Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Traditional Confirmation Rite

Continuing with my sacrament series for Holy Week, I turn now to Confirmation. For this one, I'm taking a different approach because unlike baptism, Christians don't all agree on whether Confirmation can be found in the Bible. In fact, Confirmation was one of four sacraments the Reformation threw out (Anointing of the sick, Confession, and Holy Orders were the other three; while they did view marriage and the Eucharist as valid, they don't all agree on what they mean).
Is Confirmation in the Bible? Yes. According to, we have these verses as reference:
Acts 8:14-17 - the people of Samaria were baptized in Christ, but did not receive the fullness of the Spirit until they were confirmed by the elders. Confirmation is a sacrament that Jesus Christ instituted within His Catholic Church to further strengthen those who have reached adulthood.
Acts 19:5-6 - the people of Ephesus were baptized in Christ, but Paul laid hands on them to seal them with the Holy Spirit. This sealing refers to the sacrament of confirmation.
Eph. 1:13 - Paul writes that the baptized Ephesians were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, in reference to confirmation.
Eph. 4:30 - Paul says the Ephesians were sealed in the Holy Spirit of God, in reference to the sealing of confirmation.
Heb. 6:2 - Paul gives instruction to the Hebrews about the laying on of hands, in reference to confirmation, not ordination. The early Church laid hands upon the confirmand to administer the sacrament of confirmation.
Rev. 9:4 - the locusts could not harm those with the seal of God upon their foreheads. See also Rev. 14:1 and 22:4. 
(Side note: I have yet to hear a valid counter-explanation about this particular verse)

Now, many believe that Confirmation came from the Jewish practice of the Bar Mitzvah. While it does have Jewish roots, and it does involve the adult notion of you being personally responsible for your relationship with God, there are several things wrong with that claim:
1. Bar Mitzvah is only for boys; Confirmation is applied to both genders. (And yes, I know Bat Mizvahs happen, but they're a more recent edition).
2. Bar Mitzvah is set at age 13; Confirmation is mostly set at a much younger age, though Vatican II set the age at between 11-16.
3. Confirmation is tied to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2); Bar Mitzvahs are not related to the Pentecost.
4. While Bar Mitzvahs make the boy now part of the Covenant, this already happens with the Christian at Baptism.
5. Confirmation is grounded in a Jewish ritual also called Confirmation. In that instance, The early Jewish Reformers instituted a ceremony where young Jews who are older than Bar Mitzvah age study both traditional and contemporary sources of Jewish philosophy in order to learn what it means to be Jewish. The age instituted was older than that of Bar Mitzvah because some of these topics were considered too complicated for thirteen-year-old minds to grasp.

Since that's been cleared up now, you can find the traditional written form of the rite here.
Notice at one point, the bishop or priest lightly strikes the child on the cheek. The reason for this is to remind the child that they may be called on to suffer things for Jesus, something we all hope never has to happen.

Here's a video of the rite as it was intended to be:

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