The Confirmation of Our Faith
INSTRUCTIONS ON THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION.
Q. What is the end or design for which confirmation was ordained?
A. The design of the Sacrament of confirmation is to complete and perfect the sanctification our souls received in baptism, by bringing down the Holy Ghost in a more particular manner to dwell in them, and to fortify and confirm them in faith, and enable them more effectually to resist all the enemies of their souls.
Q. Can this be explained by example?
A. It is most fitly explained by the example of the holy Apostles, for, though they had been for three years in the school of Jesus Christ, had enjoyed his blessed company, seen his holy example, and been witness of his miracles; and, although he had been particularly attentive, during all that time, to instruct them in the most ample manner, both in public and private, in all the truths of his gospel; yet it is surprising to see how imperfect they were after all, how little they understood the great truths he revealed to them, and how much less they practised the lessons he had given them.
At the last supper, "there was a strife amongst them, which of them should seem to be the greater," Luke xxii, 24; notwithstanding all the lessons of humility he had given them; and so far were they from profiting by his instructions about suffering for his sake, that when he was taken in the garden, "they all forsook him and fled away," Matth. xxvi. 56. Peter denied him, and cursed and swore he knew nothing about him. All this shows how imperfect they still were; and the reason is, because the Holy Ghost had not yet come down upon them.
No sooner had they received this Divine Spirit than immediately they became new men; their minds were enlightened to understand all the things that their blessed master had taught them; their hearts were inflamed with a most ardent love for him, and a great seal for his honor and for propagating his glory; the grace of his holy Spirit "endowed them with a power from on high," Luke xxiv, 49. Which confirmed them in all good, and enabled them, in a most wonderful manner, cheerfully to undergo all dangers, to overcome all difficulties, and to suffer all torments, for the sake of their Lord and Master, so as even to "rejoice that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus," Acts v. 41.
By all which we see, that, by the decrees of heaven, the sanctification of our souls is, in a special manner, the work of the Holy Ghost. Now, as we are called, by our very vocation as Christians, to be saints, and to be perfect, according to that of our Savior, "Be ye perfect as also your heavenly Father is perfect, " Matth. v, 48.
Q. Is confirmation a true sacrament?
A. It is; because it has all the three things necessary to constitute a sacrament.
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THE OUTWARD SENSIBLE SIGN USED IN CONFIRMATION.
Q. What is the outward sensible sign used in confirmation?
A. Taking the whole of it as laid down in the holy scripture, it consists of three things:
First, The Bishop, to whom alone, it belongs to give confirmation, stretching out his hand over those that are to be confirmed, prays for them all in general, that the Holy Ghost may come down upon them with his sevenfold graces.
Second, Coming to each one in particular, he lays his hands upon the head.
Third, At the same time he anoints the forehead with the holy chrism in the form of the cross, saying these words, "I sign thee with the sign of the cross, I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Q. Where do we find in scripture that this outward action is instituted by Jesus Christ, to be the means of bringing the Holy Ghost to our souls?
A. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told, that when St. Philip the deacon had, by his preachings, and miracles, converted the Samaritans, "they were baptized with men and women," Acts viii. 12. Which, when the Apostles who were at Jerusalem had heard, "they sent to them Peter and John; who, when they were come, they
First, Prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.
Second, They laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost," ver. 14. In which passage we evidently see, that prayer, and the laying of the hands, were the outward means used by these Apostles, by which the Holy Ghost was communicated to their souls; prayer, as a preparation, and laying of the hands, as the immediate means appointed for that purpose.
Q. Where do we find the anointing and confirming?
A. The scripture, speaking upon any subject, does not always mention every circumstances relating to it in one place, but sometimes mentions one circumstance, sometimes another; and it is by collecting these different passages together, that we have the whole. St. Paul speaking of this sacrament, in his epistle to the Corinthians, describes it thus: "Now he that confirmeth us with you in Christ, and he that hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us; and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts," 2 Cor. i. 21. In which words he both mentions the confirming us, and the anointing us, and also the sealing us, or the sacbrown character which this sacrament imprints on our souls; and, at the same time declares, that all this is the work of God; that is, that God is the author of it. From these two passages we have the whole of this sacrament explained to us, both as to the outward action, as above described, and the inward grace, or the sacbrown effects which it produces in the soul.
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THE EFFECTS OF THIS SACRAMENT.
Q. What are the effects of the sacrament of confirmation?
A. First, It brings down the Holy Ghost in a particular manner to our souls, with all his gifts and graces, increasing the justification of our souls, and making us more pure and holy in the eyes of God.
Second, It confirms and strengthens us in our holy faith, and enables us to profess it before tyrants and persecutors, and to fight manfully against all the enemies of our souls, so as to bear all the crosses and trials of this life with Christian meekness and humility after the humility of Jesus.
