You may need to sit to this post with a cup of your favorite hot beverage. After a brief review of the theology of the Chrism Mass, I’d love to hear from you about your Chrism Mass this week.
Every year, as part of my ecclesiology course and my sacramental theology course, I teach the Chrism Mass (you can download my seventeen-page study edition). I ask my students to ask the texts/gestures/postures the following questions:
- Who are the “kingdom of priests” in the Entrance Antiphon, the “us” in the Opening Prayer (Collect) and the “us” in the Second Reading? How might this ecclesiological point be obscured by Article 15 but clarified by the Preface (Article 19)?
- After you consult Psalm 4:7 in your bible, what do you notice about the translation of Psalm 4:7 in the alternate Entrance Antiphon (from the Simple Gradual)? How does this insight help you to understand the second paragraph of the ancient prayer of consecration of the chrism (Article 25)?
- The old Sacramentary said: “In his homily the bishop should urge the priests to be faithful in fulfilling their office in the Church and should invite them to renew publicly their priestly promises.” The new Roman Missal says, “After the reading of the Gospel, the Bishop preaches the Homily in which, taking his starting point from the text of the readings proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word, he speaks to the people and to his Priests about priestly anointing, urging the Priests to be faithful in their office and calling on them to renew publicly their priestly promises” — why the change and about what “priestly anointing” is the bishop supposed to talk?
- What are the unusual features and emphases of the Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service?
- What is the ecclesiology of the hymn, “O Redeemer” (if you are able, compare the Latin original to the English translation)?
- What feature is the same in the blessing of the oil of the sick (Article 20), the blessing of the oil of catechumens (Article 21), the invitation to the consecration of the Chrism (Article 24), and both forms of the consecratory prayer (Article 25)?
- Why does the post-communion prayer pray, “that those you renew by your Sacraments may merit to become the pleasing fragrance of Christ”? What is the connection between this petition and the Chrism Mass?
- What does the rubric in Article 25 say about the bishop’s connection to the apostles and to Jesus himself?
- What is unusual and significant about the epiclesis of the ancient prayer of consecration of the chrism (Article 25)
- What is unusual and significant about the epiclesis of the second prayer of consecration of the chrism (Article 25)
- What is unusual and significant about the fact of and the text of the reception of the oils?
What follows is my sense of everything, written as a meditation for the Chrism Mass worship aid:
Chrism Mass A.D. 20__
The Chrism Mass is our annual celebration by our gathered local Church of the priesthood of Jesus-the-Anointed-by-the-Spirit. His priesthood is shared by the baptized/confirmed and the ordained. His priesthood is exercised in the sacraments, especially the sacraments most closely associated with the Eucharist: the sacraments of initiation and of orders, as well as the sacrament of the sick.
We the priestly people of God in the church of ___________ — hierarchically arranged with our bishop(s) and our priests and our deacons — are not just blessing oils and consecrating chrism but we are praying for everyone and everything they will anoint in the coming year:
- Every Catholic in our diocese who becomes sick between today and next year’s Chrism Mass begins to be healed by our prayer for them at this Chrism Mass and by the oil of the sick which we bless.
- Every inquirer in our diocese who becomes a catechumen between today and next year’s Chrism Mass begins to be prepared for the sacraments of initiation by our prayer for them at this Chrism Mass and by the oil of catechumens which we bless.
- Every baby in our diocese who is baptized between today and next year’s Chrism Mass begins to receive a “down-payment” on his/her confirmation at this Chrism Mass with the chrism which we consecrate.
- Every young person and adult in our diocese who is confirmed between today and next year’s Chrism Mass begins to complete her/his initiation at this Chrism Mass with the chrism which we consecrate.
- Every new priest (and bishop) in our diocese who is ordained between today and next year’s Chrism Mass begins to be ordained at this Chrism Mass with the chrism which we consecrate.
- Every new or renovated church and altar in our diocese which is dedicated between today and next year’s Chrism Mass begins to be dedicated at this Chrism Mass with the chrism which we consecrate.
The sacrament of marriage is also present in the Chrism Mass’s allusions to the royal bridegroom Christ. Today we proclaim a portion of the marriage text of Isaiah 61:1—62:5 as our first reading. Today we proclaim the approach of Christ’s marriage procession in Revelation 1 as the second reading, a wedding procession completed in Revelation 19:11ff and in Revelation 21:2ff with his bride’s arrival; and we use the royal wedding psalm, Psalm 45, as the communion psalm.
So every time Arch/Bishop N._______ invites us to pray at today’s liturgy with the words, “Let us pray,” let us enter into silent, intense prayer for ourselves, for our church, for our world, and especially for our sick, our catechumens, our infants, our confirmandi, our new priests, and our new churches and altars. And let us recommit ourselves to be a Christ-ened people.
(I’d love for the Chrism Mass to be broadcast annually or at least recorded for use in sacrament formation in parishes and schools. Every bishop needs to have his ordination recorded as well, for similar use.)
Now, my questions for you:
- How well-attended was your Chrism Mass (a full house)? How participative?
- How representative-of-your-arch/diocese was the attendance at your Chrism Mass (young, old, lay. religious, ethnicities, languages, musical cultures, and the like)?
- Who processed in the entrance procession? (Who should have processed?)
- What was the song/hymn/chant sung during the entrance procession?
- What was the bishop’s homily about? (What were his terms of address: “sons,” “brothers,” “sisters”?)
- Who presented the oils to be blessed?
- What was the song/hymn/chant sung during the communion procession?
- Did you come away with a greater sense that Jesus Christ is the anointed bridegroom martyr prophet king priest of the Church?
- Did you come away with a greater sense that each of us is/forms the anointed bride martyr prophet king priest of the Church?
- Did the priests come away with a greater sense that they form one presbyterate with their bishop?
Help me/us help the Church celebrate this Mass well. Thank you.
P.S. I see that I posted about the Chrism Mass last April. I guess I am an enthusiast.