Confirmation and Holy Communion
Temples of the Holy Spirit
The Sacrament of Confirmation completes the Sacrament of Baptism and makes us full members of the Church. When you are confirmed, God the Holy Spirit comes into the innermost part of your soul, so that you become, in St Paul’s words, “temples of the Holy Spirit”.
And in order that your souls may be made ready to receive the Holy Spirit, you have several weeks of preparation before your Confirmation.
Part of the preparation consists of going to Confirmation classes which teach you more about the Christian Faith, and help you to understand it better. You are taught why God made us, what our sins do, and what God has done to save us from them. You learn about the Church and the Sacraments, and in particular about Baptism, Confirmation, Confession and the Eucharist.
Preparing your soul
But besides learning about the Christian Faith, you also get your soul ready, so that when God the Holy Spirit comes he finds it, not dirty and grubby, but clean and fresh. So your preparation for Confirmation reaches its completion in your first Confession. You kneel before the Crucifix, and as you look at it you begin to realise, as you never realised before, what it cost Jesus in suffering and pain to give you the forgiveness of your sins. And you resolve that, come what may, you will belong completely to him, to work and to live for him all your life.
So, with your soul as white as snow, you receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of the Bishop. It is a very joyful occasion which you will remember for ever.
Confirmation is not an end but a new beginning, the beginning of your life as a communicant. Nowadays Confirmation is usually followed straight away by Holy Communion. But if Confirmation has not taken place in your own parish church, then your First Communion may instead take place in your church on the following Sunday. (1) (see also Note below)
Your First Communion is the first of very many. It is an occasion of great happiness. For then you receive Jesus himself in his Ascended Body. You have heard so much about him, perhaps seen a film about him. And now, as you receive the Blessed Sacrament, you and he are part of one another. As he himself said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (NRSV, John 6:56).
You begin by making your Communion at the Sunday Eucharist, and then during the week as well if you can. In the Early Church, during the great persecutions, the Christians used to be given each Sunday, at the end of the Eucharist, some of the Blessed Sacrament to take home with them so that they could make their Communion every day of the week. When the persecutions ended, so Communion at home ended too, except of course for sick people who had the Blessed Sacrament brought to them. In most churches now the Eucharist is celebrated on one or more weekdays, so many people can make their Communion in church during the week as well as on Sundays.
Communicants – the Body of Christ
The communicants who faithfully kneel at the altar Sunday by Sunday, and perhaps in the week as well, are the real power in the Church’s life. For by receiving the Body of Christ, they become the Body of Christ. As St Augustine the Great said, “If you have received well, you are that which you have received”. (2) It is not surprising that in the persecutions the penalty for making one’s Communion was death. The government knew that they did not have to worry about the non-communicants and they could safely be left at large, but not so with the communicants. Therefore it was the communicants, or rather Our Lord in the communicants, who were the rock against which the whole might of the Roman Empire was flung – and broken. So today it is the regular communicants who are the inner strength of the Church and who provide the prayers and work and gifts on which the Church depends (3).
We should always prepare carefully before every Communion we make; first of all, by making our self-examination, that is, going over our life since our last Communion and seeing what sins we have committed, and then telling God we are sorry. Secondly, we must make up our minds to turn over a new leaf and try to be the kind of person that Jesus is. Thirdly, we must offer ourselves to God to be his and his alone. And lastly we must have good will towards everybody, no hatred, no grudges.
Remember to make your Communion all through your life, until you receive the Blessed Sacrament for the last time – what the Church calls the Viaticum, the Food for the soul’s last journey out of this world. Then, having been part of Jesus throughout your life, you will still be part of him when you leave it. For when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we receive not something but Someone, Jesus Christ himself, our Lord and our God.
1. In Confirmation God the Holy Spirit comes into our souls, making us “temples of the Holy Spirit”. We become full members of the Church.
2. When we make our Communion, we receive not something but Someone, Jesus Christ himself, our Lord and our God. We should prepare carefully for our Communions.
3. The regular communicants are the real power in the Church’s life, and we should aim at communicating every Sunday, and as we grow up, try to communicate during the week as well.
According to the laws (Canons) of the Church of England, people who receive Holy Communion should either have been confirmed in the Church of England or should be ready and wanting to be confirmed. (4) However, in most dioceses there is provision for children who have not been confirmed to receive Holy Communion. This is subject to the agreement of the bishop, the parish priest, and the congregation or Parochial Church Council. Before receiving Communion, children should receive appropriate instruction which must be in the context of a programme of ongoing nurture leading to Confirmation. (5)
1. Church of England (not dated) Confirmation. Available from: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/lifeevents/baptismconfirm/sectionc.html (Accessed 21 August 2010) (Internet)
2. Augustine Sermon 227, cited in Dix, G. (1945) The shape of the liturgy, Westminster: Dacre Press, p.247.
3. cf Dix, G. (1945) The shape of the liturgy, Westminster: Dacre Press, p. 734.
4. Church of England (not dated) Confirmation. Available from: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/lifeevents/baptismconfirm/sectionc.html (Accessed 21 August 2010) (Internet)
5. Church of England (not dated) Section A – Christian initiation. Available from: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/lifeevents/baptismconfirm/sectiona.html (Accessed 21 August 2010) (Internet).