The words “Messiah” and “Christ” mean “anointed.” To be a Christian is to share in Jesus’s own anointing in the Holy Spirit. The sacraments draw us into this reality through the anointings with oil at Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders.
We see the significance of this anointing by reflecting on how the Church blesses and consecrates the oil used for these sacraments. The Chrism Mass occurs traditionally on Holy Thursday, the day Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood and the moment when the great “hour” of his Passion began (although it can also be celebrated on another day of Holy Week). The timing points us to an important reality: the events of Holy Week are what draw us into the gifts of the Messiah. He inaugurates his kingdom on the Cross and we are anointed into the mystery of death and resurrection through the sacraments.
During the Chrism Mass, the bishop gathers all the priests of his diocese to the cathedral where he blesses the oil of catechumens (used during the catechumenate and the rite of Baptism) and the oil of the sick (used for the Anointing of the Sick), while consecrating chrism, made of olive oil perfumed with balsam. The consecration signifies a more profound blessing of the oil used for anointings of Confirmation and Holy Orders. The bishop breathes over the balsam oil and prays to the Father: “Sanctify with your blessing this oil in its richness, and to pour into it the strength of the Holy Spirit, with the powerful working of your Christ” (OBO, no. 25-1).
All present renew their baptismal vows, while the priests renew the promises of their ordination. It is a profound moment of communion within the Church, which flows from the priesthood of Christ, who pours out his healing and transforming grace on the Church. This happens every year to show that all the sacraments celebrated by the Church throughout the year flow from Jesus’s Paschal Mystery celebrated in Holy Week. The Chrism Mass reminds of how we share in the gifts that Jesus has won for us during his passion, death, and resurrection.
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Dr. Staudt holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver. He was previously the Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Denver. He has founded a Catholic school and served as a DRE in two parishes and as Director of Catholic Studies at the University of Mary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). His editing experience includes six years as the managing editor of the journal Nova et Vetera and the books Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press) and The University and the Church: Don J. Briel’s Essays on Education (Cluny Media).