Most cultures worldwide have some sort of rite of initiation, and this initiation is the principal “liturgy” of that culture. Many cultures celebrate an infant rite of some sort, and many also observe the significance of passing from childhood into maturity.
These rites all seem to use similar language, passing from the former (often “death”) into a new existence (“new life”). The favorite verse from First Corinthians comes to mind: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
The rite of Baptism was patterned from the Jewish initiation of converts. Early Christians practiced and spoke of repentance, cleansing, new birth, adoption, death and resurrection as associated with baptism.
In the Christian tradition, the rite of Confirmation is viewed as a “sealing of the deal” that was begun at baptism. Often in the Anglican tradition, baptism is observed when the candidate is an infant, and bonfirmation takes place when passing into adulthood during teenage years.
This is not to say that we do not celebrate and welcome many adults into the Church through adult baptism and adult confirmation just as the early Christians did. We also offer reception to adult who have been baptized and/or confirmed in other Christian traditions, and we welcome and encourage adults to reaffirm their vows before the bishop.
Confirmation in the Christian tradition, especially Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, is forever tied together with baptism, the bishop and the Easter Vigil. In early Christian times (3rd Century) baptizands and confirmands were prepared with instruction during Lent, which became more intense during Holy Week.
At the Easter Vigil, the newly baptized adults were anointed with holy oil, thus sealed or “confirmed” in the Holy Spirit by the bishop. The new baptizands and confirmands were then presented to the faithful at the Peace and received the First Eucharist of Easter with their Christian brothers and sisters.
The bishop’s visit in any parish church is always a significant annual occasion. This Sunday morning (Aprip 30), we will witness our bishop baptizing and confirming. The baptizand will be baptized with blessed water and anointed with holy oil, marking her “as Christ’s own forever.” After the baptism, the bishop will lay hands upon each confirmand.
This is great Church stuff! See you then.