|THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC
DOGMA (FCD) P. 361,
Confirmation is that Sacrament in
which, by the imposition of hands,
unction and prayer, a baptized person
is filled with the Holy Spirit for the
inner strengthening of the
supernatural life and for the
courageous outward confession of
Faith: St. Thomas Aquinas defines it
as a Sacrament of the fullness of
grace and as "that Sacrament in which
strength is conferred on the
Genesis = beginning / re-generate =
new beginning (Fr. George)
|When I was Confirmed, I
was told that I was
now a "Soldier for
CCC 1242 ... In the Roman Liturgy the post-baptismal anointing announces a second
anointing with sacred chrism to be conferred later by the bishop - Confirmation, which
will as it were "confirm" and complete the baptismal anointing.
CCC 1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with
perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name
"Christian," which means "anointed" and derives from that of Christ Himself whom God
"anointed with the Holy Spirit." [Acts 10:38]
This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East & West. For this reason the
Eastern churches call this Sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which
means "chrism". In the West, confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus
completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace - both fruits of the
So, we have the names "Confirmation" in the West & "Chrismation" in the East. (CE)
Does Scripture bear witness to a second gift of the Spirit after Baptism, a gift
conferred by a new rite, distinct from that of the Baptism of water?
It is certain that Christian Baptism is a Baptism of "water and the Spirit" (Jn. 3:5, cf. 1:33; Mk.
1:8). [...] the gift of the Spirit is linked to Baptism, which is a "bath of regeneration and renewal
by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).
The Acts of the Apostles, however, have preserved two very significant episodes.
Once Philip the deacon had preached in Samaria, had made conversions, and had conferred
Baptism, The Apostles sent Peter and John to the converts. On their arrival, "they prayed for
them [the Samaritans], that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he had not come upon
any of them, because 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" (Acts 8:14-17).
Later, (in 54), when St. Paul came to Ephesus, he found "disciples. . . [who had] not even
heard that there is a Holy Spirit.'' They had received only John's Baptism. Upon hearing of the
Redeemer, "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; and when Paul laid his hands
upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to
prophesy" (Acts 19:1-6).
These texts point out that after Baptism of water was a second rite - the imposition of
hands - by which the newly baptized received the Holy Spirit. This second rite was
reserved to the Apostles.
In Samaria, Peter and John imposed hands on the neophytes who had been baptized by a
deacon; at Ephesus, it was Paul who imposed hands. Thus the initiation begun with Baptism
was completed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift that might be accompanied by
manifestations (speaking in tongues, prophecy). Moreover, the events of Pentecost were the
manifestations of the coming upon the Apostles of that POWER of the Spirit that Jesus had
promised (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 10:47). There was then a new gift of the Spirit, distinct from that of
Baptism, which was realized by the imposition of the Apostle's hands. Thus the Acts bring the
successive phases of Christian initiation to our knowledge:. . . preaching and conversion,
Baptism of water, and imposition of hands that gives the Spirit.
The two distinct rites can be found in St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 6:1-5. Although all the
details of the text are not clear, notice that "the imposition of hands" is linked to the "doctrine
of Baptisms," and with "the heavenly gift" or being "partakers of the Holy Spirit." Here are two
phases of Christian initiation and the gift of the Spirit that is conferred by the imposition of
hands. FCD p. 362.
That Confirmation is a Sacrament is evident from the passages cited, since:
a) The Apostles performed a Sacramental rite, consisting of the imposition of hands and
b) The effect of this outward rite was the communication of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Principle of
inner sanctification. According to Acts 8:18, a causal connection existed between the
imposition of hands and the communication of the Spirit. ...
The Apostles acted in the mandate of Christ. As Christ promised the communication of the
Spirit for all the faithful, it must be assumed, that He also gave detailed indications of the
nature and the manner of the communication of the Spirit. The matter-of-course manner in
which the Apostles, who regarded themselves merely as ministers of Christ and the
dispensers of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1), undertook the rite of the imposition of hands,
presupposes its ordinance by Christ. MYSTERION = Greek / sacramentum = Latin
St. Thomas teaches that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confirmation [...] in such a manner
that He Himself did not administer it, but that He merely promised its administration for the
future because in this Sacrament the fullness of the Holy Spirit is conferred, which was not to
be given before the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.
