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The Early Church Fathers on the Sacrament of Confirmation.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. Pope St. Cornelius I, (unknown - A.D. c.253)
    St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258)
    The Apostolic Constitutions, (dated A.D. c. 270)
    St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378)
    St. Pacian of Barcelona, (A.D. c.310-375)
    St. Hilary of Poitiers, (A.D. 315-367)
    St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384)
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386)
    Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420)
    St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407)
Pope St. Cornelius I, (unknown - A.D. c.253), Pope from A.D. 251 to 253 and Martyr, elected during a lull in the persecution under Emperor Decius, his pontificate was complicated by a schism, one cause of which was the self-appointment of the Roman priest Novatian as antipope and the second, the dispute over the Church's attitude toward Christian apostates and whether those who has repudiated the Christian faith during persecution needed to be re-baptized.

"Novatus received baptism by infusion as he lay on his (sick) bed; if indeed such a one ought to be said to have received it. But even after he recovered from his illness, he did not receive the other things which ought to be partaken of according to the rule of the Church,— to be sealed, that is, by the bishop: and not having received this, how did he receive the Holy Ghost?"

Ap. Euseb. H.E.,c.xliii/Galland. t.iii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 13

St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258), North African; bishop; biblical scholar, martyr.

"It is necessary for him that has been baptized also to be anointed, so that by his having received chrism, that is, the anointing, he can be the anointed of God and have in him the grace of Christ"

Letters 7:2 [A.D. 253]

"As to what some allege concerning those who had been baptized in Samaria, that, on the arrival of the Apostles, Peter and John, only hands were imposed on them that they might receive the Holy Ghost, but that they were not rebaptized; we see, dearest brother, that this instance is in no way pertinent to the present case. For they who had believed in Samaria, had believed with a true faith, and had been, by Philip the deacon, whom the same Apostles had sent, baptized within, in the Church, which is one, and to which alone it is granted to give the grace of baptism, and to loose sins. And, therefore, because they had received the legitimate and ecclesiastical baptism, it was not fitting that they should be baptized again, but only what was wanting, that was done by Peter and John; that prayer being made for them, and hands imposed, the Holy Ghost should be invoked and poured forth upon them. Which now also is done amongst us; so that they who are baptized in the Church are presented to the bishops (prelates) of the Church, and, by our prayer and imposition of hands, they receive the Holy Ghost, and are perfected with the seal of the Lord."

Letters 73[72]:9 — Ep. lxxiii. ad Jubajanum, page 281
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 135

"[A]re not hands, in the name of the same Christ, laid upon the baptized persons among them, for the reception of the Holy Spirit?"

Letters 74[73]:5

"[O]ne is not born by the imposition of hands when he receives the Holy Ghost, but in baptism, that so, being already born, he may receive the Holy Spirit, even as it happened in the first man Adam. For first God formed him, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit cannot be received, unless he who receives first has an existence. But the birth of Christians is in baptism"

Letters 74[73]:7— Ep. lxxiv. Pompeio
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, 136

Anointed also must he of necessity be, who is baptized, in order that, having received the chrism, that is, the unction, he may be the anointed of God, and have within him the grace of Christ."

Ep. lxx. ad Januarium, page 269
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Pages 134-135

The Apostolic Constitutions (or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles), dated A.D.c 270, is a Christian collection of eight treatises which belongs to genre of the Church Orders.

Thou, therefore, O bishop, shalt anoint the head of those that are to be baptized, whether they be men or women, with the holy oil, for a type of the spiritual baptism. Then either thou, O bishop, or the presbyter under thee, pronouncing and naming over each of them, the sacred invocation of Father and Son and Holy Spirit, shalt baptize them in the water. And after that let the bishop anoint those who have been baptized, with the ointment. The baptism, therefore, is given unto the death of Christ, the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Spirit, the seal instead of the cross, the ointment a confirmation of the confession."

Apostolic Constitutions L. iii.n. 16,17.
See also, Apostolic Constitutions l. ii.c.xxxii
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 139

St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378), Syrian; born in Nisebis, deacon, hymnist, poet. His works were even during his own lifetime almost all translated into Greek, and were, as St. Jerome informs us, held in such high estimation, as to be read in some churches after the Holy Scriptures. We have his life by St. Gregory of Nyssa.

"In the highway of our King we can see the landmarks set up, and arranged in order: there we can hear the names of Father, and of Son, and of Holy Ghost; there also are met with the sacraments of chrism and of baptism; the breaking of bread, and the chalice of salvation, as also the divine Scriptures, which they (the heterodox) have maliciously stolen and impiously corrupted. Praise the King of kings, whose highway is carried over the tops of the loftiest mountains, and cannot by any one be hidden from the eye."

T. ii. Syr. Serm. xxxvii.; Adv. Hæres. page 500.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 140

St. Pacian of Barcelona, (A.D. c.310-375), bishop of Barcelona, Jerome praises his eloquence, learning, chastity, and holiness of life. He is also remembered from a phrase from one of his letters: "My name is Christian, my surname is Catholic.".

