Understanding the Theology of Confirmation
In the Old Testament, from Abraham through the great prophets, we read of “the promised Holy Spirit” (Gen. 18: 1-15, 22: 3-19). Isaiah announced that the long-awaited Messiah would receive the Spirit for his saving mission (Is.11:2; 61:1). In the New Testament, the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God (Mt 3:13-17). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and his whole life and his whole mission was carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gave him “without measure” (Jn 3:34). Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit upon the apostles once his mission was completed, and on Easter he breathed on them and said “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22)/ Forty days after Easter when the Holy Spirit descended on them at Pentecost, they began to proclaim God’s mighty deeds.
“The laying on of hands by the apostles, the origin of the sacrament of confirmation, signified the gift of the Holy Spirit, and became the sacramental means whereby the apostles and their successors transmitted the great gift of the Holy Spirit” (Aquila 296). This action was accompanied by the words: “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Used early on in the church to better signify the gift of the Holy Spirit was the anointing with perfumed oil (chrism). This anointing highlighted the name ‘Christian’ which means ‘anointed’, and was derived from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit”(Acts 10:38). [CCC 1289]
The gesture of anointing with oil has biblical symbolism
– Oil was a sign of abundance and joy
– Oil was used for cleaning purposes, and by athletes to limber their body and make it more flexible
– Oil was a sign of healing; used to treat wounds.
In the sacrament of confirmation the anointing with the sacred oil of chrism is a sign of consecration. Forever, the Anointed share, more completely, in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.