St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Catechesis on Confirmation. 2: The seal of the Spirit
Dear brothers and sisters,
Continuing the topic of Confirmation or Confirmation, I wish today to highlight the "intimate connection of this sacrament with all Christian initiation" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 71).
Before receiving the spiritual anointing that confirms and strengthens the grace of baptism, the confirmations are called to renew the promises made one day by parents and godparents. Now they are themselves to profess the faith of the Church, ready to respond "I believe" to the questions asked by the Bishop; ready, in particular, to believe "in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and gives life, and who today, through the sacrament of Confirmation, is in a special way to [them] conferred, as already to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost" (Rite of Confirmation, No. 26).
Since the coming of the Holy Spirit requires hearts gathered in prayer (cf. Acts 1: 14), after the silent prayer of the community, the Bishop, keeping his hands extended on the confirmants, begs God to infuse in them his holy Spirit Paraclete. Only one is the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12: 4), but by coming to us he brings with him a wealth of gifts: wisdom, intellect, counsel, fortitude, science, piety and holy fear of God (cf. Rite of Confirmation, n. -29). We have heard the passage of the Bible with these gifts that the Holy Spirit brings. According to the prophet Isaiah (11: 2), these are the seven virtues of the Spirit poured out on the Messiah for the fulfillment of his mission. St. Paul also describes the abundant fruit of the Spirit which is "love, joy, peace, magnanimity, benevolence, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Gal 5:22). The one Spirit distributes the multiple gifts that enrich the one Church: he is the Author of diversity, but at the same time the Creator of unity. Thus the Spirit gives all these riches that are different but in the same way makes harmony, that is, the unity of all these spiritual riches that we Christians have.
Traditionally attested by the Apostles, the Spirit who completes the grace of baptism is communicated through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 8: 15-17; 19: 5-6; Heb 6: 2). To this biblical gesture, to better express the outpouring of the Spirit that pervades those who receive it, an anointing of perfumed oil, called crisma , has been added, and has remained in use to this day, both in the East and in the West ( cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1289).
The oil - the chrism - is a therapeutic and cosmetic substance, which enters the wounds and perfumes the limbs in the tissues of the medical body; for these qualities he was assumed by the biblical and liturgical symbolism to express the action of the Holy Spirit who consecrates and permeates the baptized, embellishing it with charisms. The Sacrament is conferred by the anointing of the chrism on the forehead, accomplished by the Bishop with the laying on of the hand and through the words: "Receive the seal of the Holy Spirit that is given to you as a gift".  The Holy Spirit is the invisible gift bestowed and the chrism is its visible seal.
Receiving the sign of the cross on the forehead with the perfumed oil, the confirmed therefore receives an indelible spiritual imprint, the "character", which configures it more perfectly to Christ and gives him the grace to spread the "good smell" among men ( cf. 2 Cor 2:15).
Let's listen again to the invitation of Saint Ambrose to the newly established. He says: "Remember that you have received the spiritual seal [...] and keep what you have received. God the Father has marked you, has confirmed you Christ the Lord and has placed the Spirit in your heart as a pledge "(De mysteriis 7,42: CSEL 73,106, cf. CCC, 1303). The Spirit is undeservedly a gift, to be welcomed with gratitude, making room for his inexhaustible creativity. It is a gift to be guarded with care, to be adept with docility, letting oneself be molded, like wax, by its fiery charity, "to reflect Jesus Christ in the world of today" (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, 23).