Your Chrism Mass?

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:

  1. 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)?
  2. 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)?
  3. 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?
  4. What are the unusual features and emphases of the Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service?
  5. What is the ecclesiology of the hymn, “O Redeemer” (if you are able, compare the Latin original to the English translation)?
  6. 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)?
  7. 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?
  8. What does the rubric in Article 25 say about the bishop’s connection to the apostles and to Jesus himself?
  9. What is unusual and significant about the epiclesis of the ancient prayer of consecration of the chrism (Article 25)
  10. What is unusual and significant about the epiclesis of the second prayer of consecration of the chrism (Article 25)
  11. 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:

  1. How well-attended was your Chrism Mass (a full house)? How participative?
  2. How representative-of-your-arch/diocese was the attendance at your Chrism Mass (young, old, lay. religious, ethnicities, languages, musical cultures, and the like)?
  3. Who processed in the entrance procession? (Who should have processed?)
  4. What was the song/hymn/chant sung during the entrance procession?
  5. What was the bishop’s homily about? (What were his terms of address: “sons,” “brothers,” “sisters”?)
  6. Who presented the oils to be blessed?
  7. What was the song/hymn/chant sung during the communion procession?
  8. Did you come away with a greater sense that Jesus Christ is the anointed bridegroom martyr prophet king priest of the Church?
  9. Did you come away with a greater sense that each of us is/forms the anointed bride martyr prophet king priest of the Church?
  10. 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.


  1. Our Chrism Mass in Savannah was on Holy Tuesday night, the first with our new bishop who is a Conventual Franciscan. The Cathedral which holds about 900 comfortably had about 700 with about 80 priests included. The laity came from all over the diocese some traveling up to 5 hours to get to Savannah–a very clear cross section of laity and a few crying babies.
    The oils were carried in procession to the bishop by members of the laity and presbyterate. The Mass was preceded by a special dinner for clergy with the bishop and the bishop gave a good homily emphasizing the entire Church and the purpose of the various oils tied into the sacramental ministry of the Church. With a nearly full Cathedral and most of the priests of the diocese present, both diocesan and religious, the entire liturgy and the robust congregational singing emphasized the fullness of the Church gathered around the bishop. There was spontaneous applause by all the laity as the priests processed out with the bishop at the end of Mass and it was not contrived, lively and prolonged. We applauded them too.

  2. Paul, thanks for this resource.

    I was unable to attend the Chrism Mass this year due to an injury, but I enjoyed your study guide.

  3. Well, I attended the Chrism Mass this past Monday in certain prominent East Coast archdiocese. When I arrived, I was told by an usher that lay people had to sit on the sides, where there was a wonderful view of a pillar. Now to answer some of your questions about the Mass itself:
    1. “How well-attended was your Chrism Mass (a full house)? How participative?” The cathedral was pretty much full.
    2. “How representative-of-your-arch/diocese was the attendance at your Chrism Mass (young, old, lay. religious, ethnicities, languages, musical cultures, and the like)?” Lots of priests, some deacons, several seminarians, a whole lot of religious, and some lay people squeezing into what space was left.
    3. “Who processed in the entrance procession? (Who should have processed?)” First, the Knights of Columbus. THEN the cross, followed by the priests, bishops, and the Cardinal. (The Knights also led the final procession out.)
    5. “What was the bishop’s homily about? (What were his terms of address: “sons,” “brothers,” “sisters”?)” He pretty much only addressed the priests, didn’t mention the oils except in passing (and then really only in terms of the anointing of the priests’ hands), and spoke for quite some time on the “grave threat” to religious freedom in this country.
    6. “Who presented the oils to be blessed?” Priests

    From what I heard and saw (and this is just my own impression), it seemed like the primary focus was on the priests and everything else fell a distant second, third, fourth, etc. There was little mention of the oils and none of the larger priesthood of the faithful. The only priesthood that seemed to matter was that of the ordained presbyterate (not that that particular term was every used). Another major message was that all the troubles today come from a lack of “proper catechesis” of the faithful. And of course there was the rather thinly veiled talk about certain current political controversies. Overall not a great…

    1. Kevin, I fear that your experience is the more typical. So many of our cathedrals are legacy buildings whose Tridentine theology squeezes the Vatican II restorations into highly contorted shapes. “lay people had to sit on the sides” is only slightly better than the old rubric “Communion is not given to the faithful at [the Chrism] Mass.”

