Chrismation (sometimes called Confirmation) is the Sacrament by which a person, who has been Baptized is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with oil. As Baptism is a person's participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ, so Chrismation is a person’s participation in the Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Theology and Practice
Unlike in the Western Churches (e.g. the The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches) where confirmation is typically reserved to those of "the age of reason," Chrismation in the Orthodox Church is normally administered to infants immediately after Baptism and immediately before one’s first reception of Holy Communion.
Chrismation is practiced by anointing the new Christian with Chrism which is holy oil called Myron in Greek. The myron is a "mixture of forty sweet-smelling substances and pure olive oil" (Gialopsos, 35). The Christian is anointed with this oil in the sign of the Cross on his forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast, hands and feet. Each time, the priest administering the Sacrament says, "The Seal and Gift of the Holy Spirit."
The Sacrament of Chrismation is an extension of the Day of Pentecost, on which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles. It is by Chrismation that a person becomes a layperson – a member of the laos, the people of God. Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia explains:
- Through Chrismation every member of the Church becomes a prophet, and receives a share in the royal priesthood of Christ; all Christians alike, because they are chrismated, are called to act as conscious witnesses to the Truth. 'You have an anointing (chrisma) from the Holy One, and know all things' (I John ii,20) (Ware, 279)
Although normally administered immediately after Baptism, Chrismation is administered to adult converts to Orthodoxy. If a convert comes to Orthodoxy from another Christian church and has been baptized with water in the "Trinitarian Formula" (In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit), re-baptism is not generally required. Rather, the Christian is received into the Church by the Sacrament of Chrismation, after which they receive the Holy Eucharist. If, however, a convert comes from a Church that baptizes in the Name of "Jesus only" (such as some Pentecostal churches) or from a church that does not practice baptism at all (such as Quakers and the Salvation Army), Baptism is a prerequisite for Chrismation.
Although some non-Orthodox Christians level the charge that the Sacraments other than Baptism and Eucharist are not Biblically based, but rather human traditions, this is not so. The Sacrament of Chrismation can be observed in the New Testament.
The Acts of the Apostles show us that a sort of Confirmation was going on even in the early Church. As the Christian community grew and expanded into many locations both within and outside of the Jewish world, the Apostles were soon not the only ones preaching the Gospel and Baptizing people into Christ.