Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 50.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Q. What is confirmation?

A. It is a sacrament conferred by a bishop, by imposition of hands, and unction with chrism, under a certain form of words, and instituted to confirm the baptized in the faith of Christ and his Church, and to resist all temptations against it.

Q. What grounds have you to believe it is properly a sacrament ?

A. First, from the Scriptures, where we read, in the Acts of the Apostles, Chap, viii, when Peter and John were sent to confirm the Samaritans, by imposition of hands, to receive the Holy Ghost, though they had already been baptized. Heb. vi. 2; 2 Cor. i. 21, 22; Acts xix. 5, 6. Secondly, from the holy fathers, who all agree that confirmation is a sacrament.

Q. That ceremony was used only in those times, to give the Holy Ghost visibly, in order to work miracles and other gifts.

A. That was one effect proper then, but it also gave sanctifying grace; and was practised in every age since, for the latter purpose, as the fathers all assert.

Q. Do Protestants hold it to be a sacrament ?

A. No; only a ceremony, for instruction of youth in their faith, after they have arrived at the use of reason, and to put them in mind of their baptismal vows. But, though they will not in formal terms call it a sacrament, yet they will own the antiquity and use of it, from the Apostles' time; and, by their book of common prayer, it is ordered, that "As soon as the children can say, in their mother tongue, the creed, the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments," etc. they be brought to the bishop, by one that shall be their godfather or godmother, and the bishop shall confirm him, etc. " For as much as confirmation is administered to them who are baptized, that by the imposition of hands and prayer, they may receive strength and defence against all temptations to sin, and the assaults of the world and the devil." Now, what is the strength and defence which they receive against the temptations of sin, the world, and the devil, but the grace of God ? If then they own grace to be given thereby, they ought to own it to be a sacrament, as having all requisites to a sacrament, viz.: Matter, form, and a proper minister. And it is the Acts of the Apostles, Chap, viii, that the visible sign of the imposition of hands has annexed to it an invisible grace, viz.: The imparting of the Holy Ghost; consequently, confirmation is a visible sign of invisible grace, and therefore is a sacrament.

Q. What is the matter of this sacrament ?

A. Imposition of hands and unction with chrism.

Q. The Scriptures make no mention of unction with chrism.

A. This is known by constant traditions of the primitive fathers, who expressly assert it. The immediate matter is the anointing; the remote matter is the chrism. Both Scripture and fathers make imposition of hands part of the ceremony; as also chrism is mentioned by all the fathers. And it is defined by the council of Trent, that virtue is to be ascribed also to the chrism. Some divines think the Apostles made use of chrism, otherwise their immediate successors would not have used and imposed it. This opinion seems to be agreeable to St. Paul, where he says, he who confirmeth us with you in Christ, and who have anointed us, who hath also sealed us, and hath given the earnest of the spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor. i. 21, 22.

Q. What is chrism, and why was it assumed for that use ?

A. It is an ointment made of oil of olives and balsam: any other oil is not sufficient matter. Now, oil has several qualities which signify the effect of this sacrament, viz.: Spiritual strength and purity of conscience, and preservation from rust, that is, from sin; and the sweetness cf balsam, the odor of a good life.

Q. Is it requisite that the chrism be consecrated, and that by a bishop ?

A. Yes, it is requisite to the validity of the sacrament; though some divines are of a contrary opinion.

Q. Who is the minister of confirmation ?

A. A bishop is the only ordinary minister, as it is decreed in the general council of Florence. Besides, the council of Trent has defined, that a bishop is the only ordinary minister; and this appears from the Scripture itself, where we read, in the eighth of the Acts, that Peter and John were sent to confirm the Samaritans. This has been the constant tradition and practice of the Church, as we learn from St. Cyprian, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, etc. However, St. Thomas and some other divines hold, that the pope can dispense with a private priest, to administer this sacrament, provided he makes use of the chrism consecrated by a bishop: but St. Bonaventure and others think no such dispensation can be granted by the pope.

Q. What is the form of this sacrament ?

A. It is the prayer made use of, to implore the assistance and bestowing of the Holy Ghost: and the words joined with the unction, viz.: N. I sign thee with the sign of the cross, I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Q. Why is no mention made of the aforesaid form of confirmation, in the writings of the fathers, and ancient rituals ?

A. The fathers purposely declined mentioning the nature of the sacraments, especially the form. As for rituals, the form of words sometimes was varied, though it was always a prayer signifying the nature of the sacrament.

Q. What are the particular effects of confirmation ?

A. It bestows, in the first place, an increase of our baptismal grace: it also confers upon us the Holy Ghost, with all his gifts. Again, it gives a particular grace confirming persons in their faith, and protecting them against heresy, and gives a spiritual courage and strength to resist all the visible and invisible enemies of our faith. It also makes us perfect Christians and lastly, gives a character of being complete soldiers of Christ; 2 Cor. i. 21, 22, which character is indelible, and therefore this sacrament cannot be repeated. Hence, those that are to be confirmed are obliged to be so much the more careful to come to this sacrament worthily, since it can be received but once; and if they then receive it unworthily, they have no share in the grace which is thereby communicated to the soul; instead of which, they incur the guilt of a grievous sacrilege.

Q. Who are capable of receiving confirmation, and what dispositions are required ?

A. In the first place, the person must be baptized. Again, infants are capable, because it was the custom formerly to confirm children immediately after they were baptized ; but now, not until the perfect use of reason; and then they are obliged to know the principal articles of their faith, to confess their sins, and by a true contrition, to be in the state of grace; it is also advisable to receive it fasting, but this is not of strict obligation.

Q. What say you as to the necessity of receiving this sacrament ?

A. It is not of that absolute necessity, but that persons may be saved without it; yet there is a precept for receiving it, which obliges all adult persons, when they have a fit opportunity; or else they are guilty of a mortal sin, if it be omitted, out of contempt, or any gross neglect; and that they foresee they cannot have an opportunity hereafter: but as the ritual expresses, or when the persons are exposed to dangerous temptations, either inward or outward, of losing their faith; for in such circumstances, they omit the proper means, provided by the law of God to resist them.

Q. What ought to be done after receiving confirmation ?

A. We ought to give most hearty thanks to God, for the abundance of grace we have received from him; to take a firm resolution to spend our lives Christianly, and to profess our faith openly; " for with the heart we believe unto justice, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Rom. x. 9, 10. We ought earnestly to ask of God the fruits of the Holy Ghost, etc.

Q. What is the obligation that a Christian takes upon him in confirmation ?

A. He lists himself there for a soldier of Christ; and consequently is obliged, after having received this sacrament, to fight manfully the battles of his Lord.