By Dr. Paul F. Ford
A note from Diana Macalintal, Director of Worship for the Diocese of San Jose: Every year in our diocese, on the Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, priests, deacons, laity, and catechumens (adults preparing for baptism) gather around the Cathedral altar with our Bishop to bless the three oils that will be used in the coming year to anoint God’s holy people and the places in which they gather. Each parish in our diocese is represented not only by its pastor but also by its three chosen parishioners who will carry their parish’s oils during the blessing. To help us understand the meaning of this annual liturgy celebrated in every diocese around the world, Dr. Paul Ford gives us the following reflection.
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 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 San Jose—hierarchically arranged with our Bishop 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. Therefore, between March 15 (the date of this year’s Chrism Mass) and next year’s Chrism Mass:
Every Catholic in our diocese who becomes sick 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 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 begins to receive a “down-payment” on his or her Confirmation at this Chrism Mass with the Chrism which we consecrate.
Every young person and adult in our diocese who is confirmed begins to complete her or his initiation at this Chrism Mass with the Chrism which we consecrate.
Every new priest (and bishop) in our diocese who is ordained 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 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’ allusions to the royal bridegroom, Christ. At the Chrism Mass we proclaim a portion of the marriage text of Isaiah 61:1—62:5 as our first reading. We also 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.
So every time Bishop McGrath invites us to pray at the Chrism Mass 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.
A mystagogical meditation prepared by Dr. Paul F. Ford, professor of theology and liturgy at St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, California, and adapted for use in the Diocese of San Jose. Copyright © 20022016, Paul F. Ford. All rights reserved. Used with permission.