Chrism Mass 2015

A brief guide to some of the less familiar aspects of the liturgy you are about to see.

The Chrism Mass is celebrated in the Cathedral during Holy week. As the Chrism Mass begins the ordained ministers process into the Cathedral as a witness of unity around a particular calling to the priestly ministry.

The main focus of the Chrism Mass is the priesthood of Christ. The readings remind us that Jesus was anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They teach us that Jesus then shared His ministry with his disciples. The Chrism Mass is the setting in which the ordained priests (presbyters) publicly renew their commitment to their ministry. The Bishops asks “In the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, are you ready to renew your own dedication to Christ as priests of His new covenant?” The presence of priests gathered around the Bishop at the Chrism mass is a defining symbol of the Catholic Church. This unity is an important part of a priest’s calling and connects each ministry: priest to Bishop, parish church to diocesan church. The Cathedral is the setting for the Chrism Mass because it is an enduring symbol of unity between Bishop and priest.

During the Chrism Mass vessels containing the Holy Oils are presented to the Bishop. The three oils are: The Oil of the Sick for anointing the sick and the dying. The Oil of Catechumens for anointing those preparing to be baptised. The Chrism for anointing those who are to be baptised, confirmed or ordained.

The name “chrism” comes from the Greek word Krisma, “to anoint.” The name “Christ” means the anointed one.” Anointing indicates a special sacredness and a devotion to God’s purpose. The church anoints people; it also anoints buildings. The Bishop blesses the oils and consecrates the Chrism. The use of Holy Oils is one of the indications that all the liturgies in the local church are carried out by virtue of the Bishop’s authority and in communion with him.

In the scriptures, God breathes life into all creation: where there is life, there is the breath of God. Similarly the Bishop breathes upon the Chrism as a sign of the presence and life giving action of God’s Holy Spirit. Chrism is usually olive oil scented with a sweet perfume, usually balsam. The oils are presented back to the parishes at the Maundy Thursday Mass. The distribution takes place in no other setting but a Cathedral. From this one source our churches are equipped for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Sacrament of the sick and Holy Orders.