All too soon we have began the holy week with the celebration of Palm Sunday. One of the significant celebrations within this week is the Chrism Mass.
The Bishop, joined by the priests of his diocese, come together to celebrate the Chrism Mass (also known as Mass of the Oils). It is ordinarily celebrated on Holy Thursday, before the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. When it is not possible, it can be transferred to another day within the Holy Week before Thursday.
What happens within Chrism Mass?
In this Mass, the bishop will BLESS two Oils – The Oil of Catechumens (Oleum Catechumenorum [O.C]) or Oleum Sanctorum[O.S]), the Oil of the Infirm (Oleum Infirmorum [O.I], and also CONSECRATE one – Sacred Chrism (Sacrum Chrisma [S.C]).
These Oils are used in the administration of the Sacraments throughout the year till the next Chrism Mass.
The Oil of Catechumens
This is used for those preparing to receive Baptism, is applied on the chest, right after the prayer of exorcism. This anointing, symbolizes the person’s need for the help and strength of God to sever the bondage of the past and to overcome the opposition of the devil so that he may profess his faith, come to baptism, and live as a child of God. The oil gives the strength to continue our struggle against sin.
Oil of the Infirm (Sick)
This is used for all that are seriously ill and in danger of death, during the Anointing of the Sick, previously known as Extreme Unction. Through this Spiritual Oil, we are healed by the Holy Spirit, in body and Soul. When used on a dying person, this oil provides us with a final strengthening needed as we enter eternity. (Jas 5:14-15).
This is used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, since they impart an indelible sacramental character. This Sacred Chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam, through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
The oil in Baptism symbolizes for individuals the rebirth through water and a share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal missions of Jesus Christ, right after the actual baptism in the present rite, the priest anoints the person on the crown of the head with chrism.
In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the bishop anoints the forehead of the candidate with chrism saying, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The oil reaffirms and strengthens the baptized individual to continue as a witness of Christ to the world.
In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, through the words of the Bishop, the Holy Spirit anoints the hands of the priest, who will consecrate and distribute the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. And in the ordination rite of a bishop, the consecrating bishop anoints the head of the new bishop.
Another use of the Holy Chrism is used in the dedication ceremony of a church. Here the bishop anoints the altar, pouring holy chrism on the middle of the altar and on each of its four corners. It is recommended that the bishop anoint the entire altar. After anointing the altar, he anoints the walls of the Church in 12 or four places marked by crosses.
The blessing of the Holy Chrism is different from that of the other oils: The bishop breathes over the vessel of chrism, which symbolizes both the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate this oil, and the life-giving, sanctifying nature of the character of the sacraments for which it is used. (Recall how our Lord “breathed” on the apostles on the night of Easter, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (Jn 20:22).
All priests at the Chrism Mass also extend their right hands toward the chrism as the bishop says the consecratory prayer, signifying that in union with their bishop.
The Priests and Deacons at this Mass also renew their promises and commitment to serve God and his people during the celebration.
Pray for your priests in a special way this holy week.
God bless you.
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