Chances are that you’ve noticed three jars on a shelf in the front of your church. They contain the Holy Oils used in administering the sacraments. The oils include the oil of the sick, used in the anointing of the sick; the oil of catechumens, which is for those preparing to be baptized, and the chrism oil, which is consecrated and used for baptism, confirmation, and holy orders. All are pure olive oil with a bit of balsam and balm added by the bishop to the Sacred Chrism as it is consecrated. They are among the external signs of the internal working of God’s grace in the sacraments.
At the conclusion of the celebration, each priest is given his parish’s oil supply for the following year. The new oils will appear in those jars in the front of your church until they are needed for sacramental celebrations.
Blessing of the oils is not the only important event that occurs during the Chrism Mass. The priests, together with the bishop, renew their priestly promises. They commit themselves to be faithful stewards of the mysteries (sacraments) of God and in following Christ the head and shepherd. The Chrism Mass, concelebrated by the bishop and all the priests of the diocese, symbolizes their unity with the bishop in fulfilling their priestly promises.
The Gospel, most appropriate for this Year of Mercy, is taken from Luke and emphasizes the priestly call to merciful discipleship as Jesus echoes Isaiah 61 in announcing his own anointing as redeemer.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. (Luke 4:16-21)
Traditionally the Holy Oils are consecrated and blessed on the morning of Holy Thursday. But, for a number of reasons, the Church permits the Chrism Mass to be scheduled at another time near Easter. In the Diocese of Dallas, this will occur Tuesday evening of Holy Week at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is a public celebration and all are welcome to this beautiful and significant liturgy.
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