"If, then, the power of both baptism and confirmation, greater by far than charisms, is passed on to the bishops, so too is the right of binding and loosing"

Three Letters to the Novatianist Sympronian 1:6 [A.D. 383]

Why said He this (St. Matthew 18:18), if it was not lawful for men to bind and to loose? Is this allowed to Apostles only? Then also to them alone is it allowed to baptize ; and to them alone to give the Holy Spirit; and to them alone to cleanse the sins of the nations; for all this was enjoined on none others but Apostles ... If therefore both the power of the laver, and of the chrism, gifts far greater, descended thence to bishops, the right of binding and of loosing was also with them."

Ep. i. Galland. t. vii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, pages 140-141

These things cannot be otherwise fulfilled than by the sacrament of the laver, and of the chrism, and of the bishop. For by the laver sins are cleansed away ; by the chrism the Holy Spirit is poured upon us; but both these we obtain at the hand and mouth of the bishop ; and thus the whole man is born again and is renewed in Christ."

Serm. De Baptism. n.5.6; Galland. t.vii. pages 274-275
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 141

St. Hilary of Poitiers, (A.D. 315-367), French; husband, theologian, bishop of Poiters around A.D. 355, and Doctor of the Church. Referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians" and the "Athanasius of the West.". He was obviously a firm supporter of St. Athanasius.

He calls us, therefore, not only to the inheritance, but also to the imitation, of God, who, by the coming of Christ, bestows on the just and on the unjust, both the sun and the rain, in the sacraments of baptism and of the Spirit."

Commentary on Matthew Chapter 4, n.27 (cf.n. 10),t.i. page 668
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 137

"These the Lord says should not be hindered, because of such is the kingdom of Heaven: for the favor and gift of the Holy Spirit were, when the work of the law ceased, to be bestowed by the imposition of hands and prayer."

Commentary on Matthew Chapter 19, n.3, page 762
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 137

St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384), bishop of Milevis, Numidia, in Africa; from Augustine's writings we can assume Optatus was a convert; he is best known for his opposition to the heresy of Donatism.

He (Christ) went down into the water, not that there was what could be cleansed in God, but the water ought to go before the oil that was to supervene, in order to initiate, and order, and fill up the mysteries of baptism; having been washed, whilst He was held in John's hands, the order of the mystery is followed, and the Father completed what the Son had asked, and what the Holy Ghost had foretold. Heaven is opened whilst the Father anoints; the spiritual oil, in the image of a dove, immediately descended, and rested on His head, and poured on it oil, whence He took the name of Christ, when He was anointed by God the Father; to whom that the imposition of hands might not seem to have been wanting, the voice of God is heard from a cloud, saying, "This is my Son, of whom, I have thought well, hear ye Him".

De Schism. Donat. l. iv. n.7, page 76
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, pages 139-140

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386), Palestinian; ordained by Maximus, he was made bishop of Jerusalem in A.D. 345; scholar and Doctor of the Church. None of his writings have been preserved to us, except eighteen catechetical instructions addressed to catechumens, and five mystagogic discourses addressed to neophytes.

"After you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, there was given chrism, the antitype of that with which Christ was anointed, and this is the Holy Spirit. But beware of supposing that this is ordinary ointment. For just as the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Spirit is simple bread no longer, but the body of Christ, so also this ointment is no longer plain ointment, nor, so to speak, common, after the invocation. Further, it is the gracious gift of Christ, and it is made fit for the imparting of his Godhead by the coming of the Holy Spirit. This ointment is symbolically applied to your forehead and to your other senses; while your body is anointed with the visible ointment, your soul is sanctified by the holy and life-giving Spirit. Just as Christ, after his baptism, and the coming upon him of the Holy Spirit, went forth and defeated the adversary, so also with you after holy baptism and the mystical chrism, having put on the panoply of the Holy Spirit, you are to withstand the power of the adversary and defeat him, saying, ‘I am able to do all things in Christ, who strengthens me'".

Catechetical Lectures, 21:1, 3—4 [A.D. 350]

"[David says,] ‘You have anointed my head with oil.' With oil he anointed your head, your forehead, in the God-given sign of the cross, so that you may become that which is engraved on the seal, ‘a holy thing of the Lord'"

