Sacraments of Confirmation and Baptism Distinguished

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

Like I noted before, there are three Sacraments of Christian Initiation. They are; Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. They touch all the significant moments of the Christian life. They give birth and increase of Christian life of faith and morals (CCC 1210).

Therefore, the Sacraments of Christian Initiation lay the foundation of every Christian life. The participation in the divine life given to human persons through the grace of Jesus Christ demands that the faithful be regenerated through Baptism, strengthened through Confirmation and enriched with the food of eternal life in the Holy Eucharist.

By the instrumentality of these Sacraments of Christian Initiation, human persons receive in increasing measure, the treasures of the divine life, know the proper way to heaven and advance towards the perfection of charity. The Sacraments of Baptism and confirmation are so similar in effects that some have argued that there is duplication.

Part of their reason is that Baptism and Confirmation are one and they form one rite of initiation (cf Acts 10:44-48). They derive from the initial mystery of Baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan (cf Jn 1:19-34). In fact, the Christian life is indissolubly one in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Consequently, some make due with Baptism alone. This error in this mental frame is so serious that a simply Baptised person cannot sponsor another in other Sacraments like Matrimony because an apprentice cannot be the Master of another in the same field of Sacrament. Baptism and Confirmation are essentially different as we demonstrate below.

The New Testament distinguished Baptism from Confirmation. While Baptism is linked only with salvation, remission of sins, being new creation, entrance into the Church (circumcision) and above all, belonging to Jesus Christ, Confirmation is concerned only with the gift of the Holy Spirit that is defined above all by the experience on the Easter and on the Pentecost.

The seven gifts according to the Catechism are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counseling, Courage, Knowledge, Purity and Fear of God. As a Sacrament of consecration in Christian initiation, Confirmation perfects Baptism and is the normal preparation for the full ecclesial communion in the Holy Eucharist.

Going through the constitutive elements of the theology of Confirmation, the Spirit revealed Christ at Pentecost when the Church was constituted in her primordial state and hence as the model for future ages. The Holy Spirit made known the nature of His mission of salvation as "promise of the Father" and "gift of Jesus Christ"; the intra-trinitarian propriety of His Person was revealed.

As a matter of fact, a divine person cannot be revealed in His salvific mission without manifesting in a certain way His proper identity in the mystery of the Trinity. This is how Confirmation completes Baptism.

While Baptism unites us to Jesus Christ, communicating to us the fundamental grace of being "servants in the Servant of God" and "adoptive children in the Son of God", Confirmation gives full reality to this act of salvation.

In the history of salvation, while Baptism applies us to the death and resurrection of Christ, Confirmation communicates the grace of the Pentecost to us. Above all, Confirmation gives us the rights of full membership in the Church.

In Baptism was received the power to do those things that are necessary for the salvation of the individual person including power over sin and Satan, while in Confirmation was received the faculty to do the much that is necessary for the spiritual struggle against the enemies of the faith (Thomas Aquinas, S.Th,. III.q.72, 1.5).

True enough, there cannot be Baptism without the Holy Spirit. But the supernatural effect of the Holy Spirit in Baptism is different from that in Confirmation. This is because, in Baptism, the Holy Spirit effects the rebirth into supernatural life, while in Confirmation He effects the perfection of the supernatural life. Thus, the specific operation of Confirmation is the perfection of the grace of Baptism.

In synthesis, Confirmation (like Baptism) imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual Character or mark and for this reason cannot be repeated (Denz., 852). Besides equipping the Christian for spiritual battle, the Character imposes an obligation to undertake the lay apostolate and confers the capacity to carry out this obligation.

The Confirmation Character as distinct from that of Baptism is a quality of the soul that presupposes that of Baptism. Confirmation of an unbaptized person is therefore invalid. The recommended candidate is a Christian who is in a state of grace.

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