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On Chrismation

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  • Christopher Orr
    http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2007/04/on-chrismation.html On Chrismation Some, even some Orthodox, say that the Sacrament of chrismation is not to be found
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      On Chrismation

      Some, even some Orthodox, say that the Sacrament of chrismation is not
      to be found "in the Bible". This is both true and not true. Is an
      explicit reference to the full blown Rite of Holy Chrismation to be
      found in the texts that became known as the New Testament? No. This is
      found in the common, continuous practice of the Apostolic, ante-Nicene
      and Nicene Church. In this sense, then, only by looking at Scripture
      through the lens of the experience of the Church are we able to see
      the prophetic foreshadowings of the Sacrament of the descent of the
      Holy Spirit: Holy Chrismation. So, is the sacrament referred to
      obliquely, is it intimated, is it assumed as such an obvious part of
      Holy Tradition that no one need explain and describe it? Yes. We
      experience this in our faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the
      Living God. Through the Apostles' experience of the Crucified and
      Risen Christ alone - and not through an a priori reading of the bare
      text of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets - could the Apostles see
      the prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.

      Depending on the perspective from which an Orthodox Christian is
      speaking, or so as to be able to answer an inquirer posing questions
      from a certain point of view, one may answer truly that Holy
      Chrismation either is or is not "in the Scriptures". In either case,
      an Orthodox Christian sees the source of the Sacrament to be the same
      Word (Logos) of God, Jesus Christ, in either the written word of the
      Bible or the Mystical Body of the Word Himself, the Holy Orthodox
      Church. Attempts to create dissension and factions within Orthodoxy on
      this point are fallacious, disingenuous, and betray a lack of the
      broad, deep mind of the Church.

      One may object that the Bible speaks only of the "laying on of hands".
      However, even today, Roman Catholics refer to their sacrament of
      Confirmation as the "laying on of hands" using the same language that
      is used in the Bible and this rite still also includes an anointing
      with oil in addition to the "laying on of hands". The argument from an
      assumed, narrow definition of the phrase does not hold water.

      Additionally, and more importantly, the Orthodox Church reads the
      Scriptures through the lens of the experience of the Risen Christ,
      whose literal Body the Church is. Reading the Old Testament in faith,
      we see the prophetic foreshadowing of the Sacraments of the Church. In
      the Red Sea we see a type of Baptism, in the bread and wine offered by
      Melchizedek we see a type of the Holy Eucharist, so, too, in the
      anointing and laying on of hands of Aaron and the Prophets and Kings
      of Israel do we see the type of Holy Chrismation foreshadowed. Just as
      faithless, unbelieving Jews did not accept the testimony of the
      Apostles regarding the prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus Christ in the
      Law and the Prophets, so too those outside of the faith of the Church
      often cannot see the prophecies, commands, allusions and references of
      God in the Old and New Testaments regarding the Sacrament of Holy
      Chrismation. This is an example of what the Fathers referred to as
      reading the 'spiritual meaning' of the Holy Scriptures as they read
      them literally and typologically and allegorically - all three ways
      being the full content of the Scriptures.

      As Orthodox Christians we do not seek to jump over all of Church
      history to the nude text of the Bible and seek to understand it on our
      own. We look to the the understanding of the the liturgical and
      canonical (disciplinary) witness of the Church, and the understanding
      of the Fathers that stood in closer proximity to the Apostles. Doing
      otherwise sets us up as more wise and more understanding and more holy
      than these saints of the Church. God protect us from such arrogance.

      Finally, as the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation were normally
      performed as part of the one rite of initiation into the Church -
      Christ was baptized and immediately the Spirit descended upon him -
      so, too, the two rites are often referred to simply by the term
      Baptism. Similarly, we refer to the Holy Eucharist as changing the
      bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ when the prayer of
      the Anaphora specifically says we are also changing those present into
      the same by the descent of the Holy Spirit. We also refer to the
      single Vigil service even though it is composed of two or more
      separate Services (Vesper, Matins, First Hour, etc.); the Ceremony of
      Marriage is actually the two services of Betrothal and Crowning
      (Marriage); etc.

      As if it were required, the following also shows a little of the
      history of the Sacrament of what is known alternately as The Laying on
      of Hands, Chrismation, Sealing, even Unction. It also shares the
      self-understanding of the Church in the implicit connection and
      understanding of Chrismation as nothing more than the late completion
      of the initiation into the Christian faith of of the Samaritans in
      Acts 8 that had only received the first 'part' (Baptism) and not the
      necessary second 'part' (Chrismation).

      O Heavenly King... Come and abide in us and cleanse of all impurity
      and save our souls, O Good One!


      We read in the Acts of the Apostles (8:14-17) that after the
      Samaritan converts had been baptized by Philip the deacon, the
      Apostles "sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come,
      prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for he was
      not yet come upon any of them, but they were only baptized in the name
      of the Lord Jesus; then they laid their hands upon them, and they
      received the Holy Ghost".

      Again (19:1-6): St. Paul "came to Ephesus, and found certain
      disciples; and he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since
      ye believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard
      whether there be a Holy Ghost. And he said: In what then were you
      baptized? Who said: In John's baptism. Then Paul said: John baptized
      the people with the baptism of penance . . . Having heard these
      things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when
      Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and
      they spoke with tongues and prophesied".

      From these two passages we learn that in the earliest ages of the
      Church there was a rite, distinct from baptism, in which the Holy
      Ghost was conferred by the imposition of hands (dia tes epitheseos ton
      cheiron ton Apostolon), and that the power to perform this ceremony
      was not implied in the power to baptize.

      No distinct mention is made as to the origin of this rite; but
      Christ promised the gift of the Holy Ghost and conferred it. Again, no
      express mention is made of anointing with chrism; but we note that the
      idea of unction is commonly associated with the giving of the Holy
      Ghost. Christ (Luke 4:18) applies to Himself the words of Isaias
      (61:1): "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, wherefore he hath anointed
      me to preach the gospel". St. Peter (Acts 10:38) speaks of "Jesus of
      Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost". St. John tells
      the faithful: "You have the unction (chrisma) from the Holy One, and
      know all things"; and again: "Let the unction [chrisma], which you
      have received from him, abide in you" (1 John 2:20, 27).

      A striking passage, which was made much use of by the Fathers and
      the Schoolmen, is that of St. Paul: "He that confirmeth [ho de
      bebaion] us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who also
      hath sealed [sphragisamenos] us, and given us the pledge [arrabona] of
      the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:20, 21). No mention is made
      of any particular words accompanying the imposition of hands on either
      of the occasions on which the ceremony is described; but as the act of
      imposing hands was performed for various purposes, some prayer
      indicating the special purpose may have been used: "Peter and John . .
      . prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost". Further,
      such expressions as "signing" and "sealing" may be taken as referring
      to the character impressed by the sacrament: "You were signed
      [esphragisthete] with the holy Spirit of promise"; "Grieve not the
      holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed [esphragisthete] unto the
      day of redemption" (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). See also the passage from
      Second Corinthians quoted above.

      Again, in the Epistle to the Hebrews (6:1-4) the writer reproaches
      those whom he addresses for falling back into their primitive
      imperfect knowledge of Christian truth; "whereas for the time you
      ought to be masters, you have need to be taught again what are the
      first elements of the words of God" (Hebrews 5:12). He exhorts them:
      "leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things
      more perfect, not laying again the foundation . . . of the doctrine of
      baptisms, and imposition of hands", and speaks of them as those who
      have been "once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and
      were made partakers of the Holy Ghost". It is clear that reference is
      made here to the ceremony of Christian initiation: baptism and the
      imposition of hands whereby the Holy Ghost was conferred, just as in
      Acts 2:38. The ceremony is considered to be so well known to the
      faithful that no further description is necessary....

      The Fathers considered that the rites of initiation (baptism,
      confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist) were instituted by Christ, but
      they did not enter into any minute discussion as to the time, place,
      and manner of the institution, at least of the second of these rites.

      In examining the testimonies of the Fathers we should note that
      the word confirmation is not used to designate this sacrament during
      the first four centuries; but we meet with various other terms and
      phrases which quite clearly refer to it. Thus, it is styled
      "imposition of hands" (manuum impositio, cheirothesia), "unction",
      "chrism", "sealing", etc. Before the time of Tertullian the Fathers do
      not make any explicit mention of confirmation as distinct from
      baptism. The fact that the two sacraments were conferred together may
      account for this silence.

      Tertullian (De Bapt., vi) is the first to distinguish clearly the
      three acts of initiation: "After having come out of the laver, we are
      anointed thoroughly with a blessed unction [perungimur benedictâ
      unctione] according to the ancient rule . . . The unction runs bodily
      over us, but profits spiritually . . . . Next to this, the hand is
      laid upon us through the blessing, calling upon and inviting the Holy
      Spirit [dehinc manus imponitur per benedictionem advocans et invitans
      Spiriturn Sanctum]."

      Again (De resurr, carnis, n, 8): "The flesh is washed that the
      soul may be made stainless. The flesh is anointed [ungitur] that the
      soul may be consecrated. The flesh is sealed [signatur] that the soul
      may be fortified. The flesh is overshadowed by the imposition of hands
      that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh is fed by
      the Body and Blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened of God."

      And (Adv. Marcion., i, n. 14): "But He [Christ], indeed even at
      the present time, neither rejected the water of the Creator with which
      He washes clean His own, nor the oil with which He anoints His own; .
      . . nor the bread with which He makes present [repræsentat] His own
      very body, needing even in His own sacraments the beggarly elements of
      the Creator," Tertullian also tells how the devil, imitating the rites
      of Christian initiation, sprinkles some and signs them as his soldiers
      on the forehead (signat illic in frontibus milites suos -- De
      Præscript., xl).

      Another great African Father speaks with equal clearness of
      confirmation. "Two sacraments", says St. Cyprian, "preside over the
      perfect birth of a Christian, the one regenerating the man, which is
      baptism, the other communicating to him the Holy Spirit" (Epist. lxxii).

      "Anointed also must he be who is baptized, in order that having
      received the chrism, that is the unction, he may be anointed of God"
      (Epist. lxx).

      "It was not fitting that [the Samaritans] should be baptized
      again, but only what was wanting, that was done by Peter and John;
      that prayer being made for them and hands imposed, the Holy Ghost
      should be invoked and poured forth upon them. Which also is now done
      among us; so that they who are baptized in the Church are presented to
      the bishops [prelates] of the Church, and by our prayer and imposition
      of hands, they receive the Holy Ghost and are perfected with the seal
      [signaculo] of the Lord" (Epist. lxxiii).

      "Moreover, a person is not born by the imposition of hands, when
      he receives the Holy Ghost, but in baptism; that being already born he
      may receive the Spirit, as was done in the first man Adam. For God
      first formed him and breathed into his face the breath of life. For
      the Spirit cannot be received except there is first one to receive it.
      But the birth of Christians is in baptism" (Epist. lxxiv).

      Pope St. Cornelius complains that Novatus, after having been
      baptized on his sickbed, "did not receive the other things which ought
      to be partaken of according to the rule of the Church--to be sealed,
      that is, by the bishop [sphragisthenai ypo tou episkopou] and not
      having received this, how did he receive the Holy Ghost?" (Eusebius,
      H.E., vi, xliii).

      In the fourth and fifth centuries the testimonies are naturally
      more frequent and clear. St. Hilary speaks of "the sacraments of
      baptism and of the Spirit"; and he says that "the favor and gift of
      the Holy Spirit were, when the work of the Law ceased, to be given by
      the imposition of hands and prayer" (In Matt., c. iv, c. xiv).

      St. Cyril of Jerusalem is the great Eastern authority on the
      subject, and his testimony is all the more important because he
      devoted several of his "Catecheses" to the instruction of catechumens
      in the three sacraments which they were to receive on being initiated
      into the Christian mysteries. Nothing could be clearer than his
      language: "To you also after you had come up from the pool of the
      sacred streams, was given the chrism [unction], the emblem of that
      wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost. . . This
      holy ointment is no longer plain ointment nor so as to say common,
      after the invocation, but Christ's gift; and by the presence of His
      Godhead, it causes in us the Holy Ghost. This symbolically anoints thy
      forehead, and thy other senses; and the body indeed is anointed with
      visible ointment, but the soul is sanctified by the Holy and
      life-giving Spirit . . . . To you not in figure but in truth, because
      ye were in truth anointed by the Spirit" (Cat. Myst., iii).

