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Quote Archive: The Sacrament of Confirmation

The “Becoming Catholic” series presents the biblical, philosophical, and historical evidence for why Eternal Christendom Founder, Joshua Charles, became and remains Catholic. The series table of contents is here.

This Quote Archive on the Sacrament of Confirmation is part of the Becoming Catholic series. Each archive of quotes is intended to serve as a reference source on the various topics addressed in the articles. They are periodically updated as more research is completed.

St. Theophilus of Antioch (died c. 183-85) (EAST)

St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus (Book 1, Ch. 12) (c. 181)

(Ch. 12) 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.

Tertullian (c. 155-c. 220) (WEST)

Tertullian of Carthage, On Baptism (Ch. 7) (c. 203)

(Ch. 7) 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, men 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 Your Holy Son whom You have anointed.” [Acts 4:27] Thus, too, in our case, the unction runs carnally, (i.e. 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 of Carthage, On the Resurrection of the Flesh (Ch. 8) (c. 210)

(Ch. 8) …It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. They cannot then be separated in their recompense, when they are united in their service.

St. Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-235) (WEST)

St. Hippolytus of Rome, On the Apostolic Tradition (Ch. 21, §§21-24) (c. 215)1

(§21) [After baptism] And the bishop, laying his hand on them invokes, saying: “Lord God, you have made these worthy to deserve the remission of sins through the washing of regeneration: grant that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, sending your grace upon them so they may serve you in accordance with your will; for to you be glory, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and to the ages of the ages. Amen.”

(§22) After this, pouring the sanctified oil from his hand and putting it on his head he shall say: “I anoint you with holy oil in God the Father Almighty and Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”

(§23) And signing him on the forehead he shall give him the kiss and say: “The Lord be with you.” And he who has been signed shall say: “And with your spirit.”

(§24) And thus he shall do to each.

St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 210-258) (WEST)

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 73 (§§5, 7) (253)

(§5) …[I]n the name of the same Christ, are not hands laid upon the baptized persons among them, for the reception of the Holy Spirit? Why does not the same majesty of the same name avail in the imposition of hands, which, they contend, availed in the sanctification of baptism? For if anyone born out of the Church can become God’s temple, why cannot the Holy Spirit also be poured out upon the temple? For he who has been sanctified, his sins being put away in baptism, and has been spiritually reformed into a new man, has become fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit; since the apostle says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” [Gal. 3:27]…

(§7) But further, one is not born by the imposition of hands when he receives the Holy Ghost, but in baptism, that so, being already born, he may receive the Holy Spirit, even as it happened in the first man Adam. For first God formed him, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit cannot be received, unless he who receives first have an existence. But as the birth of Christians is in baptism, while the generation and sanctification of baptism are with the spouse of Christ alone, who is able spiritually to conceive and to bear sons to God, where and of whom and to whom is he born, who is not a son of the Church, so as that he should have God as his Father, before he has had the Church for his Mother?

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 69 (§2) (255)

(§2) …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

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 72 (§9) (c. 255)

(§9) But in respect of the assertion of some concerning those who had been baptized in Samaria, that when the Apostles Peter and John came, only hands were imposed on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, yet that they were not re-baptized; we see that that place does not, dearest brother, touch the present case. For they who had believed in Samaria had believed with a true faith; and within, in the Church, which is one, and to which alone it is granted to bestow the grace of baptism and to remit sins, had been baptized by Philip the deacon, whom the same apostles had sent. And therefore, because they had obtained a legitimate and ecclesiastical baptism, there was no need that they should be baptized any more, but only that which was needed was performed by Peter and John; viz., that prayer being made for them, and hands being imposed, the Holy Spirit should be invoked and poured out upon them, which now too is done among us, so that they who are baptized in the Church are brought to the prelates of the Church, and by our prayers and by the imposition of hands obtain the Holy Spirit, and are perfected with the Lord’s seal.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise on Re-Baptism (§§1, 3) (c. 257)

(§1) I observe that it has been asked among the brethren what course ought specially to be adopted towards the person of those who…baptized in heresy…and subsequently departing from their heresy, and fleeing as supplicants to the Church of God, should repent with their whole hearts, and only now perceiving the condemnation of their error, implore from the Church the help of salvation…[A]ccording to the most ancient custom and ecclesiastical tradition, it would suffice, after that baptism that they have received outside the Church…that only hands should be laid upon them by the bishop for their reception of the Holy Spirit, and this imposition of hands would afford them the renewed and perfected seal of faith

(§3) …[B]y imposition of the bishop’s hands the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who believes, as in the case of the Samaritans, after Philip’s baptism, the apostles did to them by laying on of hands [Acts 8:14-17]; in this same way they conferred on them the Holy Spirit. And that this might be the case, they themselves prayed for them, for as yet the Holy Spirit had not descended upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Moreover, our Lord after His resurrection, when He had breathed upon His apostles, and had said to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” [John 20:22] thus and thus only bestowed upon them the Spirit.

