Sacrament of Confirmation
1. What is the biblical basis of Confirmation?
All Seven Sacrament of the Catholic Church can be seen in Holy Scripture, but often times the biblical origin of the the Sacrament of Confirmation is missed. The scriptural event from which Confirmation is drawn is Pentecost.
In Acts 2, St. Luke records, “this is what is spoke by the prophet Joel… pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…” Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. St. Peter’s point is that the pouring out of the Holy Ghost is the definitive sign that the Messianic Age had arrived – everything that was promised has been fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Ghost, the ability for the Church to live fully in the Messianic Age.
St. Peter regarded the Spirit who had come down upon the apostles as the gift of the Messianic Age.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. [...]
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: `And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4, 15-21
2. What is the effect of Confirmation?
The Sacrament of Confirmation confers a Messianic maturity on the individual, a particular maturation that is not present in the baptized individual. The Baltimore Catechism says, “Confirmation is a Sacrament through which we receive the Holy Ghost to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.”1 The Sacrament of confirmation perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.
Baptism accomplishes all it is ordered to do; however it is not all that ought be done – baptism points to a further maturity in forming ourselves according to Our Lord, and the ability to do so are found in the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed at Confirmation.
To wit, the effects of Confirmation are “an increase of sanctifying grace, the strengthening of our faith, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.”2
3. What is the basis for chrism oil being used?
The biblical event of Pentecost did not include the matter of oil; thus, it is fair to ask from where that tradition comes? St. Thomas Aquinas uses Dionysius as an authoritative source for chrism oils, but it is unclear exactly who he think Dionysius is. He appears to view him as an apostolic authority, as a first hand account of the works of the apostles.3 The Baltimore Catechism states, “The exact time at which Confirmation was instituted is not known. But as this Sacrament was administered by the Apostles and numbered with the other Sacraments instituted by Our Lord, it is certain that He instituted this Sacrament also and instructed His Apostles in its use, at some time before His ascension into heaven.”4
The chrism oil or Holy Chrism is “a mixture of olive-oil and balm, consecrated by the bishop,” and “the oil signifies strength, and the balm signifies the freedom from corruption and the sweetness which virtue must give to our lives.”5
What is the best argument for chrism oils? – Apostolic tradition. It is dangerous to ask for biblical “proof texts,” because Catholic theologians look to both Scripture and Tradition. For the Catholic theologian to fall into the “proof text” argument is for him to fall from his Catholic epistemology and into protestant/heretical methods.
Holy Chrism also stands in the place of the bishop, for if the bishop cannot be there, the bishop will bless the chrism oil the priest will perform the sacrament of Confirmation.
The Old Testament sets a precedent for Holy Chrism and the biblical logic dictating the use of Holy Chrism; because, the anointing oils were used by the prophets throughout Holy Scripture.