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Chrism Mass

Chrism MassWelcome to Holy Week 2009. Although I was on the road last week I did make it home in time to attend our Chrism Mass.

This is a photo from right after all the priests in our diocese went up on the Altar for the blessing of the holy oils by our Bishop Gaydos.

It’s a beautiful Mass and I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend. Here’s a description of the purpose of Chrism (holy oil) from Wikipedia:

Chrism is essential for the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation/Chrismation, and is prominently used in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Orders. Those to be confirmed or chrismated, after receiving the laying on of hands, are anointed on the head by the bishop or priest. In baptism, if the person baptized is not to be immediately confirmed or chrismated, the minister anoints them with chrism. Newly ordained priests are anointed with chrism on the palms of their hands, and newly ordained bishops receive an anointing of chrism on their foreheads. It is also used in the consecration of objects such as churches and altars.

In former times, chrism was used to consecrate patens and chalices as well. A Cross would be formed with the chrism into the chalice and paten on the interior parts where the Eucharist would rest; the Cross would then be smeared to cover the entire interior parts. The chalice and paten would need to be consecrated with the chrism again if they are re-gilded, and this ritual may only be performed by a Bishop or a priest with the faculties to do so. However, this is no longer the practice, and a simple blessing by a priest suffices.

Chrism is usually olive oil (although other plant oils can be used in cases when olive oil is unavailable) and is scented with a sweet perfume, usually balsam. Under normal circumstances, chrism is consecrated by the bishop of the particular church in the presence of the presbyterium at the Mass of the Chrism, which takes place on Holy Thursday. The oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick are also blessed at this Mass.

These holy oils are usually stored in special vessels known as chrismaria and kept in a cabinet known as an ambry. When the oils are distributed to a priest for him to use in his ministy they are kept in a smaller vessel with three compartments, known as an “oil stock”. There is also a type of oil stock that is shaped like a ring, to make the anointing easier. The “jewel” of the ring is a container with a removeable lid.

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