  4. I’d be interested in knowing if balm or some other perfume was added to the chrism by your bishop? If so, what was it? Balm (the traditional perfume), rose oil, myrrh with frankincense,etc.?

    1. For the first time since I can remember, our new bishop added the “balm” as a part of the rite of consecrating the chrism and stirred it in himself. Doing so certainly made it clear that the chrism oil and blessing (consecration) were of a different nature that the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick. I’m not sure of the ingredients of the balm that was used, but it has a very pleasing fragrance.

  5. Paul, thank you for the study guide and questions. While I did not attend my diocesan Chrism Mass this year, I am grateful for these materials you’ve put together and will read and reflect on them during the Triduum.

      1. Heh, distance was not my reason for missing the Mass, I assure you! I live a mere two miles, virtually up the road, from the Trenton diocese’s cathedral. I have attended other liturgies at the cathedral, but not this time around.

        Our bishop will be celebrating the Good Friday liturgy at my own parish.

      2. JP – you lucky man. A Vincentian for bishop…who knows, you might learn something about Vincent dePaul and his liturgical re-education of the French rural clergy after Trent. And that re-education was more than 50 years after the end of Trent – the French clergy were notorious for not implementing or learning the Trentan liturgy after that council for a whole host of wrong-headed reasons.

      3. Bill, assuming Bp. O’Connell is too busy to educate me on St. Vincent’s liturgical formation of the French clergy, do you have a book or article I might read on my own in the meantime?

      4. JP – here you go:–Vincent-de-Paul-and-the-Council-of-Trent.aspx


        It is not an exaggeration to see Vincent de Paul as one of the great Tridentine Reformers. France was the last of the major Catholic countries to accept the council’s decrees and adopt them (in 1615) as the platform for the renewal of its national church. Long torn by religious and civil war, France under its new Bourbon monarchs knew that the basis for a strong and vibrant kingdom was a strong, vibrant, and thoroughly reformed church. The Tridentine agenda and spirit, as adapted for France, must be understood as forming the basis for all of Vincent de Paul’s efforts.

        Vincent himself most commonly makes reference to the authority of the Council of Trent when he describes his efforts in support of the reform of the priesthood. He says, for example, “And because, nevertheless, the Holy Council of Trent recommends seminaries, we have given ourselves to God to serve Him also in that regard wherever we can.”1 He also always invokes the Council and the papacy in the bitter theological struggle against the so-called “new opinions” of Jansenism.

  6. Thanks, Paul. Your course and notes are excellent. Hope your students pay attention and eventually exert some influence on bishops to modify their Chrism celebrations.

    Paul – was wondering if you have any impact on LA archdiocese with this course? How about other dioceses in the West that send students to St. John’s?

    This is really good historial research; well written; and reflects VII principles well.

    1. Bill, I have no idea about my impact: ‘One sows and another reaps’ (John 4:37) is especially true of teachers. Only two of my students have become bishops (so far) and I have developed my awareness of the ecclesiology of the Chrism Mass since the time I taught them.

      I am hoping to be asked to give days of recollection on the Chrism Mass in dioceses that gather their priests and others on Chrism Day.

      I am also working on on-line presentations on the Chrism Mass and other liturgies.

      1. Thanks, Paul. Your class, post, and thoughts got me reminicing on some past Holy Weeks in the Seminary.

        We had some knock down arguments about Chrism Mass, Re-commitmment promise; Holy Thursday. Let me expand:
        – had a rector who was gung ho on emphasizing the priesthood (we were a seminary). But, his anti-liturgy stance and his minimal parish experience led him to dismiss the actual church’s liturgy during Holy Week and refashion it to fit his needs
        – Chrism Mass……usually separate from Holy Thursday but was held at various times on Tuesday nite; Wednesday, and even Thursday morning. Some seminarians were directed/asked to be in attendance; the rest did not experience the Chrism Mass (and in some cases could not even tell you what it meant or its significance)
        – Holy Thursday via this focus revolved around the priests and the recommitment ceremony followed by a huge dinner/celebration. Seminarians picked up that this was the focus – what was lost was the actual Holy Thursday liturgy – what did washing of the feet mean? What did brining up alms mean? Breaking, pouring out, and eating meant what in terms of the gospel imperatives? (some faculty chose to not attend adding to the polarizations)
        – Arguments happened because this focus was in tension with the poor, alms, broken/poured out for others in ministry rather than highlighting and elevating priesthood (ministerial priesthool as hierarchy).
        – What we experienced was that newly ordained priests had no liturgical skills when it came to Holy Thursday, Why to participate in Chrism Mass and include/educate your parish – they couldn’t do it and rather rushed through their parish services so that classmates could meet and celebrate their priesthood.

