Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the Orthodox Church, what we call today the second sacrament of initiation - that of chrismation (or confirmation) has always been an integral part of the baptismal liturgy. For it is not so much another sacrament as the very fulfillment of baptism, its "confirmation" by the Holy Spirit. It can be distinguished from baptism only insofar as life can be distinguished from birth. The Holy Spirit confirms the whole life of the Church because He is that life, the manifestation of the Church as the "world to come," as the joy and peace of the Kingdom. As institution, teaching, ritual, the Church is indeed not only in this world, but also of this world, a "part" of it. It is the Holy Spirit whose coming is the inauguration, the manifestation of the ultimate, of the "last things," who transforms the Church into the "sacrament" of the Kingdom, makes her life the presence, in this world, of the world to come.

Confirmation is thus the personal Pentecost of man, his entrance into the new life in the Holy Spirit, which is the true life of the Church. It is his ordination as truly and fully man, for to be fully man is precisely to belong to the Kingdom of God. And again, it is not his "soul" alone - his "spiritual" or "religious" life - that is thus confirmed, but the totality of his human being. His whole body is anointed, sealed, sanctified, dedicated to the new life: "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit," says the Priest as he anoints the newly baptized, "on the brow, and on the eyes, and on the nostrils, and the lips, and on both ears, and the breast and on the hands, and the feet." The whole man is now made the temple of God, and his whole life is from now on a liturgy. It is here, at this moment, that the pseudo-Christian opposition of the "spiritual" and the "material," the "sacred" and the "profane," the "religious" and the "secular" is denounced, abolished, and revealed as a monstrous lie about God and man and the world. The only true temple of God is man and through man the world. Each ounce of matter belongs to God and is to find in God its fulfillment. Each instant of time is God's time and is to fulfill itself as God's eternity. Nothing is "neutral." For the Holy Spirit, as a ray of life, as a smile of joy, has "touched" all things, all time - revealing all of them as precious stones of a precious temple.
Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, pp. 75-6.


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