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Confirmation in Hildesheim Cathedral 2007: Bishop Norbert Trelle , adult confirmation candidates, company sponsors

The Confirmation ( lat. : Confirmatio , confirmation, affirmation 'of firmare , mooring, strong, confirm, authenticate') is one of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic , the Old Catholic and the Orthodox Church (there Chrismation , anointing called ') and a sacramental act ( sacramental ) in the Anglican Church .

In the Catholic Church, confirmation (also firm sacrament , Sacramentum confirmationis ) is the continuation of baptism and, together with this and first communion, forms the sacraments of Christian initiation. Confirmation is understood as the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit to the believer. May it help him to be rooted more deeply in being children of God, to integrate himself more firmly in Christ, to strengthen his connection with the Church, to participate more in her mission and to help testify to the Christian faith in word and deed.

In the Eastern Churches , confirmation (chrismation) - also for small children - is given in the same celebration as baptism and first communion . In the Roman Catholic Church this is also the case with adult baptism . Believers who have received infant baptism are confirmed in a separate celebration after “reaching the use of reason”, which can be connected with first communion or, according to regional practice, this takes some time.

The churches of the Reformation did not adopt Confirmation as a sacrament, but created a similar rite with Confirmation . The conceptual distinction between confirmation and confirmation, as it exists in German, does not exist in Latin and in most other languages.

Related to Confirmation in origin, practice and meaning is the Holy Sealing . It is a sacrament in the New Apostolic Church and exists in other Apostolic Churches.


Confirmation has some requirements. On the one hand, the person who has been confirmed must be baptized, since confirmation brings baptism to completion. In addition, the confirming person must have the will to be confirmed. It is recommended that the company applicant receive the sacrament of penance before confirmation . The opinions differ with regard to the age of the company: In the Orthodox Church and in the United Churches of the East, confirmation is associated with the baptism of the child; in the Latin Church, on the other hand, it is necessary that the confirmant can recognize the meaning of the sacrament. The Codex Iuris Canonici prescribes the “achievement of the use of reason” (completion of the seventh year of life). The company age has fluctuated considerably in the west in the course of history and today in our part of the world is usually between twelve and sixteen years. Some municipalities, especially Swiss ones, set the company term at eighteen years.

The confirmation preparation ( confirmation catechesis ) of the young people takes place in groups of around 8–15 people, often by volunteers from the respective parish , with the pastor having ultimate responsibility for catechesis. Often the firm preparation also conveys basic beliefs.

Every adult who has not yet been confirmed can and should be confirmed on request, especially in connection with baptism or admission to the Catholic Church .


Corporate donors

Confirmation is generally donated in the Roman Catholic Church by a bishop ("first-called donor"). If this is not possible, it can also be donated by a priest , who however needs a special commission from the diocesan bishop for this confirmation. A local ordinary who is not a bishop ( territorial abbot, etc.) or who has the same legal status as a diocesan bishop has a firm in the area for which he is responsible. In the case of a newly baptized adult , the baptizing priest, usually the pastor , has such an assignment. Even in the case of a conversion , the local priest is usually commissioned to make the donation. In addition, in those cases in which the confirmation cannot be given by the bishop, this z. B. awarded by an abbot or a high-ranking member of the ordinariate and after obtaining a special company authorization. If the confirmant is in danger of death, every priest is legally allowed to give confirmation, even outside his area.

In the Anglican Church Fellowship, confirmation is always given by a bishop, while in the Eastern Churches every priest is authorized to do so.


Confirmation usually takes place during a Holy Mass .

In the Roman rite , confirmation begins with an opening prayer and the renewal of the promise of baptism by the confirmants. Then the confirmatory giver spreads his hands over the confirmant and prays for the descent of the Holy Spirit and the imparting of the gifts of the Holy Spirit . Then he places his right hand on the confirmant's head and uses chrism , an anointing oil consecrated by the bishop, to draw a cross on his forehead. He says: "Be sealed by the gift of God, the Holy Spirit." During confirmation, the company godfather (in Austria and southern Germany also called Firmgöd) places his hand on the right shoulder of the person who is confirmed as a sign of his support. This is followed by a final prayer and blessing, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist . Until the renewal of the rite of Confirmation in 1973, a hint of a blow on the bishop's cheek as a symbol of strengthening (cf. accolade ) was common.