Third, It imprints a sacbrown character or seal in the soul, which shows that we have been confirmed, and as it were, enlisted in the service of Jesus Christ, to fight under his banners, against all his and our enemies. For this reason, as in baptism, this sacrament can never be received more than once, because this character, once received, can never be blotted out or lost.
Q. As confirmation brings down the Holy Ghost to sanctify our souls, do all that receive confirmation become saints?
A. Happy would it be, for the world, if this were the case; but this happens but too seldom; and the reason is, that, in order to become a saint, two things are requibrown, the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and our co-operation. Both these are absolutely necessary. Without the Divine assistance we can do nothing towards our salvation; and though Almighty God should bestow his chosen graces upon us, if we resit them, and do not co- operate with them, we shall never advance one step towards Christian perfection. Hence St. Paul declares, that in all the great things he had done, it was "not I" says he, "but the grace of God with me," 1 Cor. xv. 10; not I alone, not the grace of God alone, but "the grace of God with me," the grace of God assisting, and I co-operating. now, in the sacrament of confirmation, God Almighty does his part; he gives us his Holy Spirit, and with him all those graces necessary to enable us to become saints, if we co- operate with them, and even after receiving these graces, the fault is entirely our own, because we do not improve them as we might.
Q. How is the outward sign of confirmation a sign of the grace received?
A. The imposition of the hands represents the communication of the Holy Ghost to the soul, and the anointing the forehead with holy chrism, represents the nature and plenitude of the grace received by the internal unction of the Holy Ghost.
Q. How so?
A. The chrism is a sacbrown ointment, composed of oil of olives and balm of Gilead, solemnly blessed by the bishop on holy Thursday. The oil represents the fulness of the grace received; both because, as oil, when dropped upon any thing, spreads itself upon it, and insinuates itself into all its parts, sot he grace of this holy Sacrament penetrates into the soul, and diffuses itself throughout all her powers; and also, because oil being a smooth mild substance, it represents that spirit of mildness and patience under the cross, which is one principal effect of confirmation. At the same time, as the balm has the particular property of preserving bodies, after death, from putrefaction, it fitly represents the fortifying grace received in confirmation, by which our souls are preserved from the corruption of sin, after our sins have been destroyed by the sacrament of baptism.
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THE SACbrown CHARACTER IMPRINTED ON THE SOUL BY THE SACRAMENT.
Q. Do all receive an equal share in the sacrament of confirmation?
A. The sacbrown character imprinted in the soul by confirmation is the same in all; but the other graces communicated to the soul are given in proportion to the designs which God has in view for the person who receives this sacrament, and to the dispositions with which he comes to receive it.
Q. What are the dispositions necessary to receive the sacrament of confirmation worthily?
A. First, that the Candidate be sufficiently instructed, according to age and capacity, in the necessary knowledge of his Christian doctrine.
Second That he be in the state of grace.
Q. Why must they be instructed in Christian doctrine?
A. Because without instruction there cannot be proper knowledge of the sacrament, nor those devout affections of the soul towards God which enlarge the soul for receiving the grace of the sacrament; besides, the duty which faith imposes upon all, requires that we should be instructed in those parts of Christian doctrine which each one ought to know, according to age and capacity.
Q. Why must the candidate be in the state of grace?
A. Because the scripture assures us, that "the holy Spirit of wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins," Wisd. i. 4; and, therefore, it would be a grievous sacrilege for a person, who knows himself to be in the state of sin, to presume to receive this sacrament, without taken the necessary measures to put his soul in the state of grace, and be reconciled with God.
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THE TWO CONDITIONS REQUIbrown FOR CONFIRMATION.
Q. Is anything else requibrown?
A. Yes; the candidate should earnestly engage in prayer.
First, From the examples of the apostles, who, during the ten days between the ascension of our lord, and the coming of the Holy Ghost, on Pentecost, "continued with one accord in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren," Acts. i. 14. Now if the apostles, by the particular inspiration of God, employed themselves in prayer, to prepare themselves for the coming of the holy Ghost, how much more ought we?
Second, Because our Savior has assubrown us, that our "Father from heaven will give his good Spirit to them that ask it," Luke xi. 13.
Q. What are the best prayers for this purpose?
A. The hymns and prayers appointed by the church for invoking the Holy Ghost, and for begging his grace; as contained in the books of prayer.
Q. is confirmation necessary for salvation?
A. It is not necessary, yet it would certainly be a sin to neglect to receive it when one can receive it; especially, if by neglecting the opportunity, one runs the danger of not having it again; and still more, if he be exposed to temptations and persecutions on account of his holy religion. It would be a very grievous sin if one should neglect it out of contempt or disregard.
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