Skip to comments.Chrism Mass: Sharing in the Anointing of the Christ
Posted on 03/30/2010 8:24:33 PM PDT by Salvation
|Chrism Mass: Sharing in the Anointing of the Christ
|By Rev. Christopher Bazyouros
One of my favorite moments in the Rite of Baptism for Children is the post-baptismal anointing with chrism oil. Its fragrant aroma stirs profound memories of moments in my life, especially those connected with my priesthood.
One moment, certainly, was the day of my priestly ordination when that same oil was poured over my hands by Cardinal Roger Mahony. The foundation of that moment was laid many months before at the celebration of the Chrism Mass on 14 April, 2003. My classmates and I, being deacons at the time, were invited to carry in some of the trays holding the bottles of chrism to be consecrated at the Mass. Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, the Cathedral's pastor, walked up to us and said, "You know, the chrism being consecrated today will be used for your ordination in May."
Many times we approach the sacraments without considering their origins. This is, in fact, an opportunity to rediscover the deep meaning of the signs and symbols we use during those rites. What does this anointing mean for us, and why is it important to participate in the Chrism Mass?
Every year, all the faithful in every diocese around the world are invited to their Cathedral Church to celebrate the Liturgy in which sacred chrism is consecrated and the oils of the sick and catechumens are blessed. These oils are signs of God's goodness and generosity and are used in the sacramental rites of every parish in the archdiocese; a continuation of God's salvific action in Christ Jesus.
The presence of all the faithful at this liturgy is extremely important. As St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, "But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share in its joy" (1 Cor. 24-26).
The Chrism Mass is an opportunity for all the faithful to share in the joy that these oils will bring: those who are sick, those who are preparing for baptism especially at Easter Vigil, and all those to be confirmed or ordained. Although we may not be present for each individual celebration of these sacraments, by participating in the Chrism Mass we share in the joy of those sacred moments because we know those oils will not remain in the bottles unused, but will be poured out again and again upon those in need.
Every year we are reminded that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ: the anointed One of God. Jesus, the Messiah, was sent to free God's people from the slavery of death. The Chrism Mass is a means to prepare for the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery during the Triduum, the days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
The high point during the Triduum is the Easter Vigil, at which adults and children of catechetical age are fully initiated. During their catechumenate period, they are anointed with the oil of catechumens. This anointing is intended to help them open fully to Christ in baptism, an intention that is revealed in the prayer of exorcism over the catechumens: "We pray for these your servants who have opened their ears and hearts to your word. Grant that they may grasp your moment of grace."
As we make ready to celebrate the mysteries of our redemption, we also must pray that we are open to Jesus' "moment of grace" with us not just individually, but also as a Church, a community of faith.
Historically the Chrism Mass was celebrated on Holy Thursday morning and is still celebrated on this day in many dioceses today. This proximity to the Mass of the Lord's Supper shows the connection between the Paschal Mystery --- the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus --- and the sacramental life of the Church. These oils, which are used for many of the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick) are intimately connected to the Eucharist and Holy Orders.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles chooses another day for the Mass to allow for greater participation by all the faithful in the archdiocese. This is not done for convenience but speaks of a very important element in the Chrism Mass. In the Ordination Rite of Priests, the ordaining bishop offers a prayer of consecration for the men over which he has laid his hands, an ancient symbol of conferring the Spirit of God from one person to another. In this prayer, he says: "Lord, grant also to us such fellow workers, for we are weak and our need is greater." We need God. We cannot save ourselves by our own power. All God's people, great and small, must come together to seek the saving power of Christ.
The Gospel for the Chrism Mass is taken from St. Luke. In this reading, Jesus enters the synagogue in his hometown on the Sabbath and reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me " (Luke 4: 18). This moment takes place after Jesus' baptism in the Jordan and his 40 days of fasting and temptation in the desert. Jesus returns from this time of preparation to begin his ministry of proclaiming glad tidings to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to those who are oppressed, a year acceptable to the Lord.
Certainly, Jesus' whole life was bent towards healing and reconciliation, to freeing those who had been oppressed by illness and evil spirits. The heart of the Chrism Mass is that Jesus' ministry, his salvific work, still continues today.
This is beautifully expressed in the prayer of blessing the oil for the sick: "Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction."
This saving action is not for the benefit of a few people but for all. Every single one of us needs the saving power of God each and every day. The Chrism Mass traditionally has been a liturgy in which all the faithful: lay, religious and ordained, gather as one people of faith, as the Body of Christ to implore God's mercy and sanctification. The "glad tidings to the poor" are that for another year, God continues to enrich us with his grace through the sacraments.
By sharing in God's grace and in the anointing of Jesus, we also share in his mission: to proclaim the Good News. As we receive this grace from God we are then called and sent to a world that is desperately yearning for healing and guidance, for hope and love.
The Chrism Mass forms part of our preparation for the Triduum by calling all the faithful together to seek God's mercy and grace. In the blessing and consecration of the holy oils for the sacramental life of the Church, Jesus continues his work of bringing liberation from sin and death and anoints us as co-workers in the plan of salvation. We still get sick. Men and women seek to bind their love in life-long commitments. We grow hungry and thirsty. People are born and die every day. Relationships, broken in anger and selfishness, long for reconciliation. The Chrism Mass reminds us that only in God do these moments find their true meaning.
Father Christopher Bazyouros is administrator at St. Albert the Great Church, Rancho Dominguez, and a member of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission. Editor's note: This article is part of a monthly series --- begun in February and prepared by members of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission --- that will address various areas of liturgy. The first article, by Sylvia DeVillers on the initiation process (Feb. 20), is available at www.the-tidings.com/2009/022009/liturgy.htm.
Were any of you able to attend a Chrism Mass this year? I did two years ago and it was just awesome.
Official text of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily for the Chrism Mass
Priests: Ordinary Men Made Extraordinary by Grace [Holy Orders/Chrism Mass]
Chrism Mass oils have power, Bishop says
Being Catholic: Sacred Things, Holy Oils
The Chrism Mass
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Also Vocation Awareness Week is the week of April 25th.
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