In the Eastern Church the rite of confirmation is called "anointing" and follows directly after baptism. The priest anoints the forehead, the eyes, the nostrils, the mouth, the ears, the chest, the hands and the feet with Myron consecrated by the bishop and then says: “Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”. The rite is not separated from the rest of the service by entry and exit prayers.

Anointing oil

The chrism or myron is a prescribed matter for the giving of Confirmation, it is a mixture of oil and balsam . The Holy oils are from the bishop on Holy Thursday or in the Holy Week in the Chrism consecrated .

regional customs

In some regions it is customary for the confirmant to choose the name of a saint to adopt as his company name. Traditionally, the person who confirms the company celebrates the company day alone with their sponsor. Large family celebrations have only recently taken place as part of confirmation. In some areas of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the newly confirmed people also receive money or other gifts (for example in the past in Bavaria and still today traditionally the first watch in large parts of francophone and German-speaking Switzerland ).


According to the Roman Catholic Church, the meaning of Confirmation consists primarily in two aspects: closer connection with the Church and strengthening ( Latin firmus , “strong”) through the power of the Holy Spirit ; In addition, through Confirmation, baptism is completed in the sense that the person who has been confirmed now belongs to the Church without restriction (“full citizen in the kingdom of Christ”). With his confirmation, the confirmant is taken possession of by Jesus Christ and the Church . At the same time, he is empowered “to spread and defend faith through word and deed in the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness of Jesus Christ, and thus to contribute to the building up and growth of the body of Christ, the Church”. Eventually he will be blessed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. All of these aspects are expressed through the laying on of hands . In addition, Christians participate “to a fuller extent in Jesus Christ's royal and priestly authority and in his messianic abundance of spirit” (cf. priesthood of all believers ); the sign of the anointing interprets this.

Theological development

Confirmation developed over the course of the first centuries of the Christian church as an aspect of baptism or as a separate celebration. In scholasticism , it was emphasized as an independent sacrament, which the reformers rejected a few centuries later.

Approaches to the Church Fathers

The tradition of the 2nd century did not report any special spirit-mediating rite apart from baptism. Only towards the end of the century did the church father Tertullian express himself more clearly on this. In his work De Baptismo ("On Baptism"), he was one of the earliest church fathers to develop an overall theological concept of baptism. In it he denies that immersion has a spirit-inspiring effect: "Not that we attained the Holy Spirit in the water, but we are purified in the water [...], prepared for the Holy Spirit". After the person gets out of the baptismal bath, he is anointed, “then comes the laying on of hands, with which the Holy Spirit is summoned and invited through a blessing.” He clearly separates the ritual steps from one another and assigns them different effects.

At the beginning of the 3rd century, Hippolytus of Rome described in the Traditio Apostolica ("Apostolic Tradition") ecclesiastical liturgies and tasks of officials of the Catholic Church - such as bishops, presbyters and deacons. In this description, the rite of the laying on of hands, as in Tertullian, is also a phase of the baptismal event itself; baptism is a unit in the sense of an initiation. What is new about Hippolyte's statements is that the reason for a possible temporal and spatial separation of baptism and confirmation is already recognizable: The immersion baptism is performed by a deacon and continued with an anointing at night by a presbyter, while only the bishop uses the laying on of hands and a second anointing can call down the grace of God on the baptized.

In a dispute with the supporters of Bishop Lucifer of Calaris , who rigorously determined the validity and a. of those who refused baptisms donated by Arians , Jerome advocated the baptism of heretics and dealt with the importance of the laying on of hands in this context. He is referring to the Acts of the Apostles when he states: “I do not deny this custom of the churches that to those who have been baptized by priests and deacons far from major cities, the bishop rushes out to bring them to the invocation of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on. ”The fictional question of his counterpart about the reason for this procedure, although the Holy Spirit“ is communicated in a true baptism according to our assurance ”, he answers with that“ after the ascension of the Lord the Holy Spirit on Apostle descended ”. The practice is more "for the glory of the priesthood than according to a law of necessity."

Becoming independent in scholasticism

Confirmation on an altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden , 14th century.

