Confirmation is in many Christian Churches a rite of initiation normally by laying on of hands and/or anointing for the purpose of bestowing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. In some denominations, confirmation bestows full membership in the church upon the recipient. In others, such as the Roman Catholic Church, confirmation "renders the bond with the Church more perfect", but a baptized person is already a full member.
Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and Anglicans view Confirmation as a sacrament. In the East it is conferred on infants immediately after baptism, but in the West it is usually administered later at the age of reason or in early adolescence.
In Protestant Churches, the rite tends to be seen rather as a mature statement of faith by an already baptised person. It is also required by most Protestant denominations for membership in the respective church, in particular for traditional Protestant faiths. In traditional Protestant faiths (Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Evangelical etc.) it is recognized by a coming of age ceremony. Confirmation is not practised in Baptist, Anabaptist and other groups that teach believer's baptism.
Several secular, mainly Humanist, organizations direct "civil confirmations" for older children, as a statement of their life stance that is an alternative to traditional religious ceremonies for children of that age..
Some secular regimes have as a matter of policy fostered the replacement of Christian rituals such as confirmation with non-religious ones. In the historically Protestant German Democratic Republic (East Germany), for example, "the Jugendweihe (youth dedication) gradually supplanted the Christian practice of Confirmation." A concept that first appeared in 1852, the Jugendweihe is described as "a solemn initiation marking the transition from youth to adulthood that was developed in opposition to Protestant and Catholic Churches' Confirmation."
Another celebration known as "Confirmation" is used in Reform and Conservative Jewish synagogues as a rite of passage for young Jewish men and women around the age of 13.
Confirmation in Judaism
Many German Reform Judaism synagogues began to celebrate "Confirmation" rather than Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. These congregations felt that the age of 13 was too young for a Jew to truly join the Jewish religion. The age of 16 felt more acceptable (usually 10th graders participate in the Confirmation service).
Now, Confirmation is celebrated in most Reform congregations across America. Both boys and girls participate in the Confirmation service.
Confirmands, as they are called, read from the Torah. Usually they read the Ten Commandments. Then each Confirmand delivers a short sermon about a topic close to their heart which usually pertains to Judaism or Jewish life. It can also be a rite of passage for young men and women at around the age of 16
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.
When the Apostle Paul met disciples in Ephesus who had only received the baptism of John the Baptist, they received Christian baptism and then Paul laid hands upon them and "the Holy Spirit came on them" ( ).
Also, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, Christ speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles ( ). Later, after his Resurrection, Jesus breathed upon them and they received the Holy Spirit ( ), a process completed on the day of Pentecost ( ). After this point, the New Testament records the apostles bestowing the Holy Spirit upon others through the laying on of hands.
Roman Catholic view
In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, Confirmation, known also as Chrismation, is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ for the conferral of sanctifying grace and the strengthening of the union between individual souls and God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in its paragraphs 1302–1303 states:
From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15);
- 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:
Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.
According to canon law for the Latin or Western Catholic Church, the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise (canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law). The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age, usually between 14 and 16 years of age, has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537–540).
In the Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic Church, the sacrament is customarily conferred only on persons old enough to understand it, and the ordinary minister of confirmation is a bishop. Only for a serious reason may the diocesan bishop delegate a priest to administer the sacrament (canon 884 of the Code of Canon Law). However, a priest is not only by law empowered (canon 883), but, in the absence of a bishop, is obliged to confer the sacrament, if he baptizes someone who is no longer an infant or admits a person already baptized to full communion, or if the person (adult or child) to be confirmed is in danger of death. Baptism and confirmation of an adult would normally occur at the Easter Vigil.
In Eastern Catholic Churches, the usual minister of this sacrament is the parish priest, using olive oil consecrated by a bishop (i.e., chrism), and administering the sacrament immediately after baptism. This corresponds exactly to the practice of the Early Church and the non-Catholic Eastern Churches.
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 guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church.
Rite of Confirmation in the West
The main reason why the West separated the sacrament of Confirmation from that of Baptism was to reestablish direct contact between the person being initiated with the Bishop. In the early Church, the Bishop administered all three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist), assisted by the priests and deacons and, where they existed, by deaconesses for women's Baptism. The post-baptismal chrismation in particular was reserved to the Bishop. When adults no longer formed the majority of those being baptised, this chrismation was delayed until the Bishop could confer it. Until the twelfth century, priests often continued to confer Confirmation before giving Communion to very young children.
After the Fourth Lateran Council, Communion, which continued to be given only after Confirmation, was to be administered only on reaching the age of reason. The 1917 Code of Canon Law, while recommending that Confirmation be delayed until about seven years of age, allowed it be given at an earlier age. Only on 30 June 1932 was official permission given to change the traditional order of the three sacraments of Christian initiation: the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments then allowed, where necessary, that Confirmation be administered after first Holy Communion. This novelty, originally seen as exceptional, became more and more the accepted practice.
In the mid-twentieth century, Confirmation thus began to be seen as an occasion for professing personal commitment to the faith on the part of someone approaching adulthood. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1308 warns: "Although Confirmation is sometimes called the 'sacrament of Christian maturity,' we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need 'ratification' to become effective."
The present (1983) Code of Canon Law maintains the rule in the 1917 Code, stating that the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise. The Code lays down the age of discretion also for the sacraments of Penance and first Holy Communion.
The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537–540).
Effects of Confirmation
The Roman Catholic Church and some Anglo-Catholics teach that, like baptism, confirmation marks the recipient permanently, making it impossible to receive the sacrament twice. It accepts as valid a confirmation conferred within Churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose Holy Orders it sees as valid through the apostolic succession of their bishops. But it considers it necessary to administer the sacrament of confirmation, in its view for the only time, to Protestants who are admitted to full communion with the Catholic Church.
One of the effects of the sacrament is that "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" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1303). This effect has been described as making the confirmed person "a soldier of Christ".
The same passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions, as an effect of confirmation, that "it renders our bond with the Church more perfect". This mention stresses the importance of participation in the Christian community.
The "soldier of Christ" imagery was used, as far back as 350, by St Cyril of Jerusalem. In this connection, the touch on the cheek that the bishop gave while saying "Pax tecum" (Peace be with you) to the person he had just confirmed was interpreted in the Roman Pontifical as a slap, a reminder to be brave in spreading and defending the faith: "Deinde leviter eum in maxilla caedit, dicens: Pax tecum" (Then he strikes him lightly on the cheek, saying: Peace be with you). When, in application of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the confirmation rite was revised in 1971, mention of this gesture was omitted. However, the French and Italian translations, indicating that the bishop should accompany the words "Peace be with you" with "a friendly gesture" (French text) or "the sign of peace" (Italian text), explicitly allow a gesture such as the touch on the cheek, to which they restore its original meaning. This is in accord with the Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, 17, which indicates that the episcopal conference may decide "to introduce a different manner for the minister to give the sign of peace after the anointing, either to each individual or to all the newly confirmed together."
Information on other effects and broader matters concerning this sacrament can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285–1321.
In many English-speaking countries and in German-speaking lands, in Poland, and in Lithuania, it is customary for a person being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church (and some Anglican dioceses) to adopt the name of a saint whom that person admires or feels a special affinity with, thus securing an additional patron saint as protector and guide. This practice is unknown in many other countries (including the Spanish-speaking countries and French-speaking lands, and in Italy), and is not mentioned in the official liturgical book of the Rite of Confirmation. Obviously, the custom prevailing in a country influences, often decisively, the practice of immigrants from another country, even if they keep their own language.
The saint's name is often used in conjunction with the confirmee's middle name, but is without effect in civil law, unless, of course, the confirmand pursues the appropriate legal avenues.
The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches refer to this sacrament (or, more properly, Sacred Mystery) as Chrismation, a term which Roman Catholics also use; for instance, in Italian the term is cresima. Eastern Christians link Chrismation closely with the Sacred Mystery of Baptism, conferring it immediately after baptism, which is normally on infants.
The Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church teaches that the Apostles themselves established the practice of anointing with chrism in place of the laying on of hands when bestowing the sacrament. As the numbers of converts grew, it became physically impossible for the apostles to lay hands upon each of the newly baptized. So the Apostles laid hands upon a vessel of oil, bestowing the Holy Spirit upon it, which was then distributed to all of the presbyters (priests) for their use when they baptized. This same chrism is in use to this day, never being completely depleted but newly consecrated chrism only being added to it as needed (this consecration traditionally is performed only by the primates of the autocephalous churches on Great Thursday).
When Roman Catholics (and some Protestants) convert to Orthodoxy, they are often admitted by Chrismation, without baptism; but, since this is a matter of local episcopal discretion, a bishop may require all converts to be admitted by baptism, if he deems it necessary. Depending upon the form of the original baptism, some Protestants must be baptized upon conversion to Orthodoxy. A common practice is that those persons who have been previously baptized by triple immersion in the name of the Trinity do not need to be baptized. However, requirements will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and some traditional Orthodox jurisdictions prefer to baptize all converts. When a person is received into the church, whether by Baptism or Chrismation, they will often take the name of a saint, who will become their patron saint.
The Orthodox rite of Chrismation takes place immediately after baptism and clothing the "newly illumined" (i.e., newly baptized) in their baptismal robe. The priest makes the sign of the cross with the chrism (also referred to as Myrrh) on the brow, eyes, nostrils, lips, both ears, breast, hands and feet of the newly illumined, saying with each anointing: "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen." Then the priest will place his epitrachelion (stole) over the newly illumined and leads them and their sponsors in a procession, circling three times around the Gospel Book, while the choir chants each time: "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia" ( ).
The reason the Eastern Churches perform Chrismation immediately after Baptism is so that the newly baptized may receive Holy Communion, which is commonly given to infants as well as adults.
An individual may be baptized in extremis (in a life-threatening emergency) by any baptized member of the church; however, only a priest or bishop may perform the Mystery of Chrismation. If someone who has been baptized in extremis survives, the priest then performs the Chrismation.
The Roman Catholic Church does not confirm converts to Catholicism who have been Chrismated in an Eastern Church, considering that the sacrament has been validly conferred and may not be repeated.
One view of some Anglicans, expressed in the 16th Century Thirty-Nine Articles, is that confirmation is "not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel" (a term meaning Baptism and the Holy Eucharist). Today, many Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, count it as one of seven sacraments. This is the official view in several Anglican Provinces. Anglicans are unique in Christianity in that only bishops may administer confirmation, unlike the Roman Catholic Church where confirmations performed by priests are valid and, if approved by the bishop, licit. The renewal of the baptismal vows, which is part of the Anglican confirmation service, is in no way necessary to confirmation and can be done more than once. The unfortunate phrase 'ratify and confirm' applied to the vows since 1552 (but altered in the 1928 revision to 'ratify and confess') has led to the common error that confirmation is merely the renewal of baptismal vows. (If it were, there would be no need for the presence of a bishop.) When confirmation is given early, candidates may be asked to make a fresh renewal of vows when they approach adult life at about eighteen." Anglican doctrine thus differs from Lutheran.
Some Protestant churches call confirmation a "rite", not a sacrament, and see it as merely symbolic, not an effective means of conferring divine grace. Protestant groups in which baptism in the early teens is the norm often have no confirmation. The Roman Catholic Church confirms converts from Protestantism, not recognizing their Protestant confirmations as valid sacramentally.
Lutheran confirmation is a public profession of faith prepared for by long and careful instruction. In English, it is called "affirmation of baptism", and is a mature and public profession of the faith which "marks the completion of the congregation's program of confirmation ministry". The German language also uses for Lutheran confirmation a different word (Konfirmation) from the word used for the sacramental rite of the Catholic Church (Firmung).
Lutheran Churches do not treat confirmation as a dominical sacrament of the Gospel, considering that only Baptism and the Eucharist (and, among some Lutherans, Sacramental Holy Absolution) can be regarded as such. Some popular Sundays for this to occur are Palm Sunday, Pentecost and Reformation Sunday (last Sunday in October).
