LITURGY MATTERS: The Chrism Mass is one of my most favourite things?

I just love the Chrism Mass. It is far better than ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’!

The Church of Maitland-Newcastle celebrates the Chrism Mass annually on the Tuesday evening of Holy Week, 7.00pm in the Sacred Heart Cathedral.  This year that is April 16. 

It is an amazing liturgy. People gather from all over the diocese. They come by bus and car and by 6.30pm the cathedral and its precinct are full of people, all catching up and preparing to be part of this most significant celebration of our faith.

This gathering of the whole Church at the Cathedral with Bishop Bill Wright is an important part of our preparation for the Easter Ceremonies which will take place throughout the diocese. 

At the Chrism Mass, Bishop Bill, blesses the holy oils which will be used for ministry throughout the coming year. The oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick are blessed. The oil of chrism is consecrated. The first is used for anointing adult catechumens and infants, the second for anointing the sick, and the sacred oil of chrism for baptism, confirmation, the ordination of priests, and the consecration of altars. The tradition of blessing the oils goes back to the early church. Only the bishop can consecrate chrism.

Celebrated with Bishop Bill and most of the clergy and representatives from all parishes, the Chrism Mass is a great celebration of our unity as the Church of Maitland-Newcastle. This unity is marked in a special way when, after the readings and homily, everyone participates in a renewal of their commitment to ministry which we share, though in different ways.

This renewal begins with the Assembly – all God's priestly, prophetic and kingly people – who recommit to the work of spreading God's word in their families, communities and workplaces. Then the deacons restate their commitment to the loving and humble service called for by the gospel. This is followed by the priests' renewal of their priestly promises to unite themselves with Christ and to steward the mysteries of God. Finally, Bishop Bill renews his commitment to becoming a more faithful image of Christ the Good Shepherd. Through the process of this renewal, the people offer their prayer and support to their deacons, priests and bishop. Our unity characterised by difference is acted out in this renewal.

A simple resource for prayer and reflection on the texts for the blessing of the holy oils is available here. It can help you prepare to participate in the Chrism Mass, or reflect on your experience after. It can be used personally or in groups.

A template for parishes looking for a ritual to receive the oils sent to them by Bishop Bill from the Chrism Mass is available as a pdf or word document.

If you have not been to a Chrism Mass why not come along this year?  It might be just what the doctor ordered, given these times and circumstances. I look forward to seeing you there.

Click here to view the photos from last year's Chrism Mass.

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.