        So, you can see that even if you have 1, 2, 3 future bishops you can make a difference.

      1. Paul – my thoughts about this also revert to the on-going polarizations between those who seek “catholic identity” first and primary vs. “catholic mission”.

        Thus, our rector would have voted for identity; in this case, clerical identity over any other focus of either the Chrism Mass or Holy Thursday.

        In many ways, this tension seems to re-occur across many issues over and over again. IMO, the Holy Thursday liturgy is about mission or ministry first – our identity comes from our ministry and mission. We do not exist to build an institution or brick/mortar buildings. Our mission/ministry (whether you want to break that down further into clerical function and lay function) comes first and our identity flows from that. At a minimum, Holy Thursday should be both/and rather than either/or. Mr. McKay’s comments about B16 today reflects an over-emphasis (well intentioned possibly) on the clerical hierarchy and missing the point of the Triduum.

  7. Sociologically there are two quite different levels of church: the diocesan and the parish church. The employees of the church (priests, deacons, etc) may think these levels as one but they are not. I became very aware of this when I was a voluntary member of pastoral staff in the 1980s and therefore became involved in the diocesan church for a time as well as parish church.

    However people at the parish level are rarely involved in the diocesan church, unless it is a rather small diocese. In my own Diocese of Cleveland, I have never met either of its bishops in twenty years, and have been to only one Mass celebrated by the Bishop which was for an international conference. Being a member of a large parish, like most other members I find it difficult enough to understand the parish let alone the diocese. When I was a member of parish council, I was the only member who was willing to go to diocesan meetings.

    Having been to a very effective combined celebration of Confirmation and First Eucharist presided over a pastor, I think that is a better way of doing confirmation than by the bishop.

    Having been to a very effective concelebration of Vespers by local Orthodox priests without their bishop, I think the diocesan church can be modeled without the presence of a bishop. In fact I think the concelebration of pastors better models the diocesan church than a bishop being assisted by a few people.

    Therefore I think it would be better if clusters of collaborating parishes concelebrated the Chrism Mass (without the bishop) so that many more people could participate. I think clustering of parishes offers a good way of getting away from congregationalism, and from seeing one’s own pastor (often now the only priest) as a mini-bishop and seeing collaboration of priests as an essential part of the diocese.

    1. Jack,

      I like very much the idea of clustering parishes to celebrate the Chrism Mass.

      However I dis agree with your minimizing of the importance of the bishop. The Chrism mass, and the Chrism, are the most effective signs of the bishop at the parish level. Without them, the parishes become even more distant from the diocese, and the diocese will drift into ignoring the parishes. This already happened at the Reformation, when centuries of a minimal Chrism led to its virtual abandonment.

      Chrism keeps the bishop involved in the sacramental life of the parish. For most bishops, it is their only contact with perishes; for most laity it is their only context with the bishop. It would be unfortunate to lose it.

    2. The best candidate for clustering for this purpose would be the deanery/vicariate forane. (Then again, I think diocesan priests outside rural areas should presumptively be living together at that level; and that deaneries should be sized with this in mind.)

    3. Jack – for a whole lot of reasons, would support your idea of priests living together to support each other. Reasons having to do with emotional health, formation, on-going formation, etc. Would also agree with some joint concelebrated feasts/seasons e.g. you see something like this now with shared lenten or advent reconciliation services led by three or four pastors together. Rarely, but you do see this at times in major feasts and it could be effective at other times – fundraising for a specific charity/need e.g. diocesan high school or shared elementary school, etc. In fact, there are lots of liturgical opportunities if this was explored and initiated.

