UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH: CONFIRMATION
By Vic Scaravilli
Confirmation, along with Baptism, is called a Sacrament of Initiation. It is the sacrament where the Christian strengthens his commitment to live out the gospel message by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit confirms or firms up the supernatural life within us that we received at Baptism so we can be mature and adult witnesses for Christ.
The Holy Spirit and Its gifts are the major emphasis of this sacrament. In addition to Baptism, the Bible tells us of a second outward sign being used to call down the presence of the Holy Spirit. A description of can be found in Acts 8:14-17: “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them to Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Other passages include Acts 9: 17-19 and 19:6.
The Bible does not use the term Confirmation, but it does speak about certain sendings of the Holy Spirit distinct from Baptism. In the above verses in Acts, there are instances where the baptized person was not aware of the presence or power of the Holy Spirit. In these occasions the apostles laid their hands on and prayed over these people and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke, the author of Acts, deliberately distinguishes between baptism in the name of the Lord and the reception of the Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit is given at Baptism, in other passages, here Luke also tells us that it is given by the laying of hands in Confirmation. This method of writing is common in the Bible. Many times one passage may seem to contradict another. But since we know the Bible is God’s infallible Word, it cannot disagree with itself. So we must look at the context of each passage and see what truth the author is trying to convey.
Just as in the early church, bishops are the primary ministers of this sacrament. An exception is when a priest can administer this sacrament on Easter Vigil where the RCIA candidates are brought into the Church. The physical signs of Confirmation are the laying of hands and anointing which are actions that symbolize strengthening. The oil is blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday and is used for the anointing to administer the mark and seal of the Holy Spirit.
The bishop extends his hands over the group to be confirmed and invokes the outpouring of the Holy 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.” Here the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit given to each person.
The sacrament is conferred through the anointing with the chrism oil on the forehead, which is done by the laying of hands and through the words: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Confirmation is the completion of Baptism. It is the sealing of the baptismal covenant relationship, or spiritual marriage, between the Christian and Christ.