Chrism Mass explained
The word ‘Chrism’ derives from the Greek word “khrisma” meaning ‘anointing’. Chrism Mass is an annual Eucharistic Celebration in which oils used for anointing during the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Order and the Anointing of the Sick are being blessed by the Bishop.
Rooted in the early Church tradition as noted in Gelasian Sacramentary (named after Pope Gelasius, d 496), the celebration of Chrism Mass was later absorbed into the Holy Thursday evening Mass. In the compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pope Pius XII, it was reinstituted as a special Mass of the Chrism distinct from the evening Mass.
For pastoral reasons, the Archdiocese of Kuching has for many years, been celebrating the Chrism Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral during the monthly recollection day of all priests closest to the Holy Thursday. This year, it will be celebrated on Wednesday, 23 March, at 7.30 pm at the Cathedral.
Two Vital Parts of the Chrism Mass: Blessing of Holy Oils and Renewal of Priestly Promises
Blessings of Holy Oils
The Oil of the Sick for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens for the Sacrament of Baptism and Oil of Chrism for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, are blessed during the Chrism Mass. The liturgical rite of Chrism Mass allows 2 different timings of blessing:
- the blessing of the Oil of the sick to take place before the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, but the blessing of the Oil of Catechumens and the consecration of the Chrism take place after communion;
- for pastoral reasons, it is permitted for the entire blessing to take place after the liturgy of the Word.
Our Archdiocese has always opted for the second.
Before the final dismissal, the Archbishop hands over these three Blessed Oils to the Parish Priest of each parish symbolising the entrusting of the administration of the sacraments of each parish to Parish Priests and priests of the parish. The blessing of Holy Oils and the entrusting of them to priests, emphasises the intimate bonding between the Bishop of the diocese and his priests, their unity and communion in service of the people of God.
Renewal of priestly Promises
This Concelebrating of the Chrism Mass by all priests of the diocese together with their Bishop and faithful is also the locus for the annual priestly promises to rededicate themselves to the priestly ministry, to celebrate the Eucharist and other liturgical rites, to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ as the head and Shepherd. The faithful are also reminded to pray for their priests and bishop unceasingly.
Presence of the faithful at Chrism Mass
The underlining beneficiary of the celebration of the Chrism Mass is the People of God. The blessed Oils for the use of sacraments aim to benefit God’s people and the priestly ministry of which priests at Chrism Mass renew is at the service of the faithful. Hence, maximum participation at Chrism Mass not only affirms the faithful’s support of their priests but also expresses their personal faith in the priesthood and the Church’s sacraments.
Let us all come in full force and join in the Chrism Mass to pray especially for our local church in the Archdiocese of Kuching.
Fr Vincent Chin, STL (Liturgy)
Today’s Catholic Vol.27 No.12 March 2016