full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter vigil and they must have attended the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. Also if one is in danger of death, the priest can give confirmation (CCC 1314).
The Effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation
While baptism removes from the soul the stain of original sin, Confirmation pours into the soul the power of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, it makes the seed of divine life planted at baptism to bloom. According to Catechism of the Catholic Church (1303), Confirmation increases and deepens that baptismal grace and also imparts the following spiritual effects:
• Roots us more deeply in the divine filiation (being adopted as sons and daughters of God the Father) which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”
• Unites us more firmly to Jesus Christ
• Increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us
• Renders our bonds with the Church (the Body of Christ) more perfect • Gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ.
For those preparing for this sacrament, these are points of reflection to help you prepare for the reception of the awesome gifts of the Holy Spirit, while those who have been confirmed, we hope this will inspire and awaken in you the need to live up to your responsibility. Perhaps this question could help for Reflection:
• How well do I know and practice my faith?
• How well do I know and understand the virtues and explain them to my children?
• Do I know myself as the beloved son or daughter of the Father?
• Do I have a personal relationship with the Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit?
• Am I prepared to foster that divine life in my children as I promised at their baptism?
• Am I fully living according to the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed on me at Confirmation? God bless.
• Rev. Sr. Mary Judith Madueke EHJ, Director of Religious Education, Archdiocese of Lagos.