Every weekend until the early summer, 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 Laying on of hands.
After the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, the Laying on of Hands occurs. The laying of hands is a gesture of epiclesis (Greek: ‘invocation’), or a physical exterior gesture of invoking the Holy Spirit upon a person or object. It is an ancient gesture found throughout the Old and New Testaments. We see this gesture in the other sacraments such as Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Ordinations and during the Eucharist before the words of Institution. Specifically, with the Sacrament of Confirmation the Bishop is invoking that the Holy Spirit to be graciously poured out on the candidates. Before the actual laying on of hands, the Bishop invites the faithful to pray. The invitation to prayer invites us to prayer to God the Father for his adopted sons and daughters, who have been born again in Baptism, that the Holy Spirit may be poured out on them to confirm them with his gifts so that through the anointing they may be more fully confirmed to Christ. This is then followed with a period of silence. Silence is not a lack of something or a pause but is a moment of prayer. We are united together, in this moment of silence, to pray that the Holy Spirit may descend upon the candidates. Afterwards, the Bishop continues with the prayer, with his hands laid over those to be confirmed, asking that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (‘helper’), to give the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God. Wisdom helps us to see the world and reality from God’s point of view. Understanding helps us see the mysteries of faith more with clarity. Counsel helps us with the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. Fortitude gives us the strength to follow Christ and accomplish the good. Knowledge allows us to discover God’s desires and will in all things. Finally, piety allows us to love God more. It is worth spending some time reflecting on these gifts of the Holy Spirit and invoking the Holy Spirit in times when we need to exercise these gifts. All these gifts help us to be more faithful witnesses of Christ in the world around. All of us who have received this Sacrament have this great spiritual strength within us. Let us pray that they may be activated in order to be true Christian witnesses in the world today.