What is Confirmation?
During the life of Jesus and after his death and resurrection his followers grew to know and love him.
They began to see in his teaching an answer to the questions and problems they encountered in their lives.
Once they had witnessed his resurrection, they became completely convinced that they wanted to remain his followers for the rest of their lives. Just before his ascension. Jesus told them to spread the message of the Good News he had brought to them to the whole world.
He then promised that he would be with them always (Matt. 20:28)
The significance of this promised failed to register with them until the first Pentecost, the day when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then suddenly, they had the courage to speak out, strength to begin building a Christian community and an amazing power to convince others of the truth of what they said about Jesus Christ.
It is strength, courage and power which is the Spirit of Christ.
Jesus was true to his word, he hadn’t left them, his Spirit came in to their hearts, permanently. This same Spirit enters our lives in this active way at our confirmation.
From the earliest days the Church the gift of the Holy Spirit has been linked to Baptism. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how Philip, the deacon, made converts in Samaria and baptised them.
The apostles then sent Peter and John to the converts.
On arrival “they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit for as yet he had not come upon any of them because they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts. 8:14-17)
Later, when Paul came to Ephesus, he found “disciples…w ho had not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”. They had received only John’s baptism.
When they heard of Christ, “they were baptised in the name of Lord Jesus; and when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began to speak in tongues and prophecy” (Acts.19:1-6)
In each case baptism was followed by the laying on of hands. Just as Jesus had invited his followers to join him, it was only after they had received the Holy Spirit that they were able to go out and pass the Good News about the kind of life Jesus had revealed to them. So it is with us; we receive the invitation and accept Baptism. This is followed by “laying on of the hands” at Confirmation which inspires us to preach the Gospel.
What happens at Confirmation?
vThose to be confirmed, their families, friends and the community of Christians, gather together to celebrate this sign of God’s life in the world
vWords of welcome are exchanged and all present are united in the opening prayers.
vEveryone listens to the word of God which is read from the Scriptures.
vAll Christians present renew their own baptismal vows.
vA prayer is offered, calling on the power of the Holy Spirit, and the bishop then lays his hands on the head of each candidate.
vThe sponsors each present their candidate to the bishop giving their candidate’s chosen confirmation name.
vEach candidate is anointed by the bishop with Oil of Chrism calling them by their chosen name to be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
vPrayers are then offered for all present, for the Church and for all men and women.
vThe celebration of the Eucharist may follow.
Confirmation is the breath of eternal life which God continues to share with all who choose to follow the way revealed to us by Jesus Christ.
Remember, our confirmation is, in fact, a continuance of the developing awareness and reality of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Confirmation is the gentle unfolding of what our baptism means.
When we celebrate confirmation, we celebrate the fact that we are being transformed, and that transformation will continue to take place from the day we are confirmed until we are completely one with God. We are on a journey to wholeness, peace and perfecting love. We can celebrate that. Our heavenly Father celebrates with us because we are responding to his invitation to a life of love and reconciliation. We have said yes to his invitation to be part of the visible, living, breathing, Spirit –filled body of Christ. It is only through the action and lives of Christians that the Holy Spirit, through faith and the sacraments, can show what the Church is truly called to be; the living body of Christ. And this must be at the heart of any other activity we undertake.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
There is an ancient tradition in the Church of speaking about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The custom can be traced to Isaiah 11:1-3, and it sets down the following gifts;
v Knowledge: The gift of knowing the truth; knowing the Father and Jesus the Saviour who he sent among us.
v Wisdom: The power to see all things as God sees them.
v Understanding: The gift of understanding God’s revelation.
v Counsel: Helps us to see just what we should do in a difficult situation.
v Fortitude: The power to carry through joyfully what we know to be right.
v Piety: Leads us to feel for God the love that a child feels for a loving parent and enables us to see all others as our brothers and sisters.
v Fear of the Lord: Enables us to be willing to respond to the impulse of the Holy Spirit and gives us a fear of being separated from God.