Confirmation Sunday: Grace and Grit

Confirmation.jpg

I don’t want to fear to be out, I want to love to be in; I don’t want to believe in hell but in heaven. Stating this does me no good. It is a matter of the gift of grace. Help me to give up every earthly thing for this

—Flannery O’Connor

Even though I have worshipped as an Anglican for many years at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford, Church of the Resurrection in Washington, D.C., Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, and now All Saints Church in East Dallas, today I finally received the sacramental rite of confirmation. The domestic creed of Anglicanism, The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571), holds that “there are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.” Confirmation belongs to a different order of sacraments:

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

What is confirmation? Simply put, confirmation is a mature renewal of baptismal vows. The 17th century Anglican cleric, Jeremy Taylor, offers a clear definition in A Discourse on Confirmation (1663) by contrasting baptism and confirmation:

The principal thing is this: confirmation is the consummation and perfection, the corroboration and strength of baptism and baptismal grace; for in baptism we undertake to do our duty, but in confirmation we receive strength to do it; in baptism others promise for us, in confirmation we undertake for ourselves, we ease our godfathers and godmothers of their burden, and take it upon our own shoulders, together with the advantage of the prayers of the bishop and all the church made then on our behalf; in baptism we give up our names to Christ, but in confirmation we put our seal to the profession, and God puts His seal to the promise. . . . In baptism we are made innocent, in confirmation we receive the increase of the Spirit of grace; in that we are regenerated unto life, in this we are strengthened unto battle. 

As a candidate for confirmation, I reaffirmed my renunciation of evil, renewed my commitment to Jesus Christ, and committed to supporting and encouraging my local parish. When my bishop, Philip Jones—the Apostolic Vicar of the Anglican Mission in the Americas—laid his hands upon me, he said: “In this new season, Christopher, you’re not alone. The Lord wants to satisfy your hunger.” I needed to hear those words because I am tempted to dine at a table of food that does not nourish my soul. Only the feast of the Eucharist satisfies. Reflecting upon the bishop’s words, this line from the Lord’s Prayer reverberated in my ear: “Give us this day our daily bread.” As the sign of the cross was made on my forehead with holy chrism, the bishop offered this prayer of confirmation from the liturgy:

Defend, O Lord, your servant Christopher with your heavenly grace, that he may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more, until he comes to your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

In his sermon, my pastor, Jay Wright, emphasized that this confirmation prayer involves two G words: “grace” and “grit.” The grace language is “heavenly grace” and “Holy Spirit.” The grit language is “continue” and “increase . . . more and more.” Borrowing from Angela Duckworth’s highly popular TED Talk on grit, where she defined it as “the power of perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” Jay said that our long-term goal of union with Christ requires grit but it is only possible through grace. Grace enables grit. And why does the Christian need grit? The liturgy of baptism answers: I am up against “Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.” I am up against “the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” I am up against “all sinful desires that draw [me] from the love of God.” For all these reasons, I need to be defended, as the confirmation prayer says, and the Lord alone can defend me in this vale of tears until I come, at last, wearied but not defeated, into his everlasting kingdom. I will not forget this special rite of confirmation.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Confirmation Sunday: Grace and Grit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s