Abbot Brendan’s Homily during Confirmation ceremony on the Feast of the Ascension

On Sunday 28th May, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – which also happened to be the day of the annual school Sports, Family and Prize Day – Abbot Brendan administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to six young people – five boys from the Abbey School and the sister of one of those boys. Below is the homily preached by the Abbot during the liturgy.


Dear Patrick, Raff, Ben, Lukasz, Grace and Peter. Today, I want to address my words to you. You have come here, into this assembly, to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation on this beautiful feast of the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven. There are three sacraments of Christian Initiation; Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist and what we must never lose sight of is that Confirmation is not just an ‘optional extra’ sacrament, designed for keener Catholics! Confirmation is the completion of your Baptism, a personal Pentecost in which you receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

It is not easy today to distinguish between Baptism and Confirmation. In the early Church candidates after being baptised were immediately led to the bishop to receive the Holy Spirit and be  anointed with chrism, but as the numbers of Christians increased, this became more and more difficult to do and so Baptism and Confirmation became separated in time. To understand what we are about here this morning it is important for us to re-establish this connection.

Confirmation is not about us confirming our faith in God … it’s about God confirming his grace given first in Baptism. We begin by inviting you to renew the promises made for you at your Baptism and after a prayer to the Holy Spirit is made over you, you will each be anointed with chrism. Chrism is a mixture of olive oil and perfume, signifying the presence of the Spirit. You will be able to smell the Spirit today! To mark the importance of this occasion you each take a new name. This is a sign that something of fundamental significance will occur in your life, and  indeed it will. A document from the very early centuries of the Church in Jerusalem tells us, “Just as the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Spirit is no longer just bread, but the body of Christ, so when the Holy Spirit has been invoked on the holy chrism, it is no longer mere or ordinary ointment; it is the gift of Christ, which through the presence of the Holy Spirit  instills his divinity into us.” We become “Christs”, or anointed ones! That is no small thing.

Today, we celebrate this sacrament on the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, a feast which reminds us of God’s nearness. Jesus was someone who for the first time here on earth actually knew  something and did not have to speak with clever eloquence. He was someone who gave a name to the great mystery which lies behind everything, and called it Father. In Jesus ascended into heaven, we have entered in a new and unheard of way into the intimacy of God; he is near and we bear his mark, the Holy Spirit with which you are sealed today. He shares this intimacy with  you in a special way in this sacrament of Confirmation; he becomes your friend for life.

Where can we find the Holy Spirit in our lives today? When we receive the strength to see the world as God sees it – that’s the Spirit; when we can accept love, beauty and joy as gifts and be patient  in difficult times; when we have the courage to pray, even in darkness, and know that we are heard; when we finally learn to trust. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. This is all the work of the Holy Spirit.

There exists a community who believes in these things and it is called the Church. The Church promises us the Word, given first in Baptism and more distinctly and urgently in Confirmation and so we are invited once again, here and now, to choose life, to choose these things. You need to leave here today like the disciples left the scene of the Ascension; they returned to Jerusalem full of  joy. They are joyful because what happened was not a separation; it prepared them for a new intimacy, a new friendship, and the gift of the Spirit. It belongs now to you, emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, to make his presence felt by your witness. You are to become Christ bearers and like the disciples accepting the invitation of the two men dressed in white garments, we must not stay looking up at the sky, but, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must go everywhere and proclaim the message of the death and resurrection of Christ by the way we live.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” So, from this moment you are tasked in all you say and in all you do to reveal Christ to others and to bring others to Christ. Confirmation reminds us that Baptism in the power of the Spirit is something which is spread over the whole of life, wherever hope struggles against despair and wherever love remains. It is the Holy Spirit who forms all true community and so Confirmation is the sacrament of the witness of faith lived out in the testimony of daily life and deeds. Do you think you are up to the task?

The Greeks have a phrase which they use at ordinations of deacons, priests and bishops, “Axios”, meaning one is worthy, or deserving, or suitable for the task. Today, we the Church assembled here in this place, have come here to say the same of you – “Axios”, you are worthy.