Chrismation

Chrismation is the name given in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East, Anglican, and in Lutheran initiation rites, to the Sacrament or Sacred Mystery more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian normally uses cresima (chrismation), rather than confermazione (confirmation).

The term chrismation is used because of the chrism (perfumed holy oil, usually containing myrrh (μύρον), and consecrated by a bishop) with which the recipient of the sacrament is anointed, while the priest speaks the words sealing the initiate with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Contents

Liturgical form

  • In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches, the priest seals the newly-baptized with chrism, making the sign of the cross on the forehead, eyes, ears, nostrils, breast, back, hands and feet using the following words each time:
"The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" (in Greek: Σφραγὶς δωρεᾶς Πνεύματος Ἁγίου).

Sacramental theology

Eastern Churches

In the Eastern Churches, i.e., the Assyrian Church of the East and the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Rite Catholic churches, this sacramental rite may be performed by a presbyter (priest), and is usually conferred immediately after baptism; therefore, it is usually received by infants. After receiving this sacrament, the recipient is eligible to receive the Eucharist. In addition, Chrismation may be used to admit those converts who have already been baptized according to a Trinitarian formula. In the Eastern tradition, chrismation shows the unity of the church through the bishop in the continuation of the Apostolic faith, because the chrism used is presented to the priest by the bishop and (together with the antimension) is the symbol of the priest's permission from the bishop to perform the sacraments (see faculty). Although priests in the Eastern churches are universally granted this faculty, it is thus still considered ultimately proper to the bishop and associated with his Apostolic office specifically, and not merely the priestly. Furthermore, because some of last year's chrism is mixed with the next year's, there is a tradition that the chrism is believed to contain a remnant of, or at least a connection to, the same chrism which was consecrated by the Apostles in the first century, and thus is a symbol of Apostolic succession. The Coptic Orthodox Church also witnesses the tradition that while the Apostles used to give Confirmation by the laying on of the hands, when they found they were not able to communicate such power they ordered to collect the 30 spices which were to be used to anoint Christ's body and they were mixed with oil. Saint Mark the Evangelist brought this Myron in Egypt and it was at the times of Athanasis new Myron or Chrism was made, mixed with the original one made by the Apostles, and since then Myron has been remade 28 times and distributed among the other Patriarchs. [1]

Theology and practice

Unlike in the Western churches (e.g., Roman Catholic and Anglican), where confirmation is typically reserved to those of "the age of reason," chrismation in the Orthodox Church (as well as the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches) is normally administered immediately after baptism and immediately (or at least shortly) before one's first reception of Holy Communion.

Chrismation is practiced by anointing the new Christian with chrism, which is holy oil (Gk. myron). 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, chest, hands and feet. Each time, the priest administering the sacrament says, "The Seal of the 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 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 2:20) (Ware, 279).

Although normally administered in conjunction with baptism, in some cases chrismation alone may be used to receive converts to Orthodoxy through the exercise of economia. Although practice in this regard varies, in general (especially in North America) if a convert comes to Orthodoxy from another Christian confession and has previously undergone a rite of baptism by immersion in the Trinitarian Formula ("in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"), he or she may be received into the Orthodox Church through the sacrament of chrismation, after which receiving the Holy Eucharist. If, however, a convert comes from a Christian confession that baptizes in the Name of "Jesus only" (such as Oneness churches) or from one that does not practice baptism at all (such as Quakers and the Salvation Army), baptism is a prerequisite for chrismation. The use of economia is at the discretion of, and subject to the guidelines imposed by, the local bishop.

Works cited

  • Gialopsos, Philip G. The Seven Sacraments of the Greek Orthodox Church. 1997
  • Ware, Timothy (Kallistos). The Orthodox Church. New York: Penguin, 1997.

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  • Chrismation — Chris*ma tion, n. [LL. chrismatio.] The act of applying the chrism, or consecrated oil. [1913 Webster] Chrismation or cross signing with ointment, was used in baptism. Jer. Taylor. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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