by Rev. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D.

At Baptism, we hear of the role of the Holy Spirit in the prayer over the baptismal water:
Father, look now with love on your Church,
and unseal for her the fountain of baptism.
By the power of the Spirit
give to the water of this font
the grace of your Son...
cleanse [those to be baptized] from sin in a new birth of innocence
by water and the Spirit.         
(Roman Sacramentary)
At Confirmation, we learn the implications of this new life in the Holy Spirit:
All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit
you freed your sons and daughters from sin
And gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of [1] wisdom and [2] understanding,
the spirit of [3] right judgment and [4] courage,
the spirit of [5] knowledge and [6] reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of [7] wonder and awe in your presence.
     (Rite of Confirmation)
This prayer names the traditional "Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit." The biblical origin of these seven gifts is found in Isaiah (11:1-3) where he is foretelling the qualities of the Messiah.
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
These seven gifts are the signs that the Messiah will be guided by the Spirit. The relation of these gifts to the sacrament of Confirmation becomes clear when we remember that the word "Messiah" (Christos in Greek) means "anointed." Jesus was "anointed," filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. At Confirmation we are anointed with the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Gospels we see how these seven gifts form Jesus' personality. They are characteristic of his activity. Consider the wisdom expressed in his parables; his understanding of the poor and the sick; his right judgment when tested by the Pharisees; his courage to continue the journey to Jerusalem where he surmised what fate awaited him; his knowledge of God's will; his reverence for his heavenly Father; his awe before the wonders of creation—the lilies of the field, the birds of the air....The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are the manifestation of the Divine Power active in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
In Baptism, our sins are washed away and we come up from the water bath to be clothed in a new garment. Putting on the baptismal garment is a visible symbol of the invisible reality of "putting on Christ." When we are anointed with oil in Confirmation, it is a visible symbol of the invisible reality of being anointed with the Spirit, being "Christ-ed" or "messiah-ed." We put on Christ, and the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit become our gifts. We pray that the qualities of the Messiah take root in us and become our qualities so that we may become signs of God's presence in the world.
At the actual anointing during Confirmation we hear the words: "(Name), be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." Here the gift referred to is the Holy Spirit himself. We are sealed with the gift of (that is, the gift which is) the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's "first gift to those who believe" (Eucharistic Prayer IV).

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