Where is Confirmation in the Bible?*

The Holy Spirit descended on our Lord at his baptism, the sign that he was the Messiah and the Father's well-beloved Son (see Is 11:1-5; Mt 3:13-17). Christ later communicated this fullness of the Spirit to the entire Church on the day of Pentecost, fulfilling his promise that his followers would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (see Acts 1:8 2:1-4, 16-21). After receiving this gift themselves, the apostles passed it on to others who came to believe the gospel and were baptized (see Acts 2:38).

How was the Spirit imparted to the newly baptized? The apostles "laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit" (Acts 8:17). This was the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which passes down to our own day the strengthening grace of Pentecost.

From the beginning, Confirmation was a normal part of Christian initiation. The writer of Hebrews lists "laying on of hands" along with repentance, faith, and baptism as elements of the "foundation" of Christian faith, part of its "basic teaching" (see Heb 6:1-3). Confirmation completes the grace received in Baptism.

The sign of anointing (applying oil) in this sacrament is rich in meaning. In Scripture, oil is a symbol of gladness and abundance (see Ps 23:5). It was used to cleanse the body before and after a bath and to limber up an athlete preparing to compete.

Wounds were dressed with oil to aid healing (see Is 1:6; Lk 10:34). It makes a person shine with beauty, health, and strength (see Ps 104:15). In addition, objects set apart for sacred use, and people consecrated to a sacred purpose, were anointed with oil (see Ex 37:29; 1 Sm 10:1). All these biblical associations find spiritual parallels in the use of oil before Baptism, in the Anointing of the Sick, and especially in Confirmation.

Through the anointing, the one confirmed receives the mark or "seal" of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Cor 1:21-22). In ancient times a seal signified ownership: Slaves were marked with the seal of their master, and soldiers with the seal of their commander. the seal of the Holy Spirit received in Confirmation thus indicates that we belong totally to Christ and are enrolled in his service.

Other related scriptures: Dt 11:14; Sg 8:6; Dn 6:18; Jl 3:1-5; Lk 3:21-22; 4:1; Jn 1:33-34; 6:27; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Tm 2:19; Rv 7:3; 9:4.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church: 698; 900; 941; 1121; 1285-1321; 1546; 1272.

*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com

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