ASK THE LITURGIST (40) – Celebration of Confirmation

– Don Enrico Finotti

The celebration of Confirmation on the day of Pentecost is certainly the ideal, but this coincidence is rare for us. Sometimes the sacrament is celebrated in feasts that are not at all suited to its own mystery and the uneasiness is felt. What to say?

It is good to make a premise by recalling the famous words of Tertullian: “Every day belongs to the Lord, every hour and every time is good for baptism: the difference concerns solemnity, not grace” (Tertullian, On Baptism, 19, 1 -3).

As the night of Easter is, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, the most appropriate place to confer the sacraments of Christian initiation and in particular baptism, so the day of Pentecost is the most appropriate for imparting Confirmation to children already baptized since birth. This is expressed precisely in the current ritual of Confirmation, when in the question addressed to the candidates for confirmation one says: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and giver of life, and who today, through the sacrament of Confirmation, is in a special way to you conferred, as already on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost?”

The day of Pentecost is therefore the historic day on which that event of grace was accomplished which is the descent of the Holy Spirit in power and which is made actual for each one through the sacrament of Confirmation. Pentecost is the natural feast and the most appropriate setting for the celebration of Confirmation as there is a perfect correspondence between the memory of the Pentecostal mystery and its actual realization in the celebrated sacramental event.

Even the Tridentine Catechism had established: “In the Church of God there is the custom, scrupulously respected, of administering this sacrament especially on the day of Pentecost, because precisely on this day the apostles were strengthened and comforted by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thus remembering the great fact, the faithful will be able to better reflect on the great mysteries, which in regard to this sacred anointing must be considered.” Therefore: “The faithful must be taught about the nature, efficacy, nobility of this sacrament (confirmation), both on the day of Pentecost, especially designated for his administration, and on other days, which the Pastors will appear suitable” (Catechismo Tridentino, ed. Cantagalli, Siena, 1981, p. 233 e 246).

It is a matter of overcoming the pragmatic mentality that tends to celebrate the sacraments, except in the case of necessity, disconnected from the proper liturgical days established in the liturgical year. In particular solemn baptism, confirmation and first communion (Congregazione Per Il Culto Divino, Preparazione e celebrazione delle feste pasquali – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1992, p. 65, n. 114) have a natural connection with the Easter season and the superficial custom of celebrating these sacraments in holy days or days completely foreign to the mystery proper to these sacraments should definitely be overcome. Think of the Confirmation or First Communion celebrated in Marian feasts or Saints’ feasts or even in liturgical times with themes strongly characterized and unsuitable for adequately welcoming and commenting on the mystery of these sacraments.

With regard to the Confirmation we will be able to say that – except in the case of the presence of the Bishop, the original minister of this sacrament, who by necessity visits the parishes at different times of the liturgical year – the Confirmation is conferred by his Vicars as much as possible on the same day of Pentecost or at least during the Easter season.

(From Il mio e il vostro sacrificio. Il liturgista risponde, 2018©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)

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