Early Church Fathers on Confirmation
"And about your laughing at me and calling me "Christian," you know not what
you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and
serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be
serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first caulked [anointed]? Or
what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been
anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the
gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament
or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all
that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit;
and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we
are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the
oil of God." Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, I:12 (A.D. 181) .
"'And she said to her maids, Bring me oil.' For faith and love prepare
oil and unguents to those who are washed. But what were these unguents,
but the commandments of the holy Word? And what was the oil, but the
power of the Holy Spirit, with which believers are anointed as with
ointment after the layer of washing? All these things were figuratively
represented in the blessed Susannah, for our sakes, that we who now
believe on God might not regard the things that are done now in the
Church as strange, but believe them all to have been set forth in
figure by the patriarchs of old, as the apostle also says: 'Now these
things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our
instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come.'" Hippolytus of
Rome, Commentary on Daniel, 6;18 (A.D. 204) .
"After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly
anointed with a blessed unction,--a practice derived from the old
discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood, then were wont to be
anointed with oil from a horn, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses.
Whence Aaron is called "Christ,' from the 'chrism, 'which is 'the
unction;' which, when made spiritual, furnished an appropriate name to
the Lord, because He was 'anointed' with the Spirit by God the Father;
as written in the Acts: 'For truly they were gathered together in this
city against Thy Holy Son whom Thou hast anointed.' Thus, too, in our
case, the unction runs cornally, (on the body,) but profits
spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself too is
carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in
that we are freed from sins." Tertullian, On Baptism, 7 (A.D. 206) .
"But Satan, who entered and dwelt in him for a long time, became the
occasion of his believing. Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell
into a severe sickness; and as he seemed about to die, he received
baptism by affusion, on the bed where he lay; if indeed we can say that
such a one did receive it. And when he was healed of his sickness he
did not receive the other things which it is necessary to have
according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed by the
bishop. And as he did not receive this, how could he receive the Holy
Spirit?'" Pope Cornelius [regn. A.D. 251-253], To Fabius, fragment in
Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 6,43:14 (A.D. 251) .
"It is also necessary that he should be anointed who is baptized; so
that, having received the chrism, that is, the anointing, he may be
anointed of God, and have in him the grace of Christ. Further, it is
the Eucharist whence the baptized are anointed with the oil sanctified
on the altar. But he cannot sanctify the creature of oil, who has
neither an altar nor a church; whence also there can be no spiritual
anointing among heretics, since it is manifest that the oil cannot be
sanctified nor the Eucharist celebrated at all among them. But we ought
to know and remember that it is written, 'Let not the oil of a sinner
anoint my head,' which the Holy Spirit before forewarned in the Psalms,
lest any one going out of the way and wandering from the path of truth
should be anointed by heretics and adversaries of Christ." Cyprian, To
Januarius, Epistle 70/69:2 (A.D. 255) .
"They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly
chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ." Council of
Laodicea, Canon 48 (A.D. 343-381) .
"But a gate has been opened for seeking peace, whereby the mist has
lifted from the reason of the multitude; and light has dawned in the
mind; and from the glistening olive, fruits are put forth, in which
there is a sign of the sacrament of life, by which Christians are
perfected, as well as priests and kings and prophets. It illuminates
the darkness, anoints the sick, and leads back penitents in its secret
sacrament." Aphraates, Treatises, 23:3 (A.D. 345) .
"But beware of supposing this to be plait ointment. For as the Bread of
the Eucharist. after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no
longer, but the Body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more
simple ointment, nor so to say common, after invocation, but it is
Christ's gift of grace, and, by the advent of the Holy Ghost, is made
fit to impart His Divine Nature. Which ointment is symbolically applied
to thy forehead and thy other senses; and while thy body is anointed
with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and
life-giving Spirit." Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures (On
Chrism), 21:3 (A.D. 350) .
"You may effect in this chrism a divine and heavenly operation, so that
those baptized and anointed in tracing with it of the sign of the
saving cross of the Only-begotten, through which cross Satan and every
adverse power is turned aside and conquered, as if reborn and renewed
through the bath of regeneration, may be made participants in the gift
of the Holy Spirit, and confirmed by this seal, may remain firm and
immovable, unharmed and inviolate." Serapion of Thmuis, Prayer over
Chrism, 25:1 (A.D. 350) .
"'And your floors shall be filled with wheat, and the presses shall
overflow equally with wine and oil.'... This has been fulfilled
mystically by Christ, who gave to the people whom He had redeemed, that
is, to His Church, wheat and wine and oil in a mystic manner...the oil
is the sweet unguent with which those who are baptized are signed,
being clothed in the armaments of the Holy Spirit." Ephraim, On Joel
2:24 (ante A.D. 373) .
