Confirmation, while defined as one of the five Lesser Sacraments, fits well at this point, as it should follow closely upon Baptism, and traditionally in the Church, only the Confirmed are admitted to the Lord’s Table…not a hard and fast rule, mind you, but the Church has generally accepted that only those Confirmed be allowed to receive the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ…or least those whose intentions are that they shall be Confirmed at the earliest convenience of the Bishop.
The Laying On of Hands, as we find it referred to in the Prayer Book, is that and more…for it is through the Laying On of Hands by the bishop that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed.
Confirmation completes Baptism….indeed for the first 100 years through the Church, Confirmation immediately followed Baptism, even in the Baptism of infants. This custom has been continued in the Eastern Church, but the Western Church has gotten away from the practice.
Back to the Seven Gifts of the Spirit. They are named in the 11th chapter if Isaiah as:
1. WISDOM, to aid us in our search after God.
2. UNDERSTANDING, to lead us to a knowledge of the truth.
3. COUNSEL, to help us to discern the right path.
4. GHOSTLY STRENGTH, to confirm us in doing right.
5. KNOWLEDGE, to teach us the will of God.
6. TRUE GODLINESS, to help us lead good lives.
7. HOLY FEAR, to aid us in loving and obeying God as our Father.
When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we find numerous occasions in which people are Baptised and Confirmed….for example Acts 19:1, following:
“They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them.”
In those early days of the Church, there are many instances of the people receiving the Holy Ghost in a dynamic way, such that we do not see today…that is, in a way most visible to those around. This does not mean that today the Holy Ghost is not being fully received or received in a lesser way, or that the Holy Ghost is not actively working in people’s lives. These are different times, different circumstances…and maybe its the different attitudes.
The Sacrament of Confirmation-it makes an indelible mark upon the soul and, thus, like Baptism, it is received only once.