The scholastics of the Middle Ages systematized the teaching of the Church Fathers and developed an independent theology of Confirmation, which was now presented as a sacrament.

The theologian Hugo von St. Victor also declared Confirmation to be an independent sacrament, although its inner connection with baptism was emphasized. He describes the ancient rite of the anointing of chrism and the laying on of hands as the apostolic privilege of the bishops to seal Christians and to surrender the Holy Spirit. In response to the fictitious question “whether it is a greater sacrament than baptism”, Hugo von St. Victor replies that “each of the two is a great sacrament and should be valued with the greatest veneration”. He contradicts the elevation of Confirmation on the basis of its episcopal authority and in this way shows that the omens have turned: While the Church Fathers still emphasized baptism as the most important act and sought a role for Confirmation in it, it is now so important has become that the medieval theology with Hugo von St. Victor already wants to counteract a degradation of baptism.

The eminent theologian and philosopher Thomas von Aquin developed the elements already found in Hugo von St. Victor into a company theology, which was to be of great importance for the following Catholic teaching. A comprehensive catalog of questions in his main work, Summa theologica, offers a systematic approach to this. For his argument, he expanded the previously common understanding of firmness to include a further characteristic, the reception of the “full age of spiritual life”. This will be attained with confirmation, just as a person receives spiritual life with baptism. This further underpins the independence of the confirmation. He interprets chrism as material corresponding to this function, which gives the fullness of the Holy Spirit. According to Thomas Aquinas, the conscious entry into the community associated with this is also associated with the rite and chrism. Furthermore, he assumes that the sacramental character gives a spiritual power for certain sacred acts. While baptism gives the authority to work with regard to one's own salvation, confirmation gives the authority to fight spiritually against “enemies”.

Consolidation in the church teaching post

The scholastic firm theology was largely incorporated into the following documents of the ecclesiastical teaching office , whereby Confirmation towards the end of the Middle Ages was established under canon law as an independent sacrament.

In a letter to the Armenian Catholicos , who was supposed to prepare a reunification with the Armenian Apostolic Church in 1351 , Pope Clement VI declared. the consecration of chrism and the giving of the corporate sacrament as a privilege of the bishop. Only the Pope can make exceptions to this rule by giving power to a simple priest.

During the multi-year Council of Florence , the assembly declared the scholastic teaching binding in a teaching decision for the Armenians from 1439. This contains the now fully developed pre-Reformation corporate theology: Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments, imprints a characteristic on the soul, gives the Holy Spirit to strengthen faith, the bishop is a proper donor (exceptions are only possible with papal instructions) and the The act of drawing consists of anointing with chrism oil and sanctifying words. The laying on of hands with the Samarians from the Acts of the Apostles was again used as biblical legitimation. This theology should be heavily criticized by the following reformers.

Rejection in the Reformation

Confirmation , illustration to Petrus Canisius ' Catechism , 1679

With the Reformation there was a turning point in the history of Confirmation. In his pamphlet From the Babylonian Captivity of the Church , Martin Luther criticized various aspects of established sacramental theology in 1520 and reduced the number of sacraments to two and a sacramental symbol . He denied confirmation of sacramentality, primarily criticizing the lack of divine institution and thus the lack of the sacramental promise of salvation, since there is no evidence of a promise made by Jesus in the Holy Scriptures. Rather, it is a " church rite " that serves to "expand the offices of the bishops so that they are not entirely without work in the church". To compensate for this, Luther emphasizes the importance of baptism , which was indisputably instituted by Christ and which is sacramental. These do not need to be supplemented.

Consistent with this, other reformers had also rejected the sacramentality of Confirmation. Zwingli combined this criticism with a far-reaching reform of the firm rite, the central task of which he now saw in the fact that the youth should confirm the faith and repeat the baptismal confession in their own words. In addition, the baptized thereby confesses his affiliation to the religious community. From this, the reformer Martin Bucer , who worked in Strasbourg, developed the concept of confirmation , which, based on infant baptism , was understood as a personal confession of faith ( baptism of believers ).

The Catholic Church reacted to this development at the Council of Trent . The statements only justify briefly that Confirmation is a sacrament and that the bishop is the primary donor of confirmation. Anyone who claims otherwise should be expelled from the church.