      And in the seventeenth catechesis on the Holy Ghost, speaks of the
      visit of Peter and John to communicate to the Samaritans the gift of
      the Holy Ghost by prayer and the imposition of hands. Forget not the
      Holy Ghost", he says to the catechumens, "at the moment of your
      enlightenment; He is ready to mark your soul with His seal
      [sphragisai] . . . He will give you the heavenly and divine seal
      [sphragisai] which makes the devils tremble; He will arm you for the
      fight; He will give you strength." Christ, says St. Optatus of Mileve,
      "went down into the water, not that there was what could be cleansed
      in God, but the water ought to go before the oil that was to
      supervene, in order to initiate and in order to fill up the mysteries
      of baptism; having been washed whilst He was held in John's hands, the
      order of the mystery is followed . . . . Heaven is opened whilst the
      Father anoints; the spiritual oil in the image of the Dove immediately
      descended and rested on His head, and poured on it oil, whence He took
      the name of Christ, when He was anointed by God the Father; to whom
      that the imposition of hands might not seem to have been wanting, the
      voice of God is heard from a cloud, saying, This is my Son, of whom I
      have thought well; hear ye him" (De schism. Donat., I, iv, n. 7).

      St. Ephraem Syrus speaks of "the Sacraments of Chrism and Baptism"
      (Serm. xxvii); "oil also for a most sweet unguent, wherewith they who
      already have been initiated by baptism are sealed, and put on the
      armour of the Holy Spirit" (In Joel.)

      St. Ambrose addressing the catechumens who had already been
      baptized and anointed, says: "Thou hast received the spiritual seal,
      the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding . . . . Keep what thou hast
      received. God the Father has sealed thee; Christ the Lord has
      confirmed thee; and the Spirit has given the pledge in thy heart, as
      thou hast learned from what is read in the Apostle" (De myst., c. vii,
      n. 42).

      The writer of the "De Sacramentis" (Inter Op. Ambros., lib. III,
      c. ii, n. 8) says that after the baptismal immersion "the spiritual
      seal [signaculum] follows . . . when at the invocation of the bishop
      [sacerdotis] the Holy Ghost is infused".

      The Council of Elvira decreed that those who had been baptized
      privately in case of necessity should afterwards be taken to the
      bishop "to be made perfect by the imposition of hands" (can. xxxviii,
      Labbe, I, 974).

      And the Council of Laodicea: "Those who have been converted from
      the heresies . . . are not to be received before they anathematize
      every heresy . . . and then after that, those who were called faithful
      among them, having learned the creeds of the faith, and having been
      anointed with the holy chrism, shall so communicate of the holy
      mystery" (can. vii). "Those who are enlightened must after baptism be
      anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the kingdom of
      Christ" (can. xlviii, Labbe, I, col. 1497).

      The Council of Constantinople (381): "We receive the Arians, and
      Macedonians . . . upon their giving in written statements and
      anathematizing every heresy . . . . Having first sealed them with the
      holy ointment upon the forehead, and eyes, and nostrils, and mouth,
      and ears, and sealing them we say, 'The seal of the gift of the Holy
      Ghost"' (can. vii, Labbe, II, col. 952).

      St. Augustine explains how the coming of the Holy Ghost was
      companied with the gift of tongues in the first ages of the Church.
      "These were miracles suited to the times . . . .

      Is it now expected that they upon whom hands are laid, should
      speak with tongues? Or when we imposed our hand upon these children,
      did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues? and
      when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so
      perverse of heart as to say 'These have not received the Holy Ghost?'
      (In Ep. Joan., tr. vi).

      He also speaks in the same way about anointing: the sacrament of
      chrism "is in the genus of visible signs, sacrosanct like baptism"
      (Contra litt. Petil., II, cap. civ, in P. L., XLI, col. 342; see Serm.
      ccxxvii, Ad Infantes in P. L., XXXVII, col. 1100; De Trin., XV, n. 46
      in P. L., XL, col. 1093); "Of Christ it is written in the Acts of the
      Apostles, how God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost, not indeed with
      visible oil, but with the gift of grace, which is signified by that
      visible unction wherewith the Church anoints the baptized".

