The Sacrament of Confirmation

May 2, 2021

Fr. Scott Greene

 

Prayer

Almighty and everliving God, we beseech you to strengthen your servant for witness and ministry through the power of your Holy Spirit. Daily increase in him your manifold virtues of grace: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness, and the spirit of holy fear, now and for ever. Amen.

Introduction

  • Last week, Baptism

  • Today is confirmation

  • Next week is Holy Communion

Acts 8: 14-17

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Confirmation- A beautiful image of confirmation is one of a coach on the sideline. Through baptism we are on the Christian team. We are however new to the Christian faith so we are on the sidelines so to speak. Confirmation is like having the coach of the team, the Bishop in this case, call you from the sideline to the playing field. He calls you to him and pats you on the back, telling you to go out there and do your best. This is what confirmation is, a calling and strengthening of our Christian vocation out into the world.

  • Form and Matter

    • Form: Strengthen, O Lord, with your Holy Spirit, your servant; empower him/her for your service; and sustain him/her all the days of his/her life. (As a sacrament of the Church, the Church has liberty to change and modify the words was needed)

    • Matter: Sacred Chrism and the laying on of hands by a Bishop.

      • There are three types of holy oils used in the Church

        • Sacred Chrism- used in the indelible sacraments baptism, confirmation, and holy orders. The head is anointed in baptism and confirmation and the hands are anointed when a priest is ordained.

        • Oil of the Infirmed- used in healing rites and mainly for anointing of the sick.

        • Oil of the Catechumen- used in exorcisms and also before someone is baptized as a form of exorcism.

        • These three oils are blessed during the Maundy Thursday service at the cathedral and given to all the priests of the diocese.

  • Grace conferred.

    • Completes the work that was started in Baptism, through an adult decision of faith. It lays claim to the faith given at baptism.

    • Leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Can not be lost or redone

    • Deepens our relationship with God

    • Seals the believer with the Holy Spirit

    • Empowers the soul to be a witness of Christ

    • Completes Christian initiation, grants entrance to Holy Communion.

    • Gives the 7 fold gifts of the Holy Spirit.

      • Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, godliness, and fear.

  • Age

    • Someone just needs to be of the age of accountability

    • Normally around 12 but can happen at any stage in one’s life after the age of reason has been reached.

  • Who can administer Confirmation?

    • In the West, the Bishop alone reserves the right to confirm, although there is not an ontological reason for this only tradition. In the East, priest are given the ability to confirm.

    • Just like with Baptism and holy orders, confirmation can only be done once and is permanent, leaving an indelible mark on the soul.

    • We accept other Churches in Apostolic Succession confirmations. This normally includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal and other Anglican bodies. This is called being received.

  • Common Questions

    • Why can only the bishop confirm people?

      • This practice is taken from the Bible because the Apostles were the ones that were called for to lay hands. The Bishops are the modern day descendants of the Apostles. This also practically gives the Bishop a reason to visit his churches and get to know his people, got to give the bishop something to do (lol)

    • Do we have to be confirmed to receive communion?

      • According to the APA canons, yes. I think the spirit of this canon (meaning law or rule) is to push people to experience the sacraments in the right order. Baptism makes one a Christian so this is really the true minimum and would be a sin to give Holy Communion to someone unbaptized because it would cause them spiritual damage. On the other hand, giving communion to someone that has not been confirmed is just mixing up the order of the sacraments. The normal path of the sacramental life is baptism, confirmation, then Holy Communion. Children and parents should be instructed that their children should receive the sacraments in that order (this is why Amber and Audree do not receive communion yet). Older Christians and converts that have not had the benefit of receiving proper Christian formation can not retroactively be held to that standard. This is a pastoral matter that is case by case but the official answer is yes, you need to be confirmed to receive Holy Communion.

    • Can confirmation be likened to the evangelicals idea of “getting saved”?

      • I think so, in the rite of confirmation, an adult person is claiming the faith they had been given in baptism as their own. Professing their faith publicly. They are witnessing that they believe the faith which is the same thing as a “personal decision for Christ” but we get the added benefit of having a extra portion of the Holy Spirit infused into our public profession of faith through the laying on of hands. As with all ritual in any form, this can be abused if someone just goes through the motions but this is true of all conversions.

    • What does it mean when someone is received into the Church?

      • If someone has been confirmed in another Christian Tradition, instead of re-confirming them (which cannot be done) a person is received into their new tradition. For example, a Roman Catholic would be received into the Anglican Faith by the Bishop instead of confirmed, laying claim to the Anglican particularities instead of the faith as a whole.