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In the sacra­ment of Chris­ma­tion we receive “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spir­it” (See Rom 8, 1 Cor 6, 2 Cor 1:21–22). If bap­tism is our per­son­al par­tic­i­pa­tion in Easter—the death and res­ur­rec­tion of Christ, then chris­ma­tion is our per­son­al par­tic­i­pa­tion in Pentecost—the com­ing of the Holy Spir­it upon us.

The sacra­ment of chris­ma­tion, also called con­fir­ma­tion, is always done in the Ortho­dox Church togeth­er with bap­tism. Just as East­er has no mean­ing for the world with­out Pen­te­cost, so bap­tism has no mean­ing for the Chris­t­ian with­out chris­ma­tion. In this under­stand­ing and prac­tice, the Ortho­dox Church dif­fers from the Roman Catholic and Protes­tant church­es where the two sacra­ments are often sep­a­rat­ed and giv­en oth­er inter­pre­ta­tions than those found in tra­di­tion­al Orthodoxy.

Chris­ma­tion, the gift of the Holy Spir­it, is per­formed in the Ortho­dox Church by anoint­ing all parts of the person’s body with the spe­cial oil called holy chrism. This oil, also called myrrh [miron] is pre­pared by the bish­ops of the Church on Holy Thurs­day. It is used in chris­ma­tion to show that the gift of the Spir­it was orig­i­nal­ly giv­en to men through the apos­tles of Christ, whose for­mal suc­ces­sors in the world are the bish­ops of the Church (see Acts 8:14; 19:1–7).

In chris­ma­tion a per­son is giv­en the “pow­er from on high” (Acts 1–2), the gift of the Spir­it of God, in order to live the new life received in bap­tism. He is anoint­ed, just as Christ the Mes­si­ah is the Anoint­ed One of God. He becomes-as the fathers of the Church dared to put it—a “christ” togeth­er with Jesus. Thus, through chris­ma­tion we become a “christ,” a son of God, a per­son upon whom the Holy Spir­it dwells, a per­son in whom the Holy Spir­it lives and acts—as long as we want him and coop­er­ate with his pow­er­ful and holy inspi­ra­tion. Thus, it is only after our chris­ma­tion that the bap­tismal pro­ces­sion is made and that we hear the epis­tle and the gospel of our sal­va­tion and illu­mi­na­tion in Christ.

After the bap­tism and chris­ma­tion the per­son new­ly-received into God’s fam­i­ly is ton­sured. The ton­sure, which is the cut­ting of hair from the head in the sign of the cross, is the sign that the per­son com­plete­ly offers him­self to God—hair being the sym­bol of strength (Jud 16:17). Thus, until the fif­teenth cen­tu­ry the cler­gy of the Ortho­dox Church—the “pro­fes­sion­al Chris­tians,” so to speak—wore the ton­sure all their lives to show that their strength was in God.

The Rite of Churching

Togeth­er with being bap­tized and chris­mat­ed, the new-born child is also “churched.” The rite of church­ing imi­tates the offer­ing of male chil­dren to the tem­ple accord­ing to the law of the Old Tes­ta­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly the offer­ing of Christ on the for­ti­eth day after his birth (Luke 2:22). Because of this fact, bap­tism in the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion came to be pre­scribed for. the for­ti­eth day or there­abouts. In the New Tes­ta­ment Church both male and female chil­dren are for­mal­ly pre­sent­ed to God in the Church with spe­cial prayers at this time.

Also at this time, once more in imi­ta­tion of Old Tes­ta­ment prac­tice, the moth­er of the new-born child is also “churched.” Here we have the spe­cif­ic exam­ple of the purifi­ca­tion rit­u­al of Jesus’ moth­er Mary (Lk 2:22). In the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion the church­ing of the moth­er is her re-entry into the assem­bly of God’s peo­ple after her par­tic­i­pa­tion with God in the holy act of birth and after her sep­a­ra­tion from the Litur­gy dur­ing her con­fine­ment. Thus, the moth­er is blessed to enter once more into com­mu­nion with the mys­tery of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Divine Litur­gy of the Church from which she has been nec­es­sar­i­ly absent.

The new moth­er should be churched before the bap­tism of her infant so that she can be present at the sacra­men­tal entrance of her child into the King­dom of Christ. The offi­cial ser­vice book indi­cates that this should be done.

It is also the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion that the mys­ter­ies of bap­tism and chris­ma­tion, called offi­cial­ly “holy illu­mi­na­tion,” are ful­filled in the imme­di­ate recep­tion by the “new­ly-enlight­ened” of Holy Com­mu­nion in the eucharis­tic litur­gy of the Church. This is the case with infants as well as adults.

The Epistle of Baptism-Chrismation

Do you not know that all of us who have been bap­tized into Christ Jesus were bap­tized into his death? We were buried there­fore with him by bap­tism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glo­ry of the Father, we too might walk in new­ness of life.

For if we have been unit­ed with him in a death like his, we shall cer­tain­ly be unit­ed with him in a res­ur­rec­tion like his. We know that our old self was cru­ci­fied with him so that the sin­ful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will nev­er die again; death no longer has domin­ion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must con­sid­er your­selves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Rom 6:3–11

Now the eleven dis­ci­ples went to Galilee, to the moun­tain to which Jesus had direct­ed them. And when they saw him they wor­shipped him; but some doubt­ed. And Jesus came and said to them, “All author­i­ty in heav­en and on earth has been giv­en to me. Go there­fore and make dis­ci­ples of all nations, bap­tiz­ing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spir­it, teach­ing them to observe all that I have com­mand­ed you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Mt 28:16–20