The Sacrament of Confirmation
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem so that they could be baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts of the Apostles 1:5). When about 120 of Jesus’ disciples were gathered the Holy Spirit came in the form of wind and fire. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples understood that God was anointing them for a special mission (Acts of the Apostles 2).
The early Christians made sure, then, that whenever they brought people into the Church, they would baptize them with water and then anoint them with oil.
In the early Church Baptism and Confirmation were celebrated in a single ceremony. It is still done this way in the churches of the East. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of the West, the two sacraments gradually separated. The Church in the West wanted the bishop to complete a person’s initiation. As the Church grew and the bishops ministered over ever larger territories, the bishop could not be present for every Confirmation. So began the custom of gathering groups of baptized Catholics together later so that the bishop could confirm them all at one time. In the process over time the reception of the Eucharist came before the celebration of Confirmation.
Receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Christian’s relationship with God is made stronger. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are strengthened: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In this way the Christian is equipped to become a better witness to Christ in the world.
A bishop is the usual celebrant of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
In Confirmation the Christian becomes more closely united with Christ. With the strengthening of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit the Christian is able to accept new responsibilities for witnessing Jesus to the world.