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Mystery of Chrismation

Chrismation (sometimes called confirmation) is the sacrament by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with oil. As Baptism is a personal participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ, so Chrismation is a personal participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Unlike in the Western churches, where confirmation is typically reserved to those of "the age of reason," Chrismation in the Orthodox Church is normally administered to infants 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, breast, hands and feet. Each time, the priest administering the sacrament says, "The Seal and 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) of Diokleia 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 some Pentecostal 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.

Although some non-Orthodox Christians level the charge that the Sacraments other than Baptism and Eucharist are not Biblically based, but rather human traditions, this is not so. The Sacrament of Chrismation can be observed in the New Testament.

The Acts of the Apostles show us that a sort of Confirmation was going on even in the early Church. As the Christian community expanded both numerically and geographically into many locations both within and outside of the Jewish world, the Apostles were soon not the only ones preaching the Gospel and Baptizing people into Christ.

St. Paul's work in Ephesus is recounted in Acts 19.1-12. Here we see that some who had been baptized with the “Baptism of John (the Baptist) were eager to accept Christ. When they had heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." After this, we see that Paul "laid [his] hands on them" and the "Holy Spirit came upon them." Another instance of Chrismation in the early Church is seen in Acts 8.

"Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:14-18).

Fr. Philip Gialopsos explains the further development of the Sacrament: "Later on, as Christianity began to grow, it was impossible for the Apostles to be everywhere to perform the Sacrament by laying on their hands, so they gave the authority to their successors to administer the Sacrament by anointing the baptized with Myrrh (Gialopsos, 35)."

Service of Chrismation
Prayer before Chrismation
Priest: Blessed art Thou, O Lord God Almighty, Source of all good things, Sun of Righteousness, who shinest forth upon them that were in darkness the light of salvation, through the manifestation of Thine Only-begotten Son and our God; and who hast given unto us, unworthy though we be, blessed purification through hallowed water, and divine sanctification through life-giving Chrismation; who now also hast been graciously pleased to regenerate Thy servant who hast newly received Illumination by water and the Spirit, grant unto him forgiveness of sins, whether voluntary or involuntary. Do Thou, the same Master, compassionate King of all, grant also unto him the seal of the gift of Thy holy, and almighty, and adorable Spirit, and participation in the holy Body and the precious Blood of Thy Christ. Keep him in Thy sanctification; confirm him in the Orthodox faith; deliver him from the evil one, and from his snares. And preserve his soul in purity and uprightness, through the saving fear of Thee; that he may please Thee in every deed and word, and may be a child and heir of Thy heavenly kingdom. For Thou art our God, the God who shows mercy and saves; and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

When anointing with the Holy Chrism, the Priest says: ”The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen” as he anoints the forehead, eyes, nose, lips, ears, chest, hands and feet of the newly-baptized person. The priest then leads the sponsors and the newly-baptized person in a procession around the baptismal font, and everyone sings:
As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia. [3 times]
This procession in a circle denotes the unbreakable union of the newly-baptized person with Christ, and also that he becomes like him.

The Epistle and Gospel
Deacon: Let us attend.
Priest: Peace be unto all.
People: And to Thy spirit.
Deacon: Wisdom!
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the Third Tone. The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom then shall I fear?
People: The Lord is the strength of my life: whom then shall I fear?
Deacon: Wisdom!
Reader: The lesson from the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans. Deacon: Let us attend!
Reader: Brethren: Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Deacon: Wisdom! Attend! Let us hear the holy Gospel.
Priest: Peace be to all.
People: And to thy spirit.
Priest: The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Choir: Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.
Deacon: Let us attend.
Priest: Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
People: Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.
Priest: O Thou Who, through holy baptism, hast given unto Thy servant forgiveness of sins, and hast bestowed upon him a life of regeneration: Do Thou, the same Lord and Master, ever graciously illumine his heart with the light of Thy countenance. Maintain the shield of his faith unassailed by the enemy. Preserve the garment of incorruption that Thou hast clothed him with pure and unspoiled, upholding unblemished in him by Thy grace, the seal of the Spirit, and showing mercy unto him and unto us, through the multitude of Thy mercies.
For blessed and glorified is Thine All-honorable and majestic Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
People: Amen.
Priest: Peace be to all.
People: And to thy spirit.
Deacon: Let us bow our heads unto the Lord.
People: To Thee, O Lord.
Priest: He who has put on Thee, O Christ our God, bows also his head with us, unto Thee. Keep him ever a warrior invincible in every attack of those who assail him and us; and make us all victors, even unto the end, through Thine incorruptible crown.
For Thine it is to show mercy, and to save us, and unto Thee do we give glory, together with Thy Father who is from everlasting, and Thine All-Holy, and good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
People: Amen.
Priest: [Sprinkles the newly-baptized saying:] You are justified, you are illumined, you are sanctified, you are washed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
You are baptized, you are illumined, you are anointed, you are sanctified, you are washed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer for Tonsuring
Priest: O Master, Lord our God, who has honored man with Thine own image, Thou hast fashioned him from a reason-endowed soul and a comely body (for the body serves the reason-endowed soul): for Thou hast set the head on high, and hast endowed it with the most important of the senses, which, nevertheless, do not impede one another; and Thou hast covered the head with hair, so it will not be injured by changes in the weather, and hast fitly joined together all his members, that he may give thanks with them unto Thee, the Great Designer. Thou, the same Master, through Thy chosen vessel, the Apostle Paul, hast given us a commandment that we should do all things to Thy glory: Bless, now, Thy servant, (name), who is come to make a first offering shorn from the hair of his head, and likewise his Sponsor; and grant that they may all exercise themselves in Thy law, and do those things which are well pleasing in Thy sight.
For Thou art a merciful God, who lovest mankind, and unto Thee do we give glory, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
People: Amen.

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