Understanding the sacraments: A new ‘Order of Confirmation’

Archbishop Kurtz, USCCB president, sets implementation date for Pentecost Sunday 2016

By Father Randy Stice

The new English translation of the Order of Confirmation has been confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Publication is scheduled for this fall. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has set the implementation date for Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016.

There has been only one Latin edition of the confirmation rite since the Second Vatican Council, published in 1973. The new Order of Confirmation does include emendations to the text made to reflect the new Code of Canon Law in 1983. It also includes new proper insertions used with Eucharistic Prayers II and III introduced in the third edition of the Roman Missal.

The most noticeable change is the enumeration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the prayer that accompanies the Laying on of Hands. Below is a comparison of the current and new translations:

■ Current translation:

All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life.

Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.

■ New translation:

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought these your servants to new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, freeing them from sin: send upon them, O Lord, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete; give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety; fill them with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.

The new translation “now joins the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in using more traditional names for some of the gifts— counsel, fortitude, piety, and the fear of the Lord” (USCCB, Newsletter).

The prayer in the new Order of Confirmation is very similar to the prayer found in the seventh-century Gelasian Sacramentary: “God almighty, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who granted regeneration to your servants by water and the Holy Spirit, and who have given them forgiveness of all their sins, send on them, Lord, your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, and give them the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and godliness, fill them with the Spirit of the fear of God, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom you live and reign, God forever with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.”

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are enumerated in Isaiah 11:2-3, a passage that has been part of the Church’s sacramental life from the first centuries of her life.

In the fourth century St. Ambrose gave the following instruction to the newly baptized: “The spiritual sealing follows. You have heard about this in the reading today. For after the ceremonies of the font, it still remains to bring the whole to perfect fulfillment. This happens when the Holy Spirit is infused at the priest’s invocation: ‘the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and piety, the Spirit of holy fear.’ These might be called the seven ‘virtues’ of the Spirit. These are the seven virtues you receive when you are sealed. For, as the holy apostle says, the wisdom of our lord has many forms, and ‘the wisdom of God has many forms’; so also the Holy Spirit is multiform and has a whole variety of virtues, so he is also called the God of powers—a title which can be applied to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The Order of Confirmation is the first major “retranslation” since the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, in 2011. According to the USCCB, it “represents the first of the new translations of rituals and other liturgical books expected to be promulgated in the coming years.” (Newsletter, Committee on Divine Worship, April-May 2015). ■

Father Stice is pastor of St. Mary Church in Athens and directs the diocesan Office of Worship and Liturgy. He can be reached at frrandy@dioknox.org.

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