Edmund: In the Old Testament, God’s presence often takes on the appearance of fire. God appears to Moses in a burning bush, and God leads the Hebrews in the desert as a pillar of fire.
Emily: The prophets also foretold of an outpouring of the spirit of God, which was often referred to as fire. We start to see this prophecy being alluded to in the New Testament — where we hear how Jesus experienced this outpouring. What was truly remarkable was Jesus promised that ALL of God’s people would experience this outpouring of the fire, too.
Edmund: John the Baptist said he had baptized with water, but that one would come after him who baptizes in the Holy Spirit…and fire. This person is Jesus. And Jesus said he came to set the world on fire, and he also spoke of a cleansing fire.
Emily: Jesus promised the Apostles he would send the Holy Spirit. And at Pentecost, in the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples. Jesus established a sacrament through which we experience the fullness of the fire of God, or the Holy Spirit.
Edmund: The spiritual tradition of the Church has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions. Jesus offers us Life in the Holy Spirit. Through baptism we enter into the body of Christ, the Church, and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit begins in us. But there is another sacrament that is connected to this “fire” of the Holy Spirit.
Emily: Confirmation is the sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ through which Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is one of the three sacraments of initiation, and it is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. It’s important to know that Confirmation and Baptism are deeply connected. Even the name ‘Confirmation’ signifies that this sacrament strengthens and confirms baptismal grace — it perfects it. Confirmation is the sacrament which deepens the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Edmund: Confirmation roots us more deeply in the divine life of the trinity, and incorporates us more firmly into Christ. It also strengthens our bond with the Church, associates us more closely with her mission, and helps us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by our deeds!
Emily: To understand this sacrament of the Holy Spirit, we should see it both as an anointing and a seal. Very early in the Church, to better signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil, called “chrism”, was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and comes from Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.” This rite of anointing has continued ever since.
Edmund: Anointing is rich in meaning throughout the bible and represents the Spirit and anointing of God. Oil was used for anointing priests, kings, or prophets. By this anointing, a Christian receives the “mark,” the seal of the Holy Spirit, from the Bishop, who is the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Emily: Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace. So what effects does this sacrament have?
Edmund: In addition to rooting us more deeply in the life of God, Confirmation unites us more firmly to Christ; and increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.
Emily: The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
Edmund: Confirmation renders our bond with the Church more perfect; and 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.
Emily: Through Confirmation, we experience in a deeper way the fire of the Holy Spirit. Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation.