TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Alleluia, Jesus is risen. Let us be glad and rejoice.

Holy Week, the Chrism Mass (Mass of the Oils) and the Triduum have been celebrated with excellence and exuberance at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. I hope you feel elated by the gift of these ceremonies in your own local churches.

Bishop Bill spoke at the Mass of the Oils about each of us being alter Christus, or another Christ. This requires us to be a servant to Christ and to each other. We are to minister to each other, because by the nature of our baptism we have been anointed and sent. During the Collect at the Chrism Mass, we prayed:

O God, who anointed your Only Begotten Son with the Holy Spirit
and made him Christ and Lord,
graciously grant that,
being made sharers in his consecration,
we may bear witness to your Redemption in the world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

As I witnessed the blessings of the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, and the consecration of the Oil of Chrism, I was reminded of some scenes from the Netflix series, The Crown. This ten-part series relates the story of the beginnings of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. At the start of Episode 5, Smoke and Mirrors (May 11, 1937), the young Princess Elizabeth is called into the study of her father, George VI, on the day before his coronation. He has requested that she stand before him and, with him, practise the most important part of the ceremony. She is to be the Archbishop, and of course he is the King.

Here are the words which young Elizabeth and her dad, King George, practise. The exchange between them is quite enchanting. King George explains that taking the oath “inviolably” means that it is a very sacred promise indeed, as you can never break it. And it is he who is to be anointed as King. He says:

“When the holy oil touches me, I am transformed. Brought into direct contact with the divine. Forever changed. Bound to God. It is the most important part of the entire ceremony…..”

Elizabeth then reads and touches her father:

"Be thy hands, anointed, with holy oil.
Be thy breast, anointed, with holy oil.
Be thy head, anointed, with holy oil.
As kings, priests and prophets were anointed."

Later on in the same episode, Edward, Elizabeth’s uncle, who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, is entertaining guests and watching the coronation of his niece on television. He is acting as commentator for those gathered and he says:

"Now we come to the anointing, the single most holy, most solemn, most sacred moment of the entire service."

Those who are watching do not get to view this, “because we are mortals” and you see a canopy placed above the place where Elizabeth is seated.

The Archbishop says:

"Is your majesty willing to take the oath…?”

before he proceeds to anoint her hands, breast and head as she had practised with her father all those years earlier. A drop of oil is powerfully shown dripping before the anointing and is beautifully signed on her.

The Archbishop goes on to say;

"And as Solomon was anointed King, by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be thou anointed, blessed and consecrated, Queen over the peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Edward then goes onto explain to those around him, watching the coronation on television:

“Oils and Oaths. Orbs and Sceptres. Symbol upon symbol. An unfathomable web of arcane mystery and liturgy. Blurring so many lines, no clergyman or historian or lawyer could ever untangle any of it.”

Someone interrupts by saying, “It’s crazy!”

And Edward goes on:

"On the contrary it’s perfectly sane. Who wants transparency when you can have magic? Who wants prose when you can have poetry? Pull away the veil and what are you left with? An ordinary young woman of modest ability and little imagination. But wrap her up like this and anoint her with oil, and hey, presto, what do you have? A goddess."

Then at Westminster Abbey everyone shouts:

"God Save the Queen!"

Throughout parts of the series, you become aware that Queen Elizabeth remembers the oath she has taken and the anointing she has received, and truly lives it out, even though in many instances she would have chosen differently. She is no longer able to think or feel like an ordinary person, because of the anointing.

So what was Jesus anointed to do? And as his disciples, what are we anointed to do and be? From Luke 4:16-2, capturing the text of Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good new to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind, new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

Over these Easter ceremonies, we renewed our own baptismal promises. During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Bill invited us to stand and addressed us with the following words:

At the time of our Baptism and Confirmation
each one of us was anointed with the Oil of Chrism
to share in Christ’s prophetic and priestly ministry in the world.
As the Church of Maitland-Newcastle
our task is to spread Christ’s word.
Within your families and communities
are you resolved to proclaim
the Good News of God’s salvation
by the witness of your daily lives?

We responded:

"I am."

Like Queen Elizabeth, we have also been anointed, and Easter serves as the great reminder of our anointing as priest, prophet and king. By our anointing, we are to be inwardly transformed, so as to grow in holiness and love.

I hope that over these Easter Days, between now and Pentecost, we are able to gaze upon the Paschal Candle and be reminded of our own anointing, which calls us to shatter the darkness of our world, so as to burst forth with new life.

Easter blessings to you all.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.