Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Sacrament of Confirmation

Today's readings show us why the Sacrament of Confirmation, apart from the sacrament of Baptism, is necessary for the Christian faithful. In Acts 8:14-17 we see that Peter and John are sent to the citizens of Samaria who go down and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit because it hadn't yet fallen on any of them. It notes they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,
they sent them 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.

This is significant. These people had already been baptized, and not with a baptism of John the Baptist but with the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the Bible clearly shows us that this was not sufficient for them to receive the Holy Spirit. There was another step. That step, as the Catholic Church has always taught, is confirmation.

The Sacrament of Confirmation, according to the Catholic Catechism, is
"necessary for the completion of baptismal grace" (CCC 1285 p. 326).

The Catechism also explains that, "Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil was added to the laying on of hands. this anointing highlights the name, 'Christian', which means annointed and derives from that of Christ himself whom God 'anointed with the Holy Spirit'." (1289 p. 327)

"The post-baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in the sign of...those who..share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit" (1294 p.328)

"By this anointing the confirmand 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" (1295 p. 328)

"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' (1303 p.330)

In a previous post, I explained that infant Baptism is necessary because Baptism provides the one who receives it a special protection - a kind of armor - against the influence of the devil. Since the devil does not respect age or youth, even infants need the armor in order to be protected from the efforts of satan to corrupt them. However, it is acknowledged that infants are not yet ready to wield weapons. They are not ready to engage in battle. This is why the sacrament of Confirmation is reserved for those who have attained the age of reason. Baptism puts on the armor of Christ, but Confirmation issues us the weapons we need to engage in battle for His sake.

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