The Early Church Fathers: Distinction between Baptism and Confirmation: FCD p. 362,
Although in the early Christian era Confirmation was most intimately associated with Baptism,
still, according to the testimonies of early Christian Tradition, it was a sacramental rite distinct
from Baptism. ... the existence of a second rite complementary to Baptism from the [beginning
of the 3rd] century on is clearly attested everywhere. In Africa Tertullian [203 A.D.] knew of a
post-Baptismal anointing, and the imposition of the hands that called the Holy Spirit down
upon the Baptized person [TR, p. 32, 6/98]
Cyprian also was aware of the post-Baptismal anointing (Epistle. 70.2; PL 3:1078); and
referring to Acts 8:14, he recalled that those who were Baptized must be presented to the
"leaders of the Church," so that "by our prayer and by the imposition of hands, they may
receive the Holy Spirit and be perfected by the seal of the Lord" [...], FCD p. 363, St.
Hippolytus of Rome (235) ... mentions the following rites of Confirmation: Imposition of hands
by the Bishop and prayer, anointing with consecrated oil - this unction must be distinguished
from the baptismal unction performed by the priest after Baptism - together with imposition of
hands and the simultaneous pronouncement of a Trinitarian form of blessing, signing of the
forehead and the kiss of peace. St. Hippolytus may have studied under St. Iraneus, who
studied under St. Polycarp, who studied under St. John the Apostle. ... it is not always so easy
to distinguish what pertained to Baptism from what belonged to the second Sacrament we call
Where did Baptism end and where did Confirmation begin?
Perhaps we should not try to distinguish too precisely, for we are dealing with a single rite in
the early Church, the various elements of which followed one another without interruption. It is
to be noted however, that the final ceremony, the imposition of the hands or the anointing,
was normally reserved to the Bishop, and that by this rite the Christian was said to be
completed, "perfected", by the gift of the Holy Spirit. By the 5th century Innocent I, recalling
that this completion of Baptism was reserved to Bishops. clearly distinguished the rite of the
"consignation" from the baptismal anointing and Baptism itself.
The doctrine was made definite at the Council of Lyons in 1284.
In the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single celebration with Baptism,
forming with it a "double sacrament," according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other
reasons, the multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural
parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present at all
baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the completion of Baptism to the
bishop caused the temporal separation of the two sacraments. The East has kept them united,
so that Confirmation is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the
''myron" consecrated by the bishop.
CCC 1292 The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of
Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new
Christian with the bishop as a guarantor and servant of unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his
Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church. - FCD
The Outward Sign of Confirmation:
There is no official dogmatic decision regarding the essential matter of the Sacrament of
Historically the Confirmation anointing can be traced back to the beginning of the third century
(St. Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Traditions).
That Confirmation anointing was current in apostolic times cannot be demonstrated. The
passages 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27 use the word anointing in the metaphorical sense.
The form of Confirmation consists in the words which the minister speaks when he imposes his
hands on the recipient and anoints his forehead. (Sent. communis.) generally accepted by
Acts 8:15 and many of the Fathers, for example Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, mention
side by side with the imposition of hands a prayer for the communication of the Holy Spirit.
According to St. Hippolytus, the bishop, in association with the general imposition of hands,
first pronounces a prayer for the favor of God. On the subsequent anointing and individual
imposition of hands, he pronounces the indicative formula: I anoint thee with holy oil in the
Lord, the Father omnipotent and in Christ Jesus and in the Holy Ghost). The formula current
in the Latin Church today appears since the end of the 12th century. (I sign thee with the sign
of the Cross and I confirm thee with the Chrism of Salvation in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
The Greek Church, at least since the 5th century, uses the formula: (the seal of the gift of the
As a Sacrament of the living, Confirmation effects (per se) an increase of Sanctifying Grace.
(Sent. certa.) (theologically certain but without a final pronouncement from the Authority of the
Scholasticism establishes the existence of the Sacrament of Confirmation speculatively on the
analogy between the natural life of the body and the supernatural life of the soul. As a
Sacrament of spiritual rebirth, Baptism corresponds to the bodily birth, so the Sacrament of
strengthening and completion of the supernatural life, Confirmation, corresponds to bodily
(ME) Baptism is birth - Confirmation is growth. ...the gift of strength (Fortitude) best
defines the purpose of Confirmation. By this gift the confirmed person is
strengthened to do battle against the enemies of salvation, if necessary by suffering
St. Cyprian, "There cannot be Baptism without the Holy Ghost." But the supernatural effect of
the Holy Ghost in Baptism is different from that of Confirmation. In the former the Holy Ghost
effects the rebirth into supernatural life, in the latter the perfection of the supernatural life.
CCC 1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the Sacrament of Confirmation is
the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost!
The specific operation of Confirmation is the perfection of Baptismal Grace. (Sent.
Communis.)(generally accepted by theologians but is a free opinion)
The fulfillment of Baptism. St. Ambrose says of the sealing with the Holy Ghost which occurs at
Baptism: "After the Baptism there still remains that it be perfected".
The Character imposed in Confirmation:
Confirmation imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, and for this reason, cannot be
repeated. (De fide.)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem says in regard to the communication of the Spirit in Confirmation: "May
He (God) bestow on you the seal of the Holy Ghost which cannot be erased for all eternity".
By this anointing the confirmed receives the "mark", the seal of the Holy Spirit.
A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object. Song
8:6 Bride 'Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm;' (Song of Solomon 8:6.) As
with the "coin" of Caesar [Mt. 22:17], we have "Christ's image" imprinted on us, His inscription
in our CCC 1296 Christ himself declared that he was marked with His Father's seal [Jn. 6:27].
Christians are also marked with a seal: "It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has
commissioned us; he has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a
guarantee." [2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13] This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging
to Christ, our enrollment in his service forever, as well as the promise of divine protection in
the great eschatological trial. Rev. 7:2-3, 9:4; Ezek. 9:4-6]. Necessity Since Confirmation is the
compliment and the completion of Baptism, it is necessary for rendering salvation more perfect
or, in other words, to attain maturity in Christ. No one therefore has the right to neglect this
means of growth in the Christian life. But Confirmation is not absolutely necessary for
Salvation. One can be saved without it as long as one has not refused it out of contempt.
The Ordinary Minister of Confirmation is the Bishop alone. (De fide.)
According to Acts 8:14, 19:6, the rite of the communication of the Spirit was performed by the
apostles. Their successors are the bishops. REASON: As a Sacrament of perfection,
Confirmation, as is appropriate, is administered by the possessors of the fullness of the
sacerdotal power, the generals of the militia christiana, the bishops, who thereby impose on
the recipients an obligation to wage spiritual warfare. The administration by the Bishop
strengthens the consciousness of the solidarity of the faithful with the bishop, and thus serves
to preserve and reinforce the unity of the Church. (St. Bonaventura)
The Extraordinary Minister of confirmation is a priest on whom this full power is conferred
by the common law or by a special apostolic indult. (Sent. certa.) By an indult of the apostolic
See special power was given, with effect from January 1, 1947: Pope St. Gregory the Great
granted the administration of Confirmation to priests in Sardinia, on the condition that a
Bishop was not available.
Confirmation can be received by any Baptized person who is not already confirmed. (Sent.
Even infants can validly receive Confirmation, as is proved by the practice of the early Church.
Today in the West Confirmation is more suitably administered only to those who have attained
the use of reason, that is, those who have reached the age of seven or so. (CIC 788)
(CE) OBLIGATIONS: Since Confirmation is the Sacrament of the Christian adult, the recipient
must strive to grow in the grace of spiritual maturity that he has received [Hebrews 5:12-14]; to
live fully the grace of his Baptism and to act with complete docility to the Holy Spirit. In
particular, he must, according to his condition, seek to acquire an adult faith and to complete
the rudimentary catechetical formation that he received before Confirmation. [...]
Finally, having received the gift of fortitude, he is obligated, according to his condition, to be a
witness to Christ in the world. ...Once the Confirmed person has attained an adult stature and
has been "clothed with power from on high," he is to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and bear
witness to it without fear and in virtue of the commission given by Christ...
In the words of the Catechism: CCC 1303
"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 be
ashamed of the Cross"
SPONSORS: Separation of the two Sacraments has led to the practice of having sponsors for
Confirmation as well as Baptism. This ancient custom is already attested to in the 5th century.
[Jn. 1:45], [Just as Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus, so] the sponsor must not only present
the recipient to the bishop and guarantee his dispositions, but he must also help and guide
him in the struggles of the Christian militia in which he is enrolled...
"Pillar of fire Pillar of truth", Confirmation: (CCC 1285-1321)
God strengthens our souls (through) the sacrament of Confirmation. Even though Jesus'
disciples received grace before his Resurrection, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to
strengthen them with new graces for the difficult work ahead. Then they went out and
preached the Gospel fearlessly and carried out the mission Christ had given them. Later, they
laid hands on others to strengthen them as well (Acts 8:14-17). Through confirmation you too
are strengthened to meet the spiritual challenges in your life.
FCD - Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig
Catechism of the Catholic Church
TR - This Rock, magazine
Early Church Fathers - those bishops and theologians who followed the apostles as leaders of