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Chrismation consists of the sacrament or mystery in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East initiation rites. The sacrament is more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian normally uses cresima ("chrismation") rather than confermazione ("confirmation").

Sacrament sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

The term chrismation comes about because it involves anointing the recipient of the sacrament with chrism, which according to eastern Christian belief, the Apostles sanctified and introduced for all priests to use as a replacement for laying on of hands by the Apostles [1]

Anointing ritual act of putting aromatic oil on a person

Anointing is the ritual act of pouring aromatic oil over a person's head or entire body. By extension, the term is also applied to related acts of sprinkling, dousing, or smearing a person or object with any perfumed oil, milk, butter, or other fat. Scented oils are used as perfumes and sharing them is an act of hospitality. Their use to introduce a divine influence or presence is recorded from the earliest times; anointing was thus used as a form of medicine, thought to rid persons and things of dangerous spirits and demons which were believed to cause disease.

Chrism anointing oil

Chrism, also called myrrh, myron, holy anointing oil, and consecrated oil, is a consecrated oil used in the Anglican, Armenian, Assyrian, Catholic, Old Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Mormon, and Nordic Lutheran churches in the administration of certain sacraments and ecclesiastical functions.

Eastern Christianity Christian traditions originating from Greek- and Syriac-speaking populations

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. It also includes Reformed Eastern churches such as the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church which follows a reformed West Syriac Rite and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church that uses the Byzantine Rite. Historically called the Eastern Church in contrast with the (Latin) Western Church, since the Protestant Reformation Eastern Christianity is used in contrast with Western Christianity, comprising both the said Latin Church as well as Protestantism and Independent Catholicism. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

Chrism consists of a "mixture of forty sweet-smelling substances and pure olive oil" [2] sanctified by a bishop with some older chrism added in, [3] in the belief that some trace of the initial chrism sanctified by the Apostles remains therein.

Liturgical form

Eastern Orthodox Church

Common part of the rite

The priest anoints the recipient with chrism, making the sign of the cross on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast, hands, and feet using the following words each time: "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" (in Greek: Σφραγὶς δωρεᾶς Πνεύματος Ἁγίου).

Sign of the cross ritual blessing

The sign of the cross, or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of some branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with the right hand, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of the trinitarian formula: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Holy Spirit, is a term found in English translations of the Bible that is understood differently among the Abrahamic religions. The term is also used to describe aspects of other religions and belief structures.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

The chrism is washed off by a priest seven days later, according to the written rubrics, [4] the newly baptized wearing their white chitons and not washing their anointed parts for that period. However, in the case of infant baptism (and often also with adult chrismation contemporary practice), the ablution is performed immediately after the rite of chrismation. [5]

Chiton (costume) sewn garment worn by men and women in Ancient Greece

A chiton was a form of clothing.

As part of the baptismal rite

Typically, one becomes a member of the Church by baptism and chrismation performed by a priest as a single service, [6] or subsequent to baptism performed by a layman. [7] While chrismation is often performed without baptism, baptism is never performed without chrismation; hence the term "baptism" is construed as referring to the administration of both sacraments (or mysteries), one after the other.

At the reconciliation of apostates

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the sacrament may be conferred more than once as it is customary to receive apostates by repeating chrismation; [8] [9] according to the Book of Needs, the priest "taking the Holy Chrism, he anoints him (her) according to the order of those who are baptized ..." towards the end of the "Prayers of Purification for One Returning to the True Faith from Apostasy". [10]

This practice is thus attested to in the ninth century by Saint Methodius of Constantinople in "The Rule of Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, Concerning the Return from Apostasy of Various Persons to the True Orthodox Faith":

If a child ... is in apostasy ... let him be washed. Upon leaving the bath, girded with a linen cloth, let him be anointed with Chrism, as one who is baptized. And let him put on a new robe in the manner of those who have been baptized.

If ... one who is of age has renounced his impending torment ... then let him be washed and anointed with Chrism according to the accepted Rite. And when the Liturgy is celebrated, let him be counted worthy of the Holy Things, occupying himself in Church and the Liturgy, as them that are baptized ... [11]

At the reception of certain converts

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, if a convert comes to Orthodoxy from another Christian confession and has previously undergone a rite of baptism 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 (such as Oneness Pentecostals), from one which practices an invalid, non-Trinitarian baptism (such as Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses) or from one that does not practice baptism at all (such as Quakers or The Salvation Army), baptism is a prerequisite for chrismation—an initiate must always be validly baptized into the death of Jesus in the name of the Holy Trinity before any further holy mysteries or sacraments of initiation can be administered. The use of economia is at the discretion of, and subject to the guidelines imposed by, the local bishop. [12] [ verification needed ] Converts from non-Christian religions also need to be baptized before chrismation.

