As Holy Week and the days leading up to the great celebration of Easter unfold, an especially graced time for members of the diocesan family that week is having the opportunity to come together for the celebration of the annual Chrism Mass.
Such will be the occasion once again when priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful from across the four-county Diocese gather with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for the Mass of Chrism, which is regarded as one of the most solemn and significant liturgies in the Church year, to be celebrated March 26 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, 61 Georgia Road, Freehold.
During the Mass, Bishop O’Connell will bless the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens and he will consecrate the Sacred Chrism that will be used in parishes throughout the coming year.
The Oil of the Sick is used to anoint the sick, bringing strength, comfort and forgiveness to those in need. The Oil of the Catechumens is blessed to strengthen those preparing for Baptism to avoid sin and grow in their faith. A catechumen is one who is preparing for Baptism in the Catholic Church. The Sacred Chrism is used for Baptism, Confirmation, ordination of priests and bishops and the consecration of altars and churches.
When Bishop O’Connell consecrates the Sacred Chrism, he will add a fragrant balsam to the oil and then blow over the vessel, signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit. The oils and Sacred Chrism will be distributed to parish representatives who will carry them back to their faith communities to be used in sacramental rites throughout the year.
The Mass of Chrism is also when all priests of the Diocese stand before the Bishop and renew their vows, recommitting themselves to their priestly service and vocation.
The tradition of the Mass of Chrism dates back centuries to the early Church and used to be part of the evening Mass celebrated on Holy Thursday. As part of his 1955 liturgical reforms, Pope Pius XII called for a separate Chrism Mass, apart from the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Now the Chrism Mass continues to be celebrated by bishops in cathedrals throughout the world during Holy Week.