The Sacrament of Confirmation (Sacramentology)

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

I once saw a mad person who according to people has not eaten any food for six days. Day by day, we all do come across some mad persons rummaging through garbage heaps in search of decayed edibles already infested with harmful microorganisms. Not only that.

After feeding on those death-facilitating poisons, they send them down the stomach with the most stinking dirty water. Some of them carry open wounds untreated by any medical expert. Under this inhuman condition, they sleep outside shelter where extreme cold, unhealthy raindrops and harsh sunshine become their friends.

What surprises this writer is that one does not find them lying in hospital beds but we who thrive in condition contrary to theirs are not only friends of routine medical check-ups but also are intermittently assailed by one deadly disease or the other.

The truth is that at the onset of their mental sickness, they are possessed by some evil spirits which control their entire life. They no longer suffer what normal human beings suffer. They are so to speak, half-humans, half-spirits. Some of them become so energetic and violent that they can pull down buildings or trees.

A similar thing happens when a baptized person receives the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Sacrament of Confirmation is that "sacred rite" in which through the imposition of hands, anointing and prayer, a baptized person is filled with the Holy Spirit for the inner strengthening of the supernatural life and for the courageous outward confession of faith (Onye ogu nke okwukwe).

God foretold through the Prophets of the Old Covenant, the outpouring of his the Spirit over the whole of humanity (cf Joel 2:28; Is 44 3-5; Ezk 39:29). Christ repeated this promise to his Apostles and future faithful (cf Jn 14:16; 26; 16:17ff; Lk 24:29; Acts 1:5).

This promise was fulfilled first on the Easter Sunday (Jn 20:22) and more strikingly at the feast of Pentecost as the Apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in diverse tongues as the Spirit gave them utterances (Acts 2:1-4).

The Apostles communicated the Holy Spirit by the outward rite of the "imposition of hands" on the baptized People of God (cf Acts 18:14ff). It is the laying on of hands and the anointing [which highlights the name "Christian" which means "anointed" and derives from that of Christ Himself whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38)] that form the essential part of Confirmation.

The principal effect of this outward rite is the communication of the Holy Spirit, the generous giver of diverse gifts and the principle of inner sanctification and of every salvific mission. It is the communication of the gift of the Spirit at Confirmation which gives us the rights of full membership in the Church that completes the grace of Baptism.

For by the Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized People of God are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. This is precisely why the organic unity of the Sacraments of Initiation namely: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist has to be safeguarded.

Thus, they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed even to the point of martyrdom (LG 11; cf Roman Ritual, Rite of Confirmation (OC), Introduction 2). So essential is the operation of the Holy Spirit in the life of every Christian that even Christ Himself was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

At Baptism, the Spirit rested on him and revealed him as the Messiah who was to come (cf Matt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34). He was also led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13) but he conquered by the power of the Spirit. He preached, worked miracles, prayed and died through the same Spirit (cf Heb 9:14).

In fact, his whole life and activities are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him without measure (Jn 3:34). In the New Testament, the activity of the Holy Spirit is to sustain the whole of Christian life from birth of faith in the heart.

The anointing with Chrism is not just ritual but spiritual like that of Christ and the Prophets. The anointing signifies God's action in arousing faith in the hearts of those who listen to the word of truth.

The Spirit confirms the faith in the word (cf Jn 3:5; 19:35; 1 Jn 5:6-8), ignites our charity (Rom 5:5; 1 Cor 13), inspires our prayer (cf Rom 8:16; Gal 4:6), generates the charisms (1 Cor 12:4) through which He builds the Church (cf 1 Cor 14:4,12,16) in the communion of the Saints (cf Eph 4:3; Phil 2:1).

In fact, the Spirit is the soul of all Christian existence (cf Gal 5:25; 6:9; Rom 8:9,13; Eph 4:40).

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