This post is part of a series about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church. In this post, we will look at the Orthodox Christian sacrament of Chrismation.
The word “Chrismation” is from the Greek “Chrismatis,” which means anointing. The Orthodox Study Bible defines Chrismation as “The sacrament completing Baptism, whereby one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with the Chrism, a specially prepared oil which must be consecrated by a bishop. In Acts, a baptized Christian received the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the hands of an apostle (See Acts 8:14-17; 19:6.) Chrismation is a continuation of this ancient practice in the Church. (1, p. 1777)
In the Orthodox Church, Chrismation takes place immediately after the sacrament of Baptism. The newly-baptized person is anointed with a specially-blessed oil called Chrism, on many different parts of their body. During the anointing, the priest says, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and congregants reply, “Seal!”
Fr. Michael Buben offers insights into the reasoning for anointing each part of the body during chrismation, in his article “What is Holy Communion?,” published in Word magazine in Feb. 1962. “The anointing of the forehead signifies the sanctification of the mind, or thoughts. The anointing of the chest signifies the sanctification of the heart, or desires. The anointing of the eyes, ears, lips signifies the sanctification of the senses. The anointing of the hands and feet signifies their sanctification to good works and the walk in the way of His commandments.” (2) In other words, every part of our life becomes sanctified and sealed through Chrismation! This mystery of the Church sets us apart while also strengthening us to live a holy Christian life.
Glory to God for His gift of the sacrament of Chrismation!
1. Various editors. (2008). The Orthodox Study Bible. USA: St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. (available here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover )
2. Buben, Fr. Michael J. (Feb. 1962 Word, p. 5) What Is Holy Chrismation?. Retrieved from http://ww1.antiochian.org/Orthodox_Church_Who_What_Where_Why/What_Is_Holy_Chrismation.htm.
Here are some scriptures and quotes from Church Fathers on Chrismation, as well as a few resources that you may find interesting and helpful as you study this important sacrament. What resources have you found helpful? Comment below to share them with the community!
“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, Who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 1: 21-22, NKJV)
“Those baptized in the Church are sealed by the seal of the Lord after the example of the baptized Samaritans who were received by the Apostles Peter and John through laying on of hands and prayer (Acts 8:14-17). That which was lacking in them, Peter and John accomplished . . . Thus is it also with us . . . They are made perfect by the seal of the Lord.” ~ St. Cyprian
“By the seal of the Holy Spirit are sealed all the entrances into your soul; by the seal of the anointing all your members are sealed.” ~ St. Ephraim the Syrian
“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!'” ~ Cyril of Jerusalem
“The roots of this sacrament are clear in both the Old and New Testaments and are especially brought to light on the Day of Pentecost.” Read this and more in a helpful article on Chrismation within the pages of the Orthodox Study Bible, in the midst of Acts chapter 2. The article shows how the Holy Spirit was promised from Old Testament times, then again by Christ, and explains how the Holy Spirit has been given to baptized Christians through Chrismation, ever since Pentecost! Find it on p. 1471 of the hardcover Orthodox Study Bible. http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover
“In chrismation a person is given the “power from on high” (Acts 1–2), the gift of the Spirit of God, in order to live the new life received in baptism. He is anointed, just as Christ the Messiah is the Anointed One of God. He becomes—as the fathers of the Church dared to put it—a ‘christ’ together with Jesus. Thus, through chrismation we become a ‘christ,’ a son of God, a person upon whom the Holy Spirit dwells, a person in whom the Holy Spirit lives and acts—as long as we want him and cooperate with his powerful and holy inspiration.” ~ Fr. Thomas Hopko, https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/chrismation
“…In the early tradition of the Church both means were used: the Laying on of hands and the anointing with oil. In both cases, it was bishops who performed the sacrament, not priests… The reason for the change in practice from the laying on of the hands to the blessing of oil, was the great increase in the number of new converts all over the Church and the inability of the bishop to be present at every baptism. The bishop blessed the oil, and the priests administered it. Present practice is for the oils, mixed with fragrant substances, to be consecrated on Holy Thursday in the Cathedrals of the Mother Churches, and subsequently, to be distributed to their dependent Churches…” Read this and more about Chrismation in The Orthodox Church: 455
Questions and Answers, by Stanley Harakas, available here http://gcdev4.com/hc/product/the-orthodox-church-455-questions-and-answers/