This Sunday, October 11th 2020, at the 9:00am Mass, I will do something I rarely do. I will exercise my authority as a Bishop and consecrate holy oils. I will take the vulgar and transform it to the sacred, the ordinary to the extraordinary, the profane to the hallowed.
Some of the church’s most ancient traditions and rituals are witnessed during Holy Week, including the preparation, blessing and distribution of oils central to the Church’s sacraments and rites. This chrism Mass is usually celebrated on Holy Thursday at the local cathedral with the bishop gathered with his priests but can be moved as needed for pastoral reasons. We are doing so out of both need and symbolism: perhaps can we, just for a moment, still remember that God can do the same with our lives and the pandemic we now endure?
There are many Old and New Testament scriptural references to “anointings,” suggesting the importance of holy oil in ancient and biblical cultures. The oils we will consecrate this Sunday include the oil of the sick, used in the anointing of the sick; the oil of catechumens, which is for those preparing to be baptized, and the chrism oil, which is consecrated and used for baptism, confirmation and holy orders.
Apart from the Holy Oils (Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Sick, and Oil of Catechumens) sanctified by the Bishop, the Church also provides for the blessing of ordinary olive oil as a sacramental. This oil may be burned before the Blessed Sacrament, or before sacred images and then used by the faithful in the same way as they would use any other blessed sacramental. Such devotional anointings accompanied by prayer are not to be confused with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, any more than one would confuse the use of Holy Water with the water of Baptism. I have chosen to include this offering as well on Sunday as a new candle has arrived that will burn before the stunning Tabernacle that is coming, made by the hands and effort of our own parishioner, Don Pauley. We will also use this oil to refill the lamps before the main icons within the Chapel of the Mother of God, Searcher of the Lost, at our Falls Retreat Center in Starlight; an absolutely stunning place for prayer and contemplation.
The oils this week will be set out for display for all Masses in large glass decanters, but consecrated only during Sunday’s 9:00am Mass. Virgin olive oil will be used for the oil of the sick and oil of catechumens. However, the oil of chrism, is distinct in that it is mixed with a resin, balsam, giving it a sweet perfumed fragrance, after which the oil is consecrated only by a bishop. It is set apart to be used for a person who is baptized and later at the sacrament of confirmation; the bishop literally breathes upon that oil as a visible sign of the Holy Spirit coming down on the chrism oil. It is a beautiful symbolism that is desperately needed with all we find ourselves living with in today’s world; I pray it will be for us a symbol of renewal.
In that same spirit of a sense of finding renewal, I have requested that the clergy gather to join me. In doing so, they will renew their vows as ordained clergy and their devotion of a life of service through their calling to help them – as it will prayerfully do for all gathered – persevere through hardship.
Our Franciscan-inspired simplistic designs – here at our main parish and farther north at our Retreat center – creates a sense of peace, allowing you to let go of the busyness of your daily life.
I pray you will join me.