Sacrament of Confirmation
After it was separated from the one celebration of Christian Initiation, Confirmation was left without its foundation. Its celebration was reliant upon the presence of the Bishop, as presbyters were not given permission to celebrate it. It came to be associated with parish visitation by the Bishop. The Anglican church introduced another interpretation of Confirmation by emphasising it as an opportunity for the candidate who had been baptised as an infant to personally affirm their commitment to the Christian faith.
However the liturgical reform of Vatican II has restored the traditional understanding and order of celebration to Confirmation. Building upon the biblical experience of Jesus at his own baptism, Confirmation is seen as the giving of the Spirit to the person, perpetuating the grace of Pentecost in the Church. At Confirmation the person is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes the teaching about Confirmation would focus upon the gifts of the Spirit rather than upon the very gift of the Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are named in the consecration prayer of Confirmation: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety; the spirit of the fear of the Lord. But the prayer clearly says: Send upon them, O Lord, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Why then is the Spirit given?
Throughout history the writers of the Church have always linked the giving of the Spirit to the priesthood of Christ. It is only in the giving of the Spirit that the writers would speak of the priestly dignity of the people of God in terms of the First Letter of Peter (2,9): “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. St. Augustine would call all the baptised “priests” because they had received the Holy Spirit in the celebration of what we now call Confirmation.
Thus the significance of the gift of the Spirit is that we are members of the holy priesthood and are rightly called priests. As the priestly people of God we are empowered to exercise our priesthood in the offering of sacrifice and proclaiming the wonders of God’s love. This we will do in the celebration of the Mass.
In the celebration of Confirmation within or without Mass the central link to Baptism is named by the Homily and the Renewal of Baptism Promises. The Bishop will then use the traditional sign of Confirmation by laying hands upon the candidates in silence. The consecratory prayer follows. Each candidate is then anointed with the Oil of Chrism: “be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit”. The Bishop also offers the Sign of Peace. The community then joins in the Universal Prayer. The ceremony closes with the Blessing.