What is the Meaning of Confirmation?

Confirmation gives rise to many questions.


  What is the Sacrament of Confirmation?

Confirmation is a sacrament of the spirit.  The Holy Ghost is asked to come upon the candidate and to give them strength in word and deed to defend and protect their faith and their church.


How can it be a sacrament of Christian maturity when it is given to infants?

In the Eastern Church infants are baptized and confirmed at the same time.  This
is a tradition retained from the Middle Ages.  In the Western Church as Christianity  grew and people moved from the cities it became necessary to separate  Baptism and Confirmation because the Bishop could not visit the parishes every time someone was Baptized.  Confirmation took a degree of learning and so began to be given in groups to people of a later age.  Today, that age is considered 'the age of reason' when, unlike Baptism, the parents choose, the candidate may decide he/she is prepared to take this vital step in their faith.


How does the Rite of Confirmation make children 'soldiers of Christ?

The 'Soldiers of Christ' reference is a euphemism that evolved with the change to being confirmed at the 'age of reason'.  The two go hand in hand.  If you are old enough to understand the gifts of the Spirit imposed upon you, then you are old enough to fight to defend your Church.


Is the Spirit given at Confirmation somehow different from the Holy Spirit given at Baptism?  

No.  They are one in the same.  The same Holy Spirit comes to wash away the stain of Original Sin at Baptism and to clothe us with His strength at Confirmation.
Confirmation is the center sacrament in the three sacraments of initiation.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church insists the unity of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation must be safeguarded.  In Baptism we are cleansed of Original Sin.  In Confirmation we are anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit and are given his seven gifts (wisdom, understanding, the right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and wonder).  At Communion we are led to the Eucharistic banquet in communion with fellow members of our Church.
There is not much written about Confirmation in documents of the early church because it was considered part of Baptism.  The euphemism in that being that water likened to a bath or cleansing and the oil likened to drying.  Baptism being the initiation of cleansing while Confirmation is the initiation of drying off.
Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God as a banquet. "I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11).
In this, God has invited the entire human family to join in a great heavenly banquet and we respond through the Sacraments of Initiation.
As Confirmation became separated from Baptism, those who taught began to speak of Confirmation in a different sense.  The washing and drying concept was exchanged for Confirmation becoming a sacrament of strengthening.  The embrace or welcome in the kiss of peace (which began as a tender pat on infants) now became a 'slap on the cheek' to remind those being confirmed that they had become 'soldiers of Christ'.  The education toward and ceremony of Confirmation grew more suited to the needs of adolescents who received the sacrament.

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