As infant baptisms became more frequent and it became more difficult as the church grew for the bishop to do both baptisms and confirmation because of the number, the baptisms were done separately and the confirmations were saved for a group visit of the bishop which usually took place once per year.
Confirmation, of course, constitutes the third or second of the sacraments of initiation, depending upon whether one received baptism as an adult or in infancy. In any case, the catechism of the catholic church stresses the importance of insuring that the unity of the three sacraments of initiation be stressed, and that the reception of the sacrament of confirmation is necessary for both complete initiation into the church and for the “completion of baptismal grace.” lumen gentium itself states, “b y 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.” [l.g.# 11] this definition is also in line with auer’s concept that the three sacraments which establish a “sacramental character” in the recipient do so because they uniquely bind us to the trinity with a special mission. In confirmation, auer points out that we are uniquely bound to the holy spirit by the mission to teach and defend the faith. This is also an extension of our baptismal commitment to evangelize.
Confirmation in the economy of salvation:
The prophet isaiah presents us with a prefigurement of the sacrament of confirmation in chapter 11, vs. 2 when he states, “the spirit of the lord shall rest upon him [the messiah, immanuel] a spirit of wisdom and und understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the lord” and again in chapter 61, vs. 1, when it is stated, “the spirit of the lord god is upon me, because the lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners.” the prophets of the old testament announce that the spirit of the lord will be upon the messiah for whom israel is hoping. In luke 4:18, jesus himself states as he stands to read the scrolls in the synagogue: “the spirit of the lord is upon me therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoner, to announce a year of favor from the lord.” jesus, of course was conceived of the holy spirit and was of course not only anointed by the spirit but totally in communion with him as he was with the father.
The church teaches that the fullness of the experience of the holy spirit is not to remain solely with jesus as the messiah, but is actually communicated to the whole messianic community. In the book of the prophet ezekiel we read in chapter 36 vs.27, “i will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees” and in joel 3:1-2, the lord says, “…i will pour out my spirit upon all mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dreal1 dreal1s and your young men shall see visions…” finally in the new testament we see the most complete and definite scriptural foundation of the sacrament of confirmation in the acts of the apostles 1:6-8: “while they were with him they asked, ‘lord, are you going to restore the rule to israel now?’ his answer was ‘you will receive power when the holy spirit comes down on you, then you are to be my witnesses in jerusalem, throughout judea and samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth.’ no sooner had he said this then he was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight.” in this passage christ promises the outpouring of the holy spirit which was of course fulfilled a the first confirmation on pentecost. In that first pentecost, the apostles were filled with the holy spirit to boldly teach the faith to all the world, uniquely given the charism to teach the faith in union with the holy spirit. From this point on, the apostles imparted the gifts of the holy spirit by the laying on of hands, thus completing and fulfilling in those who received the sacrament of confirmation the grace of baptism. Consequently, in the letter to the hebrews, the correlation of baptism and the laying on of hands is a primary element of christian instruction, and is recognized by catholics as the origin of the sacrament of confirmation which perpetuates the grace of pentecost first given to the church.
The tradition of anointing with chrism is one which is very early in the apostolic era which was added to the laying on of hands so as to, as the catechism teaches, highlight the name of christian, which means anointed. In the east, this sacrament is called chrismation or anointing with myron, which means chrism. In the west, the term confirmation is used to signify that the sacrament confirms and completes the baptismal grace which is imparted.
In the first centuries of the church, before the split between the east and the west, confirmation and baptism were always celebrated at the same time and formed what st. Cyprian called a “double sacrament.”
As infant baptisms became more frequent and it became more difficult as the church grew for the bishop to do both baptisms and confirmation because of the number, the baptisms were done separately and the confirmations were saved for a group visit of the bishop which usually took place once per year. In the west, it was desired to save the completion of the double sacrament for the bishop to show the importance of the sacrament. In the east, baptism and chrismation still take place at the baptism of infants and the ordinary minister of the sacrament in the east is a bishop. In the earliest days of the church, the neophyte was first anointed upon coming out of the baptismal bath by the priest with chrism, and later in the same ceremony anointed on the forehead again by the bishop. Hence the tradition today of the anointing on the crown of the infant’s head at baptism, and the later anointing on the forehead by the bishop at the separate sacrament of confirmation.
The catechism teaches us that the anointing with chrism at confirmation “signifies and imprints a spiritual seal.” the book of deuteronomy refers to anointing with oil as “a sign of abundance and joy…a sign of healing which makes the anointed radiant with beauty, health and strength. [deut. 11:14 and pss.23:5 and 104:15.] The post baptismal anointing with sacred chrism is a sign of consecration in which those who are anointed share more closely in the mission of jesus and the fullness of the holy spirit. The anointing at confirmation imprints the mark of the holy spirit which authenticates and authorizes the one confirmed to participate in the work of the church to teach and defend the faith. As christ was marked with his father’s seal, so christians are marked with the seal of the holy spirit as both belonging to christ and living in his service forever.
In the latin church, the liturgy of confirmation includes a renewal of baptismal promises and a sprinkling with baptismal water to show the relationship of the sacrament of confirmation to the sacrament of baptism. In the roman rite, the bishop extends his hands over those to be confirmed signifying the gist of the holy spirit and invoking the outpouring of the holy spirit. Then, the essential rite follows. .the bishop says, “be sealed with the gift of the holy spirit.” the sign of peace is then offered to each individual who is confirmed.
The effects of the sacrament of confirmation:
– a special outpouring of the holy spirit similar to the graces poured out upon the apostles at the first pentecost.
– an increasing and deepening of baptismal grace.
– a deeper affiliation with the father
– a firmer union with christ
– an increase in the gifts of the holy spirit
– a more perfect union with the church
– a special strengthening of the holy spirit to spread and defend the faith and to be witnesses of christ.
Confirmation is received only once because it imprints on the soul the special spiritual character which indicates that, as the catechism says, “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. The special character marks the recipient with the public and official power to profess faith in christ publicly.
Who can receive the sacrament and when can it be received?
The catechism tells us that every baptized person who is not yet ordained may receive the sacrament of confirmation. The law of the church prescribes that confirmation ma ay be received at the age of discretion in the canon law, but the law allows the conferences of bishops to set higher ages if that is beneficial.
The catechism also states that since confirmation is a sacrament of the living, one should be in a state of grace a the time it is received. Hence, every opportunity should be given for those who are to be confirmed to receive the sacrament of penance before the reception of the sacrament.
To aid the one to be confirmed in assuming the apostolic responsibilities of the christian life, the instruction should include, according to the catechism, “preparation that aims at a more intimate union with christ and a more lively familiarity with the holy spirit, an awakening sense of belonging to the church and the parish community.
Finally, the ordinary minister of confirmation in the latin rite is the bishop because reception by the bishop demonstrates an effect of uniting those who receive the sacrament more closely to the church and to its apostolic origins in bearing witness to christ. In the east, the priest is the ordinary minister since the sacraments of initiation continue to be administered at the same time, usually in infancy.
Sponsors for confirmation have the same requirements as sponsors for baptism. They must be fully initiated catholics [of any rite or church in union with rome ] and must be 16 years of age and free of any imposed interdicts, as well as being practicing catholics, of course.