The first place where we find Confirmation in the Bible is in Acts 8. There we read of Peter and John, who prayed for the new Christians in Samaria, “that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (vs. 15-17).
This passage doesn’t mean to say that they were receiving the Spirit for the first time here. They received their first installment of the Spirit when they were baptized. What they had yet to receive was the later outpouring of the Spirit that completes what the Spirit began in Baptism. So, Peter and John laid their hands on these new Christians in order to give them this final installment of the Spirit. That’s basically what Confirmation is.
Another reference to Confirmation is found in Acts 19. When Paul entered Ephesus and realized that the disciples there had only received the baptism of John the Baptist (which was merely symbolic), he made sure that “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (vs. 5-6).
In both cases Confirmation comes soon after Baptism. While this is no longer the case in many dioceses today, the fact remains that the one is the completion of the other, and their connection should always be emphasized when we prepare our youth for the sacraments.
The language of being “sealed by the Holy Spirit” is also very evocative of Confirmation, since it is through the anointing with oil during the celebration of this sacrament that the Christian receives the seal or “mark” of God upon his soul. As St. Paul tells us, “It is God who ... has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor 1:21-22). Those who “have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:13), and this “for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30).
Christ Himself was sealed by the Father (cf. Jn 6:27) and He desires to mark us with this same seal. As the Catechism tells us, “This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial” (no. 1296).
At the end of time, “only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads” will suffer (cf. Rev 7:2-3; 9:4). Praise God for our Confirmation!
For more information on the Sacrament of Confirmation, see the following articles:
- Catholic Answers: Confirmation
- The Graces of Confirmation
- New Advent: Confirmation
- Questions and Answers on Confirmation and the Restored Order of the Sacraments of Initiation