Who Attends the Chrism Mass?

Who Attends the Chrism Mass? March 15, 2019
Diocese of Manchester website

A reader sent this my way, and thought it was unusual. I have to agree. It appears that in this particular diocese, only priests will be attending the Chrism Mass with the bishop; deacons, religious, seminarians and other members of the faithful will take part in Evening Prayer later on, after which the oils will be distributed.

This is something new and different to me. Any other places do this?

Details, from the Diocese of Manchester: 

The Chrism Mass, ordinarily celebrated during Holy Week by the Bishop and concelebrated with the priests of the diocese, is the Mass when the bishop consecrates the holy chrism and blesses the oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick. Priests are brought together and concelebrate this Mass as witnesses and cooperators with their bishop in the consecration of the chrism because they share in the sacred office of the bishop in building up, sanctifying, and ruling the people of God. This Mass is therefore a clear expression of the unity of the priesthood and the sacrifice of Christ, which continue to be present in the Church. The Mass takes its name from the most eminent of the three holy oils which the bishop commissions for his local church’s use over the following year…

…After the Oils have been blessed and prepared by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass, they are distributed to the parishes and institutions of the diocese. Two representatives from each parish and institution are chosen and sent to receive the oils from the Bishop at Solemn Evening Prayer, held on Tuesday, April 16th at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Cathedral. This ceremony is open to the public and the faithful are encouraged to attend.

Please note that this year the Chrism Mass and Solemn Evening Prayer with the Distribution of Oils are two distinct ceremonies. Priests will be gathering with the Bishop for the Chrism Mass separately and will then gather with the deacons, religious, seminarians, and faithful for Solemn Evening Prayer and the Distribution of Oils in St. Joseph Cathedral on Tuesday, April 16th at 6:30 p.m.

I couldn’t help but do a double take when I saw this phrase: “They share in the sacred office of the bishop in building up, sanctifying, and ruling the people of God.” Nowhere does it mention the notion of serving the people of God — or our shared baptismal charge to be priests, prophets and kings. (More on that below.)

In my experience, it’s always thrilling to attend the Chrism Mass in a cathedral packed to the rafters with the people of God — priests, deacons, seminarians, religious sisters, visitors from other rites, RCIA candidates, plus countless ordinary folks gathering to celebrate the local church. In Brooklyn, all the faithful are invited (and a special invitation is extended to deacons and their wives.) Hundreds of clergy — priests and deacons— don their diocesan vestments and renew their promises. Your heart can’t help but swell with gratitude and joy. It’s great.

It helps set the stage for the Triduum — and, significantly, reminds us of the central role that anointing plays in our faith.

One Catholic layman put it this way: 

While anointing has practical and traditional historical uses, it is done by the Church today to mark and set Christians aside for the Church’s mission as the People of God. As Jesus Christ the Head is anointed and consecrated to God, so the faithful Members of the Church are also anointed and consecrated to God.

Who are the People of God?

The People of God are a holy nation of priests, prophets, and kings. We are born anew in baptism, made part of God’s family and governed by the new commandment to love others as Jesus Christ loved us. We carry out our mission as the “salt of the earth and the light of the world.” We are the “seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.” CCC, 782.

“Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.” CCC, 783.

What is our mission?

Our mission is the three Ws.

Worship – Priest

We are all, ordained and lay people, consecrated to worship the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: ‘Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people a “kingdom of priests to God, his Father.” The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.” CCC, 784.

Witness – Prophet

We are consecrated to be witnesses to Christ by living our faith in the midst of this world.

“The holy People of God shares also in in Christ’s prophetic office,’ above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it “unfailingly adheres to this faith … once for all delivered to the saints,’ and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world.” CCC, 785.

Works – King

Unlike earthly kings who live to be served by others, the members of God’s royal family are consecrated to serve others.

“Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ For the Christian, ‘to reign is to serve him,’ particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.’ The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve Christ.’” CCC, 786.

In conclusion, the Chrism Mass is very important to the life of the Church because the holy oils blessed there are used in Sacramental anointing and consecration to mark us as the People of God (a Holy Nation of Priests, Prophets and Kings), part of God’s Holy family, so we can receive the Holy Spirit and carry out the Church’s Mission of Worship, Witness and Works. We carry out our mission as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, a seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race.


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