      The most explicit passage is in the letter of Pope Innocent I to
      Decentius: "As regards the sealing of infants, it is clear that it is
      not lawful for it to be done by anyone but a bishop [non ab aliis quam
      ab episcopo fieri licere]. For presbyters, though they be priests of
      the second rank (second priests), have not attained to the summit of
      the pontificate. That this pontificate is the right of bishops
      only--to wit: that they may seal or deliver the Spirit, the Paraclete
      is demonstrated not merely by ecclesiastical usage, but also by that
      portion of the Acts of the Apostles wherein it is declared that Peter
      and John were sent to give the Holy Ghost to those who had already
      been baptized. For when presbyters baptize, whether with or without
      the presence of the bishop, they may anoint the baptized with chrism,
      provided it be previously consecrated by a bishop, but not sign the
      forehead with that oil, which is a right reserved to bishops
      [episcopis] only, when they give the Spirit, the Paraclete. The words,
      however, I cannot name, for fear of seeming to betray rather than to
      reply to the point on which you have consulted me."

      Saint Leo in his fourth sermon on Christ's Nativity says to the
      faithful: "Having been regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost, you
      have received the chrism of salvation and the seal of eternal life"
      (chrisma salutis et signaculum vitae æternæ, -- P. L., LIV, col. 207).

      The Blessed Theodoret commenting on the first chapter of the
      Canticle of Canticles says: "Bring to thy recollection the holy rite
      of initiation, in which they who are perfected after the renunciation
      of the tyrant and the acknowledgment of the King, receive as a kind of
      royal seal the chrism of the spiritual unction (sphragida tina
      basiliken . . . tou pneumatikou myron to chrisma) as made partakers in
      that typical ointment of the invisible grace of the Holy Spirit"
      (P.G., LXXXI, 60).

      Among the homilies formerly attributed to Eusebius of Emesa, but
      now admitted to be the work of some bishop of southern Gaul in the
      fifth century, is a long homily for Whitsunday: "The Holy Ghost who
      comes down with a life-giving descent upon the waters of baptism, in
      the font bestows beauty unto innocence, in confirmation grants an
      increase unto grace. Because we have to walk during our whole life in
      the midst of invisible enemies and dangers, we are in baptism
      regenerated unto life, after baptism we are confirmed for the battle;
      in baptism we are cleansed, after baptism we are strengthened . . . .
      confirmation arms and furnishes weapons to those who are reserved for
      the wrestlings and contests of this world" (Bib. Max., SS. PP., VI, p.

      These passages suffice to show the doctrine and practice of the
      Church during the patristic age....


      ...therefore we must say that Christ instituted this sacrament not
      by bestowing, but by promising it, according to Jn. 16:7: "If I go
      not, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him
      to you." And this was because in this sacrament the fulness of the
      Holy Ghost is bestowed, which was not to be given before Christ's
      Resurrection and Ascension; according to Jn. 7:39: "As yet the Spirit
      was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."


      Those who are enlightened should be anointed with heavenly chrism
      after baptism and become participants in the reign of Christ. (Canon

      ...having thoroughly learned the symbols of the faith, and having
      been anointed with the holy chrism, shall [the Novatians, Photinians,
      and Quartodecimans then] so communicate in the holy Mysteries. (Canon VII)

      - The Fourth Council of Laodicea (381 AD)


      The second chapter of St. Apostle James’s Epistle contains
      invaluable instructions on the essence of faith, which must be made up
      not of some abstract acknowledgment of Christian truths, but rather
      through living acts of compassion. The 5th chapter speaks of the
      designation and power of the Sacrament of Chrismation....

      The trumpets of the angels foretell mankind's calamities, both
      physical and spiritual. But before the beginning of these, St. John
      sees an angel conferring a mark upon the foreheads of the sons of the
      New Israel (Rev. 7:1-8). "Israel" is the Church of the New Testament
      here. The marks symbolize selection and blessed protection. This
      vision brings to mind the Sacrament of Chrismation, during which the
      "mark of the gift of the Holy Spirit" is conferred upon the brow of
      the newly baptized....

