"...be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit."
My oldest daughter received the Sacrament of Confirmation yesterday. This is a pretty big deal. All of the sacraments are a big deal, really. They are important rites of passage. The sacrament of Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation - closely tied to the sacrament of Baptism and to the Eucharist as well. Confirmation means all that Baptism means. As the Bishop explained to the Confirmands, in Confirmation the Holy Spirit comes to you in a new way. In Confirmation, one is anointed with oil. In addition the Bishop lays his hands upon their heads - each individually - and names them. In all of my growing up, everyone I know who was Catholic picked a Confirmation name. This is studied in the months leading up to the reception of the sacrament. The name picked is a Saint's name. Someone whose life you can relate to, or who overcame hardships in a way that has meaning for you. You draw inspiration from the Saint that you pick.
"All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence."
This enumerates the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgement, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, Wonder and Awe.
Most of the time the minister of Confirmation is the Bishop, as it was for us this year. The Bishop can delegate these duties to the priests of the parish, and for most sacraments the priest will minister. For Confirmation, it's the Bishop. The Bishop - from what I understand - is the only one who can consecrate the oils as well. Apparently this is done on Holy Thursday every year in a special mass called the Chrism Mass. There are three types of holy oil. The oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and the oil of chrism. The oil of catechumens is used for adult catechumens and infants, the second for anointing the sick, and the sacred oil of chrism is used for Baptism, Confirmation, the ordination of priests and for consecrating the altar.
Not only is Holy Chrism involved - but there was plenty of incense to go around. I'm a sucker for oil and incense. I can't get enough of them. The symbolism is deep.
Oil is a symbol of strength, healing and agility. I personally feel that it has a strong protective property as well. The word 'Christ' means 'anointed one'. When we are the recipients of the holy oils, we are anointed as well. This again - as so often I have observed - ties us symbolically to a community. To be a part of something bigger is important to humans.
The smoke of incense ascends like our prayers. It helps us to focus on the invisible realities. For me, it also carries suggestion of purification.
My ties to the Catholic Church seem to be inseverable. The Church remains the same. My arguments with it continue to challenge. I am not perfect, but the meaning that I am able to extract from my sometimes tumultuous inner struggle with the Church keeps me tied to it.
God bless my little girls, who are growing into beautiful young ladies.