Chrism Mass at Clifton Cathedral 12 April 2017

The Chrism Mass is a unique event in the life of the Church.
It is the Mass which the Bishop celebrates with his priests and people during Holy Week, in the course of which priests and deacons reaffirm their commitment to their vocation. The Bishop also blesses the Oils which will be used in the administration of the Sacraments throughout the Diocese for the year.

The Mass is a great gathering of the whole diocesan family, with people coming together from so many of our parishes. It is a wonderful feast of good liturgy and liturgical music. During this Mass the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of Chrism are consecrated by Bishop Declan.
We use the Oil of the Sick for anointing those who seek healing and wholeness, the Oil of Catechumens for adult catechumens and infants in preparation for baptism and the sacred Oil of Chrism for post-baptismal anointing, confirmation, the ordination of priests and the consecration of altars.
The three oils are basically olive oil with balm or oil of flower added. One early church writer described the perfume of Chrism as “the Easter aroma, God’s grace incarnate through the sense of smell!”

Through the liturgy of the Church, Christ acts to strengthen and protect, to heal and restore, to set apart and seal for ministry. The Chrism Mass serves to open up these realities to the community of faith.

Bishops have blessed oil from the days of the early church. They baptised catechumens at the Great Easter Vigil and prepared Sacred Chrism fresh for the occasion. Later on, rather than overburdening the Easter Vigil with the blessing of oils, bishops blessed these oils at the previous celebration of Mass on Holy Thursday. After this celebration vessels of oil were then taken to all churches in the diocese. In Rome the one Mass of Holy Thursday served for the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper and the blessing of oils. By the 13th century, the priests gathered for the liturgy were invited to join in the prayers of blessing with the bishop. With relatively minor adjustments, the liturgy remained the same through to the 20th century. In 1955 the rites of Holy Week were revised for the universal Church. The celebration of Holy Thursday became marked by two separate Masses, one in the morning for Chrism, the other in the evening for the Lord’s Supper.

In many dioceses today, the Mass of Chrism is celebrated earlier in Holy Week to enable more people to gather from all corners of the diocese for the celebration at the Cathedral Church

Only the Bishop may consecrate the Sacred Chrism, therefore in a very special way the Chrism Mass highlights his ministry and our union with him. The Bishop is not able to baptise and confirm everyone in the parishes of the diocese, but his ministry is symbolically present in the chrism which the priests and deacons will use. Also in recent years, this Mass has also acknowledged the ministry of priests and deacons. It invites them to renew their commitment of service and to receive the prayers and support of the people. The Mass of Chrism gathers the faithful of the diocese at their mother church with their shepherd to prepare for celebrations of Christ in all our churches throughout the year.

The holy oils are then solemnly received into our Parishes during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper or at another suitable time. The oils are placed in noble and dignified containers and stored near to the baptismal font in an ambry – a wall safe, often with a glazed door so that they are a visible to the community.

Through the liturgy of the Church, Christ acts to strengthen and protect, to heal and restore, to set apart and seal for ministry. The Chrism Mass serves to open up these realities to the community of faith.

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