Confirmation along with Baptism and Eucharist is one of the sacraments of initiation. In fact, in the early church, it was conferred in the same ceremony as Baptism. We continue that practice with adults who are baptized at the Easter Vigil. Over time and with the more common practice of infant baptism, the anointing by the bishop was separated out in the Roman Church, becoming the Sacrament of Confirmation. In the Eastern Churches even today all three sacrament are received together, even in infancy. Confirmation then is both a conferral of the Spirit and a completion of Baptism. Prior to encouraging the reception of Holy Communion at the age of seven, Confirmation had normally preceded reception of the Eucharist. There are even today there are liturgical reforms seeking to return to the original order, Baptism, Confirmation then Eucharist.
If it were merely a rite of passage into one’s teens or even adulthood, Confirmation would not be a sacrament. The instruction received and the service performed are not hurdles to be leapt in order to be allowed to pass to a higher status, they are an expression of the commitment of a Christian. The desire to be more fully initiated into Christ and the Church, means that one wishes to know more about the teachings of Christ that one might help others to know Jesus through word and example. The acceptance and love of God should then low forth in one’s actions that help others to see God in humanity.
While we celebrate the sacrament with the youth of the parish, but we might also consider our own living out of our confirmation in the faith. Do we in our lives evidence a faith soothed, cleansed and strengthened by anointing. Do we glow with the oil of salvation or are we dry and brittle?
Those adults who, for various reasons have not been confirmed, may wish to remember that this is not by its nature a sacrament for fourteen year olds. Catholic Christians who wish to live out their Baptismal commitment should consider completing that initiation in Confirmation.
The Catholic Catechism is a guide to the Church’s self-understanding as it has developed over the centuries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which we believe continues in the Church to this very day. From the Catholic Catechism found at http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/
1288 “From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.”
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.”100 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms baptism and strengthens baptismal grace.