Modern Times and Second Vatican Council

In the century after the Reformation, theology hardly developed any further with regard to the doctrine of baptism and confirmation, because the aspects attacked by the Protestants were defended with rather conservative arguments. Here the decisions of the Tridentine and the Armenian decree continued to be the focus.

Only recently has the tradition in the Holy Scriptures, patristics and liturgy as well as church history been taken up and researched again. The theologian Karl Rahner made a significant contribution, who developed a new sacramental theology and also applied this to Confirmation: “The firm commissioning of Christians [...] is not so much the grace of an individual care of his own soul healer, but the charismatic (= for others blessed) gift of working with the mission of the Church through all gifts that can serve the salvation of all. "

With his theology, Rahner strongly influenced the Second Vatican Council , which now began to take up the reformatory and liberal-theological criticism of Confirmation. The Constitution on the Liturgy of the Church Sacrosanctum Concilium called for a pre-Confirmation of the creed in order to express the connection with Baptism and the unity of Christian initiation. This Constitution of the Council also made it possible to give confirmation within the Holy Mass , which has become common practice. The purpose of this innovation was to emphasize the unity of the three sacraments of Christian initiation . In addition, it was determined that the bishop was a “first called” firm donor, a new formulation compared to the previously used “ordinary” firm donor.

In 1971 the donation formula was also changed in accordance with the Second Vatican Council. According to the pre-conciliar rite, the donation formula was:

"I mark you with the sign of the cross and strengthen you with the chrism of salvation in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

- Roman firmament rite before 1971

Pope Paul VI renewed the western confirmation rite by replacing the previously usual donation formula with an old Byzantine one, in which the Holy Spirit or God appears as the main actor and the meaning of the (episcopal) official recedes (pneumatological interpretation of Confirmation):

"Be sealed by the gift of God, the Holy Spirit."

- Roman firmament rite

The “backstroke” of the firm donor has mostly been replaced by the peace greeting between the donor and recipient of the confirmation. This symbolic blow on the cheek was popularly assigned the meaning that the confirmed person must now be able to take "blows" for his faith. The symbolic character of an “ accolade ”, with which Confirmation is compared, is probably more relevant .

Biblical references

The independence of a Confirmation is biblically justified primarily with passages from the Acts of the Apostles . This is how the deacon Philip preached and baptized in Samaria without the Holy Spirit coming to the baptized:

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John there. 15 They went down and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For he had not yet come down on any of them; they were baptized only in the name of Jesus the Lord. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. "

- Acts 8 : 14-17  EU

According to the understanding of firm churches, the apostle Paul also gave confirmation in Ephesus :

1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul wandered the highlands and came down to Ephesus. 2 He met some of the disciples and asked them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? They replied: We haven't even heard of a Holy Spirit. 3 Then he asked, With what baptism were you then baptized? They answered: With the baptism of John . 4 Paul said: John baptized with the baptism of repentance and taught the people to believe in him who came after him: in Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Paul laid his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came down on them; they spoke in tongues and prophesied . 7 There were about twelve men in all. "

- Acts 19 : 1-7  EU

In addition, Acts 10: 44–48  EU is mentioned, which shows the possibility of a prelude inspiration from the Spirit.

Traditional exegetes see in these biblical passages a clear indication of a separation of the rites of baptism and confirmation and a special form of the communication of the Spirit through the laying on of hands. However, this has already been questioned many times. Above all, the exceptional character of these biblical passages is emphasized compared to the framework of the Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament, to which baptism has a far more important role. On the basis of this, critics doubt the historicity and emphasize the intention of the author, who would like to embed the rather private missionary successes of Philip and Apollos in a holistic character through the laying on of hands. It was also criticized that the evidence mainly comes from the Acts of the Apostles, so cannot be directly proven in the work of Jesus.

It is therefore assumed today that biblical theology knew neither a general ritual separation of baptism and the instigation of the Spirit, nor an obligatory laying on of hands, and that baptism was rather essential as the dominant initiation rite.