      But, you have merely developed another form of congregationalism by omitting the bishop. Would suggest that the model needs to be the life and ministry of now deceased Bishop Untener who moved and lived with his pastors continually – shifting monthly or every other week. In this way, Untener was deeply engaged in his diocese with both his pastors and his people.

      Your set up basically removes the bishop from the life of the diocese – he becomes like the 19th century landowner with tenant farmers he visits annually to collect his rent and his share of the crops.

    4. Jim: However I disagree with your minimizing of the importance of the bishop

      Bill: Your set up basically removes the bishop from the life of the diocese

      Basically, I am just pointing out the sociological facts of life, that bishops are removed from the lives of the vast majority, probably 99% of members of the diocese. Like myself they have never personally met the guy one on one, and probably have not been in the same room as the guy except about once every ten years.

      You can have all the nice liturgy fantasies that you want about the role of the bishop, and the symbol of the chrism, but they are not reality for the vast majority of Catholics.

      Now I suspect most of the regular church goers at the local Orthodox parish have been to the Divine Liturgy celebrated here in the local parish (just last year on their patronal feast) and have socialized with him afterwards. No confirmation by bishops there. And the bishop resides in Chicago.

      However the Orthodox bishop does not preside over a corporation composed not only of parishes, but of schools, and health care and charitable organizations. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is one of the ten largest employers in the metropolitan area. Now if you would abandon the corporate model of CEO government, let all the schools etc be managed by separate corporations of Catholic laymen, and have the bishop just oversee the parishes you might be able to do something like the Orthodox, or perhaps like Untener did.

      The world (daily concern with wealth, power and status) corrupts. It has always been the main problem of the Catholic Church and its bishops.


      the lack of supervision of priests (not just about sexual abuse and alcohol abuse, but about physical health in an aging population) is a major concern by priests themselves since so many priests live alone and the deanery system does not seem to work at least in our diocese.

      1. I understand your point, and even agree with it for the most part. I just think that turning the bishop into only a manager would increase the divide. Chrism gives a bishop a sacramental role in every parish. It may not be evident to the people, who rarely encounter the bishops, but it is an important part of any bishops life.

        The Orthodox have a very different relationship to Chrism. It used to be, and may still be, that the Ecumenical Patriarch consecrated Chrism on an as needed basis, every 10 years or so, for the whole world. Couple that with no adolescent confirmations, and Chrism has already disappeared from their episcopacy.

        Perhaps Catholics could develop alternate sacramental ways of connecting bishops and laity, as the Orthodox have. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that. For now, Chrism is an important part of keeping bishops involved sacramentally with every Catholic, rather than being simply managers of a complex organization with many employees.

      2. Jim,

        Sounds like you are saying the Chrism Mass and Confirmation are very important for the bishop even though they are not very important for the people. I think sacraments are for the people not to maintain fictions that bishops are not mainly CEOs.

        Bishops and even pastors spend far too much time in management which could be done by laity. They would do much better spending their time in study, prayer, and social gatherings with laity in preparation for homilies.

        I was a voluntary pastor staff member in Toledo in the eighties, I did get to know Bishop Hoffmann and even corresponded with him on national issues for about a decade after I left his diocese. But unless you are one of the elite 1% of the diocese you are not going to interact with the Bishop . Most Catholics have a difficult time understanding their large parishes let alone large dioceses. One of the nice things about my life is that I have spend a few, but only a few, years in places like a Jesuit Novitiate and on a voluntary pastoral staff so I understand how those parts of church life work without having become captured by their view points.

  8. Paul,

    I want to thank you for your notes on the Chrism mass. They made up for my disappointment at the Pope’s homily. He started out so well ” Brothers and Sisters, At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ…” unfortunately, it soon became clear he was only talking to his brother clergy. No sisters, or other laity, need listen.

    I really had hoped he would talk to priests about their role in enabling all of us to exercise our priestly ministry. I see that in your notes, and I think it should be a prominent part of every Chrism mass. Ordination is not for the benefit of the ordained, but is a gift for the laity.

    I am also glad to see you emphasize some of the sensory aspects of Chris., the aroma and the glistening sheen that radiates life and joy.

