Today Fr. Uche and I concelebrated Mass with our Bishop and the other priests of our Diocese in the Chrism Mass, which is held every year during Holy Week.
The Chrism Mass is the primary celebration for the local Church when the Bishop gathers around the altar with his priests to share our commitment to serving the Lord, Jesus Christ. Fr. Uche and I don’t have our own priesthood, but share in the Bishop’s priesthood of Jesus Christ. Together with our brother priests we renewed the solemn promises we made at our ordinations to spend our lives serving Jesus Christ and you, the People of God.
The Mass is called the “Chrism” Mass because the Bishop consecrates the Holy Oils that the priests will use in our ministry in our parishes. The Holy Oils, blessed by the Bishop are a sign of our unity with the Church of the Diocese of Austin.
There are three Holy Oils: Sacred Chrism. The Oil of Catechumens, and the Oil of the Sick. These oils are used to anoint and to show the love of God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout our lives.
First, a short history lesson: As we heard in the Scriptures, God “anoints” his chosen ones, his prophets, those chosen for inclusion in his Kingdom, and those chosen for special service to others. We don’t possess anywhere in human language a way to say how God participates and acts in our lives. That is why we use signs and symbols to say what otherwise we cannot utter. We didn’t choose these symbols arbitrarily. God told prophets to anoint with oil. Jesus spoke of anointing. Even the symbolism was chosen by God. We anoint out of obedience to God.
We hear that God “anointed” his only Son, our Messiah. How do we possibly understand and say what “anointing” means when God does it? Human language is inadequate to the task. So, we must rely on symbols.
Jesus was “anointed” with water in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. At the same time, the Holy Spirit descended upon him, and a voice was heard from the Heavens saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” In the final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ commands his Church, the first apostles, to, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
Consequently, we understand the basic anointing of Christians to be with water at baptism and with the Holy Spirit. The baptized receive the Holy Spirit many times. First, at Baptism with Sacred Chrism. Then at Confirmation, again with Sacred Chrism.
The basis of all the Holy Oils is olive oil, which has been used for anointing since the beginning of recorded history. Sacred Chrism is olive oil mixed by the Bishop with balsam, an expensive, aromatic perfume. The Bishop breathes on the Chrism. The glistening of the oil and the wonderful smell of Sacred Chrism become the outward sign of the anointing of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the anointed. Being anointed by God, being touched by the Holy Spirit, changes a human being forever, preparing him or her for eternal salvation and service to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus was anointed with Sacred Chrism. All of you were anointed at your baptism with Sacred Chrism to signify the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon your entry into the Church. Most of you were anointed with Sacred Chrism by the bishop on the day you received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
When bishops are ordained, Sacred Chrism is poured over their heads. When priests are ordained, our hands are anointed with Sacred Chrism indicating that through the power of the Holy Spirit we may consecrate the Holy Eucharist.
When people are coming into the Church and preparing for baptism, they are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens. We pray for them to be strengthened for their coming struggles as baptized Christians.
The Oil of the Sick is used in the Sacrament of the Sick which has the effect of freeing the sick from any sin they may have committed, and Jesus promises to raise them up. It is a tradition among Catholics to pray that a priest will be present when we are faced with serious illness or death. Through Holy Anointing with the Oil of the Sick and with Holy Communion, the dying are blessed in the Holy Spirit and prepared to enter heaven without sin.
The word Christ means the anointed one of God, the Messiah, the Son of God. We call ourselves Christians because we follow Christ as his “anointed”. Christians are “anointed” throughout our earthly lives as we are united more and more to Him with the help of the Holy Oils. We don’t speak enough about this with our Protestant brothers and sisters. If they knew what it meant, they would be asking us to be anointed, as we are as Catholics. We are Christians because we are anointed. Without anointing, how can we be Christians?
We often refer to the Holy Oils as the “Oil of Gladness” because they represent the Holy Spirit who comes to us in God’s blessings.
Those who are anointed are given a mission. Remember how it all happened: God sent Jesus. Jesus sent the Apostles. The Apostles sent the Church. God anointed Jesus. Jesus is the anointed one of God, anointed with the Oil of Gladness, the Holy Spirit. Jesus anointed the Apostles. The Apostles anointed and sent the Church … to anoint the whole world with the Oil of Gladness.