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Bishop Kallistos Ware
Orthodox Church

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  • Part II: Faith and Worship
    • Orthodox Worship: The Sacraments
      • Chrismation
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Chrismation

Immediately after Baptism, an Orthodox child is ‘chrismated’ or ‘confirmed.’ The priest

takes a special ointment, the Chrism (in Greek, myron), and with this he anoints various parts of

the child’s body, marking them with the sign of the Cross: first the forehead, then the eyes, nostrils,

mouth, and ears, the breast, the hands, and the feet. As he marks each he says: ‘The seal of

the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ The child, who has been incorporated into Christ at Baptism, now

receives in Chrismation the gift of the Spirit, thereby becoming a laïkos (layman), a full member

of the people (laos) of God. Chrismation is an extension of Pentecost: the same Spirit who descended

visibly on the Apostles in tongues of fire now descends invisibly on the newly baptized.

Through Chrismation every member of the Church becomes a prophet, and receives a share in

the royal priesthood of Christ; all Christians alike, because they are chrismated, are called to act

as conscious witnesses to the Truth. “You have an anointing (chrisma) from the Holy One, and

know all things(1 John 2:20).

In the west, it is normally the bishop in person who confers Confirmation; in the east,

Chrismation is administered by a priest, but the Chrism which he uses must first have been

blessed by a bishop. (In modern Orthodox practice, only a bishop who is head of an autocephalous

Church enjoys the right to bless the Chrism). Thus both in east and west the bishop is involved

in the second sacrament of Christian initiation: in the west directly, in the east indirectly.

Chrismation is also used as a sacrament of reconciliation. If an Orthodox apostatizes to Islam and

then returns to the Church, when he is accepted back he is chrismated. Similarly if Roman

Catholics become Orthodox, the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of Greece usu-

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ally receive them by Chrismation; but the Russian Church commonly receives them after a simple

profession of faith, without chrismating them. Anglicans and other Protestants are always

received by Chrismation. Sometimes converts are received by Baptism.

As soon as possible after Chrismation an Orthodox child is brought to communion. His earliest

memories of the Church will centre on the act of receiving the Holy Gifts of Christ’s Body

and Blood. Communion is not something to which he comes at the age of six or seven (as in the

Roman Catholic Church) or in adolescence (as in Anglicanism), but something from which he

has never been excluded.




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