The Seal of the Holy Spirit

Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace, but what exactly does this sacrament entail and signify?

I was recently asked to discuss the sacrament of Confirmation by some close friends. I must say, I was resistant because I remembered how little I understood the significance of the sacrament at the time of my confirmation in the seventh grade. At the time I remember it felt as if it signified me growing up and becoming “an adult” at the ripe age of 13. I was in awe of being that close to the bishop and professing my faith in front of a crowd, but still did I fully comprehend the significance of that sacrament? The answer is no. Maybe I’m the only one, but at the age of 13 I was more interested in being able to say I was confirmed rather than understanding what the sacrament itself was. After resisting for a week I decided to give in and challenge myself to understand the beauty of this sacrament.


Symbolism

During Confirmation we are anointed with Chrism as a seal of the Holy Spirit. What is the significance of this anointing? Pulling directly from the Catechism,

Anointing, in Biblical and other ancient symbolism, is rich in meaning: oil is a sign of abundance and joy; it cleanses (anointing before and after a bath) and limbers (the anointing of athletes and wrestlers); oil is a sign of healing, since it is soothing to bruises and wounds; and it makes radiant with beauty, health, and strength. CCC 1293

Anointing is not something the Church just made up. There are concrete examples of this practice and the significance of the anointing. First, when David is chosen as king of Israel he is anointed with oil. Upon being anointed, “the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.” Additionally, we can also look to Christ. In John 6, Jesus declared that the Father has marked his seal on him, “For on him the Father, God, has set his seal” (John 6:27). You see, the anointing is not just a symbol to make us feel like the Bishop is doing something. Instead, it is what invites the Holy Spirit to come more intimately into our hearts and allow us to be more effective children of God.


The Effects

Our Baptismal graces are completed in the process of Confirmation, but what exactly is the effect of Confirmation on us? Starting off, when we are anointed with the Chrism we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit which marks our total belonging to Christ. This means we are in his service forever. As a soldier receives a seal that represents their dedication to serve their country, so do we to serve our Lord. Additionally, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, are increased in us. The increase in these gifts provides us with a new strength and call to “spread and defend the faith by word and deed” (LG 11; Cf. OC, Introduction 2.). In turn, our relationship with the Church, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are drastically deepened. With the Church, we are more perfectly bound to Her and Her mission. With the Father, our roots sink deeper into the communion of love as His children. With the Son, we are more united to Christ and His sufferings. Lastly, the Holy Spirit’s roots within us are deepened, increasing our gifts, enriching our strength, and guiding us in the journey of faith.


What Next?

After all the celebrating, gifts, and family time, it can be easy to just go about life the same way we did before we received this sacrament. Friends, this must not be the case. As said earlier, we receive the seal which signifies our fidelity and belonging to Christ and we have a new call to spread and defend our faith. As children, someone else may have pledged our fidelity to Christ through Baptism, but now we take a hold of the reigns and renew these promises for ourselves. It is no longer okay for us to sit on the sideline and just talk the talk, no we must walk the walk. Let us look to the five baptismal promises that we renew during this sacrament:


Bishop: Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?

Candidates: I do.


Bishop: Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?

Candidates: I do.


Bishop: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?

Candidates: I do.


Bishop: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who came upon the apostles at Pentecost and today is given to you sacramentally in confirmation?

Candidates: I do.


Bishop: Do you believe in the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

Candidates: I do.


Upon rereading these we must make sure that we do not half heartedly say the words “I do” in response. We must declare them, live by them, and fight so that others may come to proclaim them some day too. Understand that we may have made these promises in the past, but they are to be held up now and forever.


Reflection for Prayer:

Spend time reflecting on the true meaning and weight each of the Baptismal promises that are renewed in Confirmation.


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