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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
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 benedictÃ¢
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
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 [reprÃ¦sentat] 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
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"
"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,
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 Ã¦ternÃ¦, -- 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 Jamesâs 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
...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  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.