      As the sacramental theory and practice of the Church developed,
      the work of spiritual regeneration came to be expressed in two
      intimately related mysteries of the Church: baptism and chrismation.
      It is through these two sacraments that we are "born again," according
      to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Through immersion in the
      waters of baptism, we descend with Christ into death; and upon
      emergence from the water, we enter into the eternal life made possible
      by Christ's resurrection from the dead. In baptism, then, we are
      reborn to newness of life. And in the sacrament of chrismation, we
      receive "a new power by which this life can be lived."23 Jesus was the
      Anointed One of God, "the one on whom the Holy Spirit has been
      poured."24 Through Jesus, the Church herself was anointed and born in
      the Spirit on Pentecost. In chrismation, when we are anointed with the
      holy oil, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which enables us
      (although it does not force us) to live the Christian life. As baptism
      is a participation in the saving acts of Pascha â€" in the death and
      resurrection of the Lord â€" so chrismation is a recapitulation of
      Pentecost by which we are born of the Spirit as members of the Church,
      the body of Christ. "Born of water and the Spirit," we become children
      of God, sharing in the divine sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
      entering into the eternal life of the Holy Trinity.

      - Bishop Alexander (Mileant)


      In His farewell discourses to His disciples, the Lord told them,
      "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be
      with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot
      receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for
      He dwells with You, and will be in you.... The Comforter, the Holy
      Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all
      things..." (John 14:16-17, 26). These words of the Lord were
      accomplished on the 50th Day after the Passover (Pascha), for the Seal
      of the Holy Spirit was seen on the Apostles in the form of fiery
      tongues, just as, in Holy Chrismation, we receive the Seal of the Holy
      Spirit in the form of the Holy Chrism.


      In its primitive meaning the word chrism, like the Greek chrisma,
      [from which we get the term 'chrismation'] was used to designate any
      and every substance that served the purpose of smearing or anointing,
      such as the various kinds of oils, unguents, and pigments. This was
      its ordinary signification in profane literature, and even in the
      early patristic writings. Gradually however, in the writings of the
      Fathers at all events, the term came to be restricted to that special
      kind of oil that was used inreligious ceremonies and functions,
      especially in the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism and
      Confirmation. Thus Origen refers to the visible chrism in which we
      have all been baptized: St. Ambrose venerates in the chrism the oil of
      grace which makes kings and priests; and St. Cyril of Jerusalem
      celebrates the praises of the mystic chrism (cf. Dict. De theol.
      Cath., s.v. Chreme, where many references are given to patristic
      passages in which the word occurs.) The early councils of the Church
      have also references to chrism as something set apart for sacred
      purposes and making for the sanctification of men. Thus the Council of
      Constantinople held in 381 (Can. vii) and the Council of Toledo, 398
      (Can. x).



      ...St. Cyprian writes, "Those baptized in the Church are sealed by
      the seal of the Lord after the example of the baptized Samaritans who
      were received by the Apostles Peter and John through laying on of
      hands and prayer (Acts 8:14-17). That which was lacking in them, Peter
      and John accomplished . . . Thus is it also with us . . . They are
      made perfect by the seal of the Lord." In other Fathers of the Church
      also, Chrismation is called a "seal" (Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of
      Jerusalem), "the spiritual seal" (Ambrose of Milan), "the seal of
      eternal life" (Leo the Great), "the confirmation" (The Apostolic
      Constitutions), "the perfection" or "culmination" (Clement of
      Alexandria, Ambrose). St. Ephraim the Syrian writes: "By the seal of
      the Holy Spirit are sealed all the entrances into your soul; by the
      seal of the anointing all your members are sealed." St. Basil the
      Great asks: "How will your angel dispute over you, how will he seize
      you from the enemy, if he does not know the seal? . . . Or do you not
      know that the destroyer passed over the houses of those who were
      sealed, and killed the first-born in the houses of those who were
      unsealed? An unsealed treasure is easily stolen by thieves; an
      unmarked sheep may safely be taken away....

