This coming week, my daughter Molly will be confirmed by our Bishop. I thought this would be a good opportunity to write on this sacrament. For confirmands this is yet another huge step in their faith formation. The journey does not and should not end with their Confirmation. The journey of faith is a lifelong and endless journey.
“And then remember that you received the seal of the Spirit; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the spirit of holy fear, and preserved what you received. God the Father sealed you, Christ the Lord strengthened you, and gave the earnest of the Spirit in your heart, as you have learned in the lesson from the Apostle.” Ambrose, On the Mysteries, 7:42 (A.D. 391).
Confirmation in the Early Church
In the early Church there were three Sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist – which were celebrated by adult catechumens during the Easter Vigil. The local Bishops were responsible for overseeing the ceremony. To this day the Eastern Church still celebrates all three of these Sacraments at once. As the Church grew and the faith spread some things were changed in the West. With the expansion that occurred it became increasingly difficult for the Bishops to visit every church for the celebration so baptism began to be initiated shortly after birth and responsibility transferred to other clergy.
The effects of Confirmation
From the Catechism:
Confirmation brings an 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 of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross. CCC 1303
It is confirmation at the hands of the Bishop where the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the confirmand. This is a renewal and deeper infusion of the Holy Spirit than what was realized during Baptism. When baptized your parents spoke for you and promised to guide you in the ways of the Church. At Conformation you are answering for yourself. The confirmand is making the decision to embark on what ultimately becomes a lifelong journey in the faith.
The saints speak
Saint Ambrose addressing the catechumens who had already been baptized and anointed, says: “Thou hast received the spiritual seal, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding . . . . Keep what thou hast received. God the Father has sealed thee; Christ the Lordhas confirmed thee; and the Spirit has given the pledge in thy heart, as thou hast learned from what is read in the Apostle” (On the Mysteries).
Saint Leo in his fourth sermon on Christ’s Nativity says: “Having been regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost, you have received the chrism of salvation and the seal of eternal life”.
As we move beyond confirmation day we have a large task ahead of us. We must not let our newly confirmed teens stray from the faith. Do not allow them to be become lukewarm in the faith. Your job is not over parents. Instill the importance of Mass attendance, at least on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Encourage them to partake in the cleansing sacrament of confession. Let is pray the following prayer this week for those anticipating Confirmation and those who have already received this year.
God of the living and the dead,
God of our work and play,
God of our hope and our love,
Grant us peace today.
Help us to see your hand in all things,
and help us trust your wisdom.
Help us see the gifts we have received
and use them according to the needs around us to benefit all.
Give us a generous heart
and a willing spirit
to accept the role you have given us.
Send us your Holy Spirit
to counsel us,
to strengthen us,
and to guide our ministry.