Confirmation and the Spirit — St. Peter's Fireside | Vancouver, B.C. 

by Preston Gordon
October 17, 2019
6 min read

The Holy Spirit has been nourishing the faith of the faithful since the beginning.

The Spirit sustained Joseph through rejection, enslavement, and betrayal and placed him in authority, in order to provide food for the starving masses during famine (Genesis 41).

The Spirit descended in a cloud to guide Moses and Israel through the wilderness, and rested on the tent of meeting, giving direction to God’s people during their wilderness wanderings.

The Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism, in the form of a dove; He drove Jesus into the wilderness and empowered his mission and ministry.

Jesus promised that this same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, would descend on his followers after his departure and be their constant companion, guide, and helper (John 14:26). Not long after, it happened as Jesus said: The Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and continued sustaining the disciples with God’s presence, now that Jesus was with the Father.

Throughout his letters, St. Paul tells us that the life of following Jesus is none other than life in the Spirit. We are “sealed” with the Spirit and he “guarantees” our adoption and inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Spirit bears fruit in our lives (Galatians 5); the Spirit works through us in different gifts (1 Corinthians 12). From the day of Pentecost until Jesus’ return, the nourishment of the Holy Spirit enlivens the church!

One way we invite the Holy Spirit to enliven and nourish our faith is through the practice of Confirmation.

The preface to the confirmation liturgy states that in Confirmation, “God, through the bishop’s prayer for daily increase in the Holy Spirit, strengthens the believer for Christian life in the service of Christ and His Kingdom. Grace is God’s gift, and we pray that he will pour out his Holy Spirit on those who have already been made his children by adoption and grace in Baptism.”

Confirmation is an affirmation of faith and a time when we delight in the gift of the Holy Spirit. People get confirmed for a few different reasons. For those who were baptized as infants, it is an affirmation that the faith of the community now resides abundantly in their own hearts. For others, confirmation marks a renewal in faith after a season of study through Catechism, a return to faith, or a reaffirmation of faith due to a large life transition. No matter what someone’s journey may have entailed, confirmation is a way we celebrate the growing maturity in the body of Christ. We have the joy of doing so this Sunday!

Bishops lead Confirmation services. This is because their office represents the unity of the church and their prayers signify the whole church joining us in prayer. Our bishop, Trevor Walters, will lead the service because through his service, our parish is intimately tied to other parishes around Canada, and through the college of bishops Trevor serves with, we are tied to faithful Christian congregations around the globe.

Therefore in our prayers at Confirmation, we are asking the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who sustained Joseph, led Moses, descended upon Jesus, poured out on the Apostles and continues to unite the church today – to do a work in the lives and hearts of these individuals.

Anyone who follows God will have different markers in their journey of faith; times we look back upon and recall God’s work in us and words over us. Confirmation serves as one of these markers, and specifically marks one’s growth in maturity and mission in the Christian life.[1]

Confirmation is a waypoint where we pause to ask the Holy Spirit once again: nourish our faith! Reorient us on the right path. Reestablish us with our trustworthy travelling companions, the church.

It has been a common pitfall for Christians in recent centuries to see conversion as only one moment in the life of faith, and really the only one that matters. Depending on the Christian tradition, this moment will be placed at different times: repentance and confessing faith, baptism, or confirmation. However, the fallacy is the same: I’ve “made it in”, so I’ve finished the hard work. I’ve checked all the boxes of what it means to “be a Christian,” my eternal destiny is secured, so I can rest easy and get on with living my life as I wish.

This is a lie we must resist. We are called to maturity in Christ (Eph 4:13), to grow up into the fullness of our salvation that is being held for us until we stand before Jesus face to face (1 Peter 1:5, 2:2). We’re on a long journey to a celestial city, as John Bunyan’s famous allegory describes, and we aren’t finished until we arrive at its gates. Confirmation is a needed marker on this path, because if we are not growing in maturity in Christ, we are slipping away from him. Confirmation is a waypoint where we pause to ask the Holy Spirit once again: nourish our faith! Reorient us on the right path. Reestablish us with our trustworthy travelling companions, the church.

Confirmation also marks us out for mission. It is not crossing a finish line! It is a moment of sending those who have matured, to a certain point, in faith into the world. In the same way that God has established my Christian vocation as a priest through ordination, in confirmation God proclaims the Christian vocation over every member of the church – to serve as priests in our workplaces, communities, neighbourhoods, and families! St. Peter establishes this point:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit marks our maturing in faith and commissions us for a life of mission. The church prays together for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for the work ahead – of fulfilling our vocation to reflect the marvellous light of the gospel into a dark world. And we ask the Spirit to continue his work, continue maturing us and sending us, until we reach the fullness of our salvation that awaits on eternity’s shores.

So, as we gather on Sunday to celebrate Confirmation, pray for those who will be confirmed. Ask God for words of encouragement and blessing for them, for ways to support and nourish their faith. Because as you allow the Spirit to work through you for the sake of the newly confirmed, he will take joy in nourishing your faith, too.


[1] I am indebted to Alex Fogleman for my understanding of Confirmation through the lens of maturity and mission

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