Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Feast of Pentecost


Joshua said...

Why does it disturb you to give church members stoles or clerical collars "on a number of levels?" Perhaps some answers as to why confirmation stoles are given can be found in the the meaning of confirmation. Do you consider it only an age-of-reason affirmation of baptism, a bestowing of the Holy Spirit, or a rite where laity can relate to apostolic succession?

The Archer of the Forest said...


First of all, apostolic succession has to do with ordination and ecclesiology, not baptism or confirmation per se except as pertains to the concepts of sacramental validity. I have trouble understanding what you mean by defining Confirmation as a "rite where laity can relate to apostolic succession."

I would agree that there is in Confirmation your first two aspects of being an adult affirmation of faith and a bestowing of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is in part the adult "taking on" of promises made on your behalf at baptism, particularly as relates to infant or child baptism. For a church to have a claim to apostolic succession (amongst other things) there has to be the three fold orders of the ordained (deacon, priest, bishop) and the clearly defined roles of ordained clergy and laity. The laity has a role in church ministry, but it is a separate ministry than that of priest or deacon or bishop.

In my opinion, giving Confirmands or Baptismal candidates a stole is a dangerous conflating of the divinely ordered Church as handed down in Tradition by Apostolic Succession. I have seen absolutely no evidence in my studies of the Confirmation stole phenomenon that has any basis in historical Christianity. At best, as far as I can tell, it is a liturgical fad within the last 30 or so years and at worst a money making gimmick by ecclesiastical supply companies.

The only historical context I have been able to surmise (and this is completely my own unsubstantiated guesswork), is that the Confirmation stole concept was taken from the concept of giving a prayer shawl, or tallit, at a Jewish Bar-Mitzvah. But even then, that has become part of the Jewish "rite of passage," which I don't think Confirmation should be properly reinforced as.

Confirmation can be part of a coming of age thing if coming of age means making a religious and adult affirmation of faith within a liturgical community. Church role confusion aside, reinforcing the concept that Confirmation is something that 13 year olds do to come of age in the Church by the liturgical act of a giving of a stole is something that I find concerning.

In any event, the prayer shawl in Jewish tradition is not supposed to be about "getting liturgical bling" at your coming of age rite. The Bible does not command wearing of a unique prayer shawl or tallit. Instead, it presumes the people to already use an outer garment of some type to cover themselves and instructs them to add fringes (tzitzit) to the 4 corners of these (Numbers 15:38, Deuteronomy 22:12). The prayer shawl is to cover oneself while one is praying. Tzitzit are a reminder of the 613 commandments comprising the entire code of law. The fringes themselves were commanded as a reminder not to wander from God's commandments (Numbers 15:39). If the Confirmation stole is something like this, at the very least I am virtually certain the Confirmation stole does not further that liturgical meaning or biblical prayer ideal to people in the Christian context.