The Chrism Mass- Anointed with the Oil of Gladness

After a long Lent, Holy Week has snuck up on us.  With Palm Sunday, we began venturing out to the solemn liturgies leading up to Easter.  Monday night we attended one of the lesser known Holy Week liturgies: the Chrism Mass.  Until college I didn’t even know this Mass existed, and many sisters attended it for the first time after entering the convent. 

This is the Mass, traditionally held on Holy Thursday, at which the oil of the sick, oil of catechumens, and holy chrism are blessed by the Bishop.  Each Diocese hosts a Chrism Mass and the oils are distributed to parishes.

To enable as many priests as possible to come the Chrism Mass was moved to Monday nigh in our diocese.  It was a beautiful liturgy filled the mysteries of our faith and especially focused on the priestly vocation.

The first reading for this Mass is from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD…
To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.

The gospel (Luke 4) echoes this, with Jesus applying it to himself.  The Bishop preached on the healing power of Jesus – that He came to heal both body and soul.  He exhorted the priests to continue this “ministry of compassion.”

The liturgy is very much about the priesthood, especially the unity of priests with their Bishop, as they are the ministers of the sacraments which these oils are used for.  It is normally held on Holy Thursday because that is when we commemorate the institution of the priesthood.  During the liturgy, the priests present renew the promises they made at ordination and the Bishop invites the congregation to pray for them.

I was particularly thankful for the gift of priests and awed
by this incredible calling to be Christ for the world.  The priesthood carries with it privilege and responsibility – to be imbued with the priesthood of Christ and to be accountable for many, many souls. 

Last year at the Chrism Mass, Pope Francis reminded priests of this gift and the responsibility that comes with it:
The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint.

Let us, as this liturgy invites us, “pray for your priests, that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to him, who is the source of salvation.”

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