  9. I regret the forced inclusion of the Renewal of Priestly Commitment as pushed by now deceased American cardinal John Wright back in the 1970s.
    Does a commitment need to be renewed only yearly? Isn’t it actually renewed daily?
    Also, it skews the focus of the Chrism Mass onto those who use the oils, rather than on the giver of the oils and the effects of the sacraments as Christ’s gifts to the Church.

    1. Chuck, tell us more about Cardinal Wright’s influence over the inclusion of the rite of renewal of priestly commitment, please! I thought this originated with Pope Paul VI himself.

      1. Paul – he headed up the Congregation of the Clergy for Paul VI and made this suggestion in response to his concerns about the exodus of priests after Vatican II. He proposed this annual re-commitment in order to highlight and focus on priestly ordination that flowed from the institution of the eucharist on Holy Thursday.

        Paul Turner does a brief history of Wright’s involvement and the study groups that have noted the inherent tensions and problems with this insertion of priestly commitment.

  10. Paul Turner also refers to the intervention of Cardinal Wright on page 36 of his book, “Glory in the Cross” (Liturgical Press, 2012), but gives no reference. His comment on the insertions of the Renewal of Priestly Commitment indicates that reservations regarding it are long-standing.
    Both the homily preached by out local Bishop, and the homily preached at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper demonstrated a failure to distinguish between the different foci of the two liturgies. Matters are not helped by the rather explicit directions given in the Missal regarding the homily. For the Chrism Mass see no.8, and for the Mass of the Lord’s supper see no.9. See again Paul Turner.
    Turner’s book probably reached the market, the hands of readers too late for many to digest it and consider how it might influence this year’s celebrations of the Paschal Triduum, hopefully it will become staple reading, a point of reference in the years to come. Even as a priest who has participated in or celebrated in the Paschal Triduum for almost forty years, hardly a page was read that didn’t provide some enlightenment.

  11. Just finished watching and listening to Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap, of Philadeliphia preaching at the Chrism Mass. (Available on “Whispers in the Loggia”). He took his lead from the First Reading, Isaiah 61, 1-3a, 6a, 8b-9, and after some very well balanced introductory words on the priesthood of all the baptized faithful then went on to talk more directly to the priests of the diocese. Overall, I’d say it came close to being a “model” homily for the Chrism Mass.
    Be intersted in what some other commentators think.

    The may I suggest you go on to read the text of Benedict XVI’s homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. (also on “Whispers”). That he totally ignored the Gospel text as given in the Lectionary, and used as his starting point (???) John 13:30b, so neither talking about either the Washing of the Feet or the Eucharist and possible links between the two, gave me more than pause for thought. Is this the homily one would expect from the successor of Peter at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
    Anymore notable successes and failures as homilies for either of the Holy Thursday liturgies? Be interested in links to them.

  12. This discussion about the Chrism Mass raises a couple of additional questions that I have wondered about.

    First of all, the Order for Blessing the Oils gives 2 options about the order in which the Oils are blessed. The traditional method, where the Oil of the Sick is blessed as part of the Eucharistic Prayer and then the other two after Holy Communion or the revised way where everything is done after the homily, like most rite in the revised liturgy.

    Second, I wonder if any bishop still breathes over the opening of the vessel of Chrism as the rubrics allow, in a simple but powerful gesture?

    On a minor point, I hope we get to see the new translation of the Order of Blessing the Oils soon.

    Lastly, the final rubric of the Chrism Mass in the Missal says,

    15. The reception of the Holy Oils may take place in individual parishes either before the celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper or at another time that seems more appropriate.

    I will admit that I am not in favour of the first option, I think it is a difficult juxtaposition of introducing an additional element in a liturgy that is already so pungent with meaning and symbols. I am not sure when another appropriate time might be. Perhaps on another Sunday in the Easter Season.

    1. Ever since the 1980’s our bishops have “breathed” over the Chrism as he consecrates it and this past Tuesday it was heard very well also over the sound system. In my parish, we receive the Oils at the time of the offering. There are prescribed words to be said for each oil with the congregation’s response: “Blessed be God.” The Oils of the sick is first, Catechumens second and finally the Sacred Chrism. We have different people involved in some way with each of the oils lift them high as the go first in procession with the offerings of money, bread and wine last.
      Then I hold them up, the words are said that describes the particular oil and then the people’s response and the deacon takes it to the repository. The offertory anthem stops as the first oil is given and then continues as the bread and wine are received until the Orate Fratres. It is rather impressive and only happens on Holy Thursday. I’ve never experienced the oils being blessed as a part of the Eucharistic Prayer.

  13. Bill deHaas :

    Paul – he headed up the Congregation of the Clergy for Paul VI and made this suggestion in response to his concerns about the exodus of priests after Vatican II. He proposed this annual re-commitment in order to highlight and focus on priestly ordination that flowed from the institution of the eucharist on Holy Thursday.
    Paul Turner does a brief history of Wright’s involvement and the study groups that have noted the inherent tensions and problems with this insertion of priestly commitment.

    Ah, I had forgotten that, Bill. My memory has been sufficiently jogged. This insertion was their collaboration.

  14. See Patrick Regan’s insightful article, “The Chrism Mass: Festival of the Priesthood. But Which One?” in the March 2012 issue of the journal Worship, Volume 86, Number 2.

    1. Thanks, Bryon. I read it this afternoon. Excellent. I was also sent an essay on the Chrism Mass. I’m thinking of summarizing both for the sake of this thread. If only there were a way to put these into the hands of bishops and cathedral liturgy directors.

  15. Jeffery BeBeau: I hope we get to see the new translation of the Order of Blessing the Oils soon.

    I must say I don’t. If it’s as mangled as some of the other Holy Week texts now are, we’d be better off without it.

    I am told that both the US and British Conferences rejected the new translation, having had their request denied to incorporate the text of the blessings into the appendixes of the Missal.

  16. Bryon Gordon: See Patrick Regan’s insightful article, “The Chrism Mass: Festival of the Priesthood. But Which One?” in the March 2012 issue of the journal Worship, Volume 86, Number 2.

    Yes, a really excellent article, apart from one lapsus where he casually dismisses the tradition of blessing the Oil of the Sick during the Eucharistic Prayer and the other two after Communion as clearly pastorally undesirable. (See one of Jeffery BeBeau’s questions above.) His rationale is that it would make the Oil of the Sick look more important than the Oil of Chrism, when this Mass is supposed to be focused on the Chrism as the most important. Unbelievably, that’s all he says about the question, even though this option is clearly the preferred one in the rite.

    I don’t think that opinion is proven, particularly when the three blessings are differentiated as they are in my diocese:

    (a) Blessing of the Oil of the Sick, chanted by the Bishop before the doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer (which is chanted by all the priests together throughout, apart from the Preface — and not to the Missal tone, but to a more melodious chant 😉 ).

    (b) Blessing of the Oil of Catechumens: spoken by the Bishop after Communion. Followed by

    (c) Consecration of the Chrism spoken by the Bishop over quiet organ background (written-down), interspersed with acclamations for the assembly (they overlap with the cantor). [OCP octavo # 30102944 if anyone is interested in seeing how it works in practice. Modesty forbids me to mention the name of the composer…] This treatment actually highlights the Chrism, even though the Oil of the Sick has already been blessed during the Eucharistic Prayer.

    I have never read of a reason for the Oil of the Sick being blessed before the others. I have always assumed that it dates from the era of Extreme Unction, and was because this oil might be needed very quickly in an emergency and so was blessed first. But I’d be glad to know of other factors in the historical development. (And yes, I am aware that there was no such thing as a Chrism Mass before 1955 — Reagan covers that in his article — but that the Bishop would bless all the oils at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.)

  17. Orthodox Christians perform the Mystery of Holy Unction for the healing of soul and body and for forgiveness of sins. It is usually celebrated during Wednesday of Holy Week, but can be performed any time. During the service epistle and gospel readings are read, prayers are said, oil is blessed, and each worshipper is anointed with the holy oil as the priest says: “The blessing of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ: for the healing of soul and body …

    Harakas in Health and Medicine in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition states that the tradition up until the 13th century was to bless and administer the oil of the sick within the context of the Eucharist (however exactly where it was blessed and administered varied). Until the 13th Century the medical institutions (hospitals, etc.) were controlled and operated by the Orthodox Church since healing was viewed as being of both body and soul.

    However in the thirteen Century the government took over the running of the medical institutions and a separate service of reading and lessons developed outside the Divine Liturgy for the blessing of holy oils referred to in the quote above. The Orthodox view has been that ideally this is a communal service with as many ministers (ideally 7 priests) and people as possible (you do not have to be physically sick to receive the oil).

    Harakas has an interesting quote from Innocent I of Rome (416) Epistle 25.8 to Decentius that “ the faithful who are sick can be anointed with the holy oil of unction , which has been prepared by the bishop, and which not only priests but all Christians may use for anointing, when their own needs or those of their family demand.” Interesting. We know the Eucharist reserved at homes was sometimes used for healing, and even today water from the Blessing of Waters on Theophany can be taken home and drunk for health. Sounds like holy oil could be taken home, too. At least when we were all considered a priestly people

    1. The consecration of Chrism is a Rite reserved for the Primates of autocephalous Orthodox Churches.  The last time Holy Chrism was consecrated in the Orthodox Church in America was in 2004.

      From the press release of February 08, 2012 at

      I have always been amazed by what I stated earlier, that it was all done in Istanbul as it says at the GOarch.Org website. This is more reasonable, that it is done by primates of autocephalous churches, though still infrequently. I do not know if it is always done during Holy Week.

      1. Orthodoxy is mainly a collection of autocephalous churches such as the OCA with a number of bishops which constitute a Synod that elects its primate and operates a seminary. For better or worse these tend to be national churches often with some form of union between the national church and state. So in some ways Orthodox may identify as much with their primate as with their bishop. Consecration of chrism by a primate is a strong symbol of that.

        Whether “national churches” are a good thing is another matter. A good sociological argument could be made that Catholic countries have often retained their Catholic culture better than Orthodox and Protestant countries which are organized at the national and congregational level. I suspect that has much to do with the international character of Catholicism. I don’t think that is merely a matter of the Papacy but also such strong international Catholic religious organizations such as Religious Orders, etc.

        It could be that the Patriarch of Constantinople still consecrates the Holy Oils for Greece and for the Greek Orthodox Church in America whose ties with Greece are much stronger than the OCA with Russia. Because of the cold war the OCA obtained autocephalous status, something that was disputed for a while but now seems accepted by most. I think the Metropolitan of the GOA is still chosen by the Synod in Constantinople.

      2. The article at describes the process of making Chrism, starting on Sunday and concluding with consecration on Holy Thursday. 57 spices to perfume it, unlike the one we use.

        It also says the consecration is reserved to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and he has delegated it to some other patriarchs. It is indeed a powerful sign of unity throughout the world. But I am still unclear as to whether OCA is recognized by other Orthodox.

        Patriarch Bartholomew did consecrate Chrism this year. His announcement even refers to the woman who anointed Jesus, connecting the Chrism to her.

      3. Well, there are always tensions between the Patriarch of Constantinople (2nd Rome) and the Patriarch of Moscow (3rd Rome). Moscow has more people than Constantinople. Constantinople only has left a small community of several thousand in Istanbul. Since the Turkish government does not want an Orthodox Vatican within its country, it does not recognize the Patriarch as anything more than a local bishop. And, of course Rome gets along very well with Constantinople but not Moscow. And the conservative Greek Church does not appreciate how well the recent Patriarchs of Constantinople have been getting along with Rome.

        The tensions between Constantinople and Moscow have caused tensions between the OCA (mostly from Slavic backgrounds) and the GOA (from Greek backgrounds). The numbers game is reversed here since the GOA is larger than the OCA. The OCA is very independent, has lost most of its ethnicity, is growing and most of its members are now converts from other Christian denominations.

        While the various national Orthodox Churches have a lot of practical autonomy from their mother Churches back in Europe and Asia, the ultimate Orthodox ideal should be one Orthodox Church not multiple jurisdictions in America completing with each other. OCA by its name and by its outreach for converts implies it is the future! Obviously that makes the now larger GOA uncomfortable.

        On a practical basis GOA and OCA recognize each other, but of course all the theoretical issues have not been settled. For sometime the issue of whether or not Moscow had really given OCA autonomy was contested; remember this was done during the cold War. There are some Russian bishops in the USA not a part of OCA.

        Oh, ecclesiastical politics! Anyone who thinks our Roman system has a lot of flaws should just study the Orthodox system for a while. It started with the Apostles arguing about who was the greatest and has never ceased.

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