Wednesday, September 29
In my Sacraments class yesterday, we were discussing Confirmation.
We discussed the origin of the old "slap" which used to be given during Confirmation. In the 4th Century, a kiss was given to the newly initiated in the Christian community; through time, especially with the advent of infant baptism, this kiss was replaced with an affectionate touch of the cheek. In the 9th Century, as the focus of Confirmation shifted to a strengthening of the individual with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to fight the Christian fight, the sacrament took on a more "militaristic" character -- preparing the good Christian soldier. In the meantime, bishops started being a bit more efficient with their affectionate taps, and well, a slap (and theology thereof) was born.
But more a more surprising discovery deals with the words of the sacrament of Confirmation. I was confirmed by the now-standard formula, N., be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This, however, is a new development in the Church.
Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution on the Sacrament of Confirmation, 1971, initiated this change. To quote the document, "In the West, the words of the rite that completes baptism were less settled until the 12th and 13th centuries. But in the 12-century Roman Pontifical the formulary that later became the common one first occurs." From the 1100's until the 1970's, Western Catholics were confirmed with the words I sign you with the sign of the Cross and confirm you with the Chrism of Salvation, In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Paul continues: "We judge preferable the very ancient formulary belonging to the Byzantine Rite... We therefore adopt this formulary, rendering it almost word-for-word. Therefore... by our supreme apostolic authority we decree and lay down that in the Latin Church [it] be observed for the future."
Frankly, I'm surprised I had to learn about that in a class, and never read anything about it on an embittered Geocities site somewhere.