Artistic reception

See also


  • The celebration of Confirmation in the Catholic dioceses of the German-speaking area . Edited on behalf of the Bishops' Conferences of Germany, Austria and Switzerland and the Bishops of Bozen-Brixen and Luxemburg, Einsiedeln et al. 1973; newest edition: Regensburg u. a. 2019, ISBN 978-3-451-38202-4 [currently valid rite book of the Roman Catholic Church for the order and process of confirmation in the German-speaking area; with references and the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI. about the sacrament of Confirmation]


  • Jean Amougou-Atangana: A Sacrament of Receiving the Spirit? on the relationship between baptism and confirmation . Freiburg 1974, ISBN 3-451-16758-1 .
  • Gerhard Gäde : Why a second initiation sacrament? Dogmatic considerations on the relationship between baptism and confirmation for pastoral theological reasons , in: TThZ 109 (2000) 219-248.
  • Patrik C. Höring: Confirmation. Sacrament between encouragement and demand. A sacramental theological investigation with practical theological intent , Kevelaer / Düsseldorf 2011. ISBN 978-3-7666-1488-9
  • Patrik C. Höring (Ed.): Company pastoral today. Theological claim and pastoral reality , Kevelaer / Düsseldorf 2008. ISBN 978-3-7666-1249-6
  • Guido Erbrich: Basic Confirmation Course . Leipzig, St. Benno 2008, ISBN 978-3-7462-2394-0 .
  • Günter Koch (Ed.): Sacraments . General doctrine of the sacraments up to confirmation. Graz 1991, ISBN 3-222-12056-0 (annotated source volume).
  • Georg KretschmarConfirmation . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 11, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1983, ISBN 3-11-008577-1 , pp. 192-204.
  • Job Getcha: La chrismation dans les Euchologes Byzantins . In: Carlo Braga (Ed.): Chrismation et confirmation: questions autour d'un rite post-baptismal . Conférences Saint-Serge, LIV Semaine d'Études Liturgiques, Paris, 25-28 June 2007. Roma 2009, 39-48.

Web links

Wiktionary: Confirmation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Confirmation  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. World Catechism No. 1212 (1992).
  2. a b World Catechism No. 1316 (1992) [1]
  3. can. 889 § 2; can. 97 § 2
  4. a b Lumen Gentium 26 .
  5. For the exact course of confirmation cf. the detailed description of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising : [2] .
  6. World Catechism No. 1300 [3] .
  7. Catholic Adult Catechism (KEK) of the German Bishops' Conference , Volume I (1985), p. 340
  8. ^ GL 53, relating to the three sacraments of initiation together
  9. a b KEK I, p. 341
  10. See: Amougou-Atangana 1974, pp. 106-132.
  11. ^ Tertullian, De Baptismo 6 .
  12. ^ Tertullian, De Baptismo 7 .
  13. ^ Tertullian, De Baptismo 8 .
  14. See: Amougou-Atangana 1974, pp. 142–151.
  15. Hippolytus of Rome, Traditio Apostolica; after: Koch 1991, p. 202.
  16. Hieronymus, Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8-9; according to: Koch 1991, p. 204; see. also English translation .
  17. Hugo von Sankt Viktor, On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith 1.II p.7; according to: Koch 1991, p. 205f.
  18. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III q. 72; according to: Koch 1991, p. 206f; see. also English translation .
  19. See Amougou-Atangana 1974, pp. 221f.
  20. ^ Clement VI., Letter on the reunification of the Armenians (1351); after: Koch 1991, p. 193f.
  21. Decision to teach the Armenians (1439); after: Koch 1991, p. 194f.
  22. Martin Luther, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church .
  23. See: Article Confirmation; in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Vol. 11.
  24. ^ Doctrines on the Sacrament of Confirmation (7th session, 1547); after Koch 1991, p. 195f, abridged.
  25. K. Rahner, Church and Sacraments, Freiburg a. a. 1960, p. 82.
  26. cf. for example in the information of the ore diocese of Munich and Freising here ( Memento of 3 January 2007 at the Internet Archive )
  27. Karl Hörmann , Lexikon der Christian Moral (1969), title "Confirmation", section 3, subsection c2) [4]
  28. KEK , Volume 1, p. 340
  29. On the website of the Church in Switzerland : "Confirmation has been meaningfully described as a spiritual 'accolade', whereby the Christian is appointed as a warrior of Christ the King and at the same time called to be an active lay apostle."
  30. See: Amougou-Atangana 1974, pp. 84-96.