“Don't you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the
invocation of the Holy Spirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you
demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles.
And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus
of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command.
For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition,
have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the
practice of dipping the head three times in the layer, and then, after
leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation
of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the
Lord's day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are
many other unwritten practices which have won their place through
reason and custom. So you see we follow the practice of the Church,
although it may be clear that a person was baptized before the Spirit
was invoked.” Jerome, Against the Luciferians, 8 (A.D. 379) .
"And then remember that you received the seal of the Spirit; the spirit
of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the
spirit of knowledge and godliness, and the spirit of holy fear, and
preserved what you received. God the Father sealed you, Christ the Lord
strengthened you, and gave the earnest of the Spirit in your heart, as
you have learned in the lesson from the Apostle." Ambrose, On the
Mysteries, 7:42 (A.D. 391) .
"He would likewise be permitting this to the Apostles alone? Were that
the case,He would likewise be permitting them alone to baptize,them
alone to baptize, them alone to Confer the Holy Spirit...If, then, the
power both of Baptism and Confirmation, greater by far the charisms, is
passed on to the bishops..." Pacian, Epistle to Sympronian, 1:6 (A.D.
'For indeed the word of Ecclesiastes says true; your heretic is no
living man, but 'bones,' he says, 'in the womb of her that is with
child'; for how can one who does not think of the unction along with
the Anointed be said to believe in the Anointed? 'Him,' says (Peter),
'did God anoint with the Holy Spirit.' These destroyers of the Spirit's
glory, who relegate Him to a subject world, must tell us of what thing
that unction is the symbol. Is it not a symbol of the Kingship? And
what? Do they not believe in the Only-begotten as in His very nature a
King? Men who have not once for all enveloped their hearts with the
Jewish 'vail' will not gainsay that He is this. If, then, the Son is in
His very nature a king, and the unction is the symbol of His kingship,
what, in the way of a consequence, does your reason demonstrate? Why,
that the Unction is not a thing alien to that Kingship, and so that the
Spirit is not to be ranked in the Trinity as anything strange and
foreign either. For the Son is King, and His living, realized, and
personified Kingship is found in the Holy Spirit, Who anoints the
Only-begotten, and so makes Him the Anointed, and the King of all
things that exist. If, then, the Father is King, and the Only-begotten
is King, and the Holy Ghost is the Kingship, one and the same
definition of Kingship must prevail throughout this Trinity, and the
thought of "unction" conveys the hidden meaning that there is no
interval of separation between the Son and the Holy Spirit. For as
between the body's surface and the liquid of the oil nothing
intervening can be detected, either in reason or in perception, so
inseparable is the union of the Spirit with the Son; and the result is
that whosoever is to touch the Son by faith must needs first encounter
the oil in the very act of touching; there is not a part of Him devoid
of the Holy Spirit.” Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Spirit, 16 (ante
A.D. 394) .
"But thou shalt beforehand anoint the person with the holy oil, and
afterward baptize him with the water, and in the conclusion shall seal
him with the ointment; that the anointing with oil may be the
participation of the Holy Spirit, and the water the symbol of the death
of Christ, and the ointment the seal of the covenants. But if there be
neither oil nor ointment, water is sufficient both for the anointing,
and for the seal, and for the confession of Him that is dead, or indeed
is dying together with Christ.” Apostolic Constitutions, 7,2:22 (A.D.
"Why, therefore, is the Head itself, whence that ointment of unity
descended, that is, the spiritual fragrance of brotherly love,--why, I
say, is the Head itself exposed to your resistance, while it testifies
and declares that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached
in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem"? And by this
ointment you wish the sacrament of chrism to be understood, which is
indeed holy as among the class of visible signs, like baptism
itself..." Augustine, Letters of Petilian the Donatist, 2,104:239 (A.D.
"That this power of a bishop, however, is due to the bishops alone, so
that they either sign or give the Paraclete the Spirit...For to
presbyters it is permitted to anoint the baptized with chrism whenever
they baptize...but with chrism that has been consecrated by a bishop;
nevertheless it is not allowed to sign the forehead with the same oil;
that is due to the bishops alone when they bestow the Spirit, the
Paraclete." Pope Innocent [regn. A.D. 401-417], To Decentius, 3 (A.D.
"The living water of holy Baptism is given to us as if in rain, and the
Bread of Life as if in wheat, and the Blood as if in wine. In Addition
to this there is also the use of oil, reckoned as perfecting those who
have been justified in Christ through holy baptism." Cyril of
Alexandria, Commentary on the Minor Prophets, 32 (A.D. 429) .
"Franciscan Guy," from myspace.
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