      In the account of the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles
      we learn: a) that after the preaching of the Deacon, Apostle Philip,
      in Samaria, many persons, both men and women, were baptized; and b)
      that then the Apostles who were in Jerusalem, having heard that the
      Samaritans had received the word of God, sent to the Samaritans Peter
      and John specifically in order to place their hands upon the baptized
      so that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12-17). This allows
      us to conclude that apart from the profoundly mystical side of the
      sending down of the gifts of the Spirit, this laying on of hands (and
      the Chrismation that later took its place) was at the same time a
      confirmation of the correctness of the Baptism and the seal of the
      uniting of baptized persons to the Church. In view of the facts that
      1) the baptism with water had been performed long before this as a
      baptism of repentance, and 2) quite apart from this, at that time, as
      throughout the course of Church history, there were heretical
      baptisms, this second Mystery was performed by the Apostles themselves
      and their successors the bishops, as overseers of the members of the
      Church, whereas even the performance of the Eucharist had always been
      given to presbyters also.

      hands by the act ofChrismation , with the rule that the
      sanctification With the extraordinary spreading of the holy Faith,
      when people began to turn to Christ in all the countries of the world,
      the Apostles and their immediate successors, the bishops, could not
      personally be everywhere so as immediately after Baptism to bring down
      the Holy Spirit upon all the baptized through the laying on of hands.
      It may be that this is why it was "pleasing to the Holy Spirit" Who
      dwelt in the Apostles to replace the laying on ofof the chrism should
      be performed by the Apostles and bishops themselves, while the
      anointment of the baptized with the sanctified chrism was left to
      presbyters. Chrism (myrrh) and no other kind of material was chosen in
      this case because in the Old Testament the anointment with myrrh was
      performed for the sending down upon people of special spiritual gifts
      (see Ex. 28:41; 1 Kings [1 Sam.] 16:13; 3 [1] Kings 1:39). Tertullian
      writes, "After coming up from the font, we are anointed with blessed
      oil, according to the ancient rite, as of old it was the custom to
      anoint to the priesthood with oil from a horn." The sixth Canon of the
      Council of Carthage forbids presbyters only to sanctify the Chrism.
      [Note that this Council was held in 419 AD, not in 'recent' times.]

      Chrism and sanctification.

      Just as it was the Apostles who were sent to the baptized
      Samaritans in order to bring down upon them the Holy Spirit, so also
      in the Mystery of Chrismation , the myrrh which is used, according to
      the decree of the Church, must be sanctified by a bishop, as the
      highest successor of the Apostles. The sanctification of myrrh occurs
      in a special solemn sacred rite, with the participation, when
      possible, of other bishops of the Church (The Patriarch or chief
      Metropolitan consecrates the chrism for the whole of his local Church.).

      In the West, the separation of Chrismation from Baptism occurred
      in about the 13th century. Moreover, at the present time in the Roman
      church the anointment (which is called "confirmation") is performed
      only on the brow, whereas in the Orthodox Church the anointment with
      myrrh is made upon the brow, the eyes, the nostrils, the lips, the
      ears, the breast, the hands and feet. It is given in the Roman church
      to those who have become seven years of age, and it is performed by a


      Originally the Apostles conferred the Holy Spirit on those who
      gladly received the Word of the Gospel (Acts 2:41) and were baptized
      through prayer and the laying-on of hands. In the Acts of the
      Apostles, Peter and John were sent to the Samaritans who had received
      the word of God and they prayed for them that they might receive the
      Holy Spirit.... Then they laid their hands on them and they received
      the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15, 17). The need to administer the Sacrament
      of the spirit through the laying-on of hands required the personal
      participation of the Apostles, but later they blessed the Bishops and
      Presbyter whom they consecrated to conduct the invocation of the Holy
      Spirit upon believers through anointing them with the Holy Chrism, and
      permitted Bishops alone to consecrate the Chrism. As St. Cyril of
      Jerusalem says, "Holy Chrism...is a gift of Christ and of the Holy
      Spirit, which is validated by the presence of His Divinity.... And
      when the body is anointed in a visible fashion, the soul is
      consecrated with the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit.

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