United Methodist view
In the United Methodist Church, Confirmation is a rite where baptized individuals recognize the work of God's grace as well as an embrace of being a disciple. It is the first public affirmation of the grace of God in one's Baptism and the acknowledgment of one's acceptance of that grace by faith. It often occurs when youth enter their junior high school years, but it may occur during the early high school years. In the UMC candidates to be confirmed take a class which covers Christian Doctrine, Theology, United Methodist Church history, stewardship, basic bible study and other topics. Adults are not confirmed, but they can be baptized or reaffirm their faith at any time.
Latter Day Saint movement
In the Latter Day Saint movement, confirmation is an ordinance that takes place soon after baptism. It has two purposes: (1) to confirm the participant as a member of the church, and (2) to give the participant the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which provides the recipient with spiritual gifts. It consists of a member of the priesthood laying their hands on the participant's head and blessing the new member, and telling them to "receive the Holy Ghost".
Repetition of the sacrament
Western Christians do not normally confirm anyone who has already been validly confirmed. The Roman Catholic Church sees confirmation as one of the three sacraments that no one can receive more than once (see sacramental character). In Catholic understanding, the confirmation conferred in a Protestant or Anglican church is not valid, for lack of a properly ordained minister; accordingly, confirmation is usually administered to those who enter the Catholic Church from those churches. Those who enter the Catholic Church after being chrismated in the Eastern Orthodox Church are not confirmed in the Catholic Church, since Eastern Orthodox chrismation is considered valid by the Catholic Church.
In the Anglican Communion, a person who was previously confirmed by a validly ordained bishop in another denomination is "received" rather than confirmed again. However, the Episcopal Church USA recognizes non-episcopal confirmations as well.
Eastern Orthodox Churches occasionally practise what is seen by other Christians as "re-chrismation", in that they usually chrismate/confirm — and sometimes rebaptize — a convert, even one previously confirmed in other Churches. The justification is that the new chrismation (or baptism) is the only valid one, the earlier one being administered outside of the Church and hence being little more than a symbol. The Eastern Orthodox will also chrismate an apostate from the Orthodox Church who repents and re-enters communion. According to some interpretations, the Eastern Churches therefore view confirmation/chrismation as a repeatable sacrament. According to others, the rite is understood as "part of a process of reconciliation, rather than as a reiteration of post-baptismal chrismation".
- Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1303
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1267-1270; Code of Canon Law, canon 96
- Country-data. com, Germany: Religion Based on the Country Studies Series by Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress
- Jugendweihe from the German-language Wikipedia (German)
- Kolatch, Alfred J. The Jewish Book of Why. Middle Village, NY: J. David Publisher, 1981.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church,1289
- "According to the ancient practice maintained in the Roman liturgy, an adult is not to be baptized unless he receives confirmation immediately afterward, provided no serious obstacles exist" (Christian Initiation of Adults, 34)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1292
- Ronald Minnerath, L'ordine dei Sacramenti dell'iniziazione, in L'Osservatore Romano, 2007-05-23
- canon 788 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1208
- canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law
- canon 989
- canons 913–914
- U.S. Catholic Bishops — Catechism of the Catholic Church
- THE CATECHISM OF TRENT: The Sacraments — Confirmation
- New Page 2
- Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium
- Pomazansky, Protopresbyter Michael (1973), Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Platina CA: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (published 1984), p. 272, LCCN 84-051294
- The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology - Confirmation
- Lutheran Book of Worship - Ministers Desk Edition, p.324
- The German-language Wikipedia article linked to the present one in English concerns Firmung, the sacrament of confirmation, distinct from the Lutheran ceremony; a separate article, Konfirmation, describes the history and practice of the non-sacramental ceremony in use in Lutheran and other Protestant Churches in place of the Catholic sacrament.
- The General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church: Confirmation
- An Agreed Statement of The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
- Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation - Initiation
- Information and Forum for Roman Catholics About to Receive Confirmation
- Catholic Encyclopedia - Catholic teaching on Confirmation
- Catechism of Filaret, 307-314 - Eastern Orthodox teaching on Confirmation/Unction with Chrism/Chrismation
- Anglican teaching on Confirmation
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