Today Fr. Victor and I concelebrated Mass with our Bishop and most of 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 in holiness our commitment to serving the Lord, Jesus Christ. Fr. Victor and I don’t have our own priesthood. We only participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in unity with our bishop and our brother priests.
Today was my first Chrism Mass as a priest. Together with my 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, among them the Sacred Chrism. The Holy Oils are consecrated at the Chrism Mass and these are then distributed to each parish. Shortly we will receive these Holy Oils blessed by the Bishop in service to our parishioners in the coming year here at our parish. 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 baptized Catholics at certain points in our lives, 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 special 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 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 on the anointed. Being anointed by God 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, their hands are anointed with Sacred Chrism indicating that they may celebrate the Sacred Eucharist because they have received the Holy Spirit in Priesthood.
When people are coming into the Church and preparing for baptism, they are often anointed with the Oil of Catechumens. In baptism we anoint children on the breast to prepare them for receiving baptism. We pray for them to be strengthened for their coming struggles as baptized Christians.
In the Bible we hear Jesus and the apostles speak of anointing of the sick. 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. I’ve been amazed at the amount of Oil of the Sick that Fr. Victor and I use here in this parish. We do a lot of anointing of the sick. Last Fall we ran out of Oil of the Sick and had to get more from the Diocese. It is a tradition among Catholics to pray that a priest will be present when we are faced with serious illness or death. With 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. 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.
Anointing has a mission. 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.