CHRISM MASS: THE TRADITION
Chrism Mass takes its name from the blessing of oil included within an otherwise customary ordo for mass. Three oils, all traditionally called Holy Oil (Olea Sancta) are blessed: one (Holy Chrism) used at baptism, confirmation, the receiving of consecration or ordination, and the blessing of liturgical objects used to the praise and glory of God; one (Oil of the Catechumens) for those preparing for baptism; and one (Oil of the Sick) for the sick and dying. That these several uses relate to Christ’s death and resurrection makes Chrism Mass especially appropriate during Holy Week. So, too, is the affirmation of the great variety of Christian vocations, all an extension of the ministries to which God calls us in baptism.
Olive trees, some of the oldest and most durable trees on earth, are ancient symbols of longevity. The same sense of permanence is attributed to oil extracted from the olives of these trees, and for this reason, along with olive oil’s natural healing properties, have led people to anoint with oil as a sign and seal of God’s steadfast love. As a tangible sign accompanied by the promise of God’s presence, generous anointing with oil can provide meaningful pastoral care.
If your congregation does not have practice with anointing with oil, consider speaking with lay leaders about ways it could be introduced: Holy Communion with rites of healing, hospital visitations, baptisms and consecrations, and special attention to catechumens. If you consider displaying oils as a sign of unity within the church, do so with dignity, and be certain to keep the oil away from direct sunlight, as exposure can make the oil rancid.
The Rite provided below is appropriate at the beginning of your congregation’s Holy Thursday liturgy, or at some other time at which these rich symbols can be received with dignity. Oils that were blessed last year should be disposed of with dignity as well. A common practice is to burn them in widely-available burners or by placing an oil-soaked towel or old Altar linen(s) in the Easter Fire.
RITE FOR RECEPTION OF OILS
This rite is intended for inclusion in the liturgy of Holy Thursday. Logical modifications should be made for use at other times.
Sisters and brothers, on this most holy night we enter into the three-day celebration of our Lord’s victory over death. Those [of our community] who are to be baptized this Easter will be made one with Christ, dying to sin and rising to newness of life. Our congregation presented oils to be blessed and set apart for the sacramental life of our congregation at our Synod’s Chrism Mass on March 30, 2021. Bishop Egensteiner was the presider and administered the blessing for the Oil of Catechumens–the Oil of Chrism –The Oil of Sick.
The oil of the sick.
By laying on of hands and anointing with this oil, and with the prayerful support of this community, may those who are sick experience the healing presence of Christ. Amen
The oil of catechumens.
Anointed with this oil, and assisted by the example of this community, may those who are to be baptized know that Christ calls them by name, makes them his own and shares with them his victory over sin and the power of evil. Amen
The oil of chrism.
Anointed with this oil, may all who are baptized and confirmed fill the world with the sweet fragrance of Christ’s Gospel and be built up as living stones into a temple filled with the Holy Spirit. Amen
Exhortation/Confession and Forgiveness follow.