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").

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]

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, ears, nostrils, breast, back, hands and feet using the following words each time:

"The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" (in Greek: Σφραγὶς δωρεᾶς Πνεύματος Ἁγίου).

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]

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]

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] 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

Unlike in the western Churches (e.g., Roman Catholic and Anglican), where 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, and immediately (or at least shortly) before one's first reception of Holy Communion. This sacramental rite may be performed by a presbyter (priest). After receiving this sacrament, the recipient is eligible to receive the Eucharist. 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 presented to the priest by the bishop and (together with the antimension) 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

Works cited


  1. "The Sanctification of the Holy Chrism Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America", Retrieved 2012-01-28
  2. Gialopsos,p 35
  3. Sokolof, p103
  4. Great Book of Needs, pp 47–52
  5. Sokolof, pp 118–119
  6. Great Book of Needs, pp 61–87; Sokolof, pp 116–117
  7. Great Book of Needs, pp 115–119; Sokolof, pp 117–118
  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. Great Book of Needs, pp 115-119
  11. Great Book of Needs, pp 113–114
  12. Great Book of Needs, pp 133-114; Sokolof, pp 119-120
  13. Ware, 279
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