What Are Signs and Symbols of Confirmation?

Signs and symbols of the Christian sacrament of confirmation include the anointing of the chrism, the sign of the cross and the laying on of hands. The sacrament concludes with the sign of peace.

The key component of confirmation is anointing the confirmand, or person being confirmed, with chrism, a holy oil that a bishop has consecrated. As the minister, bishop or priest overseeing the confirmation anoints the confirmand, he says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” In Eastern Catholic Churches, the minister says, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The anointment represents how the Holy Spirit will protect the confirmand during his lifetime and also symbolically heals and cleanses him. The minister also makes the sign of the cross on the confirmand’s forehead, symbolizing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice and reminding the confirmand of his commitment to living as a Christian.

The laying on of hands is the part of confirmation that most closely symbolizes how Jesus Christ and his Apostles conferred the Holy Spirit on others. During confirmation, the minister blesses the confirmand by extending his hands above him. In some churches, the minister lays his hands directly on the confirmand’s head.

Confirmation ends with the sign of peace, which the members of the congregation make by greeting one another. Congregation members serve as witnesses of the confirmation and welcome the newly confirmed to its fold. It symbolizes the relationship between the church and its members and acknowledges the role the Holy Spirit played during the rite.