Why is Confirmation separated from Baptism? Vol. 3, No.11

In our last edition, we discussed the gradual recognition of the sacrament of confirmation as a distinct rite of initiation although administered in one continuous ceremony with baptism. But as certain considerations and conditions may have it, especially in the West, the rites of baptism and confirmation suffered bangs that later led to their disintegration.
Meanwhile, many theologians have variously reflected and severally thrusted into the limelight, reasons to justify the separate celebration of the sacrament of initiation. Bishop Faustus of Riez in 458AD for instance, delivered a powerful homily during the feast of Pentecost, which explained confirmation as a separate ceremony from baptism. According to him: In baptism, we are regenerated to life, after baptism we are confirmation for battle. In baptism we are washed, after baptism we are strengthened. The Bishop further states that confirmation brings this augmentation in grace enabling one to take part in the struggle of human life. He finally expressed the clarification that Baptism is what is passively received, while confirmation stresses human effort and involvement. Hence the need for the separation of the two rites.
More still, it could be recalled that during the fourth and fifth centuries most of the condidates for baptism were infants, and rural parishes also multiplied. Due to the fact that the rite for the imparting of the Holy Spirit was reserved to the bishops as decreed by Pope Innocent 1 in the West, it became impossible for bishops as present in the rural areas each time there was baptism. Consequent upon this, bishops would therefore visit those parishes later, in order to perform post-baptismal rites on those already baptized. Thus, this the beginning of the pastoral visits of the bishops as well as the separation of confirmation from baptism. This also made possible for the reception of the first Holy Communion to preceed the sacrament of confirmation.
Moreover, in the later middle ages, a specific theology of confirmation was initiated to validate and justify independent rite now council out by the bishop. It was against this backdrop that confirmation was explained as the gift of the spirit that grants grace for strength and equips one as a soldier of Christ. Many theologians of this time, including Thomas Aquinas, interpreted confirmation as sacrament for spiritual strengthening.
It is worthy to note at this juncture that it was the gradual development of this sacrament (confirmation) and how it formed one unitary action with baptism, that made protestant reformers to reject its sacramentality, arguing that it had not been explicitly instituted by Christ. They also thought that confirmation devalue the role and content of baptism. For their minds therefore, confirmation was only a religious rite to witness publicly to one’s faith and commitment. The council of Trent however, defended it as a “true and proper sacrament” which confers a character. This character of confirmation shall be the content for the conclusion of April tecsthought series.

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