Catechetical Lectures, 22

Having been baptized into Christ, and having put on Christ, you have become conformable to the Son of God. For God having predestinated us unto the adoption of children (Ephesians 1:5), made us like unto the body of Christ's glory (Philip, 3:21). Being therefore made partakers of Christ (Hebrews 3:14), you are justly called Christs, and of you God said, Touch you not my anointed (Christs) (Psalms 104:15). Now you became Christs, when you received the emblem (antitype) of the Holy Ghost: and all things were in a figure wrought in you, because you are figures of Christ. He also was washed in the river Jordan, and having communicated of the fragrance of His divinity to the waters, He came up from them, and the Holy Ghost in substance lighted on Him, like resting upon like. And to you also, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, was given the chrism (unction), the emblem (antitype) of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Ghost. . . . But see that you do not suppose this to be bare ointment. For as the bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, is no longer simple bread, but Christ's body, so also this holy ointment, is no longer plain ointment, nor, so to say, common, after the invocation, but Christ's gift; and by the presence of His Godhead, it causes in us the Holy Ghost. This symbolically anoints thy forehead, and thy other senses ; and the body indeed is anointed with visible ointment, but the soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit. ... As Christ, after baptism, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, went forth and vanquished the adversary, so also do you; having, after the sacred baptism, and the mystical chrism, put on the panoply of the Holy Spirit, stand against the adverse power, and vanquish it, saying, I can do all things in Christ that strengthened me (Philip, 4) When you have been deemed worthy of this holy chrism, you are called Christians, verifying also the name by the new birth. For before you were vouchsafed in this grace, you were not rightly worthy of this designation, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians. You ought also to know that this chrism has its symbol in the old Scripture. So also the high-priest, raising Solomon to the kingdom, anointed him, after he had washed in Gihon. But to them these things happened in a figure; but to you, not in a figure, but in truth, because you were in truth anointed by the Holy Spirit."

Cateches. Myst. 3 (Al. Cat. 19), n.1,3,6, pages 315-318
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, pages 137-139

Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398), an active Pope, involved in the administration of the Church and the handling of various factions and viewpoints within it; author of two decrees concerning clerical celibacy. The decree of A.D. 385 stated that priests should stop cohabiting with their wives.

"You have set down in the beginning of your letter (page) that many who have been baptized by the impious Arians are hastening unto the Catholic faith, and that certain of our brethren wish to baptize them again, a thing which is not lawful, seeing that both the Apostle forbids this, and the canons oppose it ; and after the Council of Ariminum was quashed, the general decrees sent to the provinces by my predecessor Liberius prohibit it: we associate them, together with the Novatians, and other heretics, as was determined in synod, to the fellowship of the Catholics, by the invocation only of the seven-fold Spirit, with the imposition of the hand of the bishop ; as is also observed by all the east and the west."

Ad Himer. n.i.col.1218 t.ii. Concil. Labb.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 142

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

Addressing the catechumens who had just been baptized and anointed he says:

"Thou hast received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of piety, the spirit of holy fear ; and keep what thou hast received. God the Father has sealed thee: Christ the Lord has confirmed thee: and the Spirit has given the pledge in thy heart, as thou hast learned from what is read in the Apostle."

De Mysteries, c. vii. n. 42, page 336
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 141

St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420), Dalmatian; born in Strido; priest, hermit, abbot, biblical scholar, translator and Doctor of the Church. In an age distinguished by men of the greatest eloquence and learning, St. Jerome, especially in all matters connected with the Sacred Scriptures, was then preeminent, and has probably never since been equalled.

"The Luciferian. 'Art thou ignorant that it is the custom of the churches for hands to be imposed upon the baptized after their baptism, and that thus the Holy Ghost is invoked? Dost thou ask where this is written? In the Acts of the Apostles' [as given already under Tradition.] Orthodox. I do not deny that it is the custom of the churches, for the bishop to journey to those who have been baptized by priests and deacons, at a distance from the greater cities, to impose hands upon them to invoke the Holy Spirit."

T.ii. Adv. Lucifer. t.ii.col.180-181
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 143

St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407), Syrian; archbishop, Doctor of the Church. Born at Antioch in 344; he was ordained priest in A.D. 383, and raised to the see of Constantinople in the year A.D. 398. His eloquence gained him the title of Chrysostom, or the mouth of gold. His expositions of Scripture, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, are very valuable. This illustrious prelate died on his road to exile, in A.D. 407.

Why had not they who had been baptized received the Holy Ghost {Acts)? Either because Philip bestowed not this, honoring perhaps the Apostles, or because he had not this gift; for he was one of the seven, and this is the rather to be said. . . . For this reason, although baptizing, he gave not the Spirit to the baptized; for neither had he power; for this gift belonged to the twelve alone."

T. ix. Hom. 18 in Acta Apost. n.3, page 154
See also t.xii. Hom. 9 in Ep. and Hebr. n.2, page 136
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, page 141



Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the "sacraments of Christian initiation," whose unity must be safeguarded.


It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For by the sacrament of Confirmation,
[the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.



The Church's Scriptures that support Confirmation:

Soloman's Prayer for Wisdom

17 Who has learned thy counsel, unless thou hast given wisdom and sent thy holy Spirit from on high?

Wisdom 9:17

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from Heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4

Philip Preaches in Samaria

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.


Acts 8:14-17

Paul in Ephesus

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." 4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

Acts 19:1-6

The Postponement of Paul's Visit

21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; 22 he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 23 But I call God to witness against me — it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.


2 Corinthians 1:21-24

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.


Ephesians 1:13-14

The Peril of Falling Away

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit.


Hebrews 6:1-4

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