confirmation



See Reform Judaism article about its Confirmation ceremony.


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A bishop administering Confirmation. Rogier van der Weyden, The Seven Sacraments, 15th century.
Confirmation is a rite in many Christian Churches.

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and Anglicans, view it as a sacrament, which in the East is conferred on infants immediately after baptism, but in the West is usually administered later at the age of reason or in early adolescence.

According to canon law for the Latin or Western Catholic Church, the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise (canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law). The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age, usually between 14 and 16 years of age, has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537-540).

In Protestant Churches, the rite tends to be seen rather as a mature statement of faith by an already baptised person, usually an adolescent, and thus as a rite of passage, which, though not as big a change as a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, holds a similar meaning.

Several secular, mainly Humanist, organizations direct "civil confirmations" for older children, as a statement of their life stance, an equivalent alternative to traditional religious ceremonies for children of that age.

Some regimes have as a matter of policy fostered the replacement of Christian rituals such as confirmation with non-religious ones. In the historically mainly Protestant German Democratic Republic (East Germany), for example, "the Jugendweihe (youth dedication) gradually supplanted the Christian practice of Confirmation."[1]. The Jugendweihe, a concept that first appeared in 1852, is described as "a solemn initiation marking the transition from youth to adulthood that was developed in opposition to Protestant and Catholic Churches' Confirmation."

Roman Catholic view

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In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, Confirmation, known also as Chrismation,[1] is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ for the conferral of sanctifying grace and the strengthening of the union between individual souls and God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in its paragraphs 1302-1303 states:
It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15);
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- ''it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:
:Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.


The roots of confirmation are found in Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17, "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit." See also the Gospel of Saint John, chapter 14 where Christ speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.

In the Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic Church, the sacrament is customarily conferred only on persons old enough to understand it, and the ordinary minister of confirmation is a bishop. Only for a serious reason may the diocesan bishop delegate a priest to administer the sacrament (canon 884 of the Code of Canon Law). However, a priest is not only by law empowered (canon 883), but, in the absence of a bishop, is obliged[2] to confer the sacrament, if he baptizes someone who is no longer an infant or admits a person already baptized to full communion, or if the person (adult or child) to be confirmed is in danger of death. Baptism and confirmation of an adult would normally occur at the Easter Vigil.

In Eastern Catholic Churches, the usual minister of this sacrament is the parish priest, using olive oil consecrated by a bishop (i.e., chrism), and administering the sacrament immediately after baptism. This corresponds exactly to the practice of the Early Church and the non-Catholic Eastern Churches.

"The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church."[3]

History of Latin-Rite practice

The main reason why the West separated the sacrament of Confirmation from that of Baptism was to reestablish direct contact between the person being initiated with the Bishop. In the early Church, the Bishop administered all three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist), assisted by the priests and deacons and, where they existed, by deaconesses for women's Baptism. The post-baptismal chrismation in particular was reserved to the Bishop. When adults no longer formed the majority of those being baptised, this chrismation was delayed until the Bishop could confer it. Until the twelfth century, priests often continued to confer Confirmation before giving Communion to very young children.[4]

After the Fourth Lateran Council, Communion, which continued to be given only after Confirmation, was to be administered only on reaching the age of reason. The 1917 Code of Canon Law, while recommending that Confirmation be delayed until about seven years of age, allowed it be given at an earlier age.[5] Only on 30 June 1932 was official permission given to change the traditional order of the three sacraments of Christian initiation: the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments then allowed, where necessary, that Confirmation be administered after first Holy Communion. This novelty, originally seen as exceptional, became more and more the accepted practice.

In the mid-twentieth century, Confirmation thus began to be seen as an occasion for professing personal commitment to the faith on the part of someone approaching adulthood. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1308 warns: "Although Confirmation is sometimes called the 'sacrament of Christian maturity,' we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need 'ratification' to become effective."[6]

The present (1983) Code of Canon Law maintains the rule in the 1917 Code, stating that the sacrament is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion (generally taken to be about 7), unless the Episcopal Conference has decided on a different age, or there is danger of death or, in the judgement of the minister, a grave reason suggests otherwise.[7]. The Code lays down the age of discretion also for the sacraments of Penance[8] and first Holy Communion.[9]

The number of Episcopal Conferences that have set a later age has diminished in recent decades, and even in those countries a bishop may not refuse to confer the sacrament on younger children who request it, provided they are baptized, have the use of reason, are suitably instructed and are properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published in its 1999 bulletin, pages 537-540).

Effects of the sacrament

The Catholic Church teaches that, like baptism, confirmation marks the recipient permanently, making it impossible to receive the sacrament twice. It accepts as valid a confirmation conferred within Churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose Holy Orders it sees as valid through the apostolic succession of their bishops. But it considers it necessary to administer the sacrament of confirmation, in its view for the first and only time, to Protestants who are admitted to full communion with the Catholic Church.

