Chrismation

There are three baptismal anointing:

  1. before sanctification of the water; forehead (consecrated Olive Oil, but not Chrism).
  2. between the sanctification of the water and the water baptism; the whole body…(Not practiced in the MOSC anymore).
  3. immediately after the water baptism; the organs of sense with Chrism - this anointing is referred to as Chrismation.

The mystery of Chrismation (Confirmation) is anchored in the events of Jesus' baptism and the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, yet, in the Lord's declaration "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5). There is both an intrinsic unity and a distinction between the mysteries of baptism and chrismation. They are intimately related theologically and liturgically. Chrismation is not so much the second mystery as it is the very fulfillment of baptism. While baptism incorporates us into Christ's new risen existence, chrismation makes us partakers of his Spirit, the very source of this new life and of total illumination. Chrismation is called the seal (rushmo). The candidate receives the Holy Spirit as the source, the pledge and the seal of unending life. Anointed with Chrism, we are marked forever as the sheep and soldiers of Christ. We belong to him and to his holy Church. Thus chrismation, once canonically performed, cannot be repeated. Chrismation is also a sacrament of reconciliation. People who come to Orthodoxy out of certain heretical confessions and schismatic churches are received through the mystery of chrismation. The ritual anointing "validates" through "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" a Christian baptism performed in irregular circumstances - i.e., outside the canonical boundaries of the Church."

The rushmo is primarily understood as a mark of identity, indicating an entry into a new state or relationship; above all, it authorizes the newly baptized to call God 'Father' and to become sisters and brothers of Christ. Some early texts and prayers connect the pre-baptismal anointing with Ex.19:6 and I Pet. 2:9; in the latter the Syriac New Testament reads 'you are a chosen race that serves as priest to the Kingdom'. Frequent images used in connection with this new status include:

  • entry into the flock of Christ;
  • grafting on to the True Olive (Rom. 11:17);
  • imprinting with a mark of ownership;
  • providing a seal of ownership;
  • healing and cleansing (e.g. of the disfigured 'image of God');
  • protection against the powers of evil;
  • armor in the contest with Satan (or, in connection with the second pre-baptismal anointing, to make the body slippery in the wrestling match with Satan): the sequence baptism - contest is based on the Temptation of Christ following his Baptism.
  • the rushmo is sometimes seen as replacing circumcision under the Old Covenant (and so the oil can be described as 'cutting').

The Holy Chrism

The Chrism that is used for the ritual anointing is a mixture of olive oil, balsam, wine, and some forty aromatic substances, symbolizing the fullness of sacramental grace, the sweetness of the Christian life and manifold and diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Chrism is also called the holy Myron. Chrism, prepared and consecrated periodically (usually once in ten years - has been the trend in the Malankara Orthodox church in recent years) during the Great Lent - ideally on Holy Thursday, is the antitype, the visible tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.

Written by Tenny Thomas


[1] Brock, The Holy Spirit in the Syrian Baptismal Tradition, pp. 20-21, 49-50, 114-33
. [2] Gabriele Winkler, "Confirmation or Chrismation? A Study in Comparative Liturgy," Worship 58 (1984), pp. 2-17; reprinted in Maxwell Johnson, Living Water, Saving Spirit, pp. 202-218.
[3] Gordon Lathrop, "The Origins and Early Meanings of Christian Baptism: A Proposal," Worship 68 (1994), pp. 504-522.
[4] Brock, The Holy Spirit in the Syrian Baptismal Tradition, pp. 20-21, 49-50, 114-33.
[5] John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, (New York, 1974).
[6] Brock, The Holy Spirit in the Syrian Baptismal Tradition, pp. 20-21, 49-50, 114-33.