CHRISM MASS 2015: Maria Trost Tuesday 31st of March
Chrism Mass is held during Holy Week in every Catholic diocese in the world. The Bishop blesses the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and consecrates the Sacred Chrism, and these holy oils are distributed to all parishes.
In ancient Greece and Rome oil was used by athletes to limber up muscles. Oil was believed to bring strength and protection. Oil was also used for its healing properties, as the Good Samaritan poured oil into the wounds of the injured man (Luke 10:34). Oil was poured on the head as a sign of belonging, for example, in the initiation of Roman soldiers. In the Old Testament oil was used to consecrate altars, sacred places and sacred vessels, as well as to anoint priests. Prophets were also considered anointed by God’s Spirit to speak powerfully and with authority in God’s name. Kings were anointed to rule God’s people. Anointing was also a sign of God’s strength, favor, and a sign of the joy of being God’s servant, as in Psalm 45:8: “God your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness…” Oil was an important ingredient in preparing the food that kept people alive. Oil was poured over the head of guests as a sign of welcome.
The biblical word for one who was anointed was “messiah.” Translated into Greek, the language of the New Testament, messiah becomes Christos, or Christ. When we call Jesus our Messiah, we are saying that he was anointed by God to announce God’s word—the Good News of salvation—to God’s people. In Luke, Jesus says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” Luke 4:18.
Baptism makes us Christians, that is, anointed ones who share in the life of the crucified and risen Jesus, God’s anointed one. The Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick are blessed; Sacred Chrism is consecrated. Only the bishop may consecrate Sacred Chrism. When these oils are used to anoint people in the sacraments, they are symbolic of Bishop’s presence, even though he cannot be present at every Baptism, or Confirmation or Anointing of the Sick.
All of the oils are olive oil. The Oil of Catechumens is used at Baptism to strengthen and purify catechumens before baptizing in water. The Oil of the Sick is used in Anointing of the Sick to bring the strengthening and healing power of Christ. Sacred Chrism is a mixture of olive oil and fragrant balsam. Balsam is an oily, resinous and fragrant substance from plants. It symbolizes an innocent life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Since Sacred Chrism consecrates and enables us to live out the call to follow Jesus the Christ (the anointed one), it is used:
• In Baptism to anoint the newly baptized on the crown of the head.
• At Confirmation when the bishop anoints the forehead of those who are confirmed.
• In Holy Orders when the bishop anoints the hands of the candidate to the priesthood; the bishop anoints the head of a priest being consecrated a bishop.
• To consecrate the altar and anoint the walls in the dedication ceremony of a church.
The bishop mixes the balsam into the oil for Sacred Chrism and breathes over the open vessel in the sign of the cross. This is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who blew over the face of the waters before creation (Gen 1:2b), and of the risen Jesus, who appeared to his disciples and breathed on them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit…” (John 20:22-23). It is the Holy Spirit who consecrates this oil through the bishop’s invocation.
The large urns for the holy oils and the small bottles that transport the oils back to the parishes may bear the initials of their Latin names:
OS= Oleum Sanctum = Oil of Catechumens
OI =Oleum Infirmorum = Oil of the Sick
SC =Sanctum Chrisma = Sacred Chrism
In the Cathedral the holy oils are kept in a special glass cabinet called an ambry, located close to the baptismal font. It reminds all who see it of the anointing which unites and strengthens us to live as one body in Christ, and comes to us through the ministry of his Church.
Chrism Mass is the preeminent manifestation of the priests’ and deacons communion with the bishop. Standing before the bishop, priests renew their commitment to priestly service, promising fidelity in fulfilling their office in the Church.
Chrism Mass is a celebration of the entire Christian community:
• a community that gathers around Bishop as one body made up of many parts, with Christ as its head,
• a community whose oneness comes from its union with the crucified and risen Jesus—God’s anointed one—through Baptism,
• a community that shares in the riches and consolation of Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit through the sacramental ministry of its Bishop and priests.
(Adapted by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship)
I invite, especially us priests, to consider three words:
Leadership: We priests are anointed leaders as we heard in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, chosen by God through the church, we are ministers of God’s words and sacraments, sent to bring good news to the poor, heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to prisoners, to show mercy and kindness to all.
Service: We are leaders to serve, especially to serve our lay people. We are not bosses who rule and demand other to obey our decisions. We are servants of God, bringing God’s mercy to people. We need to respect people. We choose the way of listening, of patient dialogue and cooperation with the DPC, PPCs, LPCs, PFCs, sodalities and associations and all structures and people in the church and in the wider society. We never get upset, hungry or belittle or criticize people in front of others, even those who criticize and oppose us. Hungry words can wound deeply. Some time we lose patience and we can get into a public fight with somebody. In this case need to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness to the people with whom we have argued.
Any time we assume an attitude of confrontation and arguing or we take unilateral decisions we are in the wrong, even if the reasons moving us to act in such a way are right. At times we want to change things, usually for the better. But how we change things is very important. We should find out why things are done in a particular way, dialoguing especially with those who are resistant to change and taking their explanations seriously, especially when we abolish or change Masses or other celebrations that were done for years in a certain way or in a certain time in a parish, in a local community, in a school or with a sodality. We need to give people time to digest our proposals. We must avoid upsetting people. If people get upset, it is a sign for us to slow down, to consult more and pray more about the issue. Our attitude must be: “People owe me nothing. I own them everything. As a priest I am sent, anointed to serve them, not to be served by them.”
Love: These Holy Week we look at Jesus. He loves all people even those who are not doing good. He loves Judas who betrays him, Peter who denies him three times, his other Apostle who abandon him; the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees who hate him and have him killed, the soldiers who kill him. He conquers indifference, oppression, injustice, lies, hate, violence, spitting, scourging, evil, death, by forgiveness and endurance. He chooses not to feel offended. He lets no impatience, bitterness, spite and resentment enter into his heart. He loves all people until death. He loves each one of us until death. We priest are anointed to be like him. What a challenge for us as we minster and serve our people in his name!