Chrism Mass — ‘The most outstanding visible sign of the church instituted by Christ’
by Becky Berreth
“For the priests, deacons and laity to gather around the altar with their bishop to celebrate the Eucharist, particularly at the Chrism Mass, is perhaps the most outstanding visible sign of the church instituted by Christ,” explained Fr. Leo Hausmann, vicar general for the Diocese of Rapid City.
On March 29, at 11 a.m., Bishop Peter Muhich, joined by the priests of the diocese will celebrate the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help — a celebration that includes the blessing of oils and the renewing of priestly promises. Seating will be limited; however, the Mass will be live streamed to the diocesan website and the diocesan Facebook page.
“To participate by watching the Mass electronically allows those who cannot actually be present, to be present in mind and heart. A line from the Gospel used on Ash Wednesday, though used in a slightly different context, still might help us see the value of participating through electronic means when we cannot be physically present, ‘And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you,’” said Fr. Hausmann.
Following the homily, Bishop Muhich will bless the three oils that will be used in sacraments in the diocese during the coming year. The first two oils — the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumen — consist of olive oil and are blessed in the same way holy water is blessed. The Oil of the Sick is used in anointing the head and hands of those who are seriously and chronically ill to give them spiritual strength to fight in their weakened condition. The Oil of the Catechumens is used in the sacrament of baptism, meant to provide strength for discipleship.
The third oil — the Sacred Chrism — is olive oil mixed with balsam and is consecrated by the bishop during this liturgy. The bishop also breathes on the oil, which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
When someone is anointed with the Sacred Chrism, they become one with Christ. It is used in baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and the dedication and blessing of churches and altars.
The Chrism Mass is also a time for the priests, in the presence of the bishop and the faithful, to renew their commitment to the ministry to which they were ordained. Similar to the renewal of wedding vows in front of family members, the priests are asked to repeat the promises taken at their ordination in the presence of the Catholic faithful.
The priestly vocation is a marriage to Christ and to the church. It is important to any priest to have the faithful there to bear witness, to have the people’s support and encouragement in our ministry. The bishop at one point says, “as for you dear sons and daughters pray for your priests.”
“As a priest, who at his ordination knelt before the bishop and in his hands promised obedience to him and his successors and fidelity to the Gospel and the magisterium of the Church, the renewal of the priestly promises brings me back to my ordination day when I first made those promises,” said Fr. Hausmann. “It reminds me of who I am as priest, that the priesthood into which I have been ordained comes to me directly from Christ the priest, through the succession of the bishops. It is Christ’s priesthood that I am called to live with perfect obedience and fidelity to Christ and his church.”
“I think The Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism says it best,” replied Fr. Hausmann. “It says, ‘The Chrism Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with priests from various regions of the diocese and during which he consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils, is among the principal manifestations of the fullness of the bishop’s priesthood and is considered to be a sign of the close bond of the priests with him.’”