The Catholic family celebrates the Chrism Mass during the holy week; though the day for this celebration differs from dioceses, it must however be celebrated within the holy week and not later than holy Thursday. In Lagos Archdiocese, Nigeria, the Priests gathered around the Bishop, His Grace, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins today (31-3-2015) to celebrate the Chrism Mass.
The word “Chrism” refers to consecrated oil, which means that Chrism Mass could be called the Mass of oil but not limited to oil.
The Chrism Mass is a Mass of unity, where the Priests of a particular diocese gather around their bishop to specially celebrate the Holy Mass in memory of the institution of the Holy Mass by Jesus Christ. The Mass was instituted by Jesus Christ on Holy Thursday when his apostles gathered around him on a table to celebrate the Passover feast. Within the framework of this celebration, he instituted the Holy Mass; while they were at the table, he took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his apostles, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt.26:26-29). He directed the apostles to continue the celebration in memory of him (Lk.22:19).
Through the apostolic succession, the Holy Mother Church continues to offer the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to the Father through Christ, the victim, and the Priest. Therefore, the Chrism Mass is not just the Mass of oil but also of the “memorial” of the institution of the Holy Mass and the Priesthood.
At this Mass, the Priests renew their commitments to serve God and humanity and pledge their loyalty to the Church through the bishop. Their coming together to celebrate with the bishop symbolizes the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’s unity. The lay faithful are not left out of this oneness; they come to join their priests to celebrate the gift of the Priesthood to the Church and to pray with them and for them. The Priests are mere mortals; they are exposed to every human weakness and so needs prayer.
The blessing of oils is tightly associated with this celebration, hence, the name Chrism Mass. At this Mass, the bishop blesses three oils: the oil of catechumens (oleum catechumenorum), the oil of the sick (oleum infirmorum), and the Holy Chrism (sacrum chrism). From Genesis to Revelation, the bible talks about oil (Gen. 28:18. Rev. 18:13). “Throughout the Bible, various references indicate the importance of olive oil in daily life. oil was used in cooking, particularly in the making of bread, that basic food substance for nourishment (e.g., Nm 11:7-9); as a fuel for the lamps (e.g., Mt 25:1-9); and as a healing agent in medicine (e.g., Is 1:6 and Lk 10:34). Moreover, with oil, the Jews anointed the head of a guest as a sign of welcome (e.g., Lk 7:46), beautified one’s appearance (e.g., Ru 3:3), and prepared a body for burial (e.g., Mk 16:1).” The value of oil in our religious practices cannot be overemphasized; the Catholic Church, in its administration of sacramental rituals, makes use of oil.
The three oils blessed by the bishop during the Chrism Mass are for the Priests to be used in their ministry. The oil of catechumens is used to anoint those to be baptized, a sacramental expression of their need for help and strength as they are about to be baptized or initiated into the body of Christ. The oil of the sick is used on the sick, calling down God’s mercy and healing power on them through Jesus Christ. Chrism’s oil, which is mixed with balsam, an aromatic substance that gives fragrance to the oil, is the oil of consecration. This oil is also used during baptism, confirmation, ordinations, the dedication of Church buildings; anointing with this oil consecrates through Jesus Christ.
Pray for your Priests and pray for the unity of the Church.