Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Signs and Wonders: The Holy Sacraments in the Life of One Unholy Christian Man (IV)


1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the "sacraments of Christian initiation," whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."

Although Confirmation is not quite as “exciting” or “dramatic” as Baptism and the Eucharist, for me it is nevertheless a much weightier sacrament. Baptism and the Eucharist are pure and total gifts of God to us. Whereas the activity in Baptism and the Eucharist are overwhelmingly the work of God on us, Confirmation calls upon to co-labor with God. Whereas the former two sacraments call upon us almost solely to receive grace – like a baby being cleansed or spoon-fed – Confirmation “raises the stakes” and calls upon us to live and serve with the power and mercy given us in the two former sacraments.

In terms of their economic relation to the Holy Trinity, the former two Sacraments are highly Christological and Paternal (i.e., of the Father). Baptism and the Eucharist root us in a deep ontological way into the concrete redemptive Person of the Son of God and thereby objectively align us with the eternal counsel of the Father Who sent the Son. Confirmation, by contrast, is highly pneumatological, in that it is the means by the Spirit of God elevates us into his “rhythms” of grace.

Confirmation is the key to the analogy of Jacob I just mentioned [in part III about Baptism]: it is itself the Spirit-led walking of a Christian into, and not merely “inside,” the newness of life. The Father plunges us into redemption in Baptism. The Son reclaims us -- mind, body, soul and heart -- in His life in the Eucharist. And the Spirit transforms us – in fact divinizes us! – in Confirmation.

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