St. Serapion of Thmuis (died c. 360) (EAST)

St. Serapion of Thmuis, Bishop Sarapion’s Prayer-Book (Prayer 16) (c. 350)

16. Prayer in regards to the Chrism with which those who have been baptized are being anointed.

God of Hosts, the helper of every soul that turns to thee and that cometh under the mighty hand of thy only-begotten, we invoke thee to work in this chrism a divine and heavenly energy through the divine and unseen powers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in order that they who have been baptized, and who are being anointed with it with the impress of the sign of the saving cross of the only-begotten, by which cross Satan and every opposing power was routed and triumphed over, they also, as being regenerated and renewed through the washing of regeneration, may become partakers of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and being made secure by this seal, may continue steadfast and unmovable, unhurt and inviolate, free from harsh treatment and intrigue, in the franchise of the faith and full knowledge of the truth, awaiting to the end the heavenly hopes of life and eternal promises of our Lord and Savio Jesus Christ, through whom to thee (is) the glory and the strength both now and to all the ages of the ages. Amen.

St. Pacian of Barcelona (c. 310-391) (WEST)

St. Pacian of Barcelona, Letter 1 to Sympronian the Novatian (§6) (c. 383)2

(§6) …If, then, the power of both baptism and confirmation, which are far greater than charisms, is passed on in this way to the bishops, then, too, the right of binding and loosing was with them. Even though for us, because of our own sins it is presumptuous to claim it, nevertheless God, who has granted to the bishops the name even of his one and only [Son] [since they are anointed], will not deny this to them as if they were saints and sitting in the seat of the apostles.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386) (EAST)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 21 (§1, §§3-4) (c. 350)

(§1) …And to you in like manner, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, there was given an Unction , the anti-type of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost; of whom also the blessed Esaias, in his prophecy respecting Him, said in the person of the Lord, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me: He has sent Me to preach glad tidings to the poor.” [Is. 61:1]…

(§3) But beware of supposing this to be plain 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 your forehead and your other senses; and while your body is anointed with the visible ointment, your soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit.

(§4) …For as Christ after His Baptism, and the visitation of the Holy Ghost, went forth and vanquished the adversary, so likewise ye, after Holy Baptism and the Mystical Chrism, having put on the whole armor of the Holy Ghost, are to stand against the power of the adversary, and vanquish it, saying, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” [Phil. 4:13]

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 22 (§7) (c. 350)

(§7) …[David says] “You have anointed my head with oil.” With oil He anointed your head upon your forehead, for the seal which you have of God; that you may be made “the engraving of the signet, Holiness unto God.”

Councils

Council of Carthage (256)

Nemesianus of Thubunae said: …And in the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine voice, saying, “Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” [John 3:5]. This is the Spirit that from the beginning was borne over the waters; for neither can the Spirit operate without the water, nor the water without the Spirit. Certain people interpret for themselves incorrectly when they say that by imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Spirit, and are thus received, when it is manifest that they ought to be born again in the Catholic Church by both sacraments.

Council of Laodicea (Can. 48) (c. 363/364)

(Can. 48) They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ.

Council of Carthage (Can. 57, 61 in the Greek) (419)

(Can. 57) Since in the former council it was decreed, as your unanimity remembers as well as I do, that those who as children were baptized by the Donatists, and not yet being able to know the pernicious character of their error, and afterward when they had come to the use of reason, had received the knowledge of the truth, abhorred their former error, and were received (in accordance with the ancient order) by the imposition of the hand into the Catholic Church of God spread throughout the world

Other Documents

Apostolic Constitutions (Book 2, Sec. 4, §32) (c. 400)

(§32) …[H]ow dare any man speak against his bishop, by whom the Lord gave the Holy Spirit among you upon the laying on of his hands, by whom you have learned the sacred doctrines, and have known God, and have believed in Christ, by whom you were known of God, by whom you were sealed with the oil of gladness and the ointment of understanding, by whom you were declared to be the children of light, by whom the Lord in your illumination testified by the imposition of the bishop’s hands

Footnotes

  1. St. Hippolytus of Rome, Alistair C. Stewart, trans., Hippolytus: On the Apostolic Tradition, 2nd ed. (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015), 134-35. ↩︎
  2. Pacian of Barcelona and Orosius of Braga, The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 99: Iberian Fathers, Vol. 3 (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1999), 25. ↩︎
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