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 (laity), the people of God. Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy Ware) 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" (1John 2:20). [13]

Oriental Orthodox churches

Chrismation in Oriental Orthodoxy is similar to that of Eastern Catholicism or Orthodoxy but is done according to their sacramental theology, and may vary according to the particular church.

Sacramental theology

Eastern Churches

Whereas in Western Christian theology, confirmation is seen as completing or sealing of the baptismal covenant, the conferral of full membership, the perfecting one's bond with the Church, and/or the strengthening of gifts of the Holy Spirit to enable the recipient to live the Christian life, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition chrismation is understood more fundamentally as the bestowal of the Holy Spirit—that is, as the transmission to that person of the experience of the Day of Pentecost (cf. Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4ff), along with the attendant gifts of the Spirit that are given to all the faithful, and any unique or special gifts that God deems appropriate for that person, to enable him or her to realize his or her intended potentiality as a child of God and as a unique member of Christ's Body, the Church. Hence the significance of the sacrament or mystery of chrismation is understood quite distinctly from that of baptism, much as Pentecost is distinct from the Passion and Resurrection.

Whereas in the western churches (e.g., Roman Catholic and Anglican), confirmation is typically reserved to those of "the age of reason", chrismation in the Eastern churches (including Eastern Rite Catholic Churches), is ordinarily administered immediately after baptism, most commonly infant baptism. After receiving this sacrament, the recipient is eligible to receive the Eucharist; one who has not been chrismated is viewed as not qualified to receive the Eucharist, since they have not yet received the Holy Spirit. Baptism is followed immediately (or at least soon afterwards) by the person's first reception of Holy Communion.

The sacramental rite of chrismation may be performed by a presbyter (priest). In the Eastern tradition, chrismation shows the unity of the church through the bishop in the continuation of the Apostolic faith, because the chrism used is prepared and consecrated by a bishop (normally the leading bishop of an autocephalous Church, or – for some autocephalous churches – by the Patriarch of Constantinople) and is presented to the priest by the bishop and (together with the antimension) and is the symbol of the priest's permission from the bishop to perform the sacraments (see faculty). Although priests in the Eastern churches are universally granted this faculty, it is thus ultimately considered a sacrament granted by a bishop and associated with that Apostolic office. Furthermore, because some of the previously sanctified chrism is mixed with the newly sanctified chrism, there is a belief that the chrism contains a remnant of, or at least a connection to, the same chrism which was sanctified by the Apostles in the first century, and thus is a symbol of apostolic succession.

Oriental Orthodox

The Coptic Orthodox Church follows a tradition that states while the Apostles used to give Confirmation by the laying on of the hands, they found they were not able to travel to lay hands as the number of converts grew. Thus they ordered the collection of the spices which were used to anoint Christ's body, and they were mixed with oil, forming, according to Coptic tradition, the first chrism, or "myron", which, according to tradition, was brought to Egypt by St Mark. The Coptic communion believes that, since that time, the "myron" has been remade 28 times.

Assyrian Church of the East

Some similar views to the Orthodox Churches regarding sacramental theology of chrismation are held by the Assyrian Church of the East, which recognizes only two ecumenical councils, the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople.

See also

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  1. Menevisoglou, Pavlos (2000). "The Sanctification of the Holy Chrism". Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  2. Gialopsos 1997, p. 35.
  3. Sokolof 1899, p. 103.
  4. The Great Book of Needs 2000, pp. 47–52.
  5. Sokolof 1899, pp. 118–119.
  6. Sokolof 1899, pp. 116–117; The Great Book of Needs 2000, pp. 61–87.
  7. Sokolof 1899, pp. 117–118; The Great Book of Needs 2000, pp. 115–119.
  8. "Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues", Retrieved 2011-12-28
  9. "St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas Chrismation and special circumstances", Retrieved 2011-12-28
  10. The Great Book of Needs 2000, pp. 115–119.
  11. The Great Book of Needs 2000, pp. 113–114.
  12. Sokolof 1899, pp. 119–120; The Great Book of Needs 2000, pp. 133–114.
  13. Ware 1963, p. 279.


Gialopsos, Philip G. (1997). The Seven Sacraments of the Greek Orthodox Church. Richmond, Virginia: Black Swan Books.
Sokolof, Dimitrii (1899). Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services. Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery (published 2001). ISBN   978-0-88465-067-6 . Retrieved 11 June 2017 via Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
The Great Book of Needs. Volume 1: The Holy Mysteries. South Canaan, Pennsylvania: Saint Tikhon's Seminary Press. 2000. ISBN   978-1-878997-56-2.
Ware, Timothy (Kallistos) (1963). The Orthodox Church. London: Penguin Books (published 1997). ISBN   978-0-14-013529-9.