Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Holy Thursday Morning: Anointed for Battle

Chrism Liturgy

This morning the Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, religious and lay faithful will gather around their Bishop in the diocesan cathedral Church.  All will participate in a very ancient rite common to the universal Church since the fifth/sixth century.  During this liturgy, “the bishop consecrates the three oils needed for the administration of the sacraments: the holy chrism, the oil of the catechumens and the oil of the sick.”[1]

These oils will be used in the life of the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.  The most detailed version, found in the Mystagogia (On the Mysteries), is recounted by St. Cyril of Jerusalem who “walks us through” how the oils were “symbolically applied to thy forehead, and thy other organs of sense” and that the “ears, nostrils, and breast were each to be anointed.” He continues sharing that the “ointment is the seal of the covenants” of baptism and God’s promises to the Christian who is anointed. Cyril taught that being “anointed with the Holy anointing oil [Chrism] of God” was the sign of a Christian and a physical representation of having received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He says, “Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, we are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth. For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians.”(On the Mysteries 3.5)

We should also recall the connection between the Chrism Mass and the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper.  Even for our Lord, He was anointed at Bethany before he journeyed to Jerusalem to share the Passover with His disciples.  It is no mistake that the Church connects the biblical events with today’s liturgical events of Holy Thursday. Who else is anointed? Lovers, athletes and those preparing for war…

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