One of the effects of the sacrament is that "it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1303). [3] This effect has been described as making the confirmed person "a soldier of Christ". [4]

The same passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions, as an effect of confirmation, that "it renders our bond with the Church more perfect". This mention stresses the importance of participation in the Christian community.

The "soldier of Christ" imagery, which remains valid [5] but is downplayed if seen as part of the once common idea of confirmation as a "sacrament of maturity" [6], was used as far back as 350, by St Cyril of Jerusalem. [7] In this connection, the touch on the cheek that the bishop gave while saying "Pax tecum" (Peace be with you) to the person he had just confirmed was interpreted in the Roman Pontifical as a slap, a reminder to be brave in spreading and defending the faith: "Deinde leviter eum in maxilla caedit, dicens: Pax tecum" (Then he strikes him lightly on the cheek, saying: Peace be with you). When, in application of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, [8] the confirmation rite was revised in 1971, mention of this gesture was omitted. However, the French and Italian translations, indicating that the bishop should accompany the words "Peace be with you" with "a friendly gesture" (French text) or "the sign of peace" (Italian text), explicitly allow a gesture such as the touch on the cheek, to which they restore its original meaning. This is in accord with the Introduction to the Rite of Confirmation, 17, which indicates that the episcopal conference may decide "to introduce a different manner for the minister to give the sign of peace after the anointing, either to each individual or to all the newly confirmed together."

Information on other effects and broader matters concerning this sacrament can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285-1321.

Confirmation name

In many English-speaking countries and in German-speaking lands, as well as in Poland, it is customary for a person being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church (and some Anglican dioceses) to adopt the name of a saint with whom he/she feels a special affinity, thus securing an additional patron saint to be his/her protector and guide. This practice is unknown in many other countries (including the Spanish and French-speaking ones and also Italy), and is not mentioned in the official liturgical book of the Rite of Confirmation. Obviously, the custom prevailing in a country influences, often decisively, the practice of immigrants from another country, even if they keep their own language.

The saint's name is often used in conjunction with the confirmee's middle name, and is without effect in civil law, unless, of course, the confirmand pursues the appropriate legal avenues.

Orthodox views

Main article: Chrismation
Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox prefer to speak of this sacrament (or, more properly, Sacred Mystery), which they closely link with baptism, as Chrismation, a term that Roman Catholics too use in Italian (cresima). These Churches confer chrismation immediately after baptism, even on infants, as do Eastern Catholic Churches. The Roman Catholic Church does not confirm converts to Catholicism who have been chrismated in an Eastern Church, considering that the sacrament has been validly conferred and may not be repeated. When Roman Catholics (and some Protestants) convert to Orthodoxy, they are admitted by chrismation, without baptism; but, since this is a matter of local episcopal discretion, a bishop may require all converts to be admitted by baptism, if he deems it necessary. Depending upon the form of the original baptism, some Protestants must be baptized upon conversion to Orthodoxy.

Anglican view

The traditional view of the Anglican Communion, expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, is that confirmation is "not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel"; however, many Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, count it as one of seven sacraments. In the Anglican Communion the bishop alone may administer confirmation, unlike the Roman Catholic Church where confirmations performed by priests are valid and, if approved by the bishop, licit. The renewal of the baptismal vows, which is part of the Anglican confirmation service, is in no way necessary to confirmation and can be done more than once. The unfortunate phrase 'ratify and confirm' applied to the vows since 1552 (but altered in the 1928 revision to 'ratify and confess') has led to the common error that confirmation is merely the renewal of baptismal vows. (If it were, there would be no need for the presence of a bishop.) When confirmation is given early, candidates may be asked to make a fresh renewal of vows when they approach adult life at about eighteen."[10] Anglican doctrine thus differs from Lutheran.

Protestant views

In other Protestant churches, confirmation is often called a "rite" rather than a sacrament, and is held to be merely symbolic rather than an effective means of conferring divine grace. In Protestant groups where baptism in the early teens is the norm, confirmation is often not practiced at all. The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the sacramental validity of Protestant confirmations, and therefore does confirm converts from Protestantism.

Lutheran view

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Lutheran Confirmation girl 1919 (Germany)
Lutheran confirmation (in German, Konfirmation) is a public profession of faith prepared for by long and careful instruction, while the sacramental rite, called by the Western term of "confirmation" and the Eastern of "chrismation", is in German called "Firmung".[9] In English, the ceremony of Konfirmation is called "affirmation of baptism", a mature and public profession of the faith which "marks the completion of the congregation's program of confirmation ministry" (Lutheran Book of Worship - Ministers Desk Edition, p.324). The German-language Wikipedia article linked to the present one in English concerns , the sacrament; a separate article, describes the history and practice of the non-sacramental ceremony in use in Lutheran and other Protestant Churches in place of the Catholic sacrament.

In Lutheran Churches only baptism and the eucharist (and, among some Lutherans, sacramental confession) are regarded as dominical sacraments of the Gospel.

United Methodist view

In the United Methodist Church, Confirmation is a rite where baptized individuals recognize the work of God's grace as well as an embrace of being a disciple. It is the first public affirmation of the grace of God in one's Baptism and the acknowledgment of one's acceptance of that grace by faith. It often occurs when youth enter their junior high school years, but it may occur at any time that a person is ready to profess their faith.[11]

Latter Day Saint movement

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A Latter Day Saint confirmation.




In the Latter Day Saint movement, confirmation is an ordinance (sacrament) that takes place soon after baptism. It has two purposes: (1) to confirm the participant as a member of the church, and (2) to give them the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which provides the recipient with spiritual gifts. It consists of a member of the priesthood laying their hands on the participant's head and saying a blessing, and telling them to "receive the Holy Ghost".

Repetition of the sacrament

Western Christians do not normally confirm anyone who has already been validly confirmed. The Roman Catholic Church sees confirmation as one of the three sacraments that no one can receive more than once (see sacramental character). In Catholic understanding, the confirmation conferred in a Protestant or Anglican Church is not valid, for lack of a properly ordained minister; accordingly, confirmation is usually administered to those who enter the Catholic Church from those Churches. In the Anglican Communion, a person who was previously confirmed by a validly-ordained bishop in another denomination is "received" rather than confirmed again. However, the Episcopal Church USA recognizes non-episcopal confirmations as well.

Eastern Orthodox Churches occasionally practise what is seen by other Christians as "re-chrismation", in that they usually chrismate/confirm - and sometimes rebaptize - a convert, even one previously confirmed in other Churches. The justification is that the new chrismation (or baptism) is the only valid one, the earlier one being administered outside of the Church and hence being little more than a symbol. The Eastern Orthodox will also chrismate an apostate from the Orthodox Church who repents and re-enters communion. According to some interpretations, the Eastern Churches therefore view confirmation/chrismation as a repeatable sacrament. According to others, the rite is understood as "part of a process of reconciliation, rather than as a reiteration of post-baptismal chrismation".[12] The Mystery of Chrismation was also performed on Orthodox monarchs at the time of their coronation, even though they were required to be baptized and chrismated before they could assume the throne. However, this was not considered a repetition of their previous chrismation, but a further sacramental act of anointing.

References

1. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church,1289
2. ^ "According to the ancient practice maintained in the Roman liturgy, an adult is not to be baptized unless he receives confirmation immediately afterward, provided no serious obstacles exist" (Christian Initiation of Adults, 34)
3. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1292
4. ^ Ronald Minnerath, ''L'ordine dei Sacramenti dell'iniziazione, in L'Osservatore Romano, 23 May 2007
5. ^ canon 788 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law
6. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1208
7. ^ canon 891 of the Code of Canon Law
8. ^ canon 989
9. ^ canons 913-914
10. ^ The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology - Confirmation
11. ^ The General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church: Confirmation
12. ^ An Agreed Statement of The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation

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Confirmation can refer to:
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Reform Judaism can refer to (1) the largest denomination of American Jews[1][2] and its sibling movements in other countries, (2) a branch of Judaism in the United Kingdom, and (3) the historical predecessor of the American movement that originated in
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Baptism, from Greek βαπτίζω (baptízô), is a religious act of purification by water usually associated with admission to membership or fullness of membership of Christianity.
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age of reason, also called the age of discretion, is the age at which children become capable of moral responsibility. On completion of the seventh year a minor is presumed to have the use of reason (canon 97 §2 of the Code of Canon Law), but mental retardation or insanity
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As understood by the Roman Catholic Church, "the sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses.
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age of reason, also called the age of discretion, is the age at which children become capable of moral responsibility. On completion of the seventh year a minor is presumed to have the use of reason (canon 97 §2 of the Code of Canon Law), but mental retardation or insanity
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Protestantism encompasses the forms of Christian faith and practice that originated with the doctrines of the Reformation. The word Protestant is derived from the Latin protestatio meaning declaration
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Baptism, from Greek βαπτίζω (baptízô), is a religious act of purification by water usually associated with admission to membership or fullness of membership of Christianity.
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Adolescence is a transitional stage of human development that occurs between childhood and adulthood. Adolescent humans go through puberty, the process of sexual maturation.
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