Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This coming week an important celebration in the life of the Church takes place. Contrary to what the Irish might think, it is not St. Patrick’s Day. Contrary to what the Polish might think, it is not St. Joseph’s Day. What I am referring to is the annual celebration of the Chrism Mass. Yes, this liturgy cuts across all ethnic/national boundaries. Every Catholic diocese around the world includes this gathering in the final weeks of their preparation for the coming Easter Triduum. Everyone is invited to attend this liturgy—7:00pm on March 17th at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
During the Chrism Mass, the priests, deacons and representatives of the entire diocesan community gather around their Bishop, who blesses the Holy Oils for use in the coming year. These are: the Oil of the Catechumen, the Oil of the Sick and the Sacred Chrism. Whenever the Holy Oils are used in a diocese, the ministry of the Bishop who consecrated them is symbolically present.
I. Significance of the Chrism Mass
Unity, Renewal of Vows and Promises
The Chrism Mass reminds us of our oneness in Christ through Baptism and its holy anointing, made possible by the ministry of the Bishop and his priests and deacons. The Chrism Mass is also a key moment in which the unity of the Bishop with his priests and deacons (together, they form the presbyterate) is manifested and renewed. During the liturgy, the entire assembly is called to renew its baptismal promises; deacons and priests also renew their vow of obedience to the local Bishop and their commitment to serve God’s people. At the end of the Chrism Mass, the Holy Oils are brought back to parishes of the diocese for use in the coming year.
One Flock, One Eucharist Gathered Around the Bishop
The Bishop is to be considered the high priest of his flock from whom the life of his people in Christ is in some way derived and on whom it in some way depends. Therefore, all should hold in the greatest esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the Bishop, especially in his cathedral church. They must be convinced that the principal manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of all God’s holy people in the same liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in one prayer, at one altar, at which the Bishop presides, surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers.
(Second Vatican Council. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), No. 41)
II. Significance of the Holy Oils
Anointing with oil has all these meanings in the sacramental life. The pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of catechumens signifies cleansing and strengthening; the anointing of the sick expresses healing and comfort. The post-baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in Confirmation and Ordination is the sign of consecration. By Confirmation Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off ‘the aroma of Christ.’
[2 Cor 2, 15]) Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1294.
As our bishop blesses these three oils at the Chrism Mass this year, our hearts turn to our gracious Lord who bestows His infinite love and mercy to us through these sacraments. Let us pray for our bishop and priests and deacons who are the ministers of the sacraments in our parish, that they may be the humble and generous servants of the Lord. Let us pray for all Catholics as we rejoice in the “real presence” of Christ found in the Sacraments.