On Sunday, 1 October, we will celebrate the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, our patronal feast. St. Michael's Day is actually 29 September, but the Book of Common Prayer allows a congregation to transfer the celebration of its patronal feast to the Sunday next following, with certain exceptions. Fortunately, none of those exceptions apply to us, so we are well within the rubrics for our celebration. Yay!
This year, our Bishop will be making his visitation to St. Michael's on that day, so it will be an extra special celebration. We will have one service at 10:00am, and a reception will follow. The Bishop will celebrate and preach at the Eucharist that morning, and he will also confirm those folks we will present to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
Confirmation is a bit of a sacrament in search of a meaning under our current theology. The Book of Common Prayer says that, "Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church" (page 298). Full initiation, which means that nothing else is required. That wasn't always the case. In the early Church (at least as far back as we have reliable information) only adults were baptized, and only bishops performed those baptisms. As the Church grew (after it became first legalized and then the official religion of the Roman Empire) bishops simply could not keep up with the demand for baptisms, so they authorized their priests to baptize with water but not to anoint with chrism or say the prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Bishops reserved those practices for such time as they could be present to administer them. So was born the sacrament of Confirmation, that completed the action begun in Holy Baptism. (It is for this reason that the belief persists in the Church that says one must be confirmed to receive Communion.) With the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, anointing and the prayer for the Holy Spirit were restored to the baptismal liturgy; few Episcopalians, i expect, realize what i dramatic change in theology this represented.
So why do we still have Confirmation? That's a very good question and one not easily answered. Come join us for the Rector's Forum at 9:30 this Sunday morning, and we'll talk about it. Hope to see you then.