Every weekend at the moment, hundreds of youngsters from across the Diocese are coming to the Cathedral, the Mother Church, to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and then to be sent out on mission. Here, Fr. Anthony Fyk, Director of Liturgical Formation, continues a series of articles about the Sacrament of Confirmation, this week reflecting on the Anointing with the Sacred Chrism (‘Chrismation’).
We have reached the apex of encountering Christ in the Sacrament of Confirmation with the anointing with Chrism. Chrism is special oil consecrated by the Bishop during the Chrism Mass which is usually held during Holy Week. The properties of oil give us insight of how to understand why it is used in this Sacrament. Oil has the properties of healing, nourishment, and strength. In addition, a fragrance is added to this oil, which is usually balsam. This symbolizes the fragrance of Christ, or the odor of sanctity we are called to spread throughout the whole world. Chrism is reserved for Confirmation, Ordinations to priesthood and episcopacy, and for Dedications of Churches and Altars. When this oil is consecrated, the Bishop specifically requests that the strength of the Holy Spirit be poured into the oil. The prayer of consecration alludes that this Chrism is a sacred sign of being made perfect in salvation and life, to be formed into a temple of God’s majesty, to be fragrant with the innocence of a life pleasing to God, and finally to be made partakers of eternal life. When the candidates come forward to the Bishop, the Bishop dips his thumb of his right hand in the chrism and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the one confirmed. Why the forehead? The forehead symbolizes the intellectual-rational part of the human person, and it is the part of the body that is physically visible for all people to see. Being a confirmed Catholic allows us to be more fruitful in being a witness to Christ in our lives for the whole world. The sign of the cross is a sign of faith in the Paschal Mystery – that through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been brought into communion with God. It is a sign of our redemption. During the anointing, the Bishop says “(Name of the candidate), be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” This gives meaning or understanding to the gesture of anointing, that through this anointing the individual is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Anointing with Oil symbolises the spiritual anointing of the Holy Spirit. Yes, one receives the Holy Spirit in Baptism, but Confirmation completes the sacrament of Baptism and gives a ‘boost’ or strengthening of the Holy Spirit, in order to be more fully configured to Christ as priest, prophet, and king, and therefore to be a witness to him in the world. During the anointing with Chrism, the sponsor of the candidate, places their right hand on the shoulder of the candidate. This is a gesture of support and encouragement in that they promise to support the candidate’s faith journey throughout their lifetime. Finally, the bishop gives the greeting to each candidate – “Peace be with you”, which is a greeting of the risen Christ that was given to his disciples. The candidates respond with “And with your spirit.”