The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
26 – CHRISMATION
Chrismation is also known as Holy Chrism. As we said in the lesson on Baptism, the baptised person is cleansed from original sin and from all other sins that he has committed up until that time. He is reborn and becomes a member of the Church- mystical body of Christ. He begins the new life. This new life, however, has its temptations. Satan does not stop working. The way Satan deceived Adam and Eve, so too does he try to deceive us everyday. Moreover, man does not cease to be free. He still has choice--the choice to follow God or to be deceived and follow the devil--the choice to do the will of God or to do his own will. The road is uphill and difficult. Man is a soldier who belongs, as we have already said, to the militant Church and so he struggles. For this battle he needs the armour of the Holy Spirit, and this is what Chrismation provides. It gives the baptised person the armour, the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that he may continue his battle as a soldier.
Chrismation is a God-sent sacrament. It is based on the practice of the apostles whereby they would place their hands on those who had believed and had been baptised so that by the laying on of the Apostles hands these would receive the Holy Spirit. The two Scriptural passages that support this practice are as follows: "Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit," and "when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them" (Acts 8:17;19:6). There is no doubt then that the sacrament of Chrismation is God-sent and is an apostolic practice.
Chrismation is done immediately after baptism. In the past, in its attempt to closely follow the practice of the apostles, the Church practised Chrismation performed by the Bishop. Because this was not always possible, the Church established the custom of preparing the Holy Chrism to be used by the priests. The Holy Chrism is prepared at the Ecumenical Patriarchate from forty different aromatic substances that symbolize the many gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is prepared with the participation of many hierarchs (many of whom are from the autocephalous Orthodox Churches) and is then distributed to all the Churches.
With this Holy Chrism the priest, immediately after baptism and having read the specified prayer, anoints the baptised person on all the members of his body and repeats the following phrase: "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen." And so the baptised person is anointed with the Holy Spirit in his renewed life and receives the gifts--the armour--of the Holy Spirit as he begins his spiritual battle. The phrase "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" that is repeated by the priest is based on the words of St. Paul when he says that "it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us His spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). In other words, it is God who anoints us and seals us to remain faithful to Christ by putting in our hearts the Holy Spirit.
Even though Chrismation is a God-sent sacrament, an apostolic practice, and is found in Holy Scripture, the Protestant churches have nonetheless done away with it, viewing it as non-sacramental and unnecessary for the salvation of man. The Roman Catholic Church accepts the sacrament of Chrismation but performs it at a later age, between seven and twelve.
LET US PRAY
Heavenly, triune God, You--Who never wished to see the destruction of Your creation, Who gave to strayed Adam and humanity a second chance to be saved with the incarnation of the Son, Who with baptism cleanse us from original sin, Who sanctify us as honourable members of the mystical body of Christ, Who with the sacrament of Chrismation--grant us the gifts--the armour--of the Holy Spirit so that we may struggle in our earthly battle. Lord strengthen our will so that we may always follow You and do Your will. Do not allow us to be induced by Satan to do our own will. Lead us safely to our theosis and salvation. We fervently thank You.