After baptism, confirmation is the next step you’ll have to take before officially becoming a part of the Body of Christ. So what exactly is it, its purpose, and how is it done? Let me answer all these questions in this article.
Confirmation is one of the sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church. It completes the grace of baptism and is necessary for becoming a Christian. Through it, a baptized individual is strengthened and “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” to serve the Church better and be a witness of Christ.
That said, this sacrament is essential in the Catholic Church. Continue reading to know why and learn what it means below.
What Does Confirmation Mean in the Catholic Church?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC #1285) explains that confirmation is part of the sacraments of Christian initiation. This is because it is “necessary for the completion of baptismal grace”. So without it, one will not be fully incorporated into the Body of Christ – the Church.
Now, why is this so? Well, because the sacrament of Confirmation allows the baptized to be “more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit.” This allows them to be “true witnesses of Christ”, making them more prepared and “strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”
Confirmation is viewed as a sacrament in the Catholic Church instituted by Jesus Christ himself. It is given to baptized individuals, making them stronger and perfect Christians. Furthermore, it deepens our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church.
That said, confirmation means getting sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual seal or character, once received, will mark you as a Christian who wholly belongs to Christ. And as with every Christian, you are then called upon to share in the church’s mission and faith.
Now, if you notice, anointing with oil has a special significance in the Catholic Church. There’s a pre-baptismal anointing with oil and the anointing of the sick. So what does this mean, particularly in confirmation? Well, it’s a sign of consecration. By getting anointed, we can “share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off ‘the aroma of Christ’. (CCC #1294)
As for using oil, the Catholic Church considers it as a sign of “abundance and joy; it cleanses and limbers; oil is a sign of healing, since it is soothing to bruises and wounds; and it makes radiant with beauty, health, and strength.” (CCC #1293)
What is the Purpose of Confirmation in Church?
Now that you understand what getting confirmed and “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” means, let’s discuss what it can do for a person. But first, let’s talk about the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament, prophets foresaw God’s Spirit resting upon the Messiah to help and sustain him in his mission. This prophecy was fulfilled with Jesus Christ. See, Jesus’ whole life was spent in total unity with the Holy Spirit – when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, when the Spirit descended on Jesus during his baptism, when Jesus was on his earthly ministry, and when he was raised by God through the power of the Holy Spirit after his death. Jesus even promised the Spirit to be given to the apostles and the entire church before he died on the cross. So it goes without saying that the Holy Spirit is vital to the Christian faith, which is why it’s one of the most Holy Trinity.
Now, what does this have to do with Catholic confirmation? Well, it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the “mark”, a seal that proves our “total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service forever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.” (CCC #1296) And just as Jesus promised, we are able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through confirmation.
This gift then increases and deepens the grace of baptism, helping us in the following:
- Rooting us more deeply in the divine filiation
- Unites us more firmly to Christ
- Increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit already in us
- Rendering our bond with the Church to be more perfect
- Giving us a special strength to spread and defend the faith through words and actions as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and to be never ashamed of the Cross.
These are all the purposes and effects of the sacrament of Confirmation as seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1302).
What is Done During Catholic Confirmation?
In the Roman Catholic Church, the sacrament of confirmation is administered by a bishop. However, as mentioned in the Code of Canon Law (#882), a presbyter may also validly administer such sacrament if given a special grant from the competent authority. It is celebrated separately from Baptism and is usually reserved for those who have reached the “age of reason”, which is seven years old.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the bishop extends his hands over those who are getting confirmed while calling upon the Holy Spirit to come down to those who have already been reborn through baptism, saying: “Send forth upon them thy sevenfold Spirit, the Holy Paraclete.”
Now, the essential rite of confirmation is when the bishop anoints the forehead of those to be confirmed with sacred chrism and lays his hand on the top of their head while saying: “Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti”. In English, this means “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
For those in the Eastern Catholic Churches, their confirmation is called “Christmation”. It is usually held immediately after baptism. Aside from the forehead, they also anoint other parts of the body with Myron, including the eyes, nose, lips, back, breast, ears, hands, and feet. With each anointing, they accompany it with the words: “The seal of the gift that is the Holy Spirit.”