We gain much insight into the ecclesiology of our Church from the prayers of the Chrism Mass. This opportunity to worship God is a moment to recognize the beauty and splendor of the Church. In this celebration, we experience the communion within the Totus Christus, the entire Body of Christ.
Liturgy of the Word
The passages of Sacred Scripture found in the Liturgy of the Word lead us to recognize from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9) the words that Jesus proclaims himself in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 4:16-21): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. The Lord, the anointed one brings glad tidings to the poor and gives them the oil of gladness.” Our response of gratitude is, “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 89).
Renewal of Priestly Promises
Following the Liturgy of the Word and the homily, we witness the renewal of priestly promises. After the Second Vatican Council, Saint Pope Paul VI discerned that this Mass was opportune for a renewal of the Priestly Promises of all ordained ministerial priests. The Mass is concelebrated and thus demonstrates that, although many priests make up a diocesan presbyterate, they all participate in the one Priesthood of Christ.
They are asked to confirm those promises prompted by love of Christ on the day of priestly ordination.
They are asked to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist …not seeking any gain but moved only by the zeal for souls.
We, as sons and daughters, are asked to pray for our priests, that they may be faithful ministers of Christ, the High Priest, and lead us to him, who is the source of our salvation.
We are asked to pray for our Archbishop, entrusted with the apostolic office, that day by day he may be a more perfect image of Christ. This is at the heart of our ecclesiology: there is only one Christ.
Those ordained to the priesthood speak the words of Christ at the consecration of the Holy Eucharist as they say, “this is my body – this is my blood.” In the Holy Eucharist we receive the true body of Jesus himself. Moreover, when we are gathered, the priests with the faithful, all participate in the Totus Christus – the Head and Body of Christ. It is the Mystical Body of Christ that is the foundation for the People of God.
Blessing of the Holy Oils
After the renewal of Priestly Promises, the oils are solemnly brought forward in procession, typically accompanied by the chanting of the hymn O Redemptor. The texts of this hymn recall the goodness of creation, acknowledging that the oil is from the ripened fruit of olive trees. In prayers of hope we ask for newness, cleansing, and healing, as the Church has through the ages, while we await the light of eternal glory.
The oil of the sick (OI - Oleo infirmarum), is used for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. It may be blessed within the Eucharistic Prayer or for pastoral reasons with the other two oils after the homily. This prayer of blessing includes hope for healing and strength of body, soul, and spirit.
The oil of catechumens is blessed with prayers alluding to courage necessary to assist those preparing for new life in Christ through baptism. Anointing with this oil during the catechumenate and the scrutinies of the elect is accompanied by prayers of exorcism which assist one in resisting the power of sin and the devil as they prepare for baptism.
Finally, the consecration of Chrism is twofold:there is a mixing of the balsam (perfume) with olive oil. The Bishop breathes over the vessel with the oil. During the invocation of the Holy Spirit, all concelebrating priests extend their right hand toward the oil of chrism. The text of the prayer of consecration includes the dignity and mystery of Baptism and concludes with asking that the Church (the baptized) become partakers of eternal life and sharers of heavenly glory. Sacred Chrism is used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as the consecration of an altar.
We Find a Path to Follow
The ecclesiology of the Chrism Mass points to the truth that each of us have a path to follow. Our path corresponds to the unique, individual gifts we’ve received, as well as our openness to grace – a gift from God.
The Holy Oils and the celebration of the Chrism Mass remind us that every encounter with another is an opportunity to bring that person (and ourselves) closer to Christ. Symbolically, the Chrism Mass heightens our awareness of the universality of the Church and our mission to go therefore and baptize. We are privileged to serve as intentional, joyful missionary disciples who are dedicated to unleashing the Gospel through evangelization.
Please join us for the Chrism Mass this Holy Week, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. If you are unable to join, please pray for our priests as they renew their Priestly Promises. We all thank our Lord, with Blessed Solanus Casey, ahead of time, for the many gifts of grace that are showering upon the Archdiocese of Detroit as we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord.