By Harry Winter, O.M.I.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley celebrated the annual Chrism Mass, when the oils for baptism, confirmation, anointing the sick and ordaining to the priesthood are blessed, on Tuesday of Holy Week, April 12, 2022, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston. Among the 300 priests attending were Oblates Michael Amesse, director of the Shrine of St. Joseph, Lowell; Quilin Bouzi, pastor of St. William’s Church, Tewksbury; Mike O’Hara, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Georgetown and Rowley, and myself.
As was reported here on Jan. 3, 2022 (link), the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Methodios, of the Boston area, continued his participation in Roman Catholic services. Cardinal O’Malley welcomed him most warmly, and the archbishop spoke to us after the beginning of the Mass. He reminded us of the tragedy in the Ukraine and expressed his gratitude to the Cardinal for being a leader not only of Roman Catholics in the Boston area, but of all the religions in the area.
The program handed to every participant noted: “This celebration has always retained a special character of collegiality. Even in the centuries when eucharistic concelebration had disappeared from the church’s life, the ritual for the blessing and consecration of oils retained strong elements which reminded all that ministry in the church is never the work of an individual but of a community of ministers of different gifts and responsibilities. The present celebration of the rite has been restored as a full concelebration of the bishop with his clergy and full participation of the laity.”
As we Oblates seek ways to promote the leadership of the laity in evangelizing, this paragraph seemed especially relevant.
During the Chrism Mass, all the priests present renew their priestly promises. Then the new oils are picked up for each parish. Since the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II (1963), the Church insists that the matter for each sacrament be fresh and new: clean, fresh water for baptism; fresh hosts and wine for Mass, and new oils each year for the catechumens, anointing of the sick and the chrism for baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood. The prayer of consecration for the chrism is among the most beautiful in our entire liturgy: “Let us pray, dear brothers and sisters, to God the almighty Father, that he bless and sanctify this oil, so that all who are outwardly anointed with it may be inwardly transformed and come to share in eternal salvation.
O God, author of all growth and spiritual progress, receive in your goodness the grateful homage that the Church joyfully offers to you through our voice.
For in the beginning, you commanded the earth to bring forth fruit bearing trees, among which olive trees would arise, as providers of this most rich oil, so that their fruit might serve for sacred Chrism.
In the spirit of prophecy, David foresaw the sacraments of your grace and sang of the oil that would gladden our faces.
After the world’s offenses were washed away by the flood, a dove announced the restoration of peace on earth with the olive branch, foreshadowing the gift to come. In the last days all this has been clearly revealed: when every offense is removed through the waters of Baptism, the anointing with this oil causes our faces to be joyful and serene.
You also commanded your servant Moses to make his brother Aaron a priest, by pouring this oil upon him after he had been washed in water.
Still greater dignity was added to this when your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, insisted that he be washed by John in the waters of the Jordan: you sent the Holy Spirit from on high in the likeness of a dove; you declared by the witness of the voice that followed, your Only begotten Son; and you were seen to confirm clearly what the prophet David had foretold in song, that Christ would be anointed with the oil of gladness above his companions.
All the concelebrants extend their right hand toward the Chrism until the end of the prayer, without saying anything.
Therefore, we beseech you, Lord: be pleased to sanctify with your + blessing this oil in its richness, and to pour into it the strength of the Holy Spirit, with the powerful working of your Christ. From his holy name it has received the name of Chrism, and with it you have anointed your priests, prophets, kings, and martyrs.
May you confirm the Chrism you have created as a sacred sign of perfect salvation and life for those to be made new in the spiritual waters of Baptism.
May those formed into a temple of your majesty by the holiness infused through this anointing and by the cleansing of the stain of their first birth be made fragrant with the innocence of a life pleasing to you.
May those anointed with royal, priestly, and prophetic dignity be clothed with the garment of an incorruptible gift in keeping with the Sacrament you have established.
May this oil be the Chrism of salvation for those born again of water and the Holy Spirit, and may it make them partakers of eternal life and sharers of heavenly glory.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”