Confirmation has been called a “sacrament in search of a theology,” and a canonized saint has referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Great Unknown.” Can it be that both our doctrine and our devotion are so impoverished that we know neither the gift nor the giver?
If we neglect the Holy Spirit and forget our confirmation, we are missing out on the very reason for our redemption. God became man not merely to save us from something (our sins), but to save us for something (to live as children of God). To be saved means nothing less than to share God’s nature.
And so we do because of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his apostles that the Spirit would “take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 6:14). It is the Spirit, then, who gives us our life in the Blessed Trinity. For it is the Spirit who gives us the life of the Son.
To send the Spirit was Jesus’ stated purpose. He told his apostles: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ... When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:7, 13).
True to his promise, Jesus appeared to his apostles and “breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 20:22). Then, at the first Christian Pentecost, came a universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church (Acts 2). This event had been foreshadowed in many Old Testament prophecies about the age of the Messiah (Isaiah 44:3, 59:21; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:25ff–27; l John 2:28). Surely the greatness of the gift exceeded all expectations.
It was the gift not of something, but of Someone. It was the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s clear from the Acts of the Apostles that Pentecost was an event intended for the entire Church, not just an elite, and not just for a day. It would be extended through time — institutionalized — by the sacraments. The gift of the Spirit came with baptism but was somehow completed by another rite.
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14–17).
This Pentecost we should examine ourselves on our devotion to the Holy Spirit and our appreciation for the day we were confirmed. If we are confirmed, then the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We are his temples (1 Corinthians 6:19). We don’t have to go far to get to know him.