Christianity Knowledge Base

Chrismation is the name given in Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East, and in Anglican and Lutheran initiation rites, to the sacrament or holy mystery more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian normally uses cresima (chrismation), rather than confermazione (confirmation).

The term chrismation is used because of the perfumed holy oil, myrrh (μύρον), or chrism, consecrated by a bishop, with which the recipient of the sacrament is anointed, while the priest speaks the words sealing the initiate with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches, the words of the sealing are:

"____, the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" (in Greek: Σφραγὶς δωρεᾶς Πνεύματος Ἁγίου).

In the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, whether the minister is a bishop or a priest, the words are:

"____, be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit" (in Latin: Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti).

Formerly the Latin Rite formula was:

"____, I sign you with the sign of the Cross, and I confirm you with the chrism of salvation. In the name + of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the + Holy Spirit" (in Latin: Signo te signo Crucis, et confirmo te chrismatis salutis. In nomine Pa+tris, et Fi+lii, et Spiritus + Sancti).

In the Anglican form, the words of the sealing are generally:

"____, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and marked as Christ's own forever."

In the Lutheran form the words are generally:

"____, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever."

All Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and pre-Ephesian Christians are required to receive the sacrament of chrismation, which is conferred immediately after their baptism or conversion. In the Roman Catholic Church, since the sacrament is ordinarily administered only by a bishop, and thus separately from baptism, the obligation to receive it arises only later. In Anglican and Lutheran churches, chrismation is usually conferred immediately after baptism, while "Confirmation" has come to describe a rite of a mature acknowledgement of the faith, graced by the laying-on of the bishop's hands.

In the Eastern Churches, i.e., the Assyrian Church of the East and the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Rite Catholic churches, as well as in Anglican and Lutheran churches, this sacramental rite may be performed by a presbyter (priest), and is usually conferred immediately after baptism; therefore, it is usually received by infants. After receiving this sacrament, the recipient is eligible to receive the Eucharist. In addition, Chrismation is used to admit converts already baptized according to a Trinitarian formula.

In the Latin-Rite (i.e., Western) Catholic Church, the sacrament is customarily conferred only on persons old enough to understand it, and the ordinary minister of Confirmation is a bishop. Only for a serious reason may the diocesan bishop delegate a priest to administer the sacrament (canon 884 of the Code of Canon Law). However, a priest may by law confer the sacrament if he baptizes someone who is no longer an infant or admits a person already baptized to full communion, or if the person (adult or child) to be confirmed is in danger of death (canon 883).

"The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1292).

Reserving administration of the sacrament to a bishop, who cannot be present at every infant baptism, meant that large groups of older children and young adults were confirmed together, making the occasion something of a rite of passage and an opportunity to affirm a personal commitment to the faith. In most cases, since the early twentieth century, when Pope Pius X encouraged the admission of children to reception of the Eucharist as soon as they reached the age of reason, those being confirmed had been receiving the Eucharist for several years. However, the three sacraments of Christian initiation, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, are increasingly conferred, within the Roman Catholic Church, in the traditional order, which is obligatory when an adult is baptized.

In both Eastern and Western traditions, chrismation is considered to bind the recipients more perfectly to the Church, and to enrich them with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Some theologians propose that chrismation conveys the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit," the particular gifts (or charismata) of which may be latent or become manifest over time according to God's will. The Roman Catholic interpretation can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285-1321.