The Living Spirit - Confirmation

Confirmation celebrates the presence of the Holy Spirit within us

Our confirmation is, then, a continuance of what has begun at our baptism; a continuance of the developing awareness and reality of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. At our baptism, faith was conceived; we became part of Christ's body; part of his Church. The Holy Spirit ensures that we are a brother or sister of Christ. Our confirmation is the gentle unfolding of what our baptism means.  When we celebrate confirmation, we celebrate the fact that we are being transformed, and that transformation will continue to take place from the day we are confirmed until we are completely one with God. We are on a journey to wholeness, peace and perfecting love. We can celebrate that. Our heavenly Father celebrates with us because we are responding to his invitation to a life of love and reconciliation. We have said 'yes to his invitation to be part of the visible, living, breathing, Spirit-filled body of Christ. It is only through the action and lives of Christians that the Holy Spirit, through faith and the sacraments, can show what the Church is truly called to be; the living body of Christ. This must be at the heart of any other activity we undertake.

What is Confirmation?

During the life of Jesus and after his death and resurrection, his followers grew to know and love him. They began to see in his teaching an answer to the questions and problems they encountered in their lives. Once they had witnessed his resurrection, they became completely convinced that they wanted to remain his followers for the rest of their lives. Just before his ascension, Jesus told them to spread the message of the Good News he had brought to them to the whole world. He then promised that he would be with them always. (Matthew 28:20) The significance of this promise failed to register with them until the first Pentecost, the day when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, suddenly, they had the courage to speak out, strength to begin building a Christian community and an amazing power to convince others of the truth of what they said about Jesus Christ. It is this strength, courage and power which is the Spirit of Christ. Jesus was true to his word: he hadn't left them, his Spirit came into their hearts, permanently. This same Spirit enters our lives in this active way at our confirmation.

From the earliest days of the Church the gift of the Holy Spirit has been linked to Baptism. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how Philip, the deacon, made converts in Samaria and baptized them. The apostles then sent Peter and John to the converts. On arrival "they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit for as yet he had not come upon any of them because they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:14-17)

Later, when Paul came to Ephesus, he found "disciples... who had not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit". They had received only John's baptism. When they heard of Christ, "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; and when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and prophecy." (Acts 19:1-6)

In each case baptism was followed by the laying on of hands. Just as Jesus had invited his followers to join him, it was only after they had received the Holy Spirit that they were able to go out and pass on the Good News about the kind of life Jesus had revealed to them. So it is with us; we receive the invitation and accept it at Baptism. This is followed by "the laying on of hands" at Confirmation which inspires us to preach the Gospel.

The Spirit of Life

A popular children's party game for parents as well as children is Dead Lions. It's especially useful when things seem to be getting out of hand. Everyone lies flat on the floor pretending to be dead, there must not even be a flicker of life. Meanwhile, the person who is "it" tries to spot any movement, laughter or breathing. The great advantage is that it provides about three minutes of peace! For those who are supposed to be "dead" its disadvantage is that it is almost impossible to lie "dead" still. Suddenly, we become aware that even our breathing, usually unnoticed, is ruining our chances of staying in the game.

Breathing is like that - we forget about it most of the time but at every key moment in life we watch anxiously for it. At birth, however well the baby looks, however smooth the delivery, we dare not relax until the first breath is drawn. And then, as we watch life slip away, we wait with bated breath ourselves for the final breath; and when there is no more breathing we cannot believe the silence.

In Confirmation we are confirmed in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath, the life of God, and it is given to us. We share the life of God.

In this breathing of God's life into our own souls, we are given the gift of tongues just as the apostles were given it. For in the Holy Spirit we receive God's love which gives us the power to love as God loves. And love is a common language to all people. Love unites: we can speak to all men and women in all nations in this universal language which says, "You matter ... you are of infinite value."

Much of the time as Christians we play Dead Lions with our heavenly Father. We just don't move as Christians, we fail to reveal the gift given to us in Confirmation; we fail to breathe in the life of the Spirit. Yet we know that to give up breathing altogether is certain death. In every effort we make, no matter how small, to follow Christ, we are already responding to the breath of the Holy Spirit - the language of love. And that language, received at our Baptism and Confirmation, is the breath of eternal life which God continues to share with all who choose to follow the way revealed to us by Jesus Christ.

“The gift of the Holy Spirit closes the last gap between the life of God and ours … When we allow the love of God to move in us, we can no longer distinguish ours and his; he becomes us, he lives in us. It is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, the beginning of our being made divine.”

What Happens at Confirmation?

• Those to be confirmed, their family, friends, and the community of Christians gather together, usually at the Eucharist.

• Words of welcome are exchanged and all present are united in the opening prayers.

• Everyone listens to the word of God which is read from the Scriptures.

• The candidates renew their baptismal vows.

• The bishop stretches his hands over the candidates and prays that they will be given the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.

• The bishop lays his hands on the head of each candidate, calling them by name and praying, "Confirm O Lord your servant with your Holy Spirit."

• The bishop may anoint the candidate with the oil of the chrism, as a sacramental sign of the Spirit's sealing.

• Everyone joins in prayer for the newly confirmed, that they may grow in grace.

• The Peace is shared and the Eucharist continues.

Read more ... Word of Encouragement to Those Being Confirmed

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