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What is chrismation, and is it biblical?

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The rite of chrismation is performed in the Orthodox Church. Just as baptism pictures the Lord’s death and resurrection, the chrismation pictures the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the individual and somewhat corresponds to confirmation in the Catholic Church. Chrismation is seen as a sacrament, that is, a means of receiving divine grace.

In chrismation, the entire body of a person is anointed with a special mixture of oils called holy chrism or myrrh. This rite is normally performed immediately after baptism, which in the Orthodox Church would normally be done in infancy, although chrismation may also be performed for adult converts.

In the Orthodox Church, chrismation is more than a picture of the Spirit’s coming; it is the means by which the Spirit comes upon the individual. The Orthodox Church in America’s website describes the sacrament as that by which “we receive ‘the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ . . . 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.”

Chrismation might be considered a beautiful picture of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Christian if the anointing and the rite were simply a picture or illustration. However, according to the Orthodox Church, the rite is not only illustrative or commemorative but also instrumental to the Spirit’s filling. Therefore, this rite is unbiblical. Chrismation is not mentioned in Scripture, and the meaning of chrismation is contrary to Scripture. Grace, God’s blessing on the undeserving, cannot be earned and still be called grace (Romans 11:6). The Holy Spirit comes upon all who believe, regardless of whether or not a specific rite is performed. Likewise, the performance of a rite will not convey the gift of the Holy Spirit in the absence of personal faith. Ephesians 1:13–14 clearly states, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

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This page last updated: March 31, 2023