Effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

One may rightly ask: why should one be confirmed since one has been baptized and marked with the seal of salvation? We are a militant Church bedeviled by principalities and powers and since the birth of John the Baptist, the kingdom of God has been thrown to violence and only the violent takes it by force. Every Christian needs an empowerment from on high for this struggle.

Firstly, The Sacrament of Confirmation impresses upon the baptized Christian, a "Character" which perfects that of Baptism. How? The Character completes the configuration to Jesus Christ the Eternal Priest; augments the demands and the guardianship of the Baptismal grace; and inserts the baptized more intimately in the Church, giving the right to a special place.

The Confirmed is thus, in a fuller sense, ontologically "a mediator" between God and the simply baptized People of God. Confirmation renders in some way the Christian, full participant of the ecclesiastical Magisterium destining him by virtue of a solemn investiture, to profess, propagate and defend "ex officio" the doctrine of the faith, under the guidance of the Pope and of the bishops.

This Character destines the Christian to the apostolate. Confirmation is therefore, the apostolate of the laity for the edification of the Church and the glorification of God.

Secondly, the effects of Confirmation augment the demands of the grace as a more active "power" that is ordered to more difficult acts namely, the defence of faith and demands more abundance of divine assistance. It has to be noted that the defence of faith is by no means a violent physical action. The prototype of Christ and the Apostles is our guide.

As we know, at Baptism, we receive the power to do those things that are necessary for our salvation while in Confirmation, we receive the faculty to do the much that is necessary for the spiritual struggle against the enemies of the faith (cf T. Aquinas, S.Th., III q.72,1.5).

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium affirm that the confirmed who has been incorporated into the Church by Baptism is now bounded more perfectly to the Church and enriched with a special power of the Holy Spirit. In this way, he is directly obliged to diffuse and defend with the word and work, the faith as true witness of Christ. This service of faith defence and witnessing should be enhanced by sound catechesis and rich doctrinal information by the hierarchy.

Thirdly, with the Character of Confirmation, the faithful moves out from the Christian infancy and is introduced in the public life of the Church with the onus of sustaining every sacrifice for the glory of the Christian name. Therefore, he occupies an intermediary place between the hierarchy and the simply baptized Christians and their Character.

The confirmed is thus, constituted in the grade of soldiers and distinguished from the simple citizens of the kingdom of God. However, the grace of Confirmation perfects that of Baptism because by a new title, it incorporates the recipient to Jesus Christ, leads to manly maturity of the vital organism of the Christian infancy, augments and develops all the Mystical Body of Christ, amplifying the circumstance of the supernatural life.

Thomas Aquinas so exalts this work of perfecting the grace of Baptism that he states that Confirmation has to be unhesitedly conferred to the dying human persons in order that on the resurrection day, they appear perfect (S. Th., III,q.72,a.8 ad. 4). This implies that the supernatural being of the baptized from imperfect becomes perfect.

From this work of perfection, one understands the activities of the Apostles in 'attacking' the secular world with the light of faith after the Pentecost. Their outward ministry was also possible due to their internal unity which was the work of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation are for spreading the Good News of God's kingdom externally (centrifugal force) to gather the flock into an internal unity (centripetal force).

This is Catholicity. Those that receive the gifts of the Spirit and leave the Church are yet to explain to us the type of Spirit they received. In summary, Confirmation

(1) Roots us more deeply in the divine filiation (sonship) which makes us cry "Abba! Father" (Rom 8:15);

(2) Unites us more firmly to Christ;

(3) Increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;

(4) Renders our bond with the Church more perfect;

(5) Gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Jesus Christ boldly without being ashamed of the Cross.

These being the case, a lot of questions have to be answered by our countless confirmed faithful who remain ineffective and redundant in the face of modern challenges to our faith profession.

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