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The Sacrament of Confirmation: Scripture & Tradition

The Sacrament of confirmation involves a strengthening of the graces received from the prior Sacrament of baptism. A Catholic bishop will extend his hands over the heads of baptized Catholics and will call upon the Holy Spirit to come down upon them, and the bishop subsequently anoints their individual foreheads with oil. God then supernaturally conveys His Spirit in a deeper way upon the confirmed. Such a Sacrament did not come out of nowhere, but rather from the springs of Scripture and Tradition.

Holy Spirit

The sending of the Holy Spirit comes from the Old Testament. Such a sending would fill people with God’s own life/Spirit, creating an intense divinization of humanity. This sharing in God is recorded by Ezekiel, “And I [God] will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules…I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God” (Ez. 36:27; 39:29). The very hearts of humanity would be miraculously transformed into God’s heart of Divine love (Rom. 5:5). God shares His very Self, and the Sacrament of confirmation is the ceremonial transference of this Divine Self: The Holy Spirit.

Oil

The use of oil in the Sacrament comes from the rich biblical background of anointing. Jewish Kings were anointed with oil (1 Sam. 10:1, 16:13; 1 Kings 1:39), and they would frequently receive the Holy Spirit when this occurred (1 Sam. 16:13). Since Jesus Himself is the true king, and He was anointed with oil (Lk. 7:38, 46; John 12:1-8), then His followers who are anointed become heirs to the throne. They become like the kings of Israel who would receive the Spirit. Not only kings, but priests also were anointed with oil. They were consecrated with it (Ex. 29:7; Lev. 8:12; Num. 3:3), for oil makes things holy (Ex. 40:9). Jesus was anointed with oil, as previously stated, so He became the true priest. Since His followers are anointed as well, then they become consecrated to the priesthood as well (1 Pet. 2:9). Sacred oil makes people kingly and priestly.

Pentecost

The first instance of somebody being confirmed is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost was a Jewish feast day to remember God’s fiery presence upon Mount Sinai and His giving of the Law. Yet on that feast day in 30 AD, the apostles, who at first were fearful and timid after Jesus had been crucified (fearing that they, too, would be crucified), became filled with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit broke through their fearfulness. Fire came down from heaven and they were strengthened to courageously preach the Gospel, having little fear of being crucified like their leader. The Spirit transformed their hearts to share in God’s courageous life of love. Hence, the Sacrament of confirmation strengthens Christians to be fearless.

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