Due to the Covid pandemic, it has not been possible to welcome parishioners to the Chrism Mass since 2019! This week, Archbishop John Wilson is very pleased to extend a warm welcome to all, and invites clergy, religious and laity to join him at St George's Cathedral for this joyous diocesan service.
During the service, the Archbishop will bless and consecrate oils that will be used for anointing during the administration of sacraments - outward signs of inward grace - throughout the Diocese during the coming year.
The three oils, as depicted in the article picture, are:
- The Oil of the Sick (oleum infirmorum)
- The Oil of Catechumens (oleum catechumenorum / oleum sanctorum)
- The Oil of Chrism, or Holy Chrism (sacrum chrisma)
The first two oils will be used for anointing the sick (oleum infirmorum), and catechumens receiving the Sacrament of Baptism this Easter; both are plain olive oil which is blessed. The Oil of Chrism consists of olive oil mixed with balsam - an aromatic resin - which the Archbishop will breathe on to invoke the Holy Spirit, and which will be duly consecrated using these words:
"May this oil be the Chrism of Salvation
for those born of 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."
This special oil will be used in the anointing of those receiving the Sacraments of Confirmation or Ordination, including the anointing of a new Bishop.
The Oil of the Sick would ordinarily be carried to the Sanctuary by a member of the medical profession (see picture below) whilst the Oil of Catechumens will be brought forward by persons who will be baptised at Easter.
Finally, the Oil of Chrism will be presented by individuals who will either confirmed or ordained this year.
Olive Oil and the importance of Anointing
The olive tree itself grows abundantly in Galilee and its oil was used in a rich variety of ways during Jesus' lifetime: it was an important comestible, but also used as fuel for lamps and medicinal purposes, as well as for anointing a guest as a sign of welcome and in preparing a body for burial.
Even before the time of Jesus, anointing with oil indicated a special calling from the Lord, with power granted to fulfil that vocation. The essence was to dedicate a person or place as sacred in God's service. For example, Aaron and his sons (c.1250 BC) were consecrated as priests and anointed in the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Covenant. Blessed oil was also was used in the dedication of holy places and in the creation of kings such as Saul, David and Solomon:
'You love justice and hate wickedness; therefore, God your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings.'
The name 'Christ', which is a greek derivation of the Hebrew word 'Messiah' means 'The Anointed One'. At the start of his ministry, Jesus himself echoed the words of Isaiah:
'The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore, He has anointed me”(Lk 4:18)
The symbolism of blessed oil in sacred rites is therefore rich and varied, serving in healing, strengthening, dedication and consecration.
Together with the words and actions of a priest, sacraments flow into our lives, bringing healing, new life and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in perfecting us as we journey closer to God throughout our lives. This is both an immense responsibility and particular joy for our priests, who are themselves anointed as servants of God and of the people.
Please join in thanking God for the anointed hands that will administer the Sacraments throughout the Archdiocese of Southwark this year, and for each ordained person as they turn their hearts and minds to God in the renewal of their ordination commitment. We pray that they may continue to be humble